In the early 1980s, a game was introduced to the poker mainstream that was similar to Texas Hold’em with several important differences. The game, which has previously been called “Omaha Hold’em” or “Nugget Hold’em” before its modern name of simply “Omaha,” was first spread at the Golden Nugget Casino in Las Vegas. Accomplished poker player Robert Turner has been widely credited for bringing the game to Sin City, as Omaha was relatively unknown at that time besides a few other versions of the game being played in U.S. cities like Detroit and Chicago. Since the early days of Omaha being introduced to the poker world, the game has exploded and is now one of the most popular poker variations being played around the world – an impressive growth for a game that is considerably younger than most.
Perhaps one of the attributes of Omaha that has made it so successful is its simplicity, particularly for those players who are accustomed to playing Texas Hold’em. The two games are extremely similar; they are both Flop games, meaning that players combine their hole cards (dealt face down and kept privately) with the community cards (dealt face up in the center of the table to be shared with all players at the table) to create their best five card poker hand. While the two games share these characteristics, there are a few very important differences. First, each player is dealt four hole cards rather than the two they are dealt in Hold’em. Secondly, (and perhaps most important to remember) players must use exactly two of their hole cards to create their hand. Not surprisingly, this is a tough rule for most Hold’em players to grasp and a common mistake for them to make during the play of a hand. For example, if a player held only one diamond in their hand and there were 4 diamonds on the board, they would not have a flush because they MUST use two cards (and exactly two cards) from their hole cards.
There are generally two variations of Omaha that are played in both live casinos and online card rooms. While there are certainly variations to these two common versions of the game, the most popular Omaha games are Pot Limit Omaha (PLO) and Omaha High/Low. In Pot Limit Omaha, players attempt to make the best high poker hand – meaning the best hand according to the traditional poker hand rankings. This game is known for its big pots and wild action, which combined with the easy to learn rules, makes it currently the more popular version of Omaha.
However, Omaha High/Low – which is also called Omaha Eight or Better or simply “O8,” is a more complex variation of the game because players are attempting to make both a high hand (the best hand according to the traditional hand rankings) as well as a low hand, which is basically the worst hand (ignoring straights and flushes). However, in order for your hand to qualify for a low, it must not contain any cards ranked above an eight. Remembering that you must use exactly two cards from your hand and three from the board, if there are not at least three community cards eight or lower, than there is no qualifying low and players may only compete for a high.
Omaha High/Low is a split pot game, meaning that the pot is often split between multiple players (although sometimes not). For example, if one player has the best low hand and another player has the best high hand, they will split, or “chop” the pot. Sometimes the pot will be split into more than halves (depending on the hands) and sometimes a lucky player will create both the best high hand and low hand at once, and will receive the entire pot. This is called “scooping.”
To learn the full rules of how to play Omaha High/Low, check out the Rules page on this site. Once you feel comfortable with how the game is played, our Omaha High/Low Strategy article should help improve your skills before you sit down to practice at the tables, and hopefully earn a little money while you’re at it.
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