For those players who are already familiar with Texas Hold’em, learning Omaha is a natural progression in a step towards expanding their poker horizons. In fact, the two games have so many similarities that Omaha was once commonly referred to as “Omaha Hold’em.”
The two games both require players to use community cards (dealt face up in the center of the table and shared by all players) combined with hole cards (dealt face down to each player and kept private) to create the best five card poker hand. In Omaha, however, players are each dealt four hole cards (rather than the two they are dealt in Hold’em) and must use exactly two of these cards to create their hand. Because this is such an important difference that is often forgotten by novice Omaha players, it is worth repeating: Omaha players must use exactly two hole cards to create their hand (no more and no less). For example, if you hold one heart in your hand and there are four on the board, do not mistake this for a flush; you must use two cards from your hand and three from the board. It may sound simple enough (and certainly becomes like second nature with some experience), but Hold’em players make this mistake surprisingly often.
Omaha is generally played one of two ways: High/Low and High only. For those who are making the transition to Omaha from Hold’em, or have never played a split pot game before, it would be a good choice to start with Omaha high, which is typically played as a pot limit game. This means that the players are all competing for high hands only (which simply means the best poker hand according to the traditional rankings) and that they can each only bet or raise up to the amount that is currently in the pot. Pot Limit Omaha is commonly referred to by its acronym, PLO.
The other common variation of Omaha is slightly more difficult to grasp. In Omaha High/Low (also sometimes called Omaha Eight or Better, Omaha High/Low Split or simply 08), players compete for both a high and a low hand (when there is a low qualifier). The rules are a bit more complicated and the pot is often “chopped” (meaning split between two players) or even “quartered” (split into fourths). Omaha High/Low is typically played with betting limits, which means that players can only bet and raise in specific, predetermined increments. You can learn the complete rules of Omaha, including how high/low works, by reading our Omaha Rules and Omaha High/Low Rules pages.
While Omaha is now a common game played in both live casinos and online card rooms, it wasn’t always so easy to find. The exact origin of the game isn’t known, but it was first documented in the early 1980s as “Nugget Hold’em” when Bill Boyd began offering the game at the Las Vegas Golden Nugget Casino after being introduced to it by poker legend Robert Turner. Rumor is that before the modern version of Omaha was played in Las Vegas, it was played with slightly different rules in cities such as Chicago and Detroit in the United States’ Midwest. Since then, the game has certainly taken off and is now one of the most popular poker games in the world, only second to Hold’em. The fact that it is so popular is very impressive considering it is a fairly young game in comparison to most other poker variations.
If you would like to ever compete in a mixed game tournament or cash game, such as H.O.R.S.E. or H.O.S.E., you will have to learn to play Omaha High/Low quite well (as it represents the “O” in both of these mixes). In 8 game and 10 game mix events, both Omaha High/Low and Pot Limit Omaha (PLO) are included. It is also quite common to see PLO cash games going in card rooms, as the game has grown in popularity over the past year, likely due to the promise of large pots (PLO is known as quite the action game) and the easy transition that players have been able to make from Hold’em. Whichever variation of Omaha you decide is your favorite, it is best to learn both in order to become a well-round poker player.
[button link="http://www.poker.co.uk/learn-poker/omaha/rules/" style="tick"]Be Sure you read the rules before you start playing![/button]