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OMAHA (ALSO CALLED OMAHA HOLD ‘EM. OMAHA 8 AND 8-OR-BETTER)

INTRODUCTION

Omaha is a relatively new casino game developed in the 1990s and is gaining in popularity. The play and betting format is the same as Texas Hold ’em, but you are dealt four hole cards instead of two (increasing your odds of developing a strong hand) and you must use at least two of these cards to make your hand. These extra hole cards make for some exciting poker playing particularly in the high-low version with its multi-way pots and abundant raising. Also, the extra cards, Omaha can be a more complicated game to play than Texas Hold ‘em, and as such attracts a lot of players interested in smart plays and intelligent strategy. You definitely need to concentrate when playing this game!

There are lots of Omaha tournaments these days, so make sure you know how to play the game well. Some poker experts say it’s the game of the future. PokerStars.com and Absolute Poker have Omaha tournaments playing throughout the day. Playing online is the fastest and most convenient way to develop and improve your Omaha skills.

HOW TO PLAY THE GAME

Omaha High is described here. The strongest hand wins the pot.

First Betting Round: Pre-Flop

When you play Omaha at home, the role of the dealer moves one position to the left after each game. When playing at a casino or online, the house deals every hand and a ‘dealer button’ is used to identify the theoretical position of the dealer.

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The game begins with the cards being shuffled, cut, and the top card burned (meaning the dealer discards it in case it was exposed). To get the action started, the player immediately to the left of the player with the dealer button bets a small blind, usually half of the minimum bet. For example, in a $2-$4 Omaha game, the minimum bet is $2, and half of that is the small blind, $1. The player to the left of the small blind bets a big blind, which is normally equal to the minimum bet, in this case, $2. Amounts for both blind bets can change from game to game. They are called blind bets because the players have not yet seen their cards. They’re also called forced bets because they have to pay them whether they want to or not.

The dealer gives every player four cards face-down (their hole cards). By having four hole cards, Omaha games yield six times more starting hands than Texas Hold ‘em. Because there is an increase in the probability of developing good hands, there is an increase in the likelihood they actually show up. You need to keep this in mind.

Betting starts after everyone has looked at their cards. Since there is already money in the pot, if a player wants to see the flop they have to either call the blind, or raise (in increments equal the lower betting limit, if playing a limit game), in turn, starting with the player to the left of the big blind. They can also fold and forfeit any claim to the pot.  

Once the round of betting is complete and all bets are equalized (meaning every player has put the same about in the pot), the dealer burns the top card and deals three community cards face-up on the table, called the flop.
Second Betting Round: The Flop
Bets and raises are limited to the lower betting limit (for example, $2 in a $2-$4 Omaha game).
Betting starts with the player who bet the small blind, if they are still active, and moving clockwise to the next active player if they are not. Players can fold or check and pass until someone bets. After a bet has been made, players wanting to stay in the game must call the bet or raise.
Play moves around the table clockwise until all bets are equalized.
Third Betting Round: The Turn (also called ‘Fourth Street’)
The dealer burns a card and deals a fourth community card face-up on the table. The bets and raise increments increase to the higher-tiered amount (for example, $4 in a $2-$4 Omaha game).
Fourth Betting Round: The River (also called ‘Fifth Street’)
The dealer burns a card and deals a fifth and final community card face-up on the table. As in the turn, play starts with the first active player to the left of the dealer button and moves around the table clockwise until all bets are equalized. Bets and raise increments are again the higher-tiered amount.
The Showdown
After all of the betting is complete, the players still left in the game turn over their cards to expose their hands. Using at least two hole cards and three community cards, the player with the highest-ranking hand wins the pot or splits it if there is a tie (if playing Omaha High). If all other players have folded, the last active player wins.

The dealer button then moves one player to the left and play begins again with the blind bets.

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VARIATION

OMAHA HIGH-LOW EIGHT OR BETTER

This is an interesting version of Omaha as the highest hand splits half the pot with the lowest hand. If there is no qualifying low hand, the high hand wins the whole pot. If two hands are tied for best low hand, and there is only one high hand, the high hand gets half the pot and the two low hands get a quarter each.

For a hand to qualify as low, it must be made up of cards equal to or less than the 8 card. Aces can be played high or low. Players can try to win the whole pot by making both high and low hands using any combination of their hole cards, but they are still limited to using only two hole and three community cards for each hand.

OMAHA RULES

These rules apply in addition to general poker rules, so be sure to read that section as well.

  1. A misdeal occurs if the first hole card dealt is made visible to other players. The dealer will then reshuffle and recut the cards. The deal continues if it was any other holecard. The exposed card can not be used in play. After finishing the hand, the dealer exchanges the exposed card with the top card of the deck and the exposed card becomes the burncard. If two or more holecards are exposed, a misdeal has occurred and the cards must be dealt again.
  2. If the flop has too many cards, it has to be dealt again. (This is the case even if it were possible to figure out which was the extra card.)
  3. If the flop is being redealt because it was flopped too soon (before betting was over), or because too many flop cards were exposed, those cards are mixed with the rest of the deck. The burncards stay on the table. The dealer then shuffles, cuts the deck, and deals another flop without first burning a card.
  4. If the dealer exposes the turn card prematurely (before betting was over), that card is removed from play for that round, even if players later on want to fold. Betting is then finished. The dealer burns and turns the fifth card in what should have been the fourth’s card place. Betting ensues, followed by the dealer reshuffling the deck (including the removed card, but not the burncards nor discards), cutting the deck, and exposing the final river card without burning a card. If this fifth card is exposed to early, the deck is reshuffled and dealt the same way as a prematurely exposed turn card.
  5. When the dealer accidentally deals an extra card to the first player (once all players have received their hole cards), the extra card is returned to the deck and is used as the burncard. If the dealer accidentally deals two or more cards, a misdeal has occurred and the hand has to be entirely redealt.
  6. You make your best poker hand with at least two of your hole cards and three community cards.

NOTE: If you’re playing Omaha High-Low, Omaha 8 or 8-or-Better, in order for a hand to qualify as low, it must contain an 8 card or lower.

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