Love Poker? Try playing Pot Limit Omaha, Texas Hold'em on Steriods
Omaha is an action-packed version of Poker that is similar to Texas Hold'Em. The game originates from the Midwest in the United States. Cities like Chicago and Detroit played a similar game called Twice Three, where players would receive five cards instead of the four you get dealt in the modern game of Omaha. It wasn't until around 1982 that Robert Turner introduced the game to Las Vegas, specifically the Golden Nugget Casino. It is still not clear why the game is called Omaha, and in fact, the Golden Nugget called it Nugget Hold'Em when it was first introduced.
When it comes to Poker, Texas Hold’em is the only version more popular than Omaha. It is rapidly gaining in popularity year on year, giving many observers reason to predict it will someday overtake Hold’em as the number 1 game. There are a few reasons for this. In Omaha, more cards are dealt which results in players receiving strong hands at a much higher frequency. Anyone that thinks Hold'Em is a bit slow and involves too much folding will love this version of the game.
There are different ways the game can be played, the most famous being Pot Limit Omaha. This means the maximum sized bet you are allowed to place is the size of the current pot. For example, if the pot is $200 you are allowed to bet up to $200. Other forms of Omaha are Omaha High/Lo, No limit Omaha and 5-card Omaha. Because Pot Limit Omaha is the most popular by a large margin, this article will be discussing this version of the game.
Pot Limit Omaha plays out very similar to its big brother Texas Hold'Em. The key differences are that players are dealt four cards instead of two. You must also use two cards precisely; you cannot use 1 or 0 as allowed in Hold'Em. You may only bet up to the size of the pot, unlike No limit Hold'Em where you may go all in at any time it's your turn to act. Between two and ten players can be seated at an Omaha table. However, six is the most common number.
The three central starting positions are called the Button, Small Blind and the Big Blind. The blinds must be placed into the pot before any cards are dealt out. Blinds are a predetermined amount of chips that will dictate how high or low the stakes will be at the table. The Big Blind must put in twice the amount of the Small Blind. The player directly to the Button's left (The dealer is the button) is the Small Blind the player left of the Small Blind is the Big Blind. The positions will rotate clockwise after every hand so everyone will get to play every position.
After all the blinds have been posted the cards can be dealt, and all players seated at the table receive four cards face down. The player left of the Big Blind is the first to open the action and has the option to call, raise, or fold, and the play proceeds clockwise. Calling means matching the number of chips equal to what the Big Blind has put into the pot. Raising means putting in chips at least twice the size of the Big Blind but no more than the size of the Pot. Folding is to throw your hand away.
After the first round, the dealer will deal three face-up community cards that everyone may use to improve their hand. This is called the Flop. The player to the dealer's left will open the action of this round and all future betting rounds. This player may Check, Call or Raise. Checking is a neutral move and is the same as passing the decision to the next player.
The dealer will place an additional card next to the flop, called the Turn card. Another round of betting takes place and now the last and final card to be placed down next to the turn is called the River card. A final round of betting will commence, and if there are at least two players who have not folded after the completion of this last round of betting must now turn their four cards face up.
The player with the winning hand is the one who can make the highest ranked 5-card poker hand using precisely two cards in their hand and three of the community cards. The poker hand rankings are the same as Hold'Em and most other forms of Poker as shown in the following table:
Top five cards in sequence in the same suit
Any five cards in sequence in the same suit
4 of a Kind
Four identical cards of any value
Three of a Kind + A pair
Any five cards the same suite
Five cards of any suit in number sequence
3 of a Kind
Three cards of the same value any suit
Two cards of same value any suit
The highest value card in hand where A is Highest
The winner of the hand takes the entire pot, but if two hands are the same to the fifth card, the pot is split evenly between the players. If at any point you have not folded your hand and everyone else has, you are instantly awarded all the chips in the pot.
Strategies for Beginners in Omaha Poker
While this game does indeed play very similar to Texas Hold'Em, it is, in fact, quite different. You are going to make stronger hands than you would in Hold'Em consistently. A common mistake beginners make coming from Hold'Em to Omaha is overvaluing their hand. A strong hand in Hold'Em is not necessarily a strong hand in Omaha. What is ideal in Omaha is to get the chips in with a strong hand AND a draw. A good example would be getting in 3 of a kind AND a flush draw.
You want to observe the players around you while playing. Some players will make the common mistake of thinking their hand is better than it is, and this will provide opportunities when you become familiar with what makes a winning hand in Omaha. If you see a player folding a lot, he might be playing too cautious, and you can start to play more hands against them.
In Omaha having what is called blockers can be very important. Blockers are cards you hold in your hand that block or make it physically impossible for your other opponents to have in their hand.
Similar to Hold'Em you want to play a lot more of your hands in position and fewer hands out of position. The strongest position is dealer. This is because you get to act last and in the game of poker acting last is better than acting first. You get to see what everybody else does and gather information so that you can make a more informed decision. When you are out of position, you don't know what other people are going to do, and you are somewhat in the dark.
Your strategy will change if you are playing in a tournament or different types of Omaha such as High/Lo. In an Omaha tournament, you should be careful with the chips in front of you and treat them like your children, only put them out in the pot because you know you can get them back. You are playing to beat the blinds/antes and to stay in the tournament as long as possible. You are not trying to get involved in a lot of precarious spots that could knock you out of the competition.
Remember, there is a lot of action in this game and players will have many opportunities with plenty of strong hands. This game is not Hold'Em even though it may look and feel the same. Players are not afraid to bet the pot and go all in. You can win and lose money a lot faster at this game than you could at a Hold'Em table, so be very cautious with what stakes and limits you decide to play.
Omaha forces players to make big decisions, and if you're playing on a table where there are a lot of experienced players, you should proceed with caution or risk losing chips very quickly. The best way to get better at this game is to play at small or even micro stakes. These stakes will have the most inexperienced players and will be the least expensive method of learning. Also reading more articles and strategy guides from professionals can help you tremendously.