Omaha Poker is also referred to as Omaha Hold ‘Em, or simply Omaha. The game is based on a seven card platform, and like Texas Hold ‘Em, it is an example of a style of poker known as a ‘community’ game.
Community games are those in which all the players at the table utilize a pool of shared cards. In Texas Hold ‘Em, each player is dealt two hole cards, with the rest of his or her hand to be drawn from the five community cards that are dealt to the center of the table.
Omaha uses the same number of shared cards; five, but unlike Texas Hold ‘Em, there are specific limitations on which cards can be combined to form a players hand. In Omaha Hold ‘Em, each player is dealt four hole cards, face down. From these four, a player must choose exactly two to use in his or her hand. The remaining three cards in each player’s hand must be drawn from the five community cards.
For example, in Texas Hold ‘Em, two visible pair (community) can be combined with a single matching hole card to create a Full House. This is not possible in Omaha, because the rules stipulate that each hand must contain exactly two of the player’s hole cards.
Summary of Play
Omaha is a seven card poker game that starts with each player receiving four face down hole cards. Additional cards are presented one at a time, as shared community cards. Like other poker variations, the objective is for each player to put forth the best possible 5 card combination, drawn from their hole cards and the shared cards. Omaha’s distinction is that only three of the cards in a winning hand may be drawn from the community group.
Playing Omaha Online
Since the physical dealer cannot change during virtual play, online poker sites use a small disc, known as the ‘dealer button’ or ‘button’, to designate the dealer. Dealer position is important because responsibility for the the initial bets, called ‘blinds’ is determined by where players are seated in relation to the button.
Prior to the deal, the player directly to the left of the dealer places an obligatory ‘small blind’ bet. The next player to left then posts the ‘big blind’, which is usually twice the amount of the small blind. Blinds are used to ensure that each game starts with something in the pot. Since the dealer button moves one place to the left following each hand, every player at the table is eventually called upon to post each of the blinds.
Once each player has been dealt four hole cards; betting commences, starting with the player to the immediate left of the player who posted the big blind. Betting continues around the table in a clockwise direction, until each player has had an opportunity to make a play.
In keeping with universal poker conventions, Omaha betting options allow each player to ‘fold’, ‘check’, ‘call’ or ‘raise’. At any time during a poker game, a player may choose not to continue betting a hand. To fold is to relinquish all bets made up to that point, and disqualify oneself from winning the pot.
When a round of betting comes to a player, and there is no bet to call, the player may opt to continue the trend, by offering no bet of his or her own. To check, is to assume a passive wagering position, allowing the betting round to continue on to the next player. If subsequent bets are made, players who previously checked must match them in order to stay in the game.
Calling a bet is essentially matching it – dollar for dollar or chip for chip. Players who wish to wager higher amounts than the prevailing bet may do so by initiating a raise. Raising the existing bet matches it, and then assigns an additional amount that each player must also contribute to the pot in order to remain in the hand.
First Betting Round
Betting commences with the player to the left of the big blind folding, calling, or raising. A call is equal to the size of the big blind, and a raise is twice the big blind amount. The round continues until all active players have made equal bets.
Second Betting Round
The next round dealt is comprised of three community cards, which are positioned face up in the center of the table. Known as the ‘flop’, this important round offers the first, best look at a hand’s potential. The flop comes with a round of betting that is initiated by the closest active player to the dealer’s left side.
Third Betting Round
Following the flop bet, a fourth community card is dispatched to the center of the table. The ‘turn’, as the round is known, provides another betting opportunity for players who choose to remain active in pursuit of the pot.
Fourth Betting Round
A fifth community card follows the turn, and completes the deal for the hand. The ‘river’ is the final piece of the puzzle for players lucky enough to hit their draws, or the writing on the wall for those who don’t get it. The final round of betting opens with the active player seated closest to the dealers left side.
Provided that there are multiple active players remaining in the hand at the end of the final round of betting, the individual who was last to place a bet reveals his or her cards first. If every player checked during the final betting round, the remaining player to the dealer’s immediate left is charged with being the first to reveal his or her cards.
Winning Omaha hands must be composed of exactly two (out of four) hole cards and three (out of five) community cards.
Types of Omaha ‘Limit’ Games
Several versions of Omaha are played; each adhering to the same rules, but distinguished by different betting protocols.
The betting structure of limit Omaha follows a rigid protocol, where the table stake is equal to the amount of the big blind. The small blind is usually designated as half, or approximately half, of the big blind. All bets, up to and including the flop round, are predetermined to have the same value as the big blind – including raises. In subsequent rounds, the game gets a little richer by doubling the amounts of bets and raises to equal twice the big blind amount. Each player is allowed four distinct actions during each betting round, including: Initial bet, raise, re-raise and a final raise known as the ‘cap’.
Pot Limit Omaha
The amount of the big blind stands as the minimum bet in pot limit games, but players are allowed to wager higher amounts – up to the size of the pot. Minimum and maximum raise amounts are employed during pot limit games, which require each raise to be at least the amount of the previous bet or raise in the round. The pot represents the maximum raise amount, and is defined as the total of the pot, bets on the table, and the amount of the initial bet that the player is raising.
The number of raises allowed in pot limit Omaha games is not capped at a certain number, as it is in regular limit games.
No Limit Omaha
The minimum bet in no limit Omaha poker games stands at the big blind amount, but beyond that, players are allowed to bet as much as they want – up to their entire stack of chips. Raises are not capped, so the number of bets within a round can easily excede other Omaha limit games, but each raise must be equal to the amount of the previous bet or raise placed during the round.
Online Omaha poker play is governed by software that guides players into the proper betting parameters by rejecting bets that don’t follow protocol for the particular limit game being played.