Introduction to Omaha Poker

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The game called Omaha Poker can also be referred to as Omaha Hold’em, Omaha High, and more commonly just as “Omaha.” It is quite similar in many ways to Texas Hold’em—in fact, some of the rules are identical—so it is quite easy for a player familiar with one of the two games to learn the other.

Like most Poker games, Omaha is played with a standard 52-card deck. Four cards are dealt to each player, plus five “community cards” that are shared, thus limiting participation to a maximum of eleven at a single table, although typically no more than ten are allowed to play at once.

To begin the game, one player is designated as the dealer. In home games, this player may actually shuffle the cards, offer the cut, and handle the dealing. In tournaments, casinos, and formal poker rooms, a non-playing dealer takes care of these duties and receives a small commission for his/her services, referred to as the “rake.” It amounts to no more than a few percent of each “pot.” In this case, a marker known as the “button” is passed clockwise among the players to indicate from which position each deal is made.

Prior to the actual deal of the cards, the player immediately to the left of the dealer button must put up a minimum wager known as the “Small Blind.” The player two positions to the left of the button is required to bet twice this amount—the so-called “Big Blind.” All other players receive their cards for free, but will take their turns at posting the blinds as the deal/button rotates clockwise around the table.

At the start of the hand, each player receives four cards face down. These are called the “hole cards” or “pocket cards.” A betting interval is then conducted before any other cards are dealt. The player positioned to the left of the Big Blind has the opportunity to “call” by wagering an amount equal to the Big Blind, to “raise” by wagering at least twice as much as the Big Blind, or to “fold” and quit the hand. Subsequent players are given the same choices, in turn, clockwise around the table, with re-raises permitted.

Once the “pot is right,” the five community cards are dealt face up with betting intervals in between, just as for Texas Hold’em. The dealer “burns” a card, taking it out of play, and then the first three community cards are dealt together in the middle of the table—the so-called “Flop.” Next, a betting round takes place, beginning with the first active player to the left of the button.

Players now have the option to “check” (no action taken), “bet” or “open” by making a wager, or else fold. Once anyone opens the betting, the options available to subsequent players are to call the bet, raise it, or fold. The betting interval continues until all active players’ bets are equalized.

Once more, the house dealer burns a card before dealing the fourth community card face up. This card is known as “Fourth Street” or the “Turn” card. Another betting interval follows, another card is burned, and the fifth and final community card is dealt, which is called “Fifth Street” or the “River.” A final round of betting takes place, and the remaining active players show their hands.

It is in the “showdown” portion of the game that Omaha differs most greatly from Texas Hold’em. Whereas the latter allows any five cards to be used to form a winning hand, in Omaha exactly two of the hole cards and three of the community cards must be used. No other combinations are allowed.

Once the winner is declared, he/she claims the entire pot. Should two hands be identical in value, they divide the pot equally. The game may be played as a “Limit” version, with a fixed maximum for the amounts that can be wagered or raised, as well as how many re-raises are permitted in each betting round. The “Pot Limit” version allows players to bet anywhere from the minimum up to the total amount of chips in the pot on the table. There is also a “No Limit” version, but it is rarely played.

A popular variation of Omaha is the high/low split-pot game called “Omaha Hi-Lo” or “Omaha 8.” This version has the highest hand and the lowest hand divide the pot equally, with the very lowest hand being the unsuited 6-4-3-2-A. No card higher than an eight is required to claim the low. Most versions allow a single player to win both the high and low hands, by using two different winning combinations of cards or by having the highest hand when no hand qualifies for the low.

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