Omaha Poker Rules, Strategy & How to Play Tips
The game basics and strategies for how to play Omaha Poker shown here are those generally agreed to and recommended by the experts for bet limit games. An understanding of these basics is needed for all levels of competitive play. Solid intermediate and expert level poker normally requires study of the advanced game tactics and significant hours of actual casino or online playing experience.
Limit Omaha Poker Rules - 2 to 10 Players
- Highest hand wins
- Players MUST use TWO of their hole cards combined with three from the board to make their hands
- Ace plays both high and low for straights
- Three raise limit per round
- Cards speak
The image below depicts the card distribution and betting procedure for Omaha Holdem.
How to play $2/$4 Omaha with a double blind:
At casino Omaha tables, a round plastic marker called the dealer "button" is placed in front of the player who would be dealing if a house dealer were not provided. The button is moved one seat clockwise after each game and the card distribution and betting starts to the left of that position.
Each player is dealt four cards face down. Then, a total of five community cards are dealt face up in the center of the table in three betting segments (3-1-1). After all the cards are dealt the players make the best hand that they can by combining any two of their two hole cards with any three of the five community cards.
Using the illustration above, a player holding a jack and an eight would end up with the best possible full house, jacks over eights. However, this good hand can be beaten if another player is holding the "nut hand" cards of six and seven of hearts that would make an eight high straight flush.
The betting procedure goes like this:
Before each player is dealt four down cards (1.) the player at the immediate left of the button, called the "Small Blind" is forced to bet $1 (half the minimum bet). Then the player to his left and two seats to the left of the button, called the "Big Blind", is forced to bet $2. Each player is then dealt a four card hand. Then the player at the left of the big blind is first to act and he must either call the big blind's $2 bet, raise, or fold his hand. Continuing in turn clockwise, all the players around the table either call, raise or fold.
When the betting gets back around to the small blind, he or she can fold and lose only the half minimum bet of $1 placed earlier, call the amount necessary to get up to the betting level or raise $2 if there is a raise left.
The big blind is then the last to act before any cards are turned up in the middle. The blinds are played in the first round only.
(2.) The dealer turns three cards up in the center of the table. This is the "Flop". The player at the left of the button is then always the first to act. There are no more forced bets and the players can all check around if they want to. Bets right after the flop are at the $2 minimum bet level.
(3.) Now comes the "Turn" card followed by more betting that now goes to the $4 level.
(4.) Finally the last, or "River" card is turned up. The last $4 betting round takes place. Then the players still in the contest reveal their hole cards and the highest hand wins the pot.
In full ring, limit Omaha, it usually takes the "nut" hand, or something close to that, to win! For our purpose here, we describe the "nut" as a hand that can only be beaten by hidden quads and straight flushes. These killer hands are usually referred to as the "pure" nuts. Two pair and trips don't win very often in this game. You need to shoot for the nut straight, nut flush, or nut full house most of the time.
This is why Omaha players all start with four cards. Each four card hand contains six Hold'em hands when the four cards are converted to all possible combinations of two. i.e. ABCD = AB AC AD BC BD CD (Players must play two cards from their hands and three from the board). If you are in a pot with five other players after the flop, it is sort of comparable to a Texas Hold'em game against thirty other players, because each of your five competitors is holding six Hold'em hands instead of one.
So if you get down to the river with a very good hand, but one that can be beaten by some other two card combinations, brace yourself for a loss because they are likely to be out there somewhere. Your high end straight on the flop runs into serious problems when the board turns up three suited cards or a pair. A flush or a full house will usually pop up to beat you. In Omaha, always play for the NUT!
Just one or two good hold'em hands is usually not a very good starting hand in Omaha but many players cannot resist the urge to play them. With four cards to choose from, these kinds of hands are easy to get and Omaha games normally have more players and bigger pots than in Hold'em. The higher payoffs work to your advantage when you usually start with hands that contain four cards that all interact with each other to make about five or six decent Hold'em hands instead of only one or two.
You will see a few exceptions to this here in the starting hands strategy.
- High Cards
- A, K, Q, J, 10
- Middle Cards
- 9, 8, 7, 6
- Low Cards
- 5, 4, 3, 2
- Suited Player Hand(s)
- Two of the players four cards of the same suit.
- Double Suited Player Hand(s)
- Two of the players cards of one suit and two of another suit.
- Active Sidecard
- Sidecard that when combined with another makes two parts of a straight or flush.
- Nut Hand
- An unbeatable high or low hand. Sometimes called a "lock".
- Three of a kind with two of the three in your hand. (Four of a kind split two and two is a "Quad Set")
- Three of a kind with all or two of the three on the board.
- Hand or flop etc. with cards of all different suits.
- Flop Turn River
- The community cards in the order of distribution. See top illustration.
- Fast Play
- Bet, raise and re-raise to get as many other players out as possible.
- Slow Play
- Just check or call along to keep other players in the game to increase the pot odds.
- Check when you can and fold if you are bet into. Gladly accept all free cards offered.
The Best Omaha Starting Hand
Your starting Play/Fold decisions will involve a quick assessment of the hand type and the six Hold'em hands in your four card Omaha hand. The playable starting hands suggested are a good place to start. These are not hard and fast rules about what to play or not, but a generalization of expert opinions and computerized hand value results that you can use as a guide.
Two Card Hold'em Hands to Look For in Omaha Hands
High Pair - AA, KK, QQ, JJ, 1010
Ace and High Card Suited - AK(S), AQ(S), AJ(S), A10(S)
High Cards Suited - KQ(S), KJ(S), K10(S), QJ(S), Q10(S), J10(S)
Middle Pairs - 99, 88, 77, 66
Two High Cards - AK, AQ, AJ, A10, KQ, KJ, K10, QJ, Q10, J10
Ace and Middle Card Suited - A9(S), A8(S), A7(S) A6(S)
Middle Suited Connectors - 10 9(S), 98(S), 87(S), 76(S)
Low Pairs - 55, 44, 33, 22
Ace and Low Card Suited - A5(S), A4(S), A3(S), A2(S)
Any Two Cards to a Straight - i.e. 10 6, 98, 75, 73, A4 - Note: Most in this category are normally not playable in regular Holdem, but they do add value in combination Omaha hands.
Throw-Away Starting Hands
These hands should be automatically folded without any further consideration:
Quads - (including) A A A A
Trips - (except A A A with a high side card suited is sometimes playable)
Playable Omaha Starting Hands
Pair of Aces - A A x x
Pair of Kings - K K x x
High Pair and Ace Suited - Qh Qs Ah x .. Jh Js Ad 6d
High Pair and Middle / Low Pair - J J 7 7 .. Q Q 4 4
High Pair and Two or more Other Hands - J J 9 7 .. K 10 10 8
Any Four High Cards - K Q J 10 .. A K J 10 .. Q Q 10 10 .. A J J 10 .. (includes two high pair)
Three High Cards w Ace Suited - Ah Qs 10h x .. Ah Ks Jd 5h
Three High Cards and Active Sidecard - K Q J 8 .. Ah Qs 10d 4h
Three Card Straight with a Pair - 7 6 5 5 .. 9 8 7 8 .. 6 5 4 6
Three Card Straight and an Ace Suited - 8h 7s 6d Ah .. Ah 9s 8d 7h
Close Group with Two Gaps or Less - J 10 7 6 .. 8 7 6 5 .. 9 8 5 4.. 9 7 6 4 .. J 10 8 6
- Stay aware of the nut hand possibilities. As the board develops, make sure that you always know what the three best hand possibilities are, and how that might change on the next card.
- High pair with an overcard is a good flop in Hold'em but not in Omaha. In this game you need to flop two pair, a set, or better.
- Usually don't raise before the flop unless you are holding Aces or Kings and are in position to narrow the field. Another time to raise is when you are unraised on the button and have a strong hand. Try not to let the blinds play bad hands cheap.
- Fold your straight or straight draw if that's all you have and you don't flop an unpaired rainbow. If you do get the right kind of flop, bet/raise to discourage the back door flush draws.
- Don't over value low pairs. A pair of fours in your starting hand is only useful if it flops a set, but then a low set on the flop is not a very strong hand in Omaha.
- Study your opponents, especially when you are not playing hands and can pay careful attention. Do they find more hands to play than they fold? Do they bluff? Can they be bluffed? Do they have any "tells" (give away mannerisms) that disclose information about their hands etc.
- Get caught bluffing once in a while. It is a way to vary your play and not be too predictable. You win pots that you don't deserve when your bluff works. You lose a few chips when it doesn't work but it will get you calls from weaker hands down the line when you are really strong and need the action.
- Check the raisers chips. Players that are close to all-in often rush the betting just to get all their chips in a sink-or-swim last hand that doesn't merit a raise.
Have fun and GOOD LUCK!