How to Play Omaha

How To Play Omaha


How to Play Omaha Poker

Everything might be bigger in Texas, including Hold’em poker, but we’d be doing you a disservice to leave out Omaha, which is gaining fast on Texas Hold’em.


This beginners’ guide will show you how to play Omaha, starting with the differences between the two variants. Then we’ll give you some simple Omaha strategy tips that will help you on your journey to owning the poker tables and diversifying your game.


What is Omaha Poker

While Texas Hold’em has a rich tradition dating back 100 years or more, Omaha is a relatively new way to play poker. The first games on record were spread at the Las Vegas Golden Nugget Casino in the early 1980s, where it was known as “Nugget Hold’em.” Casino executive and World Series of Poker bracelet winner Robert Turner is credited with inventing Omaha and bringing it to Vegas. Since then, the game has spread like wildfire to casinos and card rooms across the globe – including right here, where you can play Omaha online at Ignition Casino.


Differences Between Hold'em and Omaha

Turner didn’t have to re-invent the wheel when he came up with Omaha poker. If you already know how to play Texas Hold’em one of the few differences in Omaha is with the hole cards; when playing Omaha, you’ll be dealt four cards at the beginning of each hand, instead of two. You must use exactly two of your hole cards, in combination with any three community cards, to make your five-card poker hand. Otherwise, the game is very much the same. You’re still using the standard 52-card deck, as well as the same hand rankings as Texas Hold’em.


But hold up, there’s still two more subtle differences between Texas and Omaha Hold’em. First, while most poker players prefer to play No-Limit Texas Hold’em, the most popular betting structure for Omaha is Pot-Limit. And second, players don’t have to pay antes in most Omaha poker tournaments. We’ll take a closer look at the betting structures later on; for now, here’s a quick overview of how the gameplay works for Omaha.


Omaha Poker Rules - Ignition Poker Omaha Poker Rules

Pre-Flop Action

Before each player at the table receives their four hole cards, the player to the left of the Dealer must post the small blind (a mandatory contribution to the pot). The next player to the left must post the big blind, which is twice the size of the small blind. Then the cards are dealt, and the action begins with the player to the left of the big blind. They call it being under the gun.


Unlike real life, the player under the gun has three choices: bet, call or fold. They can either place a bet that’s at least twice the size of the big blind, call by matching the big blind, or fold by mucking their hand. Once that player is done, the next player to the left has the same options – although now, if a bet has already been made, the next player can raise by at least twice that amount (technically, if the player under the gun bets, that’s also a raise, known as an open-raise). Action continues clockwise around the table to the big blind, unless everyone else folds, in which case the big blind takes the pot uncontested in what is called a walk.


What happens next depends on what decision the big blind makes, and how many players are still in the pot. If the big blind doesn’t close the action, play continues clockwise around the table until someone does. Action is closed when everyone who’s still in the pot either calls the last raise, or they fold. At this point, if everyone is all-in (except for the player with the most chips, unless they have the exact same amount), the hand goes to showdown, which we’ll explain more in a moment. This won’t happen as often in Omaha as it does in Texas Hold’em; play will usually continue with the first community cards being dealt.



How to Play Omaha Poker - Ignition Poker Post-Flop Action

Just like in Hold’em, after the initial round of betting finishes, the Dealer will reveal three community cards, aka the flop. These cards are shared by all the players. Now that we’re post-flop, the first player to act is the small blind – or, if they’ve folded, the player closest to the left who’s still in the pot. That player can either bet, check (basically a bet of zero chips), or fold. Action continues clockwise around the table from there.


If the pot has yet to be won, the Dealer reveals a fourth community card known as the turn, and another round of betting takes place, using the same rules as the flop. And if another betting round is required, the Dealer will reveal the fifth community card known as the river. This is the start of the final betting round; either someone will win the pot when everyone else folds, or they’ll go to showdown and declare the winning hand.




The showdown takes place when all betting rounds are complete and two or more players go for the pot. Whoever makes the final call closes the action, and the bettor/raiser is the first player to flip over their hole cards. The caller can then choose to turn their cards over or not; if they’ve got the best hand, they must show their cards, but they can choose to muck face down if they think they have the worst hand. When you play poker for real money and you’re playing Omaha at a live casino, consider always turning your cards over at showdown, just in case you’ve misread your hand and it’s a winner when you thought it was a loser.


As stated earlier, showdown can also take place once everyone is all-in. If this happens before the river, the hole cards are turned face-up, and the Dealer reveals whatever community cards have yet to be dealt. Again, you must use exactly two of your hole cards, plus three from the board, to complete your five-card poker hand.



How to Determine the Winning Hand

Right, on to the good stuff: If you know how to figure out the winning poker hands in Texas Hold’em, you already know how to do the same for Omaha – both games use the standard hand rankings for poker. Here they are again, in case you’re new to the action:


Royal Flush (Ac-Kc-Qc-Jc-Tc)

Straight Flush (8d-7d-6d-5d-4d)

Four of a Kind (As-Ah-Ad-Ac-6s)

Full House (Ks-Kh-Kc-Qd-Qh)

Flush (As-Ks-Js-5s-3s)

Straight (5h-4h-3d-2s-Ac)

Three of a Kind (7s-7c-7d-Ah-2c)

Two Pair (5s-5c-4c-4h-Jc)

One Pair (9s-9c-Ah-8d-2c)

High Card (Ah-Qs-7h-5s-3s)


Just like with Hold’em, in case of a tie, the pot is split among the winning hands. But two hands of the same rank don’t necessarily tie. For example, an Ace-high Straight will beat a King-high Straight, and a Pair of Aces with a Jack kicker will beat a Pair of Aces with a Nine kicker. All five cards have to be the same value in a chopped pot.



Pot Limit Omaha Rules - Ignition Poker Omaha Betting Stakes

Now that you've got a basic understanding of how to play Omaha, take a look at the different betting structures this game uses, and how they refer to the stakes you’re playing. These are the same structures used in Texas Hold’em and pretty much every other poker variant available.


Fixed-Limit Omaha

Bets are restricted to pre-determined amounts in Fixed-Limit Omaha. If you’re playing $1/$2 stakes, that means you can place $1 bets (the small bet) on the pre-flop and flop, and $2 bets (the big bet) on the turn and river. Raises are also limited to this size.


Pot-Limit Omaha

You can’t bet or raise more than the total amount in the pot when you play Pot-Limit Omaha (PLO). That amount includes the active bets on the table. Here, the stakes refer to the size of the blinds, so a $1/$2 PLO game means the small blind is $1 and the big blind is $2.


No-Limit Omaha


As the name suggests, you can bet as much as you want in No-Limit Omaha (NLO), up to the size of your stack. Got a killer hand? Go all-in like a champ. Stakes are the same as in PLO; a $1/$2 NLO game has a small blind of $1 and a big blind of $2.


Omaha Strategy

While the overall gameplay in Omaha is virtually identical to that of Texas Hold’em, those extra two hole cards make a world of difference. Instead of 1,326 possible starting hands, there are now 270,725 combinations to work with. Those combos will connect with the board a lot more often, making it much more likely that you (and your opponents) will end up with a high-ranking hand like a Full House.


Those extra two hole cards also make it easier for players to outdraw their opponents. In Texas Hold’em, if you have the strongest hand possible given the cards on the board (known as the nuts), there are times when you might want to slowplay that hand by checking and calling, deceiving your opponents in the process and getting them to put more money in the pot. In Omaha, your basic poker strategy is to play the nuts quickly with bets and raises. Giving your opponent a “free card” in Omaha is rarely a good thing.


Here's the kicker, just because you have the nuts in Omaha doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. Someone else at the table can have the same two hole cards (i.e. the same value) you’re using to make your five-card hand, but they might also have cards that draw to an even bigger hand. This is a major no-go. If you have the nuts without a re-draw, you should be happy when your opponents fold to your raise. If they fight back, slow down, and be prepared to fold the nuts. On the other hand, if you have the nuts with a re-draw, now you’re on the good side of this equation – you are freerolling your opponents since the best they can do is split the pot with you. Make sure you play the nuts according to the strength of your re-draw.



Bluffing in Omaha

Since it’s so much easier to make a hand in Omaha, you have to approach bluffing in a different way than you do in Texas Hold’em. It’s still important to bluff, but you need to put more thought into it. The concept of blockers applies more heavily in Omaha; if you don’t have the nuts, but you have some of the cards that the nuts would contain, that means your opponent doesn’t have those exact cards – and your bluff is more likely to get through.


What if you have a decent non-nut hand, and suspect your opponent might be bluffing? Look again at your cards. Do any of them block your opponent from having the nuts? That means they’re more likely to be bluffing you. The more blockers you hold, the better it is to call.



Omaha Hi Lo Rules - Ignition Poker Omaha Hi-Lo Rules

Playing with four hole cards instead of two may seem challenging, but that’s also what makes Omaha so much more thrilling. Want to take it to the next level? Try playing Omaha Hi-Lo, where the pot is split between the best hand (Hi) and the worst hand (Lo). It’s like two poker games in one; the rules for making the low hand are the same as those for “Ace-to-Five” lowball games, aka California lowball, but in addition, the cards in your low hand all have to be “Eight or better.” That means nothing with a value higher than Eight. You’ll often see this game referred to as Omaha 8-or-Better or O8 for short.


Playing Omaha for both the high hand and the low hand opens up a whole bag of strategies that you’ll need to learn to play the game well. But as long as you’re playing for stakes you can afford to lose, Omaha and Omaha Hi/Lo are awesome games to play at Ignition Poker, even when you’re just starting out.