A showdown in Omaha. Player on the left wins with three Kings. Exactly two hole cards must be used.
|Type||Community card poker|
|Players||2+, usually 2-9|
|Skills required||Probability, psychology|
|Card rank (highest to lowest)||A K Q J 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2|
|Random chance||Medium to high|
Omaha hold 'em (also known as Omaha holdem or simply Omaha) is a community card poker game similar to Texas hold 'em, where each player is dealt four cards and must make his or her best hand using exactly two of them, plus exactly three of the five community cards. The exact origin of the game is unknown, but casino executive Robert Turner first brought Omaha into a casino setting when he introduced the game to Bill Boyd, who offered it as a game at the Las Vegas Golden Nugget Casino (calling it "Nugget Hold'em"). Omaha uses a 52-card French deck. Limit Omaha hold 'em 8-or-better is the "O" game featured in H.O.R.S.E. Both limit Omaha/8 and pot limit Omaha high are featured in the 8-Game.
Omaha Hold'em gets its name from two types of games.
In the original Omaha poker game, players were only dealt two hole cards and had to use both to make a hand combined with community cards. This version of Omaha is defined in the glossary of Super/System (under Omaha) as being interchangeable with "Tight Holdem". Across all the variations of the game, the requirement of using exactly two hole cards is the only consistent rule. The "Omaha" part of the name represents this aspect of the game.
"Hold'em" refers to a game using community cards that are shared by all players. This is opposed to Draw games where each player's hand is composed only by hole cards and Stud games where each player hand contains both non-community cards that are visible to the other players and concealed hole cards.
In North American casinos, the term "Omaha" can refer to several poker games. The original game is also commonly known as "Omaha high". A high-low split version called "Omaha Hi-Lo", or sometimes "Omaha eight-or-better" or "Omaha/8", is also played. In Europe, "Omaha" still typically refers to the high version of the game, usually played pot-limit. Pot-limit Omaha is often abbreviated as "PLO." Pot-limit and no-limit Omaha eight-or-better can be found in some casinos and online, though no-limit is rarer.
It is often said that Omaha is a game of "the nuts", i.e. the best possible high or low hand, because it frequently takes "the nuts" to win a showdown. It is also a game where between the cards in his hand and the community cards a player may have drawing possibilities to multiple different types of holdings. For example, a player may have both a draw to a flush and a full house using different combinations of cards. At times, even seasoned players may need additional time to figure what draws are possible for their hand.
The basic differences between Omaha and Texas hold 'em are these: first, each player is dealt four hole cards instead of two. The betting rounds and layout of community cards are identical. At showdown, each player's hand is the best five-card hand made from exactly three of the five cards on the board, plus exactly two of the player's own cards. Unlike Texas hold 'em, a player cannot play four or five of the cards on the board with fewer than two of his own, nor can a player use three or four hole cards to disguise a strong hand.
Some specific things to notice about Omaha hands are:
In Omaha hi-low split-8 or better (simply Omaha/8), each player makes a separate five-card high hand and five-card ace-to-five low hand (eight-high or lower to qualify), and the pot is split between the high and low (which may be the same player). To qualify for low, a player must be able to play an 8-7-6-5-4 or lower (this is why it is called "eight or better"). A few casinos play with a 9-low qualifier instead, but this is rare. Each player can play any two of his four hole cards to make his high hand, and any two of his four hole cards to make his low hand. If there is no qualifying low hand, the high hand wins (scoops) the whole pot. This game is usually played in the fixed limit version, although pot limit Omaha/8 is becoming more popular. A few low-stakes online tournaments feature no limit Omaha/8.
The brief explanation above belies the complexity of the game, so a number of examples will be useful here to clarify it. The table below shows a five-card board of community cards at the end of play, and then lists for each player the initial private four-card hand dealt to him or her, and the best five-card high hand and low hand each player can play on showdown:
|Board: 2♠ 5♣ 10♥ 7♦ 8♣|
|Alan||A♠ 4♠ 5♥ K♣||5♥ 5♣ A♠ 10♥ 8♣||7♦ 5♣ 4♠ 2♠ A♠|
|Bryan||A♥ 3♥ 10♠ 10♣||10♠ 10♣ 10♥ 8♣ 7♦||7♦ 5♣ 3♥ 2♠ A♥|
|Chris||7♣ 9♣ J♠ Q♠||J♠ 10♥ 9♣ 8♣ 7♦||
|Derek||4♥ 6♥ K♠ K♦||8♣ 7♦ 6♥ 5♣ 4♥||7♦ 6♥ 5♣ 4♥ 2♠|
|Eve||A♦ 3♦ 6♦ 9♥||10♥ 9♥ 8♣ 7♦ 6♦||7♦ 5♣ 3♦ 2♠ A♦|
In the deal above, Chris wins the high-hand half of the pot with his J-high straight, and Bryan and Eve split the low half (getting a quarter of the pot each) with 7-5-3-2-A.
Some specific things to notice about Omaha/8 hands are:
Pot-limit Omaha (shortened to PLO) is popular in Europe, online, and in high-stakes "mixed games" played in some American casinos. It is more often played high only, but can also be played high-low. Even more so than Limit Omaha Hi-Lo, PLO is a game of drawing, if you are drawing, to the nut hand. Second best flushes and straights can be, and frequently are, beaten. Furthermore, because of the exponential growth of the pot size in pot-limit play, seeing one of these hands to the end can be very expensive and carry immense reverse implied odds.
In poker, an out is any unseen card in the deck that will give a player the best hand. A wrap is a straight draw with 9 or more outs. It’s called a wrap because the player’s hole cards are said to wrap-around the board cards. In hold-em, where players have 2 hole cards, the most straight outs possible is 8. But in Omaha, there are 4 hole cards and this results in straight draws that can have up to 20 outs. An example of a twenty out wrap is J♥ 10♠ 7♦ 6♣ on a flop of 9♥ 8♠ 2♦. To hit a straight one of the following cards is needed: 5♥ 5♠ 5♦ 5♣ 6♥ 6♠ 6♦ 7♥ 7♠ 7♣ 10♥ 10♦ 10♣ J♠ J♦.
A desirable hand to have in PLO is the current best hand with a redraw. For example, if the board is Q♠ J♠ 10♥, and the player has A♠ K♣ Q♣ Q♥, then not only do they have the current best hand possible (their ace-king makes the ace-high straight), but they also have a redraw with the two queens in their hand because if the board pairs, they will make a full house, or four queens. A♠ K♠ Q♣ Q♥ would be an even better hand because it has flush and royal flush redraws as well. In fact, with the Q♠ J♠ 10♥ board, A♠ K♠ Q♣ Q♥ is approximately an 80-20 money favorite over a random hand containing ace-king (see freerolling). Even a pair of queens with any two spades is better than 55-45 against a random ace-king hand.
The most common variations of Pot Limit Omaha high are Five-card Omaha, commonly referred as "Big O" very popular in Southeastern United States as a home game and Six-card Omaha or 6-O which can be found in many casinos across the UK. Some online poker rooms support Five-card Omaha, Six-card Omaha and Courchevel.
"Big O" (occasionally called Five-card Omaha or 5-O) began appearing in Southern California in 2008, and had spread to most of the card rooms in the area by the end of the year.
Sometimes the high-low split game is played with a 9 or a 7-high qualifier instead of 8-high. It can also be played with five cards dealt to each player instead of four. In that case, the same rules for making a hand apply: exactly two from the player's hand, and exactly three from the board.
In the game of Courchevel, players are dealt five hole cards rather than four. Simultaneously, the first community card is dealt. Following an opening round of betting, two additional community cards are dealt, creating a 3-card flop, where the structure of the game is then identical to standard Omaha. Still, exactly two of the five hole cards must be used. Courchevel is popular in France but its popularity has expanded in other parts of Europe, particularly the United Kingdom.