How To Play Omaha Poker

StrategyMany poker players migrate to Omaha Poker from other popular forms of poker, many from Texas Hold ‘em. Once a player has mastered the game of Texas, he naturally wants a game that is a bit more challenging. Omaha Poker is a great alternative because it is very similar to Texas Hold ‘em as it is actually a derivation of it. If you’ve played Texas before, Omaha Poker won’t be too hard to pick up, as the betting rounds are similar, and the community cards are dealt in the same fashion. What makes Omaha a completely different game, though, is the number of hole cards dealt to each player and the winning hand combination.

The betting positions begin with the player to the left of the dealer. This player represents the small blind for the hand, and the next player to the left is responsible for the big blind. A small blind is typically worth half of the big blind. After blinds have been put in the pot, the dealer deals each player four hole cards (this is one major difference between Omaha and Texas Hold ‘em; in Texas, players are only dealt two hole cards). Hole cards are also called pocket cards.

Once each player has been dealt a four-card hand, betting starts with the player to the left of the big blind. This player must act to stay in the game by calling the big blind or raising the pot. He also has the opportunity to fold. When the action makes it back to the big blind, this player can check or fold, or must match the pot raise, if there was one. Then the dealer burns a card and deals the first three of the five community cards face up in the middle of the table. This deal is called the “flop.” Players can now make a better determination of whether their hands are any good.

A second round of betting goes clockwise around the table, in the same style as the first. Then the dealer burns a card and deals the fourth of the five community cards next to the first three dealt in the previous round. This card is called the “turn” and is followed by a third betting round. Another card is burned by the dealer, followed by the final community card, called the “river.”

After all final calls, raises, and folds take place, the winning hand is determined. How the winning hand is determined represents another major difference from Texas Hold ‘em. While in Texas Hold ‘em, the winning hand is made by using up to two of a player’s hole cards, an Omaha player must use exactly two of his four-card hand (no more, no less) along with exactly three of the community cards to create a ranking hand. No other deviations are permitted. For this reason, playing and winning Omaha Poker is different, and in a sense, more challenging than Hold ‘em.

History of Omaha Poker

The exact origins of Omaha poker are not clear, as are the legends of many poker games. Some primitive form of Omaha was most likely played in the floating casinos of Mississippi River riverboats back in the early 1800s. It was on these boats that the earliest US gamblers experimented with new forms of poker that would ultimately be altered over time into the poker variations played throughout the world today.

The most concrete information on the history of Omaha is not that old, however. Around the time that Texas Hold ‘em was taking root in Vegas, there were two versions of the game offered by casinos. One version was the Texas Hold ‘em we know and love today. The other was a game in which the player was required to use both and only both of his hole cards combined with three of five community cards to make a winning hand. It was referred to as “Omaha” for no apparent reason that can be found, but it was not the same Omaha game we play today. When the present-day four-card Omaha hold ‘em game first came to Vegas in 1982 it inherited its name from the former due to the similarities of the two games. It was an instant hit and was soon considered a permanent fixture in both cash games and tournament play, referred to back then as the game of the future.

Today, Omaha poker ranks second in global popularity behind Texas Hold ‘em. It attracts players because it is complex and promotes action, which can make for a rousing time. When Texas Hold ‘em becomes too predictable, poker players often migrate to Omaha looking for a more challenging pursuit. Omaha should be regarded as an advanced form of poker and not underestimated. A shift from Texas Hold ‘em to Omaha poker takes a modest mindset that can set aside Texas conventions and learn a new game. While Texas Hold ‘em players will pick up the game of Omaha very easily, mastering the mindset and grasping the strategy of the game may take longer. You should approach Omaha as a quest, taking pleasure in developing your game.

Keep in mind that Omaha is fast-paced and involves a lot of action. Your bankroll should be sizeable enough to take some big hits without breaking your chip stack. You are going to lose some pretty big pots, but this will be balanced by the substantial pots you will win. The same bankroll won’t take you as far in Omaha as it typically would in Texas Hold ‘em, so don’t go for higher tables if you can’t afford it. Start out low, and work your way up. Also, don’t expect to play Omaha in the same style that you play Texas. You can’t really get away with bluffing in Omaha, and your opponents will be holding an authentic hand at least 50% of the time. In fact, it is very common for a player to have the nuts on the flop.

Omaha Poker is a new frontier for those who have just discovered it. For those who are patient enough to learn their way up to the big tables, it can be a very rewarding game, both financially and mentally.

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