Last updated: January 20th, 2015

Learning Poker: The Ultimate Guide to the Rules of Omaha

After Texas Hold'em, Omaha is probably the next most popular poker game today. Learning the rules of Omaha can take you a long way in the world of poker. This game is also extremely popular internationally, so if you're planning on playing poker outside of the US, this is a great game to know.

A Close Relative of Texas Hold'em

A great community card game, Omaha might be classified as a close cousin or even a sister game of Texas Hold'em. In fact, this game is sometimes known as "Omaha Hold'em," and shares many rules in common with Texas Hold'em. But pay attention, as there are some important differences between the two games. If you're ready for a game that puts an interesting and exciting spin on classic Hold'em poker, then you're ready to play Omaha. Let's take a look at the rules and discover exactly how this game is played.

Basic Rules of the Game

The object of Omaha is to be the player with the best five-card hand, which is made up of both "Pocket" or "Hole" cards, and "Community" cards. If you're familiar with other Hold'em games, you'll know how this works. The main difference between Texas Hold'em and Omaha is that Omaha gives you more Pocket cards. With Texas Hold'em, players are only dealt two face down Pocket cards, while players in Omaha are dealt four. Out of these four cards, however, players are only allowed to use two; each player's final five-card hand must include exactly two of their Pocket cards, and three of the Community cards. As with Texas Hold'em, there are five Community cards, dealt face up in the middle of the table, to choose from. The deck used is a typical "French" deck, which is a standard 52-card deck with the Jokers removed. The game is played with anywhere between two and ten players.

Hand, Card, and Suit Rankings

In Omaha poker, the hand, card, and suit rankings are the same as in Texas Hold'em. Hands are ranked from high to low as follows: royal flush defeats straight flush, which defeats four of a kind, which defeats a full house, which defeats a flush, which defeats a straight, which defeats three of a kind, which defeats two pair, which defeats one pair, which defeats high cards. Cards are ranked with aces high. As with Texas Hold'em, there is no suit ranking, although in the event that players draw for chips during a chip race, the suits are ranked from high to low as follows: spades, hearts, diamonds, and clubs.

Variation: Omaha High/Low

When playing Omaha, you can also choose to play a variation of the game called Omaha High/Low. In this type of game, you can win half the pot with either the highest or the lowest hand. In order to have the lowest hand, a player must have five cards of different suit and value, all of which rank eight or lower. If there is no low hand winner, then the highest hand takes the whole pot - but if there is a low hand winner, the pot is split evenly between the high and the low hand winners. If there are two low hand winners, then the player with the lowest card in their hand will take half of the pot, and the rest will go to the high hand winner. If there are two or more low hand winners with equal low card values, then the pot will be split evenly between the low hand winners and the high hand winner. Players can play both high and low hands at the same time.

Limit, Pot Limit, and No Limit Poker

As with other poker variations, Omaha has three game types: Limit, Pot Limit, and No Limit. In Limit poker, all players agree to both the bet and the raise limit amounts in advance. In Pot Limit poker, the amount of money in the pot sets the maximum amount for any raise or bet. For example, if there are eight dollars in the pot, the player betting cannot raise by any more than eight dollars at a time. This type of gameplay means that each player will be able to make bigger bets as the action goes around the table and more money accumulates in the pot. In No Limit poker, as you can probably guess, there is no limit for bets or raises; players can raise by any amount they like, as many times as they want.

Selecting the Dealer

The dealer is selected as the first player who joins the game. A round dealer button marks the dealer, and the action starts to the left of the dealer, moving clockwise around the table. After each hand, the dealer button will move clockwise, indicating which player will act as the dealer in each hand. In the case where multiple players join the game at the same time, each player will be dealt one card. The player with the highest card will become the dealer.

Posting the Blinds

There are two "blinds" in Omaha: the small blind and the big blind. The small blind is posted by the player to the left of the dealer, and the big blind is posted by the player to the left of the small blind. Blinds are agreed upon beforehand, and the big blind is always equal to twice the amount of the small blind. In a "Heads-up" situation (when there are only two players in the game), both blinds must still be posted. This means that the dealer posts the big blind and the other player posts the small blind. In the event that a player does not have enough chips to meet a blind, they must go "All-in."

The First Betting Round

After the blinds are all posted, the four face down Pocket cards are dealt to each player. The first betting round begins. The first player to bet is the player who posted the small blind. This player will then have the option to fold, call, or raise. If the player no longer wants to be in the hand, they can fold. In order to call, they must match the amount set by the big blind. If they want to raise the bet, they can do so according to the rules of whichever game type they are playing (see the section above on Limit, Pot Limit, and No Limit Poker). After the small blind, the big blind player will have the same options, and will also be able to "check" (keep the bet the same). Each player after that will also have the option to call, check, raise, or fold. The first betting round ends when all bets of all the remaining players are equal.

Community Card Rounds: Flop, Turn, and River

After the first betting round is finished, the community card rounds begin. First, three community cards will be dealt face up in the middle of the table. This is called the "Flop." Once these cards are displayed, another round of betting ensues, working in the same order as the first round of betting. After all bets are equal again, another community card is dealt. This is called the "Turn." Once again, a round of betting ensues. After all bets are equal again, the fifth and final community card (the "River") is dealt. Then there is a final round of betting before the "Showdown" begins.

The Showdown: Finding a Winner

When all bets are equal in the final round of betting, the Showdown can begin. This is where the remaining players show their cards, and a winner is determined. The first player to show their hand will be the last player who bet or raised during the final round of betting. If all players checked during the last round of betting, then the first remaining player to the left of the dealer will show their hand first. The best five card hand will then take the pot, unless you are playing Omaha High/Low, in which case the standard High/Low rules will apply (see the section above on Omaha High/Low).

Recapping the Game’s Progression: Blinds, Pocket Cards, Bets and Showdowns

Think you've got it figured out? To make it easier, let's walk through the playing order one more time. In order to play Omaha, a dealer is selected as either the first player to join the game or the player who receives the highest card in the deal-out. After this, the blinds are posted. Then the four Pocket cards are dealt, and the first round of betting begins. When all bets are equal, the Community card rounds begin. First, three face up cards are dealt in the Flop. Then, one face up card is dealt in the Turn, and then the final face up card is dealt in the River. After each time a card or set of cards is dealt, a round of betting takes place. Play does not move on from each betting round until all bets are equal. When the final betting round is finished, the Showdown begins, and the player with the highest five-card hand (made up of exactly two Pocket cards and three Community cards) wins the pot. If you are playing Omaha High/Low, see the section above for detailed rules on how pot splitting works.

Additional Rules for Omaha

In addition to the basic gameplay rules, there are a few other rules to be aware of when playing Omaha. The first applies to missed blinds. This rule exists to prevent players from skipping out on the blinds when they enter a game late. If a player enters a game late, they must either post an amount equal to the big blind right away, or sit out until the big blind reaches their spot. The second additional rule relates to going all-in. In a case when a player does not have enough chips left to match a bet, but still wants to remain in a hand, they can choose to go all-in. When this happens, the chips that the player puts "all-in" will be placed into a side pot. If the player who went all-in wins the hand, they win the main pot, but the side pot goes to the player with the second-highest hand. If the player who went all-in loses, however, the winner gets both the main pot and the side pot. With four cards instead of two in the Pocket, players can come up with some pretty good hands. When you're playing Omaha, expect to see lots of betting and lots of players making hands. All in all, this is a thrilling version of Hold'em style poker that can take some time to master, but can also be extremely rewarding to those who are willing to put in the effort.


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