Introducing Omaha Poker
The game of Omaha Hold’em (known simply as Omaha by most) has only been around for about 30 years. It used to have a different name; Robert Turner introduced this poker variant to the Golden Nugget casino in Las Vegas, and director of operations Bill Boyd tried to call it Nugget Hold’em. Thankfully, the name didn’t stick. Now people all over the world are playing Omaha, and this game is still growing in popularity – some even call it the Game of the Future.
Omaha is definitely one of the most exciting poker games you’ll ever play. The structure is almost identical to Texas Hold’em, but instead of starting with two hole cards, you start with four. That makes a tremendous difference. Including duplicates, there are 1,326 possible starting hands in Hold’em, and 270,725 possible hands in Omaha. Just about anything can happen with all those combinations, especially when the flop comes out.
Know your Poker Hand Rankings
Since you now have up to nine cards at your disposal to make a 5-card poker hand, your chances of making a really big hand are much greater in Omaha than they are in Texas Hold’em. There’s a very important restriction, though: You have to use exactly two of your hole cards and three community cards to make your hand. If there are four diamonds on the board and you have only one diamond in your hand, you do not have a flush. If the board reads Ace-King-Queen-Jack and the highest card you have is a Ten, you do not have an Ace-high straight.
Getting used to this rule and figuring out what hands you actually have can take a while for players who are more familiar with Hold’em. So can adapting to how strong your opponents are. In Hold’em, if you have top and bottom pair on the flop, that’s a pretty good hand, one that you might be willing to bet for three streets of value (flop, turn and river being the streets). In Omaha, that hand might be worth one street. King-high flushes also plummet in value when you switch from Hold’em to Omaha. So do non-nut straights and bottom sets. You even have to watch out when you don’t have the best possible full house.
The other key difference between the two games is with their most popular betting structures. While No Limit Hold’em reigns supreme, Pot-Limit Omaha (PLO) is the preferred way to play four-card poker. There are different decisions to be made when the biggest bet you can make is the size of the pot. It’s not a dramatic shift, though. If you’re comfortable with betting in No Limit Hold’em, PLO won’t take too long to master. It’s dealing with all those 270,725 starting hands that separates the pros from the joes.