Rules Omaha

Omaha, previously well known as Omaha Hold'em, is a variation of Texas Hold'em that is quite popular. It pays, however, to get a grasp of the concepts in Hold'em before attempting this game. (Note: Texas Hold'em is often simply called Hold'em.)

Players share common cards called the board. The obligation to open the betting is rotated clockwise after each hand. This is accomplished with the use of a dealer button and blinds. A dealer button is a round disk with the word dealerwritten on it. Blinds are mandatory bets made by the first two players clockwise from the dealer button.

The blinds posted in all limit games are in the amounts of 1/2 of the lower limit for the first player (small blind) and the lower limit for the second player (big blind). The blinds in a $10-$20 game would, therefore, be $5 and $10.

The player with the button is theoretically dealing the hand. A casino employee will deal the first card to the player on the immediate left of the dealer button. The obligation to open the pot is rotated around the table. As the button moves, all players receive the same benefits of position. This position element, the order in which players are required to act, has a strong influence on proper play in all games where buttons are used. Obviously, the player with the privilege of betting last has a significant advantage.

Each player receives four cards face-down as their starting hand. When the hand is over, each player must use EXACTLY two cards from his hand and EXACTLY three from the board. Although these are the only changes from Texas Hold'em, this does not mean that you will easily go from Hold'em to Omaha. These changes create radically different situations.

At first it will be difficult to properly read a nine-card hand using the correct number from both your hand and the board. You may think you have a full house when you don't or a flush when you can't have one. Assessing your hand can be difficult as draw combinations become more complex.

The player to the left of the big blind must call the size of the big blind, raise an amount equal to the size of the bet (the big blind at this time) or fold his hand.

In blind games the money posted for the blinds counts toward the player's bet, and the players posting these blinds have the option to raise even if the big blind has not been raised. An example will clarify this: The big blind, $10 in a $10-$20 limit game, is called by several players but no one raises. After the player with the button acts the small blind calls for $5 more, he already had $5 in for the small blind. The house dealer would now offer an option to the big blind who could then raise his own bet even though he had started the action and not been raised. Alternatively, the big blind can check and the hand will proceed.

The next three cards are called the flop. They are delivered all at once, face-up in the middle of the table and are used by all players. The first player to the left of the button is first to act. This will hold true for all remaining rounds of betting. The player being first may check or bet the limit, still the smaller limit at this point. Other players may check, fold, call, or raise as appropriate.

The next card is called the turn. It is delivered face-up next to the first three in the middle of the table. With the turn the betting goes to the higher limit.

The final, or river card, also called fifth street, is now dealt face-up. Together these cards make a five card board. Again, the betting is the higher limit for the game being played.

Once all the betting has been completed and multiple players remain in the round, the hands are shown and the winning hand is established. Remember, each player must use EXACTLY two cards from his hand and EXACTLY three from the board.

There are possibilities in Omaha that never occur in Hold'em. A favorite example of this concept is when Omaha was new to Las Vegas. A player flopped top set (three of a kind using the highest card on the flop), nut straight (the highest possible straight, which at this point was the best possible hand), and an open ended straight flush draw (four cards to the straight flush with two ways to complete the hand).

Any one of these hands would be cause for great excitement in Hold'em and, in fact, this was quite a strong hand in Omaha as well, but not nearly as strong as it sounds. The deuce of hearts on the fourth card beat that player's top set and nut straight and gave him a small flush, just enough to pay off the winner and gain a new insight into Omaha.

If you are a beginner to Omaha remember these three rules:
(1) You can't have a full house if the board isn't paired
(2) You can't have a flush if there aren't three suited cards on the board
(3) You can't play the board

Omaha High-Low is played using the Ace to Five Eight or Better rules. The pot is split between the best high and the best low hands, assuming there is a qualifying low hand. Odd chips are awarded to the high hand.

Omaha Tips

Tip: Look for hands that offer many playable combinations of two-card hands. There are six combinations of two-card hands in a four-card starting hand.
Example: Your hand is: A -hearts, A-spades, Q-hearts, J-spades
The six two-card combinations are: A-hearts, A-spadesA-hearts, Q-heartsA-hearts, J-spadesA-spades, Q-heartsA-spades, J-spadesQ-hearts, J-spades
Suited cards are less significant unless they contain the ace or king. Treat two pair on the flop much like you would one pair in Texas Hold'em.

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