OMAHA POKER AND ITS VARIATIONS

Texas Hold’em Poker is now the undisputed king of casino poker games–land based or online–but the second most popular game is arguably Omaha and its variations. 7 Card Stud could also make a compelling case for ‘runner up’ status but anecdotally it sure seems that Omaha is a solid number two in terms of popularity, particularly among ‘wise guys’ and professional players. This isn’t really surprising since the game is derived from Texas Hold’em and there’s a lot of overlap between the skills needed to be successful at each.

No one really knows where Omaha poker originated though based on its name it presumably came from the Midwestern United States. Some of the rule variations also have geographic names associated with them though these have fallen out of common use in modern times. In low-ball poker, for example, there are different hand ranking systems that are referred to as ‘California’ or ‘Kansas City’ rules. Other variations of the game don’t have a geographic name attached but are popular in different parts of the country and different regions internationally. The game first gained widespread popularity at the Golden Nugget casino in downtown Las Vegas where it was originally known as ‘Nugget Hold’em’.

THE RULES OF OMAHA POKER

Omaha poker is similar to Texas Hold’em in that the cards dealt are a split between private cards held by a player (‘hole cards’) and shared cards dealt face up in the center of the table (‘community cards’). In Omaha, each player is dealt four hole cards along with five community cards. The tricky part of Omaha is that each player must use *only* two hole cards combined with *only* three community cards to make the best possible hand. The requirement that the player use only two hole cards to make a hand is the common denominator between the wide gamut of ‘Omaha’ game variations.

Like Texas Hold’em, the basic variations of Omaha are betting related. The most popular form of Omaha is ‘Pot Limit Omaha’ in which each player can bet up to the size of the pot in each betting round. There is also ‘No Limit Omaha’ which like it’s Texas Hold’em counterpart allows each player to bet up to their entire chip stack at any time in any hand. Finally, there’s ‘Limit Omaha’ which has a pre-set betting limit prescribed for each round of wagering. In Pot Limit and No Limit Omaha, there is no cap on the number of raises a player can make in each betting round. In Limit Omaha, there is a maximum of four raises per betting round.

ADVANCED OMAHA VARIATIONS

At this point, Omaha gets a bit more complex but much of the terminology and concepts we talk about here are found in other types of poker. We’ll go into greater detail covering these variations but here are the basics. Basic Omaha uses a hand ranking system similar to Texas Hold’em or draw poker–a straight flush is the best hand you can make followed by four of a kind, full house, flush, straight, three of a kind, two pairs, one pair and a high card. There is also a group of games known as ‘lowball poker’ in which a player tries to make a *low* hand. There are several rulesets for lowball but the top hand in each is known as ‘The Wheel’. In A-5 lowball, ‘The Wheel’ is 5-4-3-2-A. In Deuce-Seven lowball ‘The Wheel’ is 7-5-4-3-2 (note the missing ‘6’ in the sequence). The hand doesn’t have to have a ‘missing six’ but the idea is to have 5 non-connected, non suited card meaning that 7-6-4-3-2 is also a strong hand. In the event of a tie, the second lowest card determines the winner. In A-5 lowball, suits are irrelevant in terms of hand rankings. In Deuce-Seven lowball, the top hand will have different suits. For example, a mixed suit 7-5-4-3-2 will beat a suited 7-5-4-3-2. Lowball is obviously a counterintuitive game for those who are not used to it and has a number of variations and unique rulesets. We’ll go over these variations in future articles.

Another popular game is ‘Hi-Lo’ poker which combines the rulesets described above. Each player makes a separate 5 card ‘high’ hand and a 5 card ‘low’ hand. The pot is split between the two winners. As is the case above, this version of Omaha has its unique rules and complexities that we’ll discuss in future articles.