While Texas hold’em has been the biggest benefactor of the poker boom, it hasn’t been the only one. A similar variant, Omaha hold’em, previously obscure among casual poker players, has also seen a major rise in popularity. Many people have picked up the game because of its resemblance to Texas hold’em, but they soon find out that there are several significant differences between them. Omaha hold’em often provides more ‘action’ (more betting and bigger pots) than its Texas form, is frequently played as a hi/lo game (more specifically Pot Limit Omaha, Hi-Lo), and narrows the gap between beginner and expert.
For those of you have that played poker in the past but really have no idea how to play Limit Texas Hold ‘Em or Omaha, you are absolutely in luck! For that is exactly what we are going to discuss below so that way you know exactly what you might be getting yourself into whenever you start playing either of these games. What you might not know about these two games is that they are pretty much exactly the same terms of playing.
Omaha high-low is a split-pot game. What that means is that it is possible to make both the best high and low poker hand. Half of the pot would then be awarded to the best high hand and half of the pot would be given to the best low hand. However, if no one has the best low hand, the entire pot will go to the high hand, so make sure that you keep that in mind. The idea of the whole game is to entire that you have the best of both worlds so you can scoop the pot (meaning, taking the whole pot).
Omaha is a ‘community card’ game, meaning that the players share a board of five cards in addition to their own hands. It differs from Texas hold’em in that players have four cards in their hands – as opposed to two – and that two of the four cards must be played. For example, if the board shows 5-6-7-8-A and you are holding A-A-K-9, you do not have a straight to the 9, since that would only be using one of your cards; your best five-card hand using two of your own cards would be A-A-A-8-7, or three aces. In order to have a straight, you would need two cards in your hand to complete it, such as 9-10, giving you a straight to the 10, or even 4-7, giving you a 4-5-6-7-8. While seemingly minute, this change dramatically changes the way that hands play out.
Another key difference between Texas hold’em and Omaha hold’em is that the latter is often played as ‘Hi/Lo,’ meaning that the pot can be split between the high and the low hand. An A-2-3-4-5, known as a ‘wheel’ straight, is the best possible low hand. Because there will be additional players chasing the low before and after the flop, the pots in Omaha Hi/Lo are often larger than those of standard Omaha hold’em. The Hi/Lo variation is usually played as a limit game, though pot-limit and no-limit tables are not unheard of.
While many people play for the aforementioned reasons – lots of action and huge, split pots – there is another, subtler factor that may drive additional players to the Omaha tables: namely, the beginner player has a smaller disadvantage when compared to the expert. Though the skilled player will win the more often of the two, his or her edge will not be as large on each individual hand. No preflop in Omaha hold’em is nearly as powerful as AA is in Texas hold’em, and having four cards means that players will more frequently hold the best possible hand – ‘the nuts.’
Omaha hold’em has ridden the coattails of its sister game, Texas hold’em, into the spotlight and is now played with increasing frequency. It draws players in with its massive pots and Hi/Lo variation, which allows for two winners per hand. Though the strategy in Omaha Poker is somewhat different than in Texas, give the former a whirl if you have already learned the latter, as you will pick it quickly; you might even find a new favorite game.