Omaha Poker is the poker variant people are starting to turn to more and more. Texas Hold‘em Poker still reigns supreme in terms of popularity, but the wealth of formats and strategies that Omaha inevitably demands has attracted an increasing number of players towards its card rooms. The following are the different variations of Omaha, and the subtly nuanced approaches one must take to master each.
This is the most widely played format of Omaha poker – the one usually associated with large tournaments and televised cash games. The basic premise is the same as Texas Hold‘em; combine your hole cards with those on the table to create the best possible, five-card hand.
However, instead of two hole cards, you are dealt four, two of which you have to use to create your hand. In other words, you can’t pick and choose one hole card to combine with four community cards to form the best hand; even if there were five hearts on the table, you’d have to have two in your hand to complete a flush.
New players to this form of Omaha Poker will need to be very wary as they learn the game. Because more cards are dealt, there are more chances of making bigger hands. However, what may look good on a Texas Hold‘em board probably won’t be as strong here. Straights and Flushes should always be aimed for as a minimum; two pair will rarely win you any money – a fundamental of Omaha strategy.
Sometimes called Omaha Eight or Better and Omaha 8/B, Omaha Hi-Lo plays out exactly the same as Omaha Hi until the final showdown. This is when things get a little more complicated; instead of just one winning hand, there can be two – the highest and lowest. Each hand is rewarded half the pot, although if a player has both the highest and lowest possible hands, they will win all the chips.
A further quirk is as follows; in order to qualify as a low hand, you must have five unpaired cards all ranked 8 or below. Straights or Flushes won’t count against you if you’re playing for a low ranked hand.
Hi-Lo is a deeply interesting form of Omaha Poker, because you can approach it from one of two defined strategies – aggressive or defensive. Players who naturally adopt an aggressive Omaha strategy will always try to ‘scoop’ the pot (as opposed to chop with a low hand) by over-betting when there appears to be a danger of a low hand creeping up on the board. More defensive players will often look to chop the chips, consolidating their count until waiting for the right moment to pounce and scoop for all the table is worth.
This is how Omaha Poker is usually played; when the amount players are allowed to put into a pot is determined by the amount already put down. Pot Limit Omaha strategy allows you to bet anything up to the current pot size, but not over that cap. This means that, although there will still be all-ins and sizeable pots, it takes a few more bets than the standard No Limit format you’ll see most Hold‘em games operating under.
Fixed Limit is usually reserved for Hi-Lo games (though not always). Essentially, bet sizes are always fixed, so the pot will build incrementally. This is best in Hi-Lo because – more than in any other poker format – with every card that comes down, hand values can change so dramatically. Fixed Limit Omaha strategy should always be geared towards reacting to cards as they fall, not trying to predict opponents’ hands before the flop is even dealt.