Omaha is second only to Texas Hold’em in its popularity among today's US poker players. Both games use a community card pile, but where Texas Hold'em gives players two private cards, Omaha doubles this to four. The extra cards means that more combinations are possible, offering a greater challenge and more variety.
The standard version of Omaha poker is technically known as Omaha Hi, where players must hold the highest scoring hand to win. Another variant is Omaha Hi-Lo, in which players can win with the highest scoring hand and the lowest scoring hand. The winning pot is split between the winning high hand and the winning low hand. This is also sometimes known as Omaha 8, as players have to score eight or better, or eight or lower, to win the high pot and low pot. The ultimate goal for players taking part in the hi-lo variant is to win both pots with the same hand, commonly known as scooping.
There are also lesser known hybridised versions of Omaha that are more commonly found in private games than in casinos. Double Flop Omaha, or Two-Time Omaha, is played with two lots of community cards on the table at the same time. There is also an additional twisted version of this, where the river is followed by a sixth community card, 12 cards in total. This offers a wild variety of combinations to players.
In addition to the variations of the game, there are also different types of betting in Omaha poker. The first and most well-known is pot limit, where the maximum bet is whatever is in the cash pot. This can escalate very quickly and become rather expensive, although not as expensive as no-limit betting, where players can raise as much as they can afford. The third type is fixed-limit betting, where the cash pot can only be raised four times, with the bet sizes raised tied to the size of blinds.
Although players are dealt four individual or "hole" cards, they must only use two of these, combined with three of the community cards, to create the best possible hand. The bet moves clockwise around the table, and continues until all players who have not folded have equalled the bet. The dealer then deals the "flop"; these are the first three community cards. After another round of betting, the fourth community card, the "turn", is placed down, and then after another round, the fifth and final community card, the "river", is revealed.
The first player will then either continue to bet, or if no bet is to be made, will show their cards. This continues until all players have revealed their best hand in the showdown, and the winner is decided. While this may sound similar to Texas Hold ’em, there are some notable distinctions between the two. For example, while both games require a minimum of three cards of the same suit to form a flush hand, in Omaha two of these cards must be held in the player’s private cards, whereas in Texas Hold ’em, they can come from either of the two hole cards or any of the community cards.
Omaha is unusual among card games as its invention cannot be pinned down easily. The exact origins of the game are unknown, but there was a similar game known as Twice Threes that was popular in American cities such as Detroit and Chicago in the 1960s, even spreading as far as New York. It went through some modifications as it drifted across the country. One of the major differences between the variations found in the north and south was that the north played with five cards dealt to each player.
This was all while the southern states dealt four – the latter becoming the standard in Omaha poker. This game was also played under a number of different titles, going by names of other locations such as Fort Worth and Oklahoma, before Omaha was settled on in the 1980s. It is believed the Nebraskan town was chosen as it is in the centre of the United States, and was seen as an agreeable compromise between all the other location-based names.
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