Omaha Poker Guide - Introduction to Omaha Poker
Texas Hold 'Em is all the rage at the moment. More then 95% of poker that is televised is Hold 'Em, usually no limit, but occasionally if you're lucky there will be a limit game on. Given that a large proportion of the fish that you find in Hold 'Em poker games are graduates of the televised poker school, you may wonder why you'd want to play Omaha Poker or Omaha 8/b, as it's hardly ever televised, barring the odd WSoP broadcast. People who play Omaha 8/b must play because they know what they're doing and not because they've been lured in by "all-in" WPT-philia, right?
Some think Omaha is pure gambling. They're wrong!
Most low limit Omaha 8/b tables contain players who've filtered in from Hold 'Em. Either they're getting a little bored and want a change of scenery so to speak, or they've lost money at Hold'Em and want to gamble ("hey, you get 4 hole cards in Omaha Poker so it's basically just gambling!" is one of many great comments you may hear the fish say). The great thing about low limit Omaha 8/b is once you have the basics down it's incredibly easy to win at it because the other player's play is generally absolutely awful, even more so than at the same levels of Hold 'Em.
If Hold 'Em is a game of strategy, then Omaha 8/b is a game of maths. At low limits, with lots of players seeing flops, reading other player's hands is largely irrelevant. Reading your own hand, and the possibilities that your hand has in the future are far more important. One of the many incorrect assumptions people make about Omaha 8/b is that it's a complicated game - it isn't. In fact, once you have the basics down, it's a lot simpler than Hold 'Em, primarily because more of your decisions are automatic and obvious.
In Omaha it's all about you, not your opponents
Basic Omaha Poker Rules
Omaha 8/b, also known as Omaha High/Low, Omaha H/L, Omaha Split and more similar names is a split pot game. That is, in many hands, the pot is split between the best high hand (for which the usual Hold 'Em hierarchy applies) and the best low hand. Qualifying low hands and their hierarchy will be described in more detail shortly.
The game is similar to Hold 'Em in that each player is dealt cards, there is a round of betting, a 3-card flop is dealt, then a turn card and finally the river, with betting rounds in between and at the end (with the betting increments doubling after the turn card is dealt). The big difference is that each player is dealt four hole cards in Omaha 8/b, as opposed to 2 in Hold 'Em.
Players must combine two and only two (no more and no less!) of their down cards with three of the cards on the board to make the best five-card hand they can. This is another difference from Texas Hold 'Em, you cannot "play the board" or play just one of your hole cards with four cards from the board, you must play exactly two of your hole cards. For example if you hold four spades and one more pops up on the board, you don't have a flush because you can only use two of your hole cards in making your hand.
If there are 3 cards higher than 8 on the board by the river, it is impossible for anyone to have a low hand
The mechanics of the "low" hand seem complicated at first but are actually very simple. Essentially, your low hand is the five lowest unpaired cards in your hand (with Aces counting as low, and with straights and flushes not counting against a low hand - A2345 of hearts is a perfectly fine low hand, for example). A player can use 2 different hole cards in making a low hand to the cards he/she uses in making a high hand. To qualify for a low hand, the highest card in the low must be no higher than an 8 - hence the name Omaha 8/b - “Omaha Eight or Better“. So if you have A4678 as your lowest 5 unpaired cards, you have a low hand, if you have A2349 you don't, as the 9 is too high. What this means is that if there are not 3 cards lower than a 9 on the board by the river, it is impossible for anyone to have a low hand (as you must use 3 cards from the board in making your hand, remember?). The lower the cards in the low hand, the better the low hand is. Low hands are specifically ranked by taking the highest card in the low first and working backwards, with the player who shows the first lower card than his opponent(s) taking the low. Imagine this scenario, which is helpful in understanding both high and low hands in OmahaPoker :
Here, Player A wins the high pot with QQQJ7 for three queens. Player B does not have a straight - if he was allowed to use 3 of his hole cards he would, but of course he isn't, so the best hand he has for high is AKQJ7 for Ace-high. Player C has JJAQ7 for a pair of Jacks as his high hand. As for the low hand, Player A has no low as 24679 is his lowest hand, and this doesn't qualify as a low as the 9 is too high, Player B has A2347, and Player C has A2457 (again, not A2456 as he can only use 2 hole cards!). To determine the best low hand, simply reverse them...
...and check the numbers from left to right. Both players have a 7, so move to the next card. Here, Player B has a 4 and Player C has a 5. As the 4 is lower than the 5, Player B has the best low hand and takes the low pot. If both players had the same second card you would move to the third, and so on. In fact, Player B has the "nut low" here, that is he has the best possible low hand. If the board shows three low (8 or lower) cards, and you have the lowest 2 cards that are not on the board, you have the nut low. If the board shows KK678 and you have A2xx, you have the nut low. Similarly if the board shows A237J and you have 45xx, you have the nut low. Recognising what the nut low is and whether you have it or a strong draw to it is important to being successful when starting out with Omaha 8/b, as you will find out in Part III of this Omaha Poker Guide.
To recap, essentially the basic rules of Omaha Poker are:
Reading your hand can be tricky, but you'll get used to it
Pick up a deck of cards and deal some hands out at home as practice or play some free games at online poker sites if you’re not confident in your ability at reading your own hand - things like reading what you have with A256 on a 23578 board can be quite nightmarish at first. With practice, the ability comes easily after a while.
In the Part II of this guide, we will look at Omaha Poker Starting Hand Selection and Preflop Play.
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