If you’re looking for an alternative form of poker to Texas Hold’em then Omaha is a great option. It’s not quite as popular as Texas but it is very widely played online and live and so it’s not too difficult to find a game. The rules are also relatively easy to learn if you’re already familiar with Texas as there are many similarities.
What makes learning Omaha a bit more complicated is the fact that there are actually a few different types. The most popular of these are Omaha High, followed by Omaha Hi-Lo. These are the two versions you’ll find available at most online poker sites. Much of the basic rules are the same in these two versions; the biggest difference is that in Omaha High you have to try and make the highest hand while in Hi-Lo you have to try and make the highest hand AND the lowest hand.
This might sound somewhat confusing but the game is not as difficult to learn as you might think. We’ve explained the rules of both versions on this page, starting with Omaha High and then the Hi-Lo version. For the purposes of these rules we have assumed that you do not know how to play Texas – if you do then you’ll already be aware of some of what we cover. For more general information on Omaha, including details of the best places to play online, please see the following page – Omaha Guide.
Omaha High Rules
Much of the rules for High and Hi/Lo are the same. We suggest you read through the rules for the High version first and then look at the Hi-Lo rules if you wish to learn that version too.
The objective in a hand of Omaha High is to win the pot, which contains all the chips that are bet by players during each hand. The pot is won by the player that has the best hand once all the betting rounds have taken place, or by the last remaining player if all other players have folded at any point. It should be noted that if two or more players tie for the highest hand then the chips in the pot are split equally between them.
Just like in Texas, at the start of an Omaha hand forced bets have to be placed by the player to the left of the dealer (the small blind) and the player to the their left (the big blind). The size of the blinds is determined before a game starts, and the big blind is always twice the size of the small blind.
Also as in Texas, one player is the nominated dealer on each hand. To ensure that all players take turns in paying their blinds, the player to the left of the dealer deals the next hand. The player to their left deals the next one, and so on.
Players are dealt four face down cards each at the start of a hand; these are known as the hole cards. When the players have looked at their hole cards, the first round of betting takes place. We cover how all the betting works later.
Following the first betting round, three face up cards are dealt to the table. These cards are effectively shared by all the players, as they can all use any of them. They are collectively known as community cards; the first three dealt are known as the flop.
After the flop another round of betting takes place. A fourth community card is dealt and followed by another round of betting, then a fifth community card is dealt and followed by the final round of betting. The fourth and fifth community cards are known as the turn and the river respectively.
If there’s only one player remaining at any point during any of the betting rounds, then that player wins the pot. If there are two or more players following the final round of betting, then their hands are compared. This is known as the showdown. The player with the highest value hand wins the pot; if there’s a tie then the pot is shared.
This is where the major difference between Omaha High and Texas Hold’em comes in. Players still use a combination of their hole cards and the community cards to make the best hand, but they have four hole cards rather than two. They must use exactly two of their hole cards and exactly three of the community cards.
Not fully understanding this rule is the biggest mistake that new Omaha players make. People often think they can use any combination of hole and community cards, which can lead to getting the value of their hand completely wrong. You have to remember that you have to use two, and only two, of your hole cards.
You must learn the hand rankings as this is essential information. The rankings are the same as in Texas Hold’em and we’ve listed them below, starting with the highest value.
The first betting round (pre-flop, when no community cards have been dealt) starts with the player to the left of the big blind. This player may fold (by discarding their hand), call (by placing a bet equal to the big blind), or raise (by placing a bet greater than the big blind). Play then moves around the table in a clockwise direction, with each player folding, calling or raising. If a raise is made, all other players must call that raise (or raise again) if they wish to stay in the hand. Once all players have either folded or called, the flop is dealt.
The betting round after the flop starts with the player immediately to the left of the dealer; there are no blinds involved anymore. Players can now check if they want – providing no bet has been made – which means they stay in the hand without have to place a bet. If any player has made a bet, then that has to be called to stay in the hand. Players can also still choose to fold or raise. Once all players have ether folded or called, the turn is dealt.
After the turn is dealt another betting round takes place following the exact same process as the previous round. The river is then dealt and another round takes place following the same process again. Once this betting round is complete (assuming more than one player remains) showdown takes place and hands are compared. The player (or players if there is a tie) with the highest value hand wins the pot. The hand is over, the deal moves around one position, and the next hand starts.
Omaha Hi-Lo Rules
In Omaha Hi-Lo the rules are very similar. The betting is exactly the same, you’re still dealt four cards, and there are still five community cards that you can use. The only real difference is that, if a hand goes to showdown, the pot is divided equally between the player with the best high hand and the player with the best low hand.
It’s possible for one player to win both hands, as they can create two separate hands using their hole cards and the community cards. The normal rules apply though – each hand must contain exactly two hole cards and exactly three community cards. Cards can be re-used across both hands though. The best high hand is determined in the same way as Omaha High, using the same rankings.
To qualify for the best low hand, a player must have no pairs and no card higher than an eight. Hand strength is then determined by the highest value card, then the next highest value and so on. So eight high would be beaten by seven high, which would be beaten by six high. An eight high with a seven as the next highest card would be beaten by an eight high with a six as the next highest card.
Straights and flushes are ignored for the purposes of the low hand and aces are low. The best possible low hand is 5-4-3-2-A, which is known as the wheel.