How to Play Omaha Hi

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Hold’em is sometimes referred to as the Cadillac of poker. Omaha players have jokingly said that this must make Omaha the Ferrari.

If you like fast-paced poker with lots of action, Pot-Limit Omaha might be for you. It’s currently the second most popular poker game after No-Limit Hold’em.

Let’s find out how to play this exciting variant of poker.

Omaha vs Hold’em

Most rules in Omaha are completely identical to Hold’em. Before reading this article, you should have a thorough understanding of how to play No-Limit Hold’em.

We are going to be focusing exclusively on the differences between the two variants. We won’t recap the basics such as –

  • Positions
  • Blinds
  • Streets
  • Hand rankings
  • Betting actions

These are all identical to Hold’em.

Summary of Differences Between Omaha and Hold’em
Betting RoundsSame
Hand RankingsSame
Hole CardsFour Hole Cards in Omaha instead of 2.
Betting StructureHold’em is usually No-Limit while Omaha is usually Pot-Limit.
Making HandsMust use exactly two Hole Cards and three from the board in Omaha.

Preflop Starting Hands

The most obvious difference in Omaha is that players are dealt 4 Hole Cards instead of 2. Like Hold’em, these hole cards are used in conjunction with the community cards to make a hand.

A preflop holding which might be strong in Hold’em is not necessarily strong in Omaha. Starting hands which coordinate well across all FOUR cards will be the strongest.

(AKxx, where the xx represents two uncoordinated off-suit cards, is a relatively weak hand in Omaha. But AK in Hold’em is one of the strongest.)

Another difference with Omaha is that players must use exactly two of their hole cards when constructing a hand.

In Hold’em, players may use any or even zero of their hole cards when constructing a hand. Therefore, particular starting hands in Omaha may block their own outs.

For example, 2c 2d 2s 2h might seem like a great starting hand. But it’s generally considered to be the worst starting hand in Omaha.

We don’t hold Quads but rather a pair of twos which can never improve to a set postflop since we hold the two remaining twos in our hand. The same would be true when holding four Aces in our hand.

Hands like Ad9d5d2d have similar issues in that they block their own flush outs.

Examples of great starting hands in Omaha include AsAdKsKd and AsAcJdTc. Notice how these hands have exactly two cards of each suit (called double-suited in Omaha). Also, notice how one card of each suit is the ace (called double-suited to the ace in Omaha).

Most Common Beginner Preflop Mistake

Overplaying AAxx and KKxx type holdings.

AAxx and KKxx are not always super strong like they are in Hold’em. The strength of AAxx depends heavily on the two side cards. KKxx is almost always dominated in a preflop all-in battle (assuming the stacks are not extremely shallow).

Unimproved postflop, AAxx is just an overpair and usually not strong enough to stack off.

Making Hands Postflop

Postflop hand strengths are considerably different in Omaha compared to Hold’em. In general, it’s much easier to make big hands in Omaha. (We have four Hole Cards instead of two).

Whatever we stack off postflop with, in Hold’em, we’ll need something stronger in Omaha. In fact, Omaha is often referred to as a game of the nuts.

In many postflop situations, stacking off without the nuts (the best possible hand) will be a mistake. Our opponent will nearly always hold the nuts.

There is a lot of money to be made from weaker Omaha players. They treat their postflop hands like Hold’em hands (and hence committing their chips too wide).

It’s especially crucial to be careful with overpairs, two-pair hands and lower sets in Omaha. Bottom set can be a big problem hand in Omaha. Newer players may consistently lose stacks here until they realise that non-nut holdings (even sets) are not that strong.

Most Common Beginner Postflop Mistake

Forgetting about the 2 hole-card rule and misreading the hand.

Imagine the following:
Board: AhTh8h2h 4s
Hand: Kh Jd 9s 4c

A beginner with a Hold’em background might immediately assume we have the nut heart flush with the Kh. Unfortunately, we just have a pair of fours since we can only use three of the cards from the board in Omaha.

Board: Ah Ad Ac Ks3s
Hand: Kh Jd 9s 4c

It’s tempting to assume we have aces full, but we only have three of a kind Aces. We can’t use four cards from the board. If Villain has any pocket pair such as 22xx, he will beat us with his aces full.

Pot-Limit Structure

Hold’em is typically played with a no-limit structure while Omaha with a pot-limit structure. So, what’s the difference?

With No-Limit, we can bet or raise any amount at any time (so long as we have enough chips in our stack). With a Pot-Limit structure, we can only bet or raise the size of the pot at any given time.

Calculating a Pot-Sized Raise

Calculating a pot-sized bet is straightforward. We can see exactly how many chips are in the middle.

For example, if there is $100 in the pot, the maximum we can bet is $100.

It’s slightly less intuitive when calculating raise sizings. So, let’s go over a quick example.

Example - There is $100 in the middle. Our opponent bets $50. What is our maximum raise size?

We might imagine that we can raise by $150 to $200 since there is $150 in the middle at the decision point. However, this is not a pot-sized raise.

Why is this not a pot-sized raise? Think about it from our opponent’s perspective. He would need to call an additional $150 into a total pot of $500 (after his call). So, he would be investing 30% of the total pot. If it were a pot-sized raise, he would be investing exactly one third (33.333% of the total pot).

To calculate a pot-size raise, let’s first imagine that we simply call our opponent’s bet, then look at the pot-size.

So, in this case, if we smooth call our opponent’s bet, there would be a total of $200 in the middle. To create a pot-sized raise, we should raise the $50 bet by $200 for a total raise of $250.

Can we prove this is really a pot-sized raise? From our opponent’s perspective, he would need to call $200 more into a total pot of $600 (after his call). So, he would be investing exactly one-third of the pot (33.333%), allowing us to confirm that this is a pot-sized raise.

Do I Need to Worry?

It may seem complex. Take comfort that many poker players go through their entire career without knowing how to calculate a pot-sized raise.

There are a couple of reasons for this.

  1. In online poker, the maximum raise sizing is calculated for us. We can simply click the ‘pot’ button.
  2. In live poker, a player may ask the dealer at any point to calculate the maximum raise sizing.

It’s possible to get by without knowing the calculation. But live Omaha players should know exactly how to calculate pot-sized raises. This allows them to understand their full range of strategic options. They won’t end up giving away information by constantly asking the dealer.

Getting Started with Omaha

Before jumping into a game, it’s a good idea to be thoroughly familiar with the rules. There are play money games available online where we can learn the ropes without risking real cash.

Once we are familiar with the rules, why not check out our top Omaha tips in this Omaha poker strategy article?

Omaha offers some other variations. For example –

  • 5-card PLO
  • 6-card PLO
  • 4-card No-Limit Omaha and others

It probably makes sense to start with regular 4-card Pot-Limit Omaha before jumping into some of the more exotic Omaha variants.

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