Omaha poker may be the fastest-growing segment of the poker world and read more about the reasons why Omaha is popular. Omaha games typically have the largest pots compared to the stakes they are played at and tend to be exciting games with lots of big confrontations. Omaha is technically a Holdem game, but most references to “Holdem” mean Texas Holdem. For our purposes, “Holdem” means Texas Holdem, and “Omaha” means Omaha (reasonably). Like Holdem, Omaha is a community card game, with five cards on the board. The most obvious difference is that each player receives four hole cards instead of just two.
Learning Omaha is much easier if the player understands Holdem first. For an introduction to Holdem, see our separate article on the subject, then return here. Once the player understands the basic rules and structure of Holdem, they can begin to learn Omaha. Other than two very important rules, Omaha is played virtually identically to Holdem. The first rule difference is the four-hole cards dealt with each player. The second is known as the two-card rule.
The Two Card Rule
Beginning Omaha players almost always make this mistake once. Although you are dealt four hole cards, you must use exactly two of them, along with exactly three of the board cards to make a five-card poker hand. If the board contains five of the same suit, but you do not have at least two of that suit in your hole cards, you do not have a flush. If you make the mistake of playing as if the two-card rule was not necessary, don’t worry too much. Most people (even the best players in the world) have made this mistake at least once. If you do not repeat the mistake, consider yourself lucky.
Learning and applying the two-card rule to determine the best hand you can make takes practice, but is extremely important. To read the board, consider what the best possible hand is when using any three of them. Ask these questions:
Is there a pair on the board? If so a full house or quads is the best possible hand.
Are there three or more cards of the same suit on the board? If so, a player holding two of that suit in their hand has a flush. The players with the highest flush cards in their hand will win with the higher flush.
If there are not three flush cards or a pair on the board, the best possible hand might be a straight (if there are three cards on the board that could be part of a five-card sequence). The highest straight wins. If a square is not possible, the best possible hand is three of a kind (called a set) where the player holds two cards of one rank in their hand that matches another on the board. The highest set would win.
Effects of Four Hole Cards
With each player holding four hole cards, the likelihood that someone has the best possible hand, or close to it, is greatly increased. If you are accustomed to playing Holdem, you will find that in Omaha, pairs rarely win, two pair doesn’t win often, and even three of a kind is difficult to win with. If there were several players in the hand, and your hand value is relatively weak by Omaha standards, you should not be concerned about folding the best hand, as you probably don’t have it.