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Omaha Hold'em

For Texas Hold’em players, the Omaha variant feels close to home. Many of the same rules and format are shared across both game types, which form the opening 1-2 of HORSE and similar multi-variant games. Each player is dealt four hole cards, as opposed to two in Texas Hold’em, before the betting pattern and community cards follow the Texas Hold’em format identically. The aim is to make the best five-card hand from the cards available, using any two hole cards and any three community cards.

Players don’t have the discretion to use three or four of their hole cards, or to use more of the community cards — the requirements are not flexible. At showdown, it is only those hands comprised of two hole and three community cards that can rank, introducing choice of hands, the factor that makes Omaha virtually unbluffable. Omaha is usually played with limits, although a number of different versions of the game exist with their own twists on the rules.

Omaha Strategy

Omaha differs from Hold’em in that it takes the strongest hand to win most of the time. By that, we mean the nuts hand or as close to it as possible, because each player has nine available cards (the five community cards plus four hole cards) from which to compose their hand, with the available combinations having a multiplying effect. When the table is full, that makes it unlikely that players can bluff their way to victory with anything less than a strong hand. Two pairs or triples are usually unlikely to be strong enough — we’re talking straights, flushes or full house to be in contention.

As you play through each round, you need a good understanding of the strongest possible hands that could emerge from the information available to you, and how they develop as additional community cards are introduced.

You usually don’t want to raise the action before the flop, because there are a huge number of possibilities that come to the fore when the community cards are dealt. Specifically, if you’re sitting with a hand of four aces, or similar, you probably want to fold straight away. You already know you’re unlikely to make the strongest available hand from the flop, because you can only choose two of your hole cards to contribute to the final hand.

You need to wait for the best cards to fall into your hand/on to the flop before getting too confident. Similar to Texas Hold’em, you don’t want to be aggressively betting hands on a bluff. In Omaha this is even more relevant, given that you’re effectively playing significant multiples of different potential hands simultaneously — weaker hands just aren’t a sensible play.

By contrast, when you do draw a strong hand — for instance, a suited straight — in your hole cards, it’s often a good idea to play cautiously at first to keep as many of your opponents in the hand as you can. The more people involved, the more money there will be on the table come showdown, and this kind of hand gives you multiple options for landing the nuts, or at least something nearly as strong.

If there’s one thing to remember throughout your Omaha play, it’s that bluffing will seldom get you very far. You wouldn’t bluff too often at a Texas Hold’em table with 30 other hands, and that’s essentially the kind of mountain you’re up against, given the combinations available to each player making up their hands. Instead, wait for the best hands to arrive, and bet up those that are looking strong in multiple directions after the flop. These hands will be your best chance of walking away with the pot, and often your only credible chance of winning come showdown when you’re against several other players.

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