how to play Omaha poker table with chips

PLO (Pot Limit Omaha) Poker: PLO Rules and How to Play

Omaha Poker Game Overview

Over the past few years, Omaha Poker has become one of the most popular online poker variants. Like most poker games, the basic rules are the same - so if you know how to play Texas Hold’em, for example - you should pick up this game fairly quickly. 

When you’re surfing the internet for poker tips and strategies, you’ll often see PLO - the PLO poker meaning in this case is Pot Limit Omaha. The object of the game 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 the showdown, it is only the 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 variations of the game exist with their own twists on the rules. Read more about how to play Omaha Poker, find out about the many game variations, discover the best Omaha starting hands and learn winning strategies and tips in our handy guide below:

How To Play Omaha Poker

So, you want to learn how to play pot limit Omaha Poker, but you don’t really know where to begin. Don’t worry, the experts at Odds Shark can help. Grab a stack of chips and let’s get started.

PLO (Pot Limit Omaha) Poker is played with 2-10 people at a table. Like most other poker games, Omaha Poker includes several rounds of betting and a combination of hole and community cards. When you’re ready to start, the first thing to do is draw the high card for the dealer. Each player is then dealt one card face up. The player with the highest card (an Ace) will start as the game’s dealer. If you’re stuck in a situation where two players get the same card, they can either re-draw, or use the suit to determine the Sportsbook (this is done alphabetically, with Clubs being the worst and Spades being the best). The dealer is then given a “dealer button” to keep track of who’s turn it is to deal. At the end of the round, the dealer button is passed to the left and the play continues with a new dealer.

The next step is to put out the blinds and deal the cards. In Pot Limit Omaha Poker, each player receives 9 cards - 4 ‘hole’ cards and 5 shared ‘community’ cards. Before the hand can start, two required bets are placed - the small blind and the big blind. The small blind is placed by the player to the left of the dealer and is most often lower than the table stakes. The big blind is placed by the player to the left of the small blind, and is most often equal to the higher end of the table stakes.

Once the blinds are placed, each player is dealt their 4 hole cards and the betting round begins starting with the player left of the big blind. Each player must then choose an action in turn - check, bet, call, raise, fold or all-in. After the first betting round is complete, the second round - or the Flop - is played, followed by the Turn, the River and, finally, the Showdown. The showdown is only necessary if two people remain in the hand after the previous rounds. All players remaining will use exactly 2 hole cards and 3 community cards to create the best possible hand. The player to create the best hand will win the entire pot.

PLO Rules

Step 1 - Choose a dealer

Each player is dealt a single card. The player with the highest card deals first.

Step 2 - Set the blinds

The small blind is set by the player to the left of the dealer. 

Step 3 - Deal the cards

Each player is dealt 4 hole cards and the betting round begins.

Step 4 - Choose an action (pre-flop)

Each player then chooses an action in turn—check, bet, call, raise, fold or all-in.

Step 5 - The Flop

Three cards are dealt into the centre of the table face up. Play continues with first remaining player to the left of the dealer. Betting continues until all remaining players have placed an equal amount of chips in the pot. If a player no longer wishes to continue, they must fold and wait for the next hand to be dealt.

Step 6 - The Turn

In this round, the 4th community card is dealt face up and play continues as in previous rounds.

Step 7 - The River

In this round, the dealer places the final (5th) community card—known as the “River” card. This is the last opportunity to get chips before the Sportsbook is decided in the Showdown.

Step 8 - The Showdown

This round is only necessary if two people remain in the hand at this point. In this round, remaining players must build their best 5-card hand using 2 hole cards and 3 community cards. The best hand will win. If a tie occurs, players will share the pot.

Step 9 - The Next Hand

Once the pot has been awarded, the game continues to the next hand. The dealer button is passed to the left-most player, cards are re-shuffled, blinds are posted by the next players and the cards are dealt again.

    Ranking Hands in Omaha Poker

    Hand rankings in Omaha Poker are exactly the same as in Texas Hold’em, so if you’re familiar with that game, this should be straightforward for you. Hand values in Omaha Poker tend to be higher because players start with 4 hole cards instead of 2. This means they can make a much wider range of hands and make the nuts—the highest possible hands—more frequently.

    The Best Starting Hands in PLO Poker

    Here are the top 10 starting hands in PLO (Pot Limit Omaha) Poker. Due to the nature of the game (more on this later) these best starting hands in Omaha Poker are slightly different than for Texas Hold ‘Em:

    • A-A-K-K
    • A-A-J-T (offers potential for straights)
    • A-A-Q-Q
    • A-A-J-J
    • A-A-T-T
    • A-A-9-9
    • A-A-X-X
    • J-T-9-8
    • K-K-Q-Q
    • K-K-J-J

    Variations of Omaha Poker

    There are a number of variations of Omaha Poker that are popular among online players. The one we’re talking about, and often considered the first variation, is Pot-limit Omaha or PLO, the second is Fixed-limit Omaha and the third is Omaha Hi-Lo.

    What is Pot-Limit Omaha Poker?

    Pot-Limit Omaha Poker is now the second most played online poker variant on both desktop and mobile devices. In this variation, the maximum bet you can place is equal to the amount in the pot. Any bet amount between the big blind and the full amount of the pot is a legal bet.

    Fixed Limit Omaha Poker

    In this variation of Omaha Poker, the betting limits are fixed. This puts a cap on the number of raises that can occur. In this version, the limit of raises that can occur is four and must be equal to the size of the blinds. Since it’s relatively inexpensive to stay in the game, not a lot of folding takes place in this game.

    Omaha Hi-Lo Poker

    In Omaha Hi-Lo Poker (also known as Omaha Hi Low, or Omaha 8-or-Better), the game is played in the exact same way. The only difference is the hand can be won by two different players and the pot is split between them. This is a draw for many players, but a major draw-back for some. The best possible scenario in this game version is for one player to hold both the highest and lowest hands, thus winning the entire pot for themselves.

    PLO (Pot Limit Omaha) Poker vs. Texas Hold'em

    For Texas Hold’em players, the Omaha Poker variant feels close to home. Many of the same rules and format are shared across both game types, which form the Sportsbook 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.

    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.

    Strategies and Tips for Winning Omaha Poker

    As you play through each round, you need a good understanding of the odds of the game, strongest possible hands that could emerge from the information available to you, and how they develop as additional community cards are introduced. At the end of each round, the player with the highest ranking 5-card hand will win the pot. In order to win, players must use 2 hole cards and 3 community cards in their final 5-card hand. 

    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 increase your bet on 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 the showdown when you’re against several other players. For more information, make sure you check out our comprehensive guide to Omaha Poker Strategy.

    Strategies for Pre-Flop in PLO

    The post-flop game in PLO poker is a bit more complex than in Texas Hold ‘Em, so pre-flop strategies aren’t as important. That said, here are a couple things to consider:

    • Don’t necessarily rely on a starting hands chart. There are more than 16,430 starting hands in PLO poker and players are constantly arguing which one is best. Strong hands always include Aces.
    • Look at betting a balance of double aces, kinds and hands with high playability. Big and small rundowns are helpful.

    Strategies for Post-Flop in PLO

    Since PLO Poker is a largely post-flop game. Pre-flop equities are closer in general, there are more playable hands and there’s a limit to the pot which makes it harder to get opponents to fold. Here are two more strategies for successful post-flop play:

    • Don’t make things more complicated than necessary. Properly valuing your hands pre-flop will make your post-flop game go more smoothly. Don’t overthink things.
    • Fold unplayable hands and move on. They’re unplayable for a reason. Weak hands don’t work under any circumstances.

    Common, Avoidable Mistakes in PLO (Pot Limit Omaha)

    Here are three of the most common (and most avoidable) mistakes that beginners make when playing PLO Poker:

    • Big Pairs and Aces - don’t overvalue your big pairs and aces. 
    • Small Flushes - Stacking opponents with small flushes in Hold ‘Em poker is easy, but they can be a mistake in PLO.
    • Danglers - hands that have unconnected cards , or ‘danglers’ can be costly. You want to make sure all the cards in your hand are working for you.

    Where to Play Omaha Poker Online

    We hope you enjoyed our guide on how to play Omaha Poker. The experts at Odds Shark have scoured the internet searching for the best places for you to play Omaha Poker online. You find all the best sites including our latest reviews here.

    Omaha Poker FAQ

    How is Omaha Poker different from Texas Hold ‘Em?

    The one key difference between Omaha Poker and Texas Hold’em is that in Omaha, players get 4 hole cards instead of 2. Omaha players must use two of their hole cards and three of the community cards to build a hand.

    How do you deal Omaha Poker?

    In Omaha Poker, the chosen dealer deals each player four hole cards face down to start, then proceeds through the betting rounds; the pre-flop, the flop, the turn, the river and the showdown.

    How do you win Omaha Poker?

    Omaha Poker is won by the person with the highest ranking hand built from 2 hole cards and 3 community cards.

    What are some of the variations of Omaha Poker?

    Some of the more popular variations of Omaha Poker are Pot-limit Omaha, Fixed-limit Omaha and Omaha Hi-Lo Poker.