In terms of player popularity, Texas Hold’em is the undisputed champion by a wide margin. But among the other forms of poker, Omaha ranks among the most popular.
As is the case with Texas Hold’em there are different forms of Omaha with individual rule sets and betting structures.
One of the reasons for the relative popularity of Omaha is that it is similar in many ways to Texas Hold’em. That makes it an easy game for intermediate players to pick up after they have a handle on Texas Hold’em.
Texas Hold’em has plenty of questions about when and how it originated but the lineage of Omaha is even more oblique.
It’s logical to surmise that Omaha traces its roots to somewhere in Nebraska but there is little evidence to validate that beyond the name.
One of the first specific mentions of Omaha is found in the classic poker book Super/System by the legendary Doyle Brunson. In the glossary of the book under the term ‘Omaha’ it is noted that the game is interchangeable with a game called ‘Tight Hold’em.
As the rules have evolved, the common characteristic of all Omaha variants is the requirement of using exactly two-hole cards.
What is known about Omaha is that it was first introduced to Las Vegas in the early 1980s when casino executive/poker player Robert Turner introduced the game to poker pro Bill Boyd who also served in several executive capacities at the Golden Nugget.
Initially, the name was thought to be unnamed and was called ‘Nugget Hold’em’ when first brought to the casino floor. A few years later, the name was changed to Omaha.
The Basics of Omaha
As with Texas Hold’em, there are quite a few different forms of Omaha. Both Omaha High and Omaha Hi-Lo (or Omaha 8 or better) are popular and distinctly different rule sets. There are also different betting rules with Pot-Limit Omaha being the most popular.
The easiest way to explain the basics of Omaha is to compare it to the more widely known rules of Texas Hold’em. In Omaha, each player is dealt four hole cards instead of the two dealt in Texas Hold’em. From this point forward, the betting rounds and distribution of community cards are identical to Texas Hold’em.
The next big difference comes at the showdown—each player’s hand must consist of exactly two hole cards combined with exactly three of the community cards.
Omaha Strategy Tips
Most poker players know that it is essential for Texas Hold’em success to understand the valuation of the opening two-hole cards and how best to play them. It’s equally as important in Omaha. One way to look at it is that in Texas Hold’em a player has one two card combination.
In Omaha, the player is dealt four-hole cards which creates a total of six possible starting hand combinations. For this reason, players usually need a stronger hand to win at the showdown in Omaha than they do in Texas Hold’em.
Many of the same strategy concepts that work in Texas Hold’em also work in Omaha. Most experts recommend that players be very selective about the starting hands that they do play. Playing relatively few hands is known as ‘tight’ play. At the same time, it’s a decent strategy to play more aggressively when you do decide to see the flop.
Keep in mind that a player’s position in the order of play is extremely important. Players who act later in the hand have more information to work with than those who act earlier. For this reason, you can be slightly looser in late positions but should play tighter in early positions.
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