Omaha: The Rules
Poker’s Omaha variant is certainly a very entertaining alternative to Texas Hold’em, and much of the popularity it has increasingly enjoyed in recent years – especially regarding online poker – is due to the fact that players receive four hole cards rather than two. This makes for so many more possibilities and, in turn, means that there’s more reason to stay involved in a hand. The gameplays out the same as with Texas Hold’em in terms of the betting streets, but here the player must use exactly two of the four hole cards plus three of the five community cards to make the best five-card hand.
There are two distinct types of Omaha games:
Fixed Limit Omaha sees the size of a bet limited by the size of the Blinds, the increments starting with the Small Blind and then increasing to the Big Blind.
By far the most popular is Pot-Limit Omaha (PLO), where maximum bet size is determined by the size of the pot. Don’t be fooled by this being Pot Limit rather than No Limit – each successive bet increases the pot and, this being the ultimate action game, pots can be enormous!
Below is an explanation of how the betting structure works in Pot Limit Omaha, with examples to better understand how a hand plays out. Note the calculations required to arrive at the amount allowed for a maximum bet.
Pot Limit Omaha Explained
As with Texas Hold’em, the betting runs clockwise, with the player to the left of the Button being the Small Blind (SB) and the next player the Big Blind (BB). The player to the left of the BB is ‘under the gun’ (UTG) and acts first pre-flop, the actions being to Call the BB, Raise or Fold. From the Flop onwards betting is the same as in Texas Hold’em, with the player to the left of the Button first to act.
The minimum bet is the BB but, unlike No Limit Hold’em, where there is of course no limit, in PLO we need to be aware of how the maximum bet (the pot) is calculated. To do this we need to determine the size of the pot that we can raise by, so we start with the chips in the middle, plus any bets, and then include the amount of the call that we would first make before being able to raise.
Here are a couple of examples:
- We’re first to act on the Flop and the pot is $10. We can check, or bet anything from the size of the BB to a pot-sized raise – i.e. $10.
- We’re second to act on the Flop and the pot is $15. The opener bets $10, leaving us with the options to fold, call the $10 or raise. The minimum raise is the equivalent of the previous bet, ($10), so the total bet with a min-raise would be $20. The maximum raise equals the size of the pot, calculated by adding together the current pot, plus the original bet and our subsequent call, being $15 + $10 + $10 for a total of $35 for the ‘new’ pot size. Note that we can add our call to this for a maximum bet of $45.
For those players used to the simplicity of No Limit this might initially seem a little complicated, but it will soon become second nature, and of course the beauty of online poker is that we’re given a useful helping hand by the software that presents us with the appropriate betting choices.
Note that buy-ins in PLO Cash games tend to see a minimum of 20BB and a maximum of 100BB. Meanwhile, the nature of the game makes short-stacking PLO a potentially more lucrative option than is the case with No Limit Hold’em, although your bankroll (and temperament) need to be able to withstand the considerable cut-throat nature of the game.