Omaha Poker Game Guide

Have you ever wondered if every poker game developed after 7
Card Stud has to be named after a place? The most popular
current poker game is Texas holdem, and another popular version
is named after another place, Omaha.

Though games aren’t as easily found as no limit Texas holdem,
Omaha can be more profitable for good players.

The first part of this page includes a complete run down of
the rules and how to play. If you’ve never played Omaha or
haven’t played for a while take a few minutes to read through
the rules before moving to the next section.

The rest of the page is filled with information to help you
learn how to be a winning Omaha poker player.

Please Note

This page covers Omaha holdem high only. See the
Omaha Hi Lo page for information about the split pot variant.

How to Play – Omaha Rules

Hand Rankings

Omaha holdem uses the same poker hand structure as most
popular poker games like Texas holdem and 7 Card Stud. The
highest hand is a royal flush, followed by a straight flush,
four of a kind, etc. The following table shows the hand rankings
in full.

Hand Description Example
High Card A hand with no other combination. Valued by it’s highest ranked card. A Spade
K Club
6 Heart
3 Diamond
2 Club
Pair Two cards of the same rank A Spade
K Heart
Q Club
9 Diamond
9 Spade
2 Pair Two pairs combined 4 Heart
4 Spade
7 Club
7 Spade
A Diamond
3 of a Kind Three cards of the same rank 4 Heart
4 Spade
4 Club
A Heart
K Diamond
Straight Five consecutive cards 2 Club
3 Spade
4 Heart
5 Heart
6 Diamond
Flush Five cards of the same suit A Spade
K Spade
9 Spade
4 Spade
3 Spade
Full House A pair and a three of a kind combined A Club
A Spade
K Heart
K Club
K Diamond
4 of a Kind Four cards of the same rank A Spade
A Club
A Heart
A Diamond
2 Club
Straight Flush Five consecutive cards of the same suit 2 Heart
3 Heart
4 Heart
5 Heart
6 Heart
Royal Flush A straight flush that runs from the 10 to the Ace 10 Diamond
J Diamond
Q Diamond
K Diamond
A Diamond

The Dealer Position

When a game starts from scratch each player is dealt one card
face up and the high card starts the game in the dealer
position. In a casino or poker room the house provides a dealer
who takes care of the cards, but a player is always designated
as the dealer for playing purposes.

If you join a game in progress the dealer has already been
chosen and is in play. Depending on the house rules, you may be
able to start playing right away, may have to place a bet equal
to the big blind to get started, or wait until your turn in the
big blind to start playing.

A white disc, called a button, is placed in front of the
player designated as the dealer. After each hand is completed
the dealer button is moved one player to the left.

Playing in the dealer position is the most advantageous
because you get to act last on every round except the first. The
dealer button also tells the actual dealer where to start
dealing. The first card is dealt to the first active player to
the left of the dealer button. Many poker players call the disc
the button and refer to playing last as being on the button.

The Blinds

The player to the immediate left of the button is the small
blind and the next player located to the left of the small blind
is the big blind.

The player in the big blind must place a forced wager equal
to the table specified requirement or the lower amount of the
two limits in a limit Omaha game. In a 20 / 40 limit game the
big blind is 20. The small blind places a forced bet that’s
usually half the amount of the big blind. Different tables have
different rules, so check with the dealer when you get ready to

A pot limit or no limit game will have a designated amount
for both blinds. For example, a pot limit Omaha game with a
maximum buy in of $1,000 may have a big blind requirement of $10
and a small blind requirement of $5.

The blinds are in place to make every pot have something
worth fighting for. Games would have action if they didn’t have
blinds, but the action would be less than with the blinds.

Initial Deal

Once the dealer button is set and the small and big blind
positions have made their forced wagers each player, starting
with the small blind and going around the table to the left,
receives four cards face down. The cards are dealt one at a time
around the table until the fourth card is dealt to the button.

Example of the Initial Deal

The Betting

The first round of betting takes place now, and it’s known as
the preflop betting round. The first person to the left of the
big blind makes the first decision, and has three options.

  • Fold (throw away their cards)
  • Call (bet an amount equal to the big blind)
  • Raise (increase the size of the bet)

In a limit game the raise can only be the size of the lower
betting limit, which happens to be the same size as the big
blind. In the 20 / 40 game mentioned above, for example, to
raise in the first position to the left of the big bind you’d
place $40 in the pot. The reason you put $40 in the pot is
because your first $20 is the amount to call and the second $20
is the raise.

Top Tip

You should always announce you want to raise before
moving your chips forward to avoid any confusion. In most poker
rooms and casinos you aren’t allowed to push a bet forward and
then go back and get more chips to raise. You often see
Hollywood movies and television shows that show a player saying
they call and then raise. This is called a string bet and isn’t
tolerated in most games.

In a pot limit game if you want to raise you can raise any
amount from the amount it takes to call up to the amount of the
pot if it contained a call.

This can be a little confusing the first time you play, but
it’s really pretty simple.

Let’s continue using a 20 / 40 blind structure, so the small
blind puts in $10 and the big blind puts in $20 for a total pot
of $30. The house collects a rake of course, but forget about
the rake until you understand how raises work.

If you want to call it costs $20. If you want to raise the
lowest amount you can put in is $40. This is $20 for the call
and $20 for the raise.

The most you can raise is determined by figuring out how much
would be in the pot if you called. A call of $20 would make the
pot $50, so you can raise up to $50. To raise $50 you actually
place $70 in the pot. This is the $20 for your call and the $50

After each player takes action the next player to the left
folds, calls, or raises until each player at the table has
either folded or placed an amount equal to the highest wager of
the round into the pot. In an un-raised pot the small blind may
either fold, place enough with their forced bet to make a full
bet, or raise. The big blind may raise or check.

After the first betting round all of the other rounds start
with the first player to the button’s left who is still active
in the hand.

Once the initial round of betting is completed the dealer
burns a card and then deals the next three cards face up in the
middle of the table, forming the community cards or board. Most
poker players call these three cards the flop.

Community or board cards are displayed face up in the center
of the poker table and players use them to form their best five
card poker hand. In Omaha, each player must use exactly three
community cards and two of their private hole cards to form a
poker hand.

Example of the Flop

Once the flop is made the second round of betting begins with
the first player to the left of the dealer position still active
in the hand. The player has two options.

  • Check (make no bet but stay in the hand)
  • Bet

Play continues to the left with each player checking if no
bets have been made, calling if bets have been made, raising if
bets have been made, or folding if bets have been made. The
betting round continues until all players remaining in the pot
have called all previous wagers.

After all betting has been completed on the flop the dealer
burns another card and the fourth community card, called the
turn, is dealt face up beside the flop cards.

Example of the Turn

The third betting round is conducted just like the second one
described above. The only difference is in a limit game all bets
and raises on the third and fourth round of betting are
conducted using the higher limit. In a 20 / 40 game all bets on
the turn and river are $40.

When the turn betting round is finished another card is
burned and the fifth and final community card is dealt face up
beside the turn card.

Example of the River

The last round of betting is conducted just like the third


Once all wagers have been completed the remaining players
reveal their cards and the pot is awarded to the player with the
best high hand.

In the event that two players tie for the best five card high
hand the pot is split equally between the players who tie.

We mentioned this above, but because it’s different from
Texas holdem we need to make sure you understand. In Texas
holdem players can use any number of the board cards, but when
you’re playing Omaha you must use exactly two of your four hole
cards and exactly three of the five community cards to form your
five card poker hand.

Variations of Omaha

Omaha can be played in three different variations or limit
structures. Pot limit and limit are the two most popular, but
some poker rooms offer no limit play.

Texas holdem players are often used to playing no limit and
many of them are hesitant to try a pot limit game. In most cases
pot limit plays the same as no limit. The only difference is
usually found early in the hand if you want to move all in.
You’re maximum wager is based on the amount in the pot so you
can’t get as much early hand leverage as in a no limit game.

Most players adapt quickly to pot limit play.

Recommended Reading

Our article on the different betting
structures in poker
explains all about limit, pot limit and no
limit in more detail.

Omaha Math – Why It’s Better Than Texas

Besides the ability to win more often, can you think of any
other advantages offered by a poker game that’s more
mathematically straightforward?

The two biggest advantages of Omaha over Texas holdem for
good players is you’ll have less short term variance in Omaha
and you don’t need as big of a bankroll.

Short term variance is what most players call luck. Good
poker players know there’s no such thing as luck at the poker
table. Every situation has a set number of possibilities and
over time each possibility will happen the correct number of

When you’re dominating an opponent and he only has two outs
on the river he’ll hit one of those outs 2 out of every 40 times
you play the situation in Omaha. He has 2 outs and there are 40
unseen cards. 52 minus the four in your opponents hand minus the
four in your hand minus the four community cards. 2 out of 40
can be reduced to 1 out of 20, so 5% of the time your opponent
will hit his two-outer on the river.

This doesn’t have anything to do with luck.

All you can do is keep putting yourself in the best situation
and let the math take care of the cards in the long run.

Omaha has less variance than Texas holdem because you know
more card values every step of the hand.

As far as needing less bankroll than a Texas holdem player at
the same level, because the short term variance is reduced your
bankroll swings won’t be as severe if you’re a good player.

Omaha offers the opportunity to see more cards than Texas
holdem so you have fewer unknown cards to track and figure odds

You start with four cards instead of two so you start every
hand with twice as much information than when you play Texas

In Omaha you also have the luxury of ruling out weaker hands
as possibilities on the river because weak hands rarely win.
Because each player has four cards the odds of an opponent
having one of the best two or three possible hands is much

In Texas holdem hands are won with a high pair sometimes and
many low flushes are able to win fair sized pots. In Omaha a
single pair almost never wins and low flushes are usually beat
by a higher flush.

The ability to rule out weaker hands or potential draws helps
narrow the possible holdings of your opponents. The more you
know the easier it is to guess what your opponent holds and/or
is drawing to.

Omaha Strategy

In order to take advantage of the mathematical advantages
Omaha has over Texas holdem you need to combine the extra
information with solid strategy decisions.

This section includes everything a beginning Omaha player
needs to advance from losing to break even to winning on a
consistent basis.

Start with the starting hands section because it forms the
basis that all the other strategy decisions need to be
effective. Once you feel you fully understand the starting hand
considerations advance thru the basic, intermediate, and
advanced sections.

Starting Hands

The most important decision you make in every hand of Omaha
is whether or not to enter the pot willingly. Most Omaha poker
players start playing Texas holdem so when they transition to
the Omaha table they play too many hands. Because they have
twice as many starting hands they think they can play more hands
than at the Texas holdem table.

Do you know why this isn’t the proper strategy?

It doesn’t work because the average winning hand is better in
Omaha than in Texas holdem. So you need to have a better final
hand to win on average, and the way to have a better hand is
starting with a better hand than your opponents.

The average winning hand is better because every player
starts with four hole cards instead of two.

When you consider the best Omaha starting hands they
generally have four cards that work together in some way or all
stand on their own.

A hand of A ClubK Club
J Diamond10 Diamond works together because all four cards
can work to form a high straight, you have two different flush
possibilities, and any flop with high cards will give you plenty
of draws to improve.

Compare the previous hand to A SpadeK Diamond
10 Heart6 Spade. You still have
three high cards but you don’t have any flush possibilities and
the 6s is almost worthless. It won’t combine with anything else
in your hand.

Top Tip

Not all hands with only three strong cards should be
folded, but a fourth card that doesn’t help is something that
should make you consider just how strong the other three cards
really are.

Hands with two high pair don’t necessarily work together but
they offer two opportunities to hit a high set and turn into a
full house. Q HeartQ Diamond
J HeartJ Diamond is an excellent starting hand, and it’s
fairly easy to get away from after the flop if you don’t hit a
set or land a big draw.

Why would I mention a hand being easy to get away from after
the flop?

Your play after the flop determines a great deal of your
profit and loss at the Omaha table. We cover more post flop play
in the advanced strategy section below, but the main thing we
want you to learn here is every dollar you lose after the flop
because of staying in a hand you should fold is one less dollar

It’s also one less dollar you have to commit to the pot later
when you have a monster hand. So not only do you lose the dollar
now, you lose the opportunity to win another dollar later. This
creates a compound effect where you lose two or more dollars for
every one you lose now chasing a bad draw or losing hand.

One key thing to remember while playing Omaha is every
starting hand has to improve in order to win. It doesn’t matter
if you have the best possible starting hand, the odds of winning
the pot without improving is very low. In other words, just
because you have a great starting hand, don’t fall in love with
it. If the flop doesn’t improve your hand or give you a draw to
a strong hand you should usually look for the fastest way out of
the pot.

Here are some examples of strong starting hands. They can’t
all be played in every situation, but they all can be played in
some situations.

A Diamond Q Diamond J Club 9 Club

Almost any hand that has four high cards is a
strong starting hand. Four high cards with a flush possibility
is even better. The 9c is fairly weak, but it can be used with
the Qd and Jc to make a straight and it will form a flush with
the Jc. You need to be careful with flushes that aren’t ace
high, but you can win hands with them at times. They’re much
better as back up hands when you have a straight but can still
have a chance to win if the flush hits.

K ClubK DiamondJ HeartJ Spade

Two high pair hands are nice when they hit but
won’t hit as often as you’d like. The difference between high
pairs and low pairs is even when you hit a set if it’s not top
set you might still lose. The higher your pocket pairs the fewer
possibilities of a higher set. You can play medium and smaller
pairs but you have to play them more cautiously after the flop
when you hit a set.

A Heart8 Heart7 Diamond6 Club

Hands that have three cards working together
with the possibility of a nut flush can be quite profitable.
Most of your profit will come from having a well concealed hand
when a low straight is possible instead of when you hit a flush.
Everyone can see a possible flush and they know they don’t have
the ace so it’s possible you have it. But if a 3, 4, and 5 or 4,
5, and 8 are on the board when you have a hand like this not
many players will give you credit for a straight.

Most of the time hands like these won’t turn into winning
hands so you have to fold them when you don’t hit. Even if you
hit a pair on the flop you probably need to get out of the hand
unless you have a good draw. You have to win a big pot with
these hands when you hit to make up for all the times you don’t
win the hand.

We’re sorry to disappoint you if you’re looking for lists of
hands you can play, but every hand and situation is different.
Start with the hands and ones like them that we listed above and
add other ones in situations where they can be profitable. But
don’t do anything until you read the next section. It has a
great deal to do with starting hands as well.

Basic Strategy

Once you understand the difference between good and bad
starting hands you’re ready for a few basic strategy lessons.
The important ones are covered here and they include the

  • How many starting hands you play.
  • How to use your position at the table to your advantage.
  • How to manage your bankroll correctly.

How Many Hands to Play

We’ve already touched on this a little, but you need to play
fewer hands in Omaha, not more. We suggest only playing 15% of
the hands in a full ring game while you’re learning how to play.
As you improve your abilities you can start playing a few more
hands, but we don’t recommend going over 25%. Most strong
players land somewhere between 20 and 25% when it comes to
starting hands played. You can find a few pros that can play
more hands, but they’re really good after the flop.

When you master post flop play you can play as many hands as
you want. But if you’re already at that point you don’t have
anything to learn here. Until then, play fewer hands instead of

How to Use Position

Your position relative to the dealer is one of the most
important things in every hand, but most players ignore it. The
later you have to act the more information you have about your
opponents. Even if they just check you know something that you
wouldn’t if you have to act first.

Some hands are strong enough to play anywhere at the table,
but some can only be played profitably from late position. If
you don’t think about your position on every decision you make
before the flop you aren’t considering it enough.

How to Manage Your Bankroll

It’s important to have proper bankroll management so you have
the opportunity to play in every profitable situation that
presents itself. If a game opens up with eight players who play
worse than you it should be quite profitable. But if you don’t
have the money to play it doesn’t matter how profitable it can
be because you can’t play.

As you’re learning to play never play with more than 5% or
your total bankroll at any one time. This helps you maintain a
safe amount of bankroll even in a down swing. As your game
improves you can play with 10% at one time if you’re comfortable
doing so, but we’d never play with more.

Intermediate Strategy

There are three points we’re going to discuss which fall
under intermediate strategy, and these are as follows.

  • Pot control
  • Free roll play
  • Table selection

Pot Control

One of the most important things winning Omaha poker players
do is plan the hand so they can control the size of the pot.
This is especially important in pot limit games.

As the pot builds in a pot limit game the maximum raise goes
up. When you have or draw to the best hand you want to be able
to maximize your potential winnings so you want to build the pot
early if possible. But when you’re drawing to a better hand but
aren’t necessarily the favorite you may want to keep the pot as
small as possible to keep your opponent from making larger

Just one extra wager on each round of betting can make the
maximum bet much larger on the river.

Here’s a chart showing how much higher the maximum bet can

2 players – 1 bet per round 3 players – 1 bet per round 2 players – 2 bets per round 3 players – 2 bets per round
Before flop $40 $60 $80 $120
After flop $80 $120 $160 $240
After turn $120 $180 $240 $360

The chart uses a $20 wager per player. As you can see on flat
bets a single extra wager per round doubles the amount of a pot
sized bet on the river.

One of the keys is determining when you should be building
the pot and when you should be trying to keep the pot as small
as possible. It might seem like it’s pretty straightforward, but
if you want to maximize your profits it’s important to know the
best times to build a pot.

  • If you have a nut flush draw should you build the pot?
  • If you have a nut flush draw and an open end straight
    draw should you build the pot?
  • If you have a set should you build the pot?

The answers to all three questions are it depends. It depends
on everything else happening in the hand and if you’ll win more
money in the long run by building the pot or keeping it low.

Take any hand and consider how playing it each way 100 times
will turn out. In the short run almost anything can happen, but
when you play the exact same situation 100 times you get a
pretty good idea of the expected profitability or value every
time it comes up.

Here’s an example.

You have an open end straight draw after the flop and predict
you’ll win every time you hit and you’ll lose every time you
miss. You also won’t be calling any bets on the river when you
don’t hit and predict your opponent will call a pot sized bet on
the river 50% of the time when you hit your hand.

Let’s use the chart above and assume only you and one
opponent are in the hand.

You’ll hit your open end straight draw roughly 36% of the

36 times out of 100 you’ll hit your straight and 18 of those
times you’ll collect on a bet of either $120 or $240 on the
river. The other 18 times you’ll win a total pot of $120 or

64 times out of 100 you’ll lose a pot of $120 or $240.

The 18 times you collect the pot sized bet on the river the
total pot size will be either $360 or $720.

We realize that only half the money in the pot is yours, but
for our comparison purposes the amount of the winning hands that
you put in and the amount of the losing hands you put in are
each half, so the numbers are accurate for telling us the best
way to play.

When you keep the pot small by only calling a bet on each
round you win $6,480 in 18 pots, win $2,160 in 18 pots, and lose
$7,680 in 64 pots. Your total win over the 100 hands is $960. If
you divide $960 by 100 hands your average win per hand is $9.60.

This shows that using the parameters we set out this is a
profitable way to play the hand.

But what happens if you build the pot with a second wager
every round?

You win $12,960 on 18 hands, win $4,320 on 18 hands, and lose
$15,360 on 64 hands. This makes a total win of $1,920, or $19.20
per hand.

In this situation you’re better off in the long run building
the pot.

The problem is making all the correct guesses when it comes
to how often you’ll win when you hit your hand and how many
times and in what amount you’ll get paid off when you win.

The number and uncertainty of variables makes it difficult to
make these calculations, but the profitable players make the
right decisions more often than not. You learn how to do this
through experience and calculating these problems while you’re
not playing.

Start keeping a small notebook and pen with you so you can
write down situations like this when they come up. Write them
down and run the numbers on them later. The next time the
situation comes up you’ll have a good chance of remembering the
correct decision based on your calculations.

Then start running calculations based on different variables.

What would happen if you only got paid off 25% of the time in
our example?

What about of you got paid off 75% of the time?

What if you only won the hand 90% of the time you hit your
straight? This could happen if the board pairs and gives an
opponent a full house or if you hit the low end of the straight
and an opponent has the high end.

See how complicated it gets to figure out whether you should
build the pot or keep it small?

You’ll rarely be able to predict all of the variables with
100% accuracy. But with experience you can learn to get close
enough to make the best play.

In the example we looked at above, it’s clear building the
pot is the right play if you’ll get paid off anywhere close to
half the time. Open end straight draws are usually well hidden
so often when you hit it your opponent won’t realize it. If you
go ahead and run the numbers at being paid off 25% of the time
you’ll have a better idea, but it looks like building the pot
will be the correct play in the long run in this example.

Free Roll Play

The next intermediate Omaha strategy you need to learn about
is free roll play. Most poker players are familiar with free
roll tournaments where you get a free entry into a tournament
and can win a cash prize if you finish high enough.

That isn’t the type of freeroll we’re talking about here.

When two players have the same best hand after the flop or
turn but one has a chance to improve and the other doesn’t, it’s
often easy to build a large pot quickly. Many times the pot will
be split, but when the player who has a chance to improve hits
her hand she wins a big pot.

Here’s an example.

You and an opponent both flop an ace high straight on a flop
with two hearts. You have the ace of hearts and another heart,
so if a third heart lands on the turn or river you’ll win with a
flush, so you want to get as much money in the pot as possible.
When you don’t hit the flush you’ll split the pot, but when you
hit the flush you’ll win a huge pot.

You need to keep an eye out for free roll possibilities and
put yourself in position as often as possible to take advantage
of them. A single big pot can turn an average or losing session
into a winning one.

On the other side of the coin you have to be careful you
don’t get in a situation where you’re being free rolled. If a
flush draw is possible when you flop a nut straight be careful
building the pot too much. You might be getting free rolled.

Table Selection

The final intermediate strategy you need to learn is table
selection. Would you win more money playing with a table of
professional poker players or a table filled with first time
Omaha players?

You’ll always win more in the long run by playing with
players who play worse than you do.

Every time you make the correct decision you win more money
and every time an opponent makes a mistake it costs them money
in the long run.

Find tables and games filled with poor players. Don’t let
your ego make you pay in games with better players because your
ego will cost you money.

Advanced Strategy

Most players are capable of learning good starting hand
selection, table selection, position, and bankroll management,
but the best players are able to carry over their strong play
throughout every hand.

Notice that most things have dealt with pre flop play so far.
Though they aren’t easy, the decisions you make before the flop
are easier than the ones you make on the flop, turn, and river.

As each hand advances you have to constantly be trying to
determine your chances of having the best hand, your chances of
improving to the best hand, what your opponents hold, and the
proper amount to bet or call. None of these decisions are easy,
but as you gain experience you can learn to make the right
decision more often than not.

To reach the level where you make the right decisions after
the flop on a consistent basis requires a great deal of
experience, study, determination, and willpower.

You have to be willing to pay attention even when you aren’t
involved in a hand and determined to do whatever it takes to be
the best player at the table. You have to work out every
imaginable situation until you know what to do every time. This
can take thousands of hours, but the reward can be a great deal
of profit at the Omaha tables.

This all leads into the one thing we think sets the advanced
players apart from the amateurs.

Advanced Omaha poker players have a plan for every single
hand and each part of every hand. They think about how they’ll
play every possibility before it happens.

Before you even see your starting hand you already need to
know as much as possible about the other players at the table
and how your position relative to the button will change how you
play your hand.

You should already know if you plan to fold, call, or raise
based on the strength of your hand before you see your cards.
You also need to know what you plan to do if one of the players
before you makes a raise.

Most beginning players don’t think about anything before it
happens. Don’t make the mistake of dismissing the advice in this
advanced strategy section because it isn’t as specific as that
found in the basic and intermediate sections.

Start thinking ahead on every hand you play. At first this
may be difficult, but your mind will quickly expand as you
practice. Keep working until you can quickly run through every
possible outcome at each stage of the hand in your mind before
it happens.

You’ll find that you can eventually do this while carrying on
conversations with other players and the dealer and still pay
attention to the playing tendencies of your opponents.

Once you reach this point while mastering the basic and
intermediate strategies listed above there isn’t much more you
need to learn.


Omaha is a great option for Texas holdem players if you can
find games. Most players make the same mistakes over and over,
creating a situation where you can profit from their mistakes.

Don’t play too many hands, use the simple mathematics
discussed above, and follow through with all the strategies you
just learned and you’ll be able to reach a profitable level of
play much faster than in Texas holdem.