The Complete Guide to Playing Omaha and Omaha8 (Hi/Lo)

Are you bored with Texas Hold’em? Looking to learn a new game? Omaha is a solid choice as far as poker variations go. It has a ton of action, more cards, and many more possibilities than standard hold’em. It’s also super easy to learn if you already know how to play hold’em and you can start playing after you finish reading this article!

If you don’t yet understand all of the fundamentals of Texas Hold’em and how the game works, please first start with our How to Play Texas Hold’em guide. This Omaha guide assumes you already know how hold’em works, various positions, blinds, betting actions, community cards, etc.

A Very Brief History

While the origin isn’t set in stone, Omaha is a much newer variation than Texas Hold’em. Vegas casinos didn’t even start running Omaha games until the 1980s and even then it wasn’t very well known until the late 90s (and more so during the 2000s with the launch of online poker). The name Omaha doesn’t have anything to do with the city in Nebraska. Omaha refers to the rule of the game which requires players to use exactly two of their hold cards. If you want to learn more, Google is your friend.

Omaha may be known as Omaha Hold’em, Omaha Hi, Omaha Hi-Lo, Omaha8, Tight Hold’em, or abbreviated as PLO/PLO8.

Game Flow

As mentioned earlier, Omaha is a hold’em game and uses the same rules and game flow as Texas Hold’em. Rather than repeating myself, if you aren’t sure how to play hold’em poker, reference our How to Play Texas Hold’em article.

The Limit

Like Texas Hold’em, Omaha can be ran as fixed limit, pot limit, or no limit. However, pot limit is much more common and you will usually find it being ran as such. Games are ran as pot limit in an effort to reduce the amount of preflop gambling making it harder for players to raise all-in before the flop. This leads Omaha to be more of a post flop game, which adds to its difficulty.

After pot limit, fixed limit is the second most common spread. You may be able to find no limit games as well, but they’re no where near as common.

Major Rule Differences

There are two major rule changes that separate Omaha from Texas Hold’em:

Players are dealt 4 cards to start instead of 2.

During the deal, players will get four cards. If you’re used to Texas Hold’em, this will be quite the foreign concept at first. Having four cards leads to more possibilities and more action.

Players are required to use two of their hole cards.

This means all players must use two of their cards and three of the community cards to make the best five card hand. In other words, players can not use one card in their hand and four on the board, as they can in Texas Hold’em. The only combination that can be used is two of the four hole/dealt cards, and three of the five community cards.

This is by far the most confusing aspect to Omaha which may lead some players to avoid trying the game. However, once you play a few rounds, you should start to get the idea. Just always remember the 2-3 rule!

To illustrate this point, look at the picture below which shows two players at showdown after the river.

Omaha Hand Ranking Example
Omaha Hand Ranking Example

Player 1 has the best hand with a king high flush. Player 2 does not have an ace high flush because he must use two of his hole cards and three on the board. If you’re new to the game, it may help to repeat “two-three” in your head so you don’t forget!

Omaha Hi-Lo (Omaha8)

Omaha is most commonly played as Omaha Hi, which means only high hands are shown down. This follows the same rules of Texas Hold’em where players must make the best 5 card hand.

However, Omaha is also played as Omaha Hi/Lo or Omaha8. This means both a high and a low hand can qualify for the pot. This is where the game can become very confusing, but bear with me.

Omaha8 Low Hand Rankings

A qualifying low hand is any 5 card hand 8 or lower. That’s where the 8 comes from in Omaha8. Aces are also low. This means that the best possible low hand in Omaha8 is A2345 (or 5432A). Flushes and straights are not counted in low hands, just the ranking of the cards.

To make it easier to rank low hands, you should always start with your highest card and count backwards. Below shows 5 different low hands, sorted from worst to best (best low hand at the bottom):

  • 86542
  • 8432A
  • 76543
  • 6532A
  • 5432A

As you can see, it becomes much more clear which hand wins the low when you start from the highest card.

Players do not have to use the same combination of cards to make a high and low hand. In other words, they can use two hole cards to form a high hand, and two other cards to form a low hand. This is shown in the example below:

Omaha8 High & Low Ranking Example Omaha8 High & Low Ranking Example

Splitting the Pot

If you’re playing Omaha8, half of the pot is reserved for highest hand, and half of the pot is reserved the lowest hand. A high hand is always awarded, whereas there may not be qualifying a low hand. In the event that this happens, the high hands collects the full pot. A low hand may not be possible because no player contains low cards or the board runs out with only high cards. Remember, a low hand must contain five unique cards with the value of 8 or lower.

It’s not uncommon for the pot to be quartered in Omaha8. This happens when high or low hands tie. For example, if someone has a full house for the high hand, they win half of the pot. However, if two people both have 5432A for the low hand, half of the pot is split between the two players. They win one quarter each.

If a player wins both the high and the low, it is known as a scoop. You’re also required to stand up and shout, “SCOOP, BABY!” as loud as possible… well, not really, but you can say it in your head.

You Now Know How to Play Omaha and Omaha8!

See, that wasn’t so bad, was it? Well, Omaha8 may require some extra practice to get it right, but you should have the fundamentals down now. That being said, Omaha is a much harder game to master than Hold’em, so I wouldn’t suggest diving in too deep. The biggest adjustment Hold’em players usually need to make when playing Omaha is tightening up. Of course, it always depends on the table and player, but you should be trying to make more nut hands. Also, Omaha is a game where more aggression is necessary.

Omaha doesn’t get as much action online as Texas Hold’em, but you should be able to find a game or two on most sites. All of our online poker rooms will likely offer Omaha for both real and play money, so check them out and get some practice in now!

Best of luck!