The Biggest Differences Between Omaha and Texas Hold’Em Poker

by
Joe A.
1st October, 2020

Two of the most popular poker variants are Texas Hold’em Poker and Omaha Poker. Most people have seen poker on television and are therefore familiar with Texas Hold’em Poker even though they might have never played it. It is a game where you receive two individual cards, after which all players at the table are dealt five community cards. Any combination of your two cards together with the five community cards on the table can form your final 5-card hand, even if you don’t use any of the cards from your own hand.

The main difference between Texas Hold’em and Omaha Poker, another popular variant, is the number of cards you receive. With Omaha Poker you receive four cards instead of two cards. This one big difference has major changes to the game, and we’ll try to explain them in this article.

Omaha is often played as Hi-Lo

In Texas Hold’em, the showdown determines who wins the pot. A showdown only happens when there are two or more players in the pot at the end of a hand. If everyone folds except one player, this player wins the game by default.

When there is a showdown, the player with the better hand wins the pot. The hands have a value based on the standard poker hand values. A royal flush is the best possible hand, followed by a straight flush, and so on. This is how Omaha showdowns work too. But Omaha has often been played as “eight or better” or just “hi-lo”. This is what it means:

During the showdown, the pot is split between the player with the best possible hand and the player with the best qualifying low hand. A low hand must consist of five cards with a value of 8 or lower. The lower the highest card, the lower the hand. And the moment you take the lowest card, place the next highest card next to it. The easiest way to understand how to handle this hand is to think of it as a series of numbers with the highest card in your hand and continuing your way down.

For example, you can have 87654, which is the worst possible hand for a low hand. Someone with 87653 will beat you. The best possible low hand is also called a “wheel”. It contains the cards 5432A. To calculate the qualifying low hand, combinations such as flushes and streets are completely ignored.

And yes, it is possible to win both the best high hand and best low hand at the same time. This is also known as “scooping”. This change in who gets paid at showdown has a dramatic effect on the strategy you use in Omaha poker.

omaha texas hold'em poker differences

Poker is a popular game, with big tournaments like the World Series of Poker even being showed live on TV. ©Screenshot


You cannot use combinations in Omaha

In Texas Hold’em, you can use two, one, or none of your cards with the three, four, or five community cards on the table to form your final hand. In Omaha on the other hand, you must use two (exactly two) cards from your four cards and use three (exactly three) from the community cards to form your final hand.

This creates a bit of confusion for players if they are new to Omaha and have played Texas Hold’em before. For example, if you hold four cards of the same suit, you have a lower chance of getting a flush because you already own two of the cards which you actually need on the table to form the flush. You therefore cannot use two of your other cards with the same symbol at that time.

People play Omaha Hi-Lo for higher limits

Since Omaha Hi-Lo includes splitting pots, it is often played at the higher limits. As an example, a € 3 / € 6 Texas Hold’em game is about the same as a € 6 / € 12 Omaha Hi-Lo game. That’s because your share of the pot (after splitting with the low hand) at Omaha Hi-Lo is what it would be like if you played € 3 / € 6 at Texas Hold’em. Don’t be intimidated by these higher limits in the Omaha poker games. As long as you know how to play, the higher limits are not a problem.

Omaha Hi-Lo is less volatile for experienced players

New Omaha players always see a lot of potential in their cards because they have twice as many cards as compared to Texas Hold’em. In fact, many of the new Omaha players take part in almost every hand and hang around for far too long in most hands they play. These players find reasons for this, because they are often lucky too.

Finally, they have so many options because of the four starting cards instead of two starting cards. They do however end up losing more money than everyone else at the table, though. You just have to be more skilled than these new players. When you compare Omaha Hi-Lo to other well-known poker games such as Draw, Stud and Texas Hold’em, you have a lower variance in Omaha Hi Lo than in any of these games. All you need to learn is to play a little more passively than usual.

This is difficult for many players because they think they could loosen up with the extra cards and extra features. The opposite is true. The more cards in the game, the less you have to play. Other players can also make good combinations faster, which makes it more difficult to bluff in this game.

Hand values in Omaha are different from hand values in Texas Hold’em

In Texas Hold’em, players are easily satisfied with a top pair and a high kicker. Players get even more excited about their hand when holding two pairs. These hands are great in the game of Texas Hold’em. But at Omaha, with the extra cards in this game, on average you need to have a stronger hand to win. With a top pair and a high kicker you will often not get there, and it is not even a hand to finish the game completely.

Don’t get excited about two pairs at Omaha because that’s not a strong hand either. Think about it this way. You probably play Omaha with eight other players. Each of these players has four cards, which equals six different two-card hand combinations. This is basically like playing a Texas Hold’em game with 50 other players.

Raises are not as powerful in Omaha Poker

Since you can get as many cards as possible at Omaha Poker with the next card on the table, many of the opponents will go along with any raise you make. Increasing the stake to get people out of the pot is not as effective a strategy as it can be with Texas Hold’em Poker. It is difficult to find an Omaha table where players fold quickly.

It is not difficult to see why. Each player at the table has about six Texas Hold’em starting hands, so they follow along many times to see which cards will come onto the table. As a result, they get better “pot odds” (more money in the pot) to also pay for those raises. You are not going to just get everyone out of the game with a raise before the flop. If your opponent wants to see a flop, your raise isn’t going to scare them away.

And you will also be less likely to get players away on the flop. The opponents have often already completed a hand or get a good draw to a flush or even better hand. They may also have a low hand to go as an excuse to still get half of the pot.

For the same reasons, you are not going to get a free card that quickly because many other players will put a raise to try to get players out of the pot. With so many potential cards that can help players, it’s important to get others out as quickly as possible. Otherwise, you risk losing your strong hand against them with a card on the turn (fourth card) or river (fifth card).

Playing a hand passively is often a wrong choice

Many players play hands slowly in Texas Hold’em as a kind of distraction technique. At Omaha, you cannot afford to play a hand slowly. You cannot give the opponent extra cards because you do have to try to get the money in the middle of the game when you are a favorite to win the pot. This is a big difference between Texas Hold’em and Omaha.

Conclusion

It is up to you to decide which poker variant you prefer. But if you are planning to play Omaha Hi-Lo then it is recommended that you learn Texas Hold’em first for the basic hand values which can be formed. In both poker variants, the goal is to create a 5-card hand which is better than the opponent’s hand. Whatever poker variant you prefer, there are plenty of online casinos where you can play your favourite poker game!

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