Beginners Guide to Playing and Winning Omaha 8 Poker

By Randy Ray
Published on July 24, 2018
Omaha 8 Poker Wins

Not long ago, I wrote a post about 7 card stud high-low split, so it鈥檚 only natural to follow that up with a discussion of Omaha 8. Like its studly cousin, Omaha 8 is also called Omaha 8 or better and Omaha high-low split.

In fact, it probably should have been written first. Omaha 8 is exponentially more popular than stud 8 – especially in Europe.

At its heart, Omaha poker is just a variation of Texas hold鈥檈m with 4 hole cards instead of 2. (You still get 5 community cards on the board in Omaha.) Including the high-low split aspect, the game takes on an entirely different dimension. This just means that the highest possible poker hand splits the pot with the lowest qualifying low hand.

I mentioned in my post about 7 card stud 8 that pots in these high-low games often get larger than the pots in other games. That鈥檚 because players see twice as many possibilities to win a piece of the action. The reality is that a tighter strategy is usually correct for 8 or better games.

But Omaha has another factor contributing to those large pots. When you put 4 cards into a player鈥檚 hand to start with (instead of 2 or 3), many players see more possibilities than they would otherwise. This drives more action, too.

Gameplay Basics for Omaha 8 Poker

Anyone who can play Texas hold鈥檈m can also play Omaha 8. The differences are subtle but important.

Both games use a blind structure instead of an ante structure. Blinds and antes are forced bets that drive the action. Blinds are different from antes because only 2 players pay blinds each round, and the players required to post the blinds rotate throughout the game. Antes are posted by everyone on every hand.

As with Texas hold鈥檈m, you start by getting hole cards. But instead of getting dealt 2 face-down cards, you get 4 face-down cards. This is the preflop stage of the game. Once everyone鈥檚 been dealt their hole cards, there鈥檚 a round of betting.

Following the preflop round of betting, the dealer deals 3 cards to the center of the table, flopping them all over at the same time. This is called 鈥渢he flop.鈥?These cards are shared by all the players at the table. The flop is followed by another round of betting.

The dealer then deals another card to the community cards 鈥?this is called 鈥渢he turn.鈥?There鈥檚 another round of betting.

The dealer then deals a final card to the community cards 鈥?this is called 鈥渢he river.鈥?There鈥檚 a final betting round on the river.

At the showdown, players who haven鈥檛 folded contend for the pot by using 2 (and exactly 2) cards from their hand along with 3 (and exactly 3) cards from the community cards.

This, by the way, is a major difference between Omaha and Texas hold鈥檈m.

In Texas hold鈥檈m, you can use ANY combination of hole cards and community cards to form your final hand.

The highest hand according to the standard poker rankings wins the pot, but if someone has a qualifying low hand, he gets to split the pot with the player with the highest hand.

A qualifying low hand in Omaha 8 is the same as a qualifying low hand in stud 8 鈥?5 cards ranked 8 or less with no pairs. A straight and/or a flush can both qualify as low hands.

For more information on how to play, check out our guide dedicated to explaining the basics of Omaha 8.

Some More Details About Betting in Omaha 8

The dealer position determines who pays the blinds. In a home game, the dealer position is literally where the dealer is sitting, and who the dealer is, rotates every hand. But in a casino setting, a professional dealer deals all the hands. The position is tracked using a plastic disk called 鈥渢he button.鈥?/p>

The button rotates around the table as the game continues, and the 2 players to the left of the button must place the small blind and big blind bets.

The blind bets are smaller than the betting limits for the game, which are decided on and posted before the game. For example, if you鈥檙e playing in a $5/$10 game of Omaha 8, the blinds are usually $2 and $5. The blind is considered the 1st bet, so to continue in a hand preflop, you must at least call the big blind.

The person with the dealer button in front of him is always the last person to act.

Preflop and on the flop, the betting amounts are done in the smaller of the 2 increments for the game 鈥?in the example above, bets and raises must be made in increments of $5.

On the turn and the river, those increments usually double. In the example game above, bets and raises must be in increments of $10.

Omaha 8 is often played as a pot limit game, too. This means that instead of having a maximum bet and/or raise determined by the table stakes, you can bet or raise up to the size of the pot. You can include the amount of your call when calculating the size of the pot, too.

Starting Hands in Omaha 8

In all my poker posts, I write about the importance of having starting-hand standards. Omaha 8 is no different from the other games 鈥?to win consistently, you must be willing to fold early and often.

But Omaha 8 presents some interesting differences starting-hand wise from its nearest cousin, Texas hold鈥檈m. For one thing, with 4 cards in the hole and a requirement that you use 2 of them, you actually have 6 different 2-card combinations.

Here鈥檚 an example.

You鈥檙e dealt the ace of spades, the 2 of spades, the king of spades, and the ace of diamonds. Depending on the board cards, you can choose to use any of the following 2-card combinations to make your final hand.

  • The ace of spades and the 2 of spades
  • The ace of spades and the king of spades
  • The ace of spades and the ace of diamonds
  • The 2 of spades and the king of spades
  • The 2 of spades and the ace of diamonds
  • The king of spades and the ace of diamonds

You鈥檒l probably also notice that it鈥檚 possible, depending on the community cards, to have 2 different hands 鈥?one that wins for high hand AND one that wins for qualifying low hand.

With these additional cards, you need better hands to win showdowns in Omaha than in other games. Most of the time, a straight or better will be the winning high hand. Flushes are also common winning hands.

2 pair, which is often a winner in Texas hold鈥檈m, rarely works out well in Omaha 8.

You can probably win a small profit in most low-stakes Omaha 8 games just by having tight starting hand requirements. Inexperienced Omaha players always find lots of potential in every starting hand, and they play a lot of weak starting hands as a result.

The goal in Omaha 8 is the same as in 7 card stud 8 鈥?to scoop the pot. You scoop the pot when you win both the best possible high hand AND the best possible low hand.

Most of the time, you鈥檙e looking for starting hands which potentially allow you to scoop the pot eventually.

So the best possible starting hands are made up of low cards that are also suited and/or connected. This gives you the opportunity to win the low hand but also pick up the high hand with a straight or a flush.

Aces are just as important in Omaha 8 as they are in 7 card stud 8 because they can count as low or high. An ace is like having 2 cards for the price of 1, so a set of cards preflop that includes an ace is automatically better than one that doesn鈥檛.

You can also scoop the pot if you have high cards in the hole and few low cards are dealt on the board. If no one can make a qualifying low hand, the highest hand wins the whole pot. In fact, if 3 high cards (9 or higher) land on the flop, all the people competing for low hands usually fold. Their money in the pot is just dead money.

Here are some starting hands in Omaha 8.

  • A234 鈥?This offers lots of low-hand potential. If the ace is suited with at least one of the other cards, you also have the potential of making a flush or a straight flush.
  • AK34 – This also offers a lot of low-hand potential, but the high-hand potential is also great. Again, suited aces are your friends in this situation.
  • AA23 鈥?A pair of aces is the best possible hand in Texas hold鈥檈m, and it鈥檚 a great start at a high hand in Omaha 8, too. More importantly, the 2 and the 3 provide you with low hand potential. Suited cards are better than unsuited cards in this situation because of the flush potential.
  • AAKK 鈥?It鈥檚 impossible to make a low hand with this hand, but you have lots of potential for straights and flushes. A full house is also a potentially strong hand with these cards. AK suited is better than AK offsuit, too.
  • A23x 鈥?You have so much nut low potential here that this hand is well worth playing. Suited cards work better here than any other, too.
  • A2xx 鈥?If the xx is a pair, even better, because you have the potential to get a full house as well as the nut low.
  • AKQJ 鈥?Really, any 4 cards ranked higher than 10 with some combination of suitedness can work well here. You have lots of opportunities to get high straights and/or flushes with these cards. You just need to be ready to fold if someone has the potential to get the low end of the board.
  • 2345 鈥?You really need to see an ace and some other cards on the flop to keep going with this one. As always, suited cards are important.
  • A3xx 鈥?You鈥檙e probably hoping for a 2 to fall on the flop to play this one. Also, suited cards are your friend. It鈥檚 better if the xx are not 鈥渕iddle poison.鈥?You prefer high cards or low cards.

Those aren鈥檛 the only playable hands in Omaha 8, but the trick with starting-hand requirements in this game is looking at how well your cards fit together. Suitedness and connectedness have a lot to do with how playable they are. High and low cards are your friends, too.

The worst possible cards in Omaha 8 are the middle cards, like 7, 8, and 9. You prefer to get high and/or low cards in the hole because they give you more possibilities to win with the outright best high or low. Those middle cards often lead you to the second-best hand on the showdown.

Position Is Just as Important in Omaha 8 as It Is in Texas Hold鈥檈m

One of the points I tried to hammer home when I wrote about Texas hold鈥檈m strategy is the importance of position. It鈥檚 just as important a consideration in Omaha 8 or better.

And the guidelines for position are the same 鈥?you must play tighter from earlier position than from middle or late position.

You鈥檙e in early position if you鈥檙e playing from either of the blinds or one of the 1st two players after the blinds. You鈥檙e in middle position if you鈥檙e 5th, 6th, or 7th to act. Late position players are 8th and 9th to act.

Strategy on the Flop in Omaha 8

The strategy for playing the flop in Omaha 8 is easily summed up, and the same guideline I shared for Texas hold鈥檈m is true here.

If the flop doesn鈥檛 fit your hole cards, you should fold.

The flop is the biggest decision point in the game.

For every set of hole cards you get, imagine what kind of flop would be a perfect fit. The further the flop is from that imaginary perfect fit, the more likely it is that you鈥檒l need to fold on the flop.

There are some things to watch for on a flop, though. For example, if a pair flops, and you don鈥檛 have one of the 2 cards of the same rank, the best possible high hand is probably a 4 of a kind. But you might also face the possibility of a straight flush if 2 of the cards on the flop are suited and connecting (with or without gaps).

If all 3 cards on the flop are 9 or higher, there is no possible low hand.聽 At the same time, if 2 or 3 of the cards on the flop are ranked 8 or lower, the low hand isn鈥檛 just in contention 鈥?it鈥檚 a likelihood.

If you get 2 or 3 cards of the same suit, someone might be drawing to a flush. (It might be you!) If you鈥檙e drawing to a straight when there鈥檚 a possible flush on the board, you鈥檙e making a mistake.

If you get 2 or 3 cards that are connected, even with a gap or two, you face a potential straight.

And you can face combinations of these situations on the flop, too. You might have 2 cards on the flop that are both suited AND connected. They might also both be ranked 8 or lower.

Recognizing how well each of these situations plays with your hole cards is crucial to deciding whether you want to continue in the hand. During the flop, most of the cards are already dealt. There are only 2 cards to go.

This is the point in the game where you have the most information. It鈥檚 also the point in the game where you can get additional cards cheapest 鈥?the bet sizes go up on the turn and the river.

Strategy After the Flop

You should fold on the flop UNLESS you have the best possible hand or a draw to either the best possible high or low hand. The ideal situation is to have either the best possible hand or the best possible low hand on the flop.

When you鈥檙e looking at drawing hands, keep this in mind. It needs to be a draw to the best possible hand. Second-best just doesn鈥檛 cut it in Omaha 8.

Omaha has this in common with Texas hold鈥檈m. Drawing hands like flushes and straights are only worth playing if you have lots of opponents to put money in the pot. If you鈥檙e drawing to one of these hands, fold unless you think you can keep at least 4 other players in the pot with you. 5 or 6 players is better.

You also want to keep in mind the possibility of being quartered. More about that next鈥?/p>

Being Quartered

When you鈥檙e playing Omaha 8 all the way to the showdown, you face one of the following outcomes.

  • You lose. You don鈥檛 get any money in the pot. That鈥檚 a bummer, but it happens.
  • You scoop the pot. This is the best possible outcome. You get all the money in the pot.
  • You split the pot with one other player. This isn鈥檛 ideal, but it鈥檚 the second-best scenario.
  • You split the pot with multiple other players. This is called 鈥済etting quartered.鈥?This happens when you and one of the other players tie for the low hand but have no claim to the high hand. This isn鈥檛 as bad as losing the pot outright, but it鈥檚 arguably more frustrating.

The profitability of getting quartered varies based on how many people are in the pot.

  • With 3 players in the pot, you lose money if you get quartered. (You only get 1/4 of the pot.)
  • With 4 players in the pot, you might lose money, or you might break even.
  • With 5 or more players in the pot, you lose money if you get quartered.

Most players who get quartered are playing when they don鈥檛 have an ace and/or a 2 in the hole. It鈥檚 easy to get the second-best low hand if you don鈥檛 have the ace or the 2.

If the main goal in Omaha 8 is to scoop the pot, the secondary goal is to avoid getting quartered.

On the turn, you should have the best high hand or at least a draw to the best high hand to continue. If you have the best possible low hand or a draw to the best possible low, you can keep playing, too. Otherwise, the turn is the second-best time to get out of the hand. (The best time is on the flop.)

By the river, you鈥檒l know what you wound up with. Deciding what to do at this point should be easy if you were playing tight enough on the previous rounds.

Bluffing in Omaha 8

For the most part, you shouldn鈥檛 bluff in Omaha 8.

Bluffs only work when your opponents fold. Since so many players see so much potential in all those hole cards, it鈥檚 hard to get them to fold.

I鈥檓 not saying you should NEVER bluff when playing Omaha 8. But you need to pick your spots very carefully.

Conclusion

Omaha 8 is a lot of fun, and you鈥檒l see a lot of action because of the additional hole cards in play. 4 hole cards means you have 6 different 2-card combinations to work with.

But unlike your opponents, you鈥檒l play tighter because of this, not looser.

Just remember that you need to use 2 cards from your hand and 3 from the board 鈥?no more, no less.

Also, remember that your starting cards should have the potential to win both the high and the low. The more pots you scoop, the more profitable you鈥檒l be.

After reading this post, we’re confident you have all the information you need to win all the while having fun! Best of luck!

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Beginners Guide to Playing and Winning at Omaha 8 Poker
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Beginners Guide to Playing and Winning at Omaha 8 Poker
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Omaha 8 is becoming increasingly popular, and it tends to produce huge pots. Here鈥檚 how to profit consistently at Omaha high-low split poker.
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