Omaha

Omaha
After Texas Hold’em, Omaha is the next most popular variant of poker in modern play. Omaha was once known as Omaha Hold’em, and shares a lot of similarities with Texas Hold’em, including the use of five board cards and four betting rounds. However, Omaha uses four hole cards instead of two, giving more opportunity for strategic play. While Texas Hold’em is often played no-limit, Omaha is usually played at pot limit (often referred to as PLO—pot limit Omaha).

Object of Omaha

The object of Omaha is to form the best five-card poker hand from a combination of two of the four cards in your hand and three of the five shared cards (called board cards), or to bet in such a way as to convince your opponents that you have the best hand.

Setup

Omaha uses a standard 52-card deck. As always, we recommend using plastic playing cards, specifically Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards.

Prior to game play, establish whether the game is limit or no-limit and the minimum bets. You should also agree on the amount of a buy-in, that is, how much each player’s initial stake will be, and whether you will allow players to deep stack (i.e. buy in for a greater amount).

All players either ante or post blinds, although Omaha is typically played with blinds. Shuffle and deal four cards to each player. These cards are called the player’s hole cards.

Game play

Players inspect their initial hand, and then the first betting round, known as the pre-flop betting round, occurs. The first player to act is the player to the left of the dealer, unless blinds have been posted, in which case the player to the left of the big blind (referred to as being under the gun) has first action. The betting follows the usual pattern of betting in poker. If, at any time, all players but one fold, the pot is awarded to the last remaining player, and the hand ends. No further cards are dealt to “see what would have happened”, and the winning player is not required to reveal their hand.

After the betting round has concluded, the dealer discards one burn card face down and deals three cards face up to the center of the table. (See “Dealing the flop, turn, and river” for more information on how this is performed). These three cards, called the flop, are the first three of the five board cards, and can form part of every player’s hand. After the flop, another betting round occurs, with first action going to the player to the left of the dealer (the player who posted the small blind).

When the flop’s betting round is resolved, the dealer burns one card and deals another card face up, called the turn. As before, another betting round is conducted, after which another card is burned and the fifth and final board card, the river, is dealt. One final betting round is conducted, and then each player reveals their hand.

The player who has the best five-card poker hand, using five of the seven cards available to them (three of the five board cards and two of their four hole cards), wins the pot. It must be emphasized that a player must use exactly three board cards and two hole cards. A player may not use all four hole cards, nor can they use one hole card and four board cards, nor can they “play the board” (use all five of the board cards as their hand).

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Texas Hold’em

Texas Hold'em
Texas Hold’em is the most popular variant of poker in play today. The vast majority of games spread in casino poker rooms are either limit or no-limit Hold’em, and over half of the events at the World Series of Poker are some form of Hold’em. At the turn of the 21st century, Texas Hold’em quickly gained popularity over older forms of poker like Five-Card Draw because Hold’em offers more betting rounds, increasing the amount of betting action in the game, and the presence of shared cards in the middle of the table adds allows for more strategic play than many other poker variants.

Object of Texas Hold’em

The object of Texas Hold’em is to form the best five-card poker hand from a combination of the two cards in your hand and five shared cards (called board cards), or to bet in such a way as to convince your opponents that you have the best hand.

Setup

Texas Hold’em uses a standard 52-card deck. Most casino poker rooms, and an increasing number of home poker games, use plastic playing cards to ensure game integrity and reduce the number of deck changes required. We, of course, recommend Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards.

Prior to game play, establish whether the game is limit or no-limit and the minimum bets. You should also agree on the amount of a buy-in, that is, how much each player’s initial stake will be, and whether you will allow players to deep stack (i.e. buy in for a greater amount).

All players either ante or post blinds, although Hold’em is more often played with blinds. Shuffle and deal two cards to each player. These cards are called the player’s hole cards.

Game play

Players inspect their initial hand, and then the pre-flop betting round occurs. The first player to act is the player to the left of the dealer, unless blinds have been posted, in which case the player to the left of the big blind (referred to as being under the gun) has first action. The betting follows the usual pattern of betting in poker. If, at any time, all players but one fold, the pot is awarded to the last remaining player, and the hand ends. No further cards are dealt to “see what would have happened”, and the winning player is not obliged to reveal their hand.

After the betting round has concluded, the dealer discards one card face down (called burning a card) and deals three cards face up to the center of the table. (See “Dealing the flop, turn, and river” for more information on how this is performed). These three cards, called the flop, are three of the five board cards, and are considered part of every player’s hand. After the flop, another betting round occurs, with first action going to the player to the left of the dealer (the player who posted the small blind).

When the flop’s betting round is resolved, the dealer burns one card and deals another card face up, called the turn. As before, another betting round is conducted, after which another card is burned and the fifth and final board card, the river, is dealt. One final betting round is conducted, and then each player reveals their hand. The player who has the best five-card poker hand, using five of the seven cards available to them (the five board cards and their two hole cards), wins the pot.

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Betting in poker

Poker without betting is hardly poker! While there are some varieties of poker that don’t involve betting—like Knock Poker—it is a feature of the vast majority of them. Most poker games include one or more betting rounds (Texas Hold’em and Omaha, for instance, have four betting rounds before the showdown). Fortunately, once you get used to how the betting in poker operates, the knowledge transfers pretty well to every other variety of poker.

This post describes some of the rules governing cash or ring games—that is, non-tournament games. Tournament games have special rules because they are played with chips that have no cash value; real money is only given out when the tournament is over. Also, while the rules of poker are fairly standard, there are some variations and extra bets that some players and cardrooms add to spice up the game. If you’re joining an unfamiliar game, it’s best to ask about the rules before you play!

Basic betting actions

  • Check. The simplest betting action is to check. This is option is only available when no bets have been placed in the current betting round (even blinds are considered a bet in this instance). A check declares that you wish to keep the current bet at zero and not wager any additional money. If all players check, the betting round ends with no more money being added to the pot.
  • Raise. A raise increases the current bet. If all other players have checked, a bet of any amount is a raise. If another player has bet, a raise is betting an amount more than what the previous player bet.
  • Fold. To refuse to match a raise. In so doing, the player surrenders their cards and takes no further part in the game until the next hand.
  • Call. Matching whatever the current bet is. If a previous player bet $5, a call is also betting $5. Note that any amount previously wagered does not have to be re-matched; if you bet $5 and the next player raises to $10, you need only wager $5 more to call. When all active players have called, the betting round ends.

Table stakes

Most poker games include table stakes rules. A player is limited to the money they have in front of them on the table at the beginning of the hand. They cannot exchange money from their pocket for chips midway through a hand. This is done to allow a player to limit their risk and to prevent players with more money from bullying less-wealthy players out of the game. If a player wishes to rebuy, that is, buy more chips to bet with, they must wait until in between hands.

Once a player has chips in front of them, whether by exchanging cash for them or by winning them from other players, they cannot take a portion of them off the table or cash them in; they must remain in play. If a player wishes to cash out, they must leave the game and take their entire stack of chips. While it is possible to leave the game immediately after scoring a huge pot, it’s considered good etiquette to stay in the game for at least a few more hands to allow other players a chance at winning some of the money back.

Minimum bets

When discussing what type of poker game is being spread, the game is usually quoted as the minimum bets for the table, whether it is limit or no-limit, and the type of game (if multiple types of poker are being spread; otherwise, Texas Hold’em is usually assumed). One of the most popular games in casino poker rooms, for example, is $1/$2 no-limit Hold’em.

The two amounts given as the minimum bets are in effect at different points in the hand. In Texas Hold’em and Omaha, the first two betting rounds (pre-flop and the flop) are conducted with the minimum bet at the first, lower rate. The last two betting rounds (the turn and river) have minimums equal to the second amount, which is called the big bet and is usually double the smaller bet.

Limits (or not)

No-limit poker

Most poker games are said to be either “limit” or “no-limit”. No-limit games are simpler: you can bet almost any amount at any time, including your entire chip stack! There is usually a restriction that a raise cannot be followed by a smaller raise, so if the first player to act raises $50, you cannot raise after them by $1.

Of course, no-limit games also offer a substantial degree of risk to the players—a player can be forced to call a hand with every chip they have on the table! Some players, especially newcomers, may not feel comfortable playing no-limit games.

Limit poker

Limit poker is often preferred by less confident players, but it is also slightly more complicated. All raises must be equal to the minimum bet for the round. For example, in a $3/$6 limit Hold’em game, during the first (pre-flop) round, each raise is $3. So, if blinds are used, the big blind will be $3, and the first raise will be an additional $3. The next player can either call for $6, or raise another $3, bringing the bet to $12, etc. This continues until a cap, a fixed number of raises, is reached. For example, three raises may be allowed before the betting is capped. When the cap is reached, no further raises are allowed; players may only call or fold.

Pot-limit poker

Pot-limit poker is kind of a compromise between limit and no-limit poker. In pot-limit games, the maximum bet is equal to whatever the pot currently contains. This amount includes whatever was in the pot at the beginning of the betting round, plus any raises or calls that have taken place, plus however much it would cost the current player to call. So, if the pot had $100 from antes and prior betting rounds, and a previous player on this betting round raised to $50, the current player could raise by up to $200 ($100 + $50 from the previous player + $50 call from the current player).

Unlike limit games, however, you are never compelled to bet the maximum (called potting it); you may bet any lesser amount that you wish (although raises must usually at least equal the amount of any previous raises). There is also no cap on the number of times players may bet the pot on any betting round.

Going all-in

When a player ends up with their entire chip stack in the pot, whether they called an amount that exceeded their stack, or because they raised by the total amount of their stack in a no-limit game, the player is said to have gone all-in. An all-in player is allowed to keep their cards and participate in the showdown at the end of the hand, but cannot take part in any further betting rounds, because they don’t have the money to do so. Therefore, any further betting that takes place by other players is kept in a separate side pot. The all-in player cannot win this side pot. If additional players end up going all-in at later stages of play, additional side pots can be created.

At the end of the hand, if the first all-in player has the best hand overall, they are awarded the main pot, and each side pot is awarded to the player eligible for it with the best hand. If a non-all-in player has the best hand overall, they get the main pot, plus all the side pots.

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