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How do you play Omaha?

Author: Michael Maurer
Last updated: Jan 2004
Copyright © 2004 Michael Maurer
The official and up-to-date version of this answer is here.

The rules of Omaha are very similar to those of Texas Hold'em. There are only two differences:

The second difference is confusing for most beginners. These examples show how it works.

    Board        Hole Cards     Best High Hand
    =====        ==========     ==============
As Kc Qc 8d 2d   Ac 2c Jd Th    Jd Th makes ace-hi straight.
As Kc Qc Jh Td   Ac 2c Jd 8h    Ac Jd makes ace-hi straight.
As Kc Qc Jh Td   3c 2c Jd 8h    Jd 8h makes pair of jacks.  No straight
                                is possible using two hole cards.
As Ks 8h 9d 2s   Qs 4h 4d 4s    Qs 4s makes AKQ42 "nut" flush.
As Ks 8s 9s 2s   Qs 4h 4d Qd    Qs Qd makes pair of queens.  No flush is
                                possible using two hole cards.
As Ts 8s 8h 4d   Td Tc Ad 9c    Td Tc makes TTT88 full house.
As Ts 8s 8h 4d   Td 8c Ad 9c    Ad 8c makes 888AA full house.
As Ac 8s 8h 4d   Ah 2h 3h 5h    Ah 5h makes trip aces AAA85.  No full
                                house is possible using two hole cards.
As Ac 8s 8h 4d   Ah 2h 3h 4h    Ah 4h makes full house AAA44.

Omaha is often played high/low, meaning that the highest and lowest hands split the pot. The low hand usually must "qualify" by being at least an 8-low (the largest card must be 8 or lower). One can use a different two cards to compete for the high and low portions of the pot, and the game is played "cards speak" rather than "declare". Aces are either low or high, and straights and flushes don't count for low. Since everybody must use two hole cards to make a hand, the board must have three cards 8 or lower for a low to even be possible. Players often tie for low, and the low half of the pot is divided equally among them. Some more examples:

    Board        Hole Cards     Best Low Hand
    =====        ==========     =============
As Kc Qc 8d 2d   8c Jc Jd Th    Jd Th makes the low hand JT82A, which
                                does not qualify as 8-or-better.
3d 5h 8d Tc Ts   Ac 2c Jd Th    Ac 2c makes the "nut low" 8532A.
3d 5h 8d Tc Ts   Ac 3c 4d Th    Ac 4d makes 8543A.
3d 5h 8d Ad Ts   Ac 3c 5d 8h    Any two make T853A, not qualifying.
Ac 2c 3d 4h 5s   Ad 2d Th Td    Ad 2d makes "nut low" 5432A.
Ac 2c 3d 4h 5s   4d 5d Th Td    4d 5d makes "nut low" 5432A.
5h 7h 8d Ac 2c   Ad 2d Th Td    Ad 2d makes 8752A, but the nut low is
                                5432A with a 3 and 4.  On the flop we
                                had the best possible low, but the turn
                                and river "counterfeited" us.

As in all split-pot games, the real goal of playing any hand is to win both halves of the pot, or "scoop". Thus, hands that have a chance to win both ways are far superior to those that can only win one way.

For more details on how to handle ties, see the section on splitting the pot.