Are Pocket Pairs Better or Worse in Omaha Poker? Omaha Hand Rankings, Explained

It’s no surprise Texas Holdem is the most popular way to play poker. It’s characterized by fast-paced action, daring bluffs, and massive pots. This makes it incredibly fun to play, and it’s also why most tournaments focus on Holdem, with it being the best form of poker to spectate. 

Despite Holdem’s popularity, it’s not the only way to play. Omaha poker has established itself as a close second to Holdem, bringing new game mechanics and appealing to different kinds of players. If you’re an interested Holdem player looking to make the switch, this poker guide is for you. It’ll introduce you to Omaha, focusing on the hand ranking changes caused by the different mechanics.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

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Omaha poker vs. Holdem: Card mechanics

The first major change between Omaha and Holdem is the number of hole cards you get. Both use a community card system, meaning you can use hole cards exclusive to you, and community cards, which are shared. In Holdem, you get two hole cards and can use any combination of the five community cards plus those hole cards to make a hand. You can choose to use only the community cards, known as “playing the board.”

Omaha has stricter rules on making hands. You have four hole cards and five community cards, but you must use exactly two hole cards and three community cards to make a hand. This has several effects on the game, such as making it easier to have a monster hand and changing the starting hand rankings.


Omaha poker vs. Holdem: Bet structure

The other significant difference between Omaha and Holdem is the bet structure. Holdem is most commonly played with a No Limit bet structure, meaning players can bet as much as they want. This gives Holdem its signature action, making it easy for pots to escalate and grow. 

In contrast, Omaha mostly uses a Pot Limit betting format. Here, the maximum bet size is capped to the current size of the pot. For raises, it’s a bit more complicated. You can raise up to three times the previous bet plus the total of all other bets that round. To visualize, let’s say Player 1 bets $7, a second raises to $10, and a third raises to $20. The total raise size for anyone after the third player would be $20 times 3 = $60 + $10 + $7 = $77. 


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Hand rankings: Are pocket pairs good?

With four hole cards, hand rankings change quite a bit. The restrictions on using exactly three community cards separate the hand rankings even further from Holdem. Hands like AAAA are actually terrible, as they only have one pocket pair since the two other aces are unusable, blocking you from getting an ace from the community cards. 

Omaha focuses on strong post-flop draws, so suited connectors and pocket aces rise in priority. The best Omaha hands have exactly two suits, as any more than two cards of the same suit don’t contribute to a flush. The top five Omaha hands are: AAKK, AAJT, AAQQ, AAJJ, and AATT, with all these hands being double-suited. They’re all combinations of high-ranked pocket pairs, with one hand mixing AA with JT, since AAAK wouldn’t work well because of the abovementioned restrictions. 

Another thing to note about Omaha poker hand rankings is how close all the hands are to each other in strength. In Holdem, the best hand, AA, is beating the worst hand, 2-7o, a massive 88.2 percent of the time. In Omaha, the best hand, AAKK, has less than a 60% chance of winning against 5-6-7-8 double suited, a hand not even in the top 30 best hands. With all hands so close to each other in strength, Omaha strategy is vastly different from Holdem’s. 


Omaha strategy: Focus more on post-flop play

A core part of Omaha strategy is the emphasis on post-flop play. This is the result of a number of factors, one of which is how close hands are together in strength. There are never any hands that make you think, “this is an instant fold” pre-flop, meaning players will push to see a flop with their hand most of the time. With four hole cards, it’s incredibly easy to achieve straight draws and flush draws, further incentivizing players to see what the flop brings. 

The pot limit betting format is the other reason the pre-flop is less important in Omaha. While you can bet big when the pot already has a lot of money, like during the turn and river, it has basically nothing pre-flop. It’s tough to play aggressively when your bets are that limited, making post-flop play the Omaha standard.


Omaha strategy: Play tighter

Another part of Omaha strategy is playing tighter. Omaha is a game of the nuts – the best hand at the table. If you aren’t completely sure that you have the nuts, it’s likely someone else does. The four hole cards make it very easy to create straights and flushes, so it’s common to see a lower-ranked straight or flush being beaten by a higher one, something that’s a lot rarer in Holdem. 


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Find Omaha poker games online!

In conclusion, Omaha is a great game that can provide a breath of fresh air for Holdem players. If you want to find Omaha games, try looking online. Online poker has numerous benefits compared to live, with easy access to multiple formats from the comfort of your home. You’ll be able to find any poker variant you want; all it takes is a bit of searching for the right site.