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Omaha Poker vs Texas Holdem - What's the Difference and is Omaha Easier or Harder to Play?

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Pot Limit Omaha and Texas Hold'em are the two most popular variants of poker. Since the No Limit Texas Hold'em playing field is saturated with good opposition, some players choose to explore Omaha instead.

Want to learn what are the differences between Omaha and Texas Hold'em and how to immediately understand the basic concepts of Omaha? You've come to the right place as we'll explain the differences between the two games and give you actionable tips on how to make a successful transition to Omaha as an NLHE player.

Omaha requires tighter play

Caution Sign

First things first. Omaha is a game of the nuts. If you don't have the nuts, you likely won't win the pot. Therefore, you must tighten your game both pre- and post-flop. Any other approach will cost you money.

In Texas Hold'em, you can win the hand with suited connectors often enough to make it a viable strategy that is sporadically pursued. In Omaha, it's more likely the other guy will have a stronger flush or a stronger hand in general. If you don't have the nuts, someone else probably does.

Relative hand value changes often in Omaha

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Perhaps the most important concept to grasp about Omaha is that the relative hand value changes more often than it does in Texas Hold'em.

This is due to the fact that in Omaha, there are four hole cards, which increases the number of possible combinations. Each new community card can change things a great deal, much more than it could in Texas Hold'em.

In Texas Hold'em, the game flow is mostly about one player's chances increasing while the other one's chances are diminishing, and then you can strike lucky on the river. In Omaha, things are more complex since there are more combinations. There are 169 starting hand combinations in Texas Hold'em. In Omaha, there are 16,432.

* Check out our starting hands guide for a quick overview, or visit Part II of our eight-part Pot Limit Omaha strategy where we explain what to actually do with your hand.

In Omaha, edges are tiny

Magnifying Glass

If we reduce Texas Hold'em to its bare essentials, it's a game in which you wait for a favorable situation and then try to make the pot as big as possible while, on the other hand, you want to lose as little as possible when you have a poor hand. Texas Hold'em is, in its core, a very black-or-white kind of game.

There are lots of situations in Texas Hold'em where you have to be competent enough to navigate a difficult situation in which your edge is small and there are many combinations. And then, the turn changes everything. Then the river changes it back again.

Omaha plays like that too. There are no easy wins.

Two Cards vs Four Cards

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In Hold'em, each player is dealt two hole cards before the flop, which together with five community cards means your hand actually has seven cards. Of these seven, you choose the best five. You can use both, one, or none of your two hole cards.

In Omaha, each player is dealt four cards. It changes the game significantly as it becomes much easier to make big hands. You can expect the opponent to have a very good hand in Omaha, and when you have a very strong one, you're not as favored to win as you'd be in Texas Hold'em. If some hand in Texas Hold'em makes you a 80-20 favorite, in Omaha it would be closer to 60-40.

In Omaha, you must always use exactly two of your four hole cards. Even if you get four Aces, you can still use only two of them. In Texas Hold'em, AA is a terrific hand while in Omaha, AAxx isn't nearly as strong - in this game it's much easier for players to get straights and flushes. One pair is very rarely a winning hand in Omaha.

No Limit vs Pot Limit

Apples vs Oranges

Texas Hold'em is mostly played as a no limit game, which means any player can go all-in at any given time. This matters a lot when it comes to determining the nature of the game.

Omaha is mostly played as a Pot Limit game. That means that a player can only raise by the value of the pot at the time. This limits the amount of chips that can be won - or lost - in a single round. Betting is more predictable when the range of possible bet sizes is limited.

In a Pot Limit game, it's more difficult to make deceptive moves. In a No Limit game, a player can overbet with a strong hand or even go all-in. That kind of move isn't possible in a Pot Limit game.

Skill matters more when the game has a limit as it's impossible to knock out an opponent by going all-in with a nutty hand. A good analogy would be boxing with gloves versus bare-knuckle boxing. While a bare-knuckle fight can be ended with one good punch, boxing with gloves reduces the significance of each punch so the fight is much more tactical.

Omaha players, therefore, have to have a sound understanding of the game in order to play successfully. You might want to therefore check out our eight-part Pot Limit Omaha Strategy from Square One.

It's possible to find No Limit Omaha games online, but they're a rare sight.

Hi-Lo Variants of Omaha

Up and Down Arrows

The most common way to play Omaha is High, which means you simply go for the best possible combination you can get.

Omaha also has a more complex variation in which you create two types of hands simultaneously - a high one and a low one. Omaha Hi-Lo Split 8 or Better, often shortened to Omaha8 or simply O8, is the most common variant.

To qualify for the low hand, you must be able to form a five-card hand with cards that have face values of 8 or lower. Since you can use only two of your cards, that also means that it's only possible to play a low hand if the board contains at least three cards with face value of 8 or lower.

Which game has softer competition?

Pair of Binoculars

Texas Hold'em is a mainstream game with millions of recreational players. Almost everyone has a basic understanding of the game's concepts, and it doesn't take long to adopt a certain strategy of playing. That's why you can find decent players even at a small level of play such as micro-stakes cash games or freeroll tournaments.

Omaha has a greater barrier to entry, so to speak, and it also has a lot of players who transitioned from Texas Hold'em, so they're playing the game in a way it shouldn't be played. The fish in Omaha are much worse players than fish in Texas Hold'em especially since deficiencies in your game can't be hidden in Pot Limit Omaha by playing like a maniac. Omaha takes a certain degree of skill to play, and those who don't have it are at a serious disadvantage.

There are more resources for learning Texas Hold'em by an order of magnitude. In Omaha, you're down to only a few books that can teach you how to play like a pro. If you read them, you should enjoy a serious advantage over those players who haven't.

Omaha tables are less common

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If you walk into a casino, it's likely to have some poker tables, and if it does, the game played at those tables will probably be Texas Hold'em. Omaha tables are much more difficult to find, both land-based and online.

Instead of searching for Omaha tables yourself, check out the best poker sites that have Omaha.

Is Omaha harder than Hold'em?

Man Pushing Ball

Yes, it's a game that's more challenging to learn to play properly, but once you do, you'll often be in a position to play against inferior players who haven't yet mastered the game.

Over the long run, a good player in Omaha will do better than a good player will in Texas Hold'em. That makes Omaha a game in which it's easier to produce consistently good results.

While variance is higher in Omaha, since even a very strong hand can only be something like a 60-40 favorite, the overall sentiment is that luck is less of a factor in this game than it is in Hold'em. Omaha is more of a drawing game, and there are many outs that will complete a hand.

Can you bluff in Omaha?

Blue Thinking Man

It's difficult to bluff in Omaha for several reasons. The main one is that there's less inclination to fold a weak or average hand in Omaha since it can become a good one easily, and all players at the table know that. The large number of possible combinations encourages players to stay in the game.

In Texas Hold'em, players will often choose to fold if they don't hit the flop and will therefore be inherently more vulnerable to bluffs.

Can playing Omaha make me a better Texas Hold'em player?

Rocket Ship

Yes it can, because Omaha forces you to play the “gray area” hands constantly, which are the hands that many less skilled Texas Hold'em players simply fold because they don't want to have anything to do with them.

If you can master this gray area aspect of poker, you likely won't be running away from difficult decisions in NLHE anymore. There will be fewer combinations and lesser shifts of relative hand value, but still, your Omaha skills might just give you the edge you need. Omaha will also teach you to play more aggressively.


Pen on Paper

Omaha is in many ways a more complex game than Texas Hold'em. There are many reasons to pursue a career in Omaha, such as wanting to play against softer competition or wanting to play a tighter game in which skill matters more. The Texas Hold'em playing experience can only come in handy as a starting reference point, but one must not make the assumption that Omaha is a similar game. For the most part, it plays very differently.