As one generation of poker players gives way to the next, the game seems to move in cyclical fashion, as new variants are embraced over others.
The original poker road warriors like Doyle Brunson and the late Chip Reese made their rounds playing the classic game of Seven-Card Stud back in the 1970s.
The wheel keeps on turning, however, and during the last few years, a younger crop of poker enthusiasts expanded on the variant of Texas holdem. By adding two more hole cards to the equation, giving players four hole cards to work with during the hand, the exhilarating variant known as Omaha was born.
Omaha poker has been around just as long as Seven-Card Stud and Texas holdem, but up until the last decade, it largely played third fiddle to poker’s most popular games.
But after the online “wizards” cracked the code behind optimal Texas holdem theory, they needed a new nut to crack. Thus, the four-card game of Omaha became the wizards’ latest challenge.
These days, Texas holdem tables still make up the majority of the average Las Vegas poker room’s action, but Omaha games are hot their heels.
How to Play Omaha Poker
In its standard format, Omaha poker is played using a pot-limit betting structure that straddles the line between limit and no limit wagering.
That is to say, at a Pot Limit Omaha table, the maximum bet a player can make at any one time is exactly equal to the size of the current pot. This might seem like a restriction that would put no limit Texas holdem fans off of Omaha. But in reality, it only takes a few bets, raises, and re-raises to get entire chip stacks all in.
After the small and big blinds put up their forced bets, the dealer doles out four cards face down to every player. From there, the game plays out identically to Texas holdem, with players placing preflop bets before taking the flop, or three community cards.
With the flop dealt out, players can use any two of the four hole cards to create their best possible five-card poker hand.
For example, if you held the Ah-As-Kd-2c, you’d be starting the hand with pocket aces, which is the strongest starting hand in Texas holdem. But on a flop of K-5-2, you’d now be using your king and 2 to form two pair.
Players can use any two hole cards from their hand in conjunction with the board. If the turn card came with an ace, you’d now use your pocket aces to form three of a kind. And had the turn brought a 5 instead of an ace, counterfeiting your kings and deuces two pair, you’d now use your pocket aces to form two pair (aces and 5s).
Holding four hole cards also makes Pot Limit Omaha (PLO) much more complex in terms of counting outs on drawing hands. Most drawing hands like the straight and flush draws offer eight and nine outs, respectively, in Texas holdem, “wrap” draws in Omaha games can create up to 20 outs.
Let’s say you have a starting hand like J-10-7-6 and the flop brings the 9-8-2 onboard. In this case, you’re essentially playing two open-ended straight draws at the same time.
Your J-10 combines with the 9-8 to give you seven outs to the 7 (3) and Q (4). And with 6-7 combined with 8-9, you can hit any 5 (4) or 10 (3) for seven more outs. Add in the six remaining jacks (3) and 10s (3), and you have the most powerful wrap draw in Omaha.
You’ll face betting rounds preflop, on the flop, on the turn, and on the river, just like in Texas holdem. By the showdown, whomever tables the highest-ranking five-card poker hand takes the pot.
Additionally, players can adjust Omaha gameplay to form other variants a la Seven-Card Stud Hi-Lo Eight or Better. In the game of Omaha Hi-Lo Eight or Better, players can also shoot for the lowest qualifying hand (any five cards ranked at 8 or worse) to claim half of the pot. Of course, the goal for an Omaha Hi-Lo Eight or Better is typically to “scoop” the pot, or hold the best possible high AND low hands at showdown.
Why the New Crop of Poker Fans Love the Great Game of Omaha
Pot Limit Omaha poker has taken on a new reputation as “The Great Game” thanks to pro player and podcaster extraordinaire Joey Ingram.
Better known as “Chicago Joey” to his peers, Ingram has been evangelizing about The Great Game of Pot Limit Omaha for the last five years or so, motivating his social media followers to give it a try during their next trip to the casino.
To hear Ingram tell the tale, Pot Limit Omaha specifically challenges Texas holdem for poker supremacy for two simple reasons—complexity and action.
As the Texas holdem tables become increasingly dominated by game theory optimal (GTO) strategies, and online “solvers” that instantly tell you the best play given the circumstances, thinking players are seeking out new challenges.
Omaha games tend to produce more action than Texas holdem. In the old two-card game, you’ll miss the flop roughly two-thirds of the time. Throw in dozens of starting hands that aren’t even worth playing, and Texas holdem tables can often go entire orbits without a meaningful pot developing.
In an Omaha game, on the other hand, those extra hole cards make connecting with the board much more likely. And because nobody can shove all-in preflop to end the proceedings right then and there, you’ll be playing many more multi-way pots that inevitably produce raising wars and “cooler” situations.
With that in mind, the list below highlights the four best poker rooms in Sin City for Omaha players.
1 – Aria Resort and Casino
Known for offering some of the swankiest digs and best customer service of any poker room on the Strip, the Aria Resort and Casino has become the place to play for pros and “recs” alike.
You’ll find 24 tables in the Aria’s top-notch poker room, including a roped off private area where high-rolling pros like Antonio Esfandiari, Jean Robert-Bellande, and Dan Cates regularly hold court in ultra-high-stakes mixed games.
As for the Omaha selection, other casinos nearby might have more tables running than the Aria, but this place takes top spot on my list because its perfect for folks who are trying the game for the first time.
The standard Pot Limit Omaha high-hand game at the Aria uses $1/$2 blinds, so you won’t face any bankroll-related barriers to entry. With a minimum buy-in of $200 and a maximum of $500, everybody starts on a level playing field, which is great for Omaha rookies testing the waters.
The house rake here is 10% of the pot, up to $5, but that is offset by a generous $2 per hour comp rate.
If you like to play a little higher, check out the $2/$5 Pot Limit Omaha high-hand table that runs occasionally on busier evenings. This game uses a $400 to $1,500 buy-in limit spread, a rake capped at $5 per hand, and $2 per hour in comp rewards.
All things considered, Omaha enthusiasts just learning the ropes should call the Aria home on their next trip to the City of Las Vegas.
2 – Bellagio Hotel and Casino
For players who have moved past the rookie stage and view themselves as Omaha veterans, the Bellagio Hotel and Casino is your ticket on the Strip.
What the Aria is today, the Bellagio has been for decades. Combining decadent décor, world-class service from dealers and other staff, and a high-stakes area known as “Bobby’s Room,” the Bellagio poker room is widely viewed as the best in town.
Among the 37 tables onsite, you’ll find a $2/$5 game of Pot Limit Omaha high-hand that uses a $200 to $1,000 buy-in spread. And just like the Aria, the rake at Bellagio’s $2/$5 Pot Limit Omaha high-hand game is capped at $5, with players receiving $2 in comps every hour.
The real draw for hardcore Omaha fans visiting the Bellagio, however, is the room’s big games.
I’m talking big too, as in a $20/$40 Limit Omaha Hi-Lo Eight or Better game where some of Las Vegas’ most talented pros convene nightly. You’ll find a $200 minimum buy-in here, with no maximum, and a $6 rake with $2 in hourly comps.
If the sound of big bet Omaha Hi-Lo Eight or Better at Bellagio is to your liking, you’re in luck. Along with the $20/$40 tables, you can up the ante to $30/$60 and even $40/$80.
Predictably, the minimum buy-in point rises to $500 and $800, respectively, so be prepared to bring a few bullets from your bankroll when playing big bet Omaha here.
3 – The Orleans Hotel and Casino
Circling back to the low- and medium-stakes tables for Omaha players still learning the ropes, venturing away from Las Vegas Boulevard westbound on Tropicana Avenue brings you to the Orleans Hotel and Casino.
A member of the Boyd Gaming casino family, the Orleans is your classic local’s joint, providing all of the gaming and amenities of a resort on the Strip for half the price. The 35-table Orleans poker room is also legendary among old-school grinders, as the place has been running regular tournament series for several decades and counting.
Omaha players visiting the Orleans will find a few $4/$8 Limit Omaha high-hand tables running around the clock.
These fun-filled games use a $40 minimum buy-in, no maximum, and a 10% rake up to $4. Fortunately, the Orleans’ commitment to value has led to a “no flop, no drop” policy, so the extra $1 in rake collected from each hand to fund the bad beat jackpot pool is only deducted when players take a flop.
The Orleans also spreads a regular $4/$8 Limit Omaha Hi-Lo Eight or Better game which uses the exact same buy-in and rake structure. Both games offer players $1.25 per hour in comps too, so be sure to bring your B-Connected player’s club card to the table.
If the Limit Omaha Hi-Lo Eight or Better games are up your alley, look for $8/$16 and $15/$30 tables as well. These bigger games use an $80 and $150 minimum buy-in, respectively, with no maximum, and the rake/comp rewards are the same as the smaller games.
4 – Flamingo Las Vegas Hotel and Casino
Last, but certainly not least, the Flamingo Las Vegas Hotel and Casino offers the lowest-stakes Omaha action anywhere in town.
The most popular Omaha game at the Flamingo’s 11-table poker room is an $1/$1 PLO affair. Expect a buy-in spread of $200 minimum and $500 maximum, along with a 10% rake up to $5, and $1 per hour in comp rewards.
You’ll also find a fun $3/$6 Limit Omaha Hi-Lo Eight or Better table running semi-regularly. The minimum buy-in here is only $30, with no maximum, along with the same rake/comp system described above.
Poker’s evolution is fascinating to behold, as players pick and choose between the dozens of different variants to find the latest and greatest game of choice. I’m partial to Seven-Card Stud myself, and I can certainly see how Texas holdem turned into a household name during the boom.
But I’ve increasingly become enamored with Pot Limit Omaha. Whether you prefer the big bet PLO tables, or the more leisurely split-pot gameplay of Limit Omaha Hi-Lo Eight or Better, use this guide to get yourself into the best Omaha games Las Vegas has to offer.