Ever since I discovered the great game of No Limit Texas holdem as a college kid, my passion for poker has grown and evolved over the years.
But today, hosting a home poker game has become a point of pride in more ways than one. And out of all the enjoyment I’ve derived as a home game host, perhaps my greatest achievement has been introducing a roomful of recreational poker players to games other than NL Texas holdem.
The de facto game of choice for millions of casual card-playing enthusiasts all over the world, No Limit Texas holdem was dubbed the “Cadillac of Poker” by legendary pro Doyle Brunson for a reason.
The hole card/community card dynamic challenges players to read their opponents and deduce their possible holdings based on wide variety of factors, including chip stack size, previous actions, board texture, and physical mannerisms.
With that said, the poker family tree has so much more to offer than a single variation on the game. No Limit Texas holdem may be the fan favorite these days, but our grandparents came up playing Seven-Card Stud and draw-based variants like Lowball and 2-7 Triple Draw. Over time, Limit Texas holdem with its capped betting structure largely replaced Stud and Draw games before being replaced by the more action-packed No Limit alternative.
Over the years, I’ve had a ton of fun teaching my home game guests how to play non-holdem forms of poker, and something tells me you will, too.
On that note, check out the list below to learn about the form of poker known as “Omaha.” It has become extremely popular in Las Vegas of late, which is perfect for your next home game.
Pot Limit Omaha (PLO)
The perfect starting point from which to expand your home poker game’s horizons is Pot Limit Omaha.
This game is nothing more than Texas holdem with two deceptively simple twists.
First of all, you get four hole cards to form your starting hand before the flop, turn, and river community cards are dealt out. At any point in the hand, you can use any two of those four hole cards to form five-card poker hands in conjunction with the board.
And secondly, the Pot Limit betting structure caps your next bet at the current size of the pot. Thus, when the pot holds $25 and you feel like firing out a continuation bet on the flop, you can wager anywhere between the table minimum and $25. From there, somebody who wants to raise could “pot it” up to $75 ($25 in the pot + $25 bet + $25 assumed call).
Let’s run through an example hand so you get the idea. On this hand, you’ve been dealt the As-Ks-6h-6c as your starting hand. This is an easy one to grasp for holdem players because you essentially have two different powerful starting hands from that game: A-K (also known as “big slick”) and a pocket pair of sixes.
After the flop comes 10-J-Q, your A-K can be used to form the “nut” hand on this flop, a Boradway straight from 10-J-Q-K-A. But should the turn deliver a six, and the river pair the board with another 10, you’d now play the pocket sixes to form an even better hand—a full house with sixes over 10s.
Part of the fun involved in Pot Limit Omaha is derived from this ability to swap different pieces of your four-card starting hand in and out as the board evolves. Putting an opponent on a certain hand in Texas holdem isn’t really all that difficult in many situations, but the task becomes incredibly challenging when four cards are added to the equation.
On a final note, Pot Limit Omaha is known for generating tons of action and huge pots for just that reason. You’ll usually have something to work with after the flop, whether it be a made hand or a strong drawing possibility. And thanks to the Pot Limit betting system, most players will see a flop because the price of poker only goes up on later streets.
Omaha Hi-Lo Eight or Better (O-E)
Once you’ve mastered how to play Pot Limit Omaha in its standard format, the next logical step is to learn its close cousin Omaha Hi-Lo Eight or Better.
This game uses the same four hole card structure as Pot Limit Omaha, but caps the betting using a standard Limit format ($1/$2; $5/$10; etc.).
The main draw of Omaha Hi-Lo Eight or Better, however, is a split-pot system in which the final showdown can produce two different winners. Essentially, every deal creates the possibility of a high hand being made, but some deals also generate the potential for low hands.
In split-pot poker games, a low hand is exactly what it sounds like—a bad, unconnected string of cards that don’t make any poker hand rankings like a pair, straight, or flush.
Aces are considered low cards for the purpose of low hands, so some of the best low hands you can make are A-2-3-4-6, A-3-4-6-8, etc. As the game’s title suggests, a qualifying low hand must be made up of five cards that all rank 8 or lower. In other words, a hand like A-2-3-4-9 wouldn’t meet the cutoff point, while A-2-3-4-5-8 would.
And you don’t necessarily need an ace to win the low half of the hand either, as combos like 2-3-4-5-8 or 3-4-5-6-8 work just fine.
The coolest part about Omaha Hi-Lo Eight or Better is how you can use your four hole cards differently to win both halves of the pot. You might connect two high cards to make a flush for the high half, while sliding a lowly 2-3 into the board’s A-2-6 combo for a sweet low hand. This is known as “scooping” the pot, and for poker players in the know, nothing beats a well-timed scoop after several players have capped the betting action.
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A relatively new addition to the Omaha world, Big O is simply Pot Limit Omaha with five hole cards instead of four.
Predictably, the action and uncertainty is revved up in a Big O poker game. The best five-card hand wins.
Omaha poker represents the natural evolution from Texas holdem, taking the classic game’s foundation and expanding upon it in more ways than one. If your home game has grown a bit stale over the years, and you’d like to inject a little new blood by playing a new non-holdem variant, you really can’t go wrong with Pot Limit Omaha, Omaha Hi-Lo Eight or Better, or Big O.