For years PLO was played mainly in the card rooms of Europe and was rarely seen in the USA and other countries. So the top European players were the stronger Omaha players, while the top US players were the best at Hold’em. Over the years this has changed and there is a more even balance between great European Omaha players and those from the rest of the world.
The basic rules of PLO are similar to Texas Hold’em, so it is a variation of poker that is more easily picked up by Hold'em players.
Pot Limit vs No Limit
As the name implies the game is played in a pot limit format. So bets and raises are restricted to the size of the pot and no more. For example, if there is $200 in the pot and you have a $300 stack, you cannot shove all-in for the entire $300, like you can in no limit formats. This pot limit format is suited to games like Omaha, that involve a lot of draws. In a no limit game, it would be easier to force a draw to fold.
Hole Cards & Betting Rounds
Unlike Hold’em, PLO games start with four cards dealt face down to each player, rather than two. There then follows a round of pre-flop action, where players can bet, fold, call or raise.
Following this round of betting a three card community flop is dealt. Once again another betting round commences. All players still remaining after the flop are permitted to act. Then a fourth community card is dealt, also called the turn, the same as in Hold’em.
The fifth and final community card, called the river just as in Texas Hold'em, follows next. Next up is another round of betting before showdown.
There is one big difference between Omaha and Hold’em when it comes to hand evaluation - and it is a crucial one.
In Omaha each player must use two – and only two - cards from their four-card starting hand in conjunction with three from the community board. This is different from Hold’em where a player may choose to use both cards from their starting hand, only one card or none at all and play the entire board.
So, in Omaha Hi, holding four flush cards in your starting hand will not do you any good, if only one matching flush card is on the community board. You can only use two of those flush cards in your hand and would still need three matching cards on the board to complete a flush.
Hand Ranking & Showdown
The hand rankings in Omaha are exactly the same as in Hold'em. The highest possible hand is a “royal flush” and the lowest, “high card”.
At showdown in PLO, the best hand takes the whole pot. If there is more than one player with a flush or full house, for example, the best flush or full house wins. In other words an ace-king-ten-eight-seven flush would beat at an ace-jack-seven-four-two flush.
Words of Wisdom
Keep in mind that there are six possible hand combinations in a PLO starting hand as opposed to only one in Hold’em. These means that there are many more ways to make a hand.
The average winning hand is much higher in PLO than in Hold'em, therefore choose your starting hands wisely.