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OMAHA HOLD'EM

The mechanics of Omaha hold'em (Omaha for short) are very similar to those of Texas hold'em. In fact, there are only two primary differences: Instead of getting just two private cards, each Omaha player is dealt four cards face down, and combines two cards from that hand - no more, no less - to form the best five-card poker hand with just three of the five communal cards.

Despite the similarities to hold'em, Omaha is a far more complicated games, especially for beginners. You'll find it far easier to visualize if you pop in the CD and play through the 25 sample hands in either or both of the Wilson Software Omaha mini-programs you find there.

(There's one for Omaha/8 and one for Omaha high. Both games are described here. For instructions on using the programs, turn to page Seven.) Don't worry right now about playing the hands correctly - that can come later. For now, just absorb the games visually.

On the Internet, you'll find Omaha played for both fixed limits and pot limit. More often than not, Omaha is played as a "high-low split" games, Omaha/8, in which the best high hand and the best qualifying low hand divvy up the pot. To qualify for the low side of the pot, you must form a hand of five unpaired cards with the rank of eight or lower, using exactly two of your four personal cards and exactly three of the communal cards in the middle of the table.

It's possible to make both the best high hand and the best low hand, and to win the whole shebang in the process. Omaha players call this "scooping," and when push comes to shove, the objective of the games is not to take half the pot; it's to hog it all. When there are lots of folks drawing, things can get pretty wild, with players jamming the action for both the high and the low sides of the pot.

You can make a high hand and a low hand by using different cards from your private cards combined with different cards from the communal cards to construct each side. For example, if your private cards are A ?2 ? 3 ?K ? and the five communal cards are Q ? 9 ?7 ?6? 4 ?you can make a flush by mating your K? 3? with the communal Q? 7? 6? . You can also make a low hand (the best possible low on this board, in fact) by using you’re A? 2? with the board's 7? 6? 4? .

On the other hand, you can also make a high hand and a low hand using the very same two cards from your four private cards and the same three from the communal cards. If you have A-3-4-K of four different suits and the communal cards are 2-5-Q-A-9, the trey and four from your hand combine with the ace, deuce and five from the communal cards to make both the best high hand and best low hand possible, given the cards specified. In this example, you have a five-high straight, called a "wheel," and your wheel is also a five-low, the best possible low hand in Omaha/8.

Split-pot games are known for their no-holds-barred action because some players are trying to make the best low hand, some the best high one, and still others are trying to scoop the entire pot. But Omaha/8 also stimulates action because each player gets four private cards rather than just the two he'd get in hold'em. Naturally, with four cards to choose from, many players have no trouble finding hands to play. But believe it or not, to be a winning Omaha player, you should play fewer hands than you would in hold'em, not more. (We'll tell you more about that shortly.)

In Europe, where the majority of Omaha game are pot-limit, they're generally played for high-hand only. We call that type of Omaha, "Omaha high." Nevertheless, the structure is identical except that low hands don't count for a thing. (Obviously, this difference also affects the betting action.) Because online poker is played on a virtual table stretching from one end of the world to the other, you'll find both Omaha/8 and Omaha high, played for fixed limits as well as pot-limit.

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