Texas Hold’em or Omaha – Which Poker Game Is Best?

By J.W. Paine in Casino
| July 19, 2022 11:07 am PDT
Texas Hold'em vs. Omaha

As hard as it is to believe, there was a time when Texas Hold’em was not the universal game of choice for the entire population of the planet Earth. And Omaha—a variant of Hold’em—was unheard-of. But that was then, and this is now.

Texas Hold’em still holds the world of playing cards for money in an ironclad grip. And Omaha? Well, it continues to gain devoted followers, but the debate is only now taking shape in real life: Omaha poker vs. Texas Hold’em—What is the difference? And more importantly, which one is the better game?

As with all comparison arguments, the answer lies in the interrogator’s personal tastes. So “Which is better—Omaha poker or Texas Hold’em?” is best answered, “Well, which do you prefer?”

If you haven’t considered the move from Texas Hold’em to Omaha, but want to give it a try, here’s a starter kit on the differences and the strategies of Omaha poker vs. Texas Hold’em. You can read on for my breakdown, or you can visit the top poker sites to play either style right now.

What Do Texas Hold’em and Omaha Have in Common?

Whether you’re playing Texas Hold’em or Omaha, you’re playing a poker game with a deck of 52 standard playing cards (four suits, each consisting of 13 cards of ascending face value).

You’ll find Omaha or Texas Hold’em are dealt with the same betting structures, including No Limit, Fixed Limit, and Pot Limit.

Before the cards are dealt, forced bets called the big blind, and the small blind must be posted. They’re called blinds because the two players required to make the bets are betting without seeing the totality of their hands.

The button is a physical item (usually a plastic disk that says something you’d expect it to say—“Dealer”). The button moves around the table clockwise from one hand to the next so that every player is the big blind, the small blind, and the dealer once for each complete circuit around the table.

Once blinds have been posted, cards are dealt face down to the players in a clockwise fashion. Even at the best US online casinos and brick-and-mortar casinos, the dealer does not play in hand during the games. Naturally, in home games played in the rec room or the garage, the dealer also plays.

After each player has their cards (called their pocket cards), the first of four betting sessions begins.

Once the calls, raises, and folds are complete, the first three “community cards” are dealt—these are cards dealt face up, which all players may use in addition to their own pocket cards to create the best five-card poker hand they can.

A second round of betting happens after these first three community cards are dealt (called the “flop”). A fourth community card (the “turn”) is dealt, followed by more checking, calling, raising, etc., until all remaining players have wagered the same. At this point, the fifth community card (the “river”) is dealt with.

Incidentally, the four wagering streets in each hand are called pre-flop, flop, turn, and river, as in “Helmuth went all-in preflop.”

Despite the ongoing debate of Omaha versus Texas Hold’em, both games are similar in play and wagering. It is the strategies to win each requirement that differ the most.

The Differences Between Omaha Poker and Texas Hold’em

The biggest (or at least the most obvious) difference between Omaha poker vs. Texas Hold’em is the number of hole cards dealt to each player pre-flop: Texas Hold’em players receive two pocket cards, while Omaha players receive four.

But there are other differences between the two games, some a bit more subtle—but they’re enough to keep the Texas Hold’em versus Omaha debate alive.

Texas Hold'em table with blinds and button

Texas Hold’em

In any Texas Hold’em and Omaha comparison, one of the first differences you notice is how regularly weak “second-best” hands can rake a pot.

Texas Hold’em hands are not always won with the best hand possible, but rather, the best hand in existence at the table at that specific round.

For Example
If the flop is A-A-3 and your pocket is 33, you could win the hand—provided no one was holding an ace (or worse, an A3).

The best possible hand here would be four aces, with you or your opponent holding the pair of bullets. Here’s where your ability to read your opponents comes into play.

It’s fairly simple in Texas Hold’em to determine your hand’s chance of winning as the play progresses and to calculate your outs, the pot odds, etc.

While fixed limit Hold’em games are pretty easy to find online and IRL, the most popular form of Hold’em is No Limit.

Omaha

Omaha table

As noted above, the biggest difference between Omaha poker vs. Texas Hold’em poker is the pocket of four cards (Omaha) rather than two (Hold’em).

Think about that for a moment. Twice as many cards are dealt in Omaha as in Texas Hold’em. Nine players with equal 18-hole cards are dealt out. In Omaha, 36 cards—nearly the whole deck—are dealt.

That makes for a much different game and one of the hidden complexities you need to get to know in a close-up and personal way.

So, before you get all excited and eager to jump into a game that seems to double your chances of getting great hands, there’s a little codicil in the rules of Omaha: You must use two of your hole cards when making your five-card hand with community cards.

Exactly two of your pocket cards. Not one pocket card. Not three or even four pocket cards. Two.

Here’s the classic demonstration of what I call the Heartbreak of Omaha in the table below.

Table 2♥ 7♥ 3♣ J♥ 8♥
Your Hold’em Poket Cards A♥ K♣
Your Omaha Pocket Cards A♥ K♣ J♦ K♠
Aces with JT Omaha

If you’re in a Texas Hold’em hand with those cards on the board and with that pocket, congratulations: You’ve got the nut flush with your Ace of hearts high.

Again, if you’re in that hand with the Omaha pocket, congratulations! You’ve got a pair of kings.

Under the circumstances, you’d bet that Hold’em hand to the max, simply because you had the absolute nuts. But in the Omaha game, you’d fold.

“But… but that’s just wrong,” you say. Or you would say—if you thought you were playing Hold’em except with two extra hole cards.

In the same light, you can understand that in Omaha, pocket aces are not entirely the monster hand they are in Texas Hold’em. Still strong, of course, but much more vulnerable to what the board provides.

Some experts say that Omaha is a nut game, meaning that the nuts (the best hand possible) wins in Omaha more often than in Texas Hold’em.

Consider this – low hole cards that fill a flush will regularly win in Hold’em, while in Omaha, those same low cards will lose much more frequently to a higher flush.

The simple truth is that winning in Omaha requires better hands than those Texas Hold’em typically demands. You’ll see fewer instances where a single or two pairs win a hand in Omaha.

You’ll learn that you need to calculate outs and the various odds for multiple draw hands much more often in Omaha than in Hold’em. That is if you prefer to gamble with real money online.

Incidentally, PL Omaha is the most popular betting structure for the game. You’ll find some NL Omaha games dealt with online, but most of the action will be at the pot limit.

Making the Move from Texas Hold’em to Omaha

Pocket of Kings

One of the differences between Omaha poker vs. Texas Hold’em is that Omaha players tend to be less skilled than Texas Hold’em players. Why? Well, it’s not because they are not as bright as hold’em players, but rather, there are far more people playing Texas Hold’em than who play Omaha.

That might change with more time—remember, not too long ago, seven-card stud and jacks or better ruled the poker rooms, and Texas Hold’em was dealt at one or two tables in the back, away from the “real” poker players.

Nowadays, everyone has a “Play Winning Hold’em” book out, and the number of videos, blogs, and forums dedicated to improving your hold’em play fills the Innertubes.

But Omaha? Sure, there are some sources out there. But not many. The fact is, fewer people play Omaha than Hold’em.

That’s not a particularly sad fact, though. You’ll find that most of your competition in Omaha knows as little about how to play it effectively as you do. Or, to put that differently, you’ll find a much more level playing field in Omaha poker vs. Texas Hold’em poker.

This could very well be the golden time to make Omaha your game. It will take some time to shake the feeling that you’re playing Texas Hold’em, but that will happen. It’s a very different game and, frankly, more complex and potentially more rewarding than Texas Hold’em.

Important

Just remember that it’s not as easy to acquire expertise in Omaha. But the opportunity to make money from the other players’ mistakes is far better.

I would suggest, however, that if you want to try Omaha as a possible replacement game for your Texas Hold’em obsession, then fine—but commit to learning Omaha thoroughly, to the point where you regularly end the session with more money than you began.

Ignore the frustrations of the fact that Omaha is NOT Texas Hold’em. Instead, embrace those differences as quickly and as firmly as you can.

Quick Omaha Tips for Texas Hold’em Players

Below are some of the truths to bear in mind after deciding to switch to Omaha for the first time include the following.

1Chase Nut Draws—and Nothing Else

If you have the AK of diamonds among your pocket cards, and the flop gives you two more diamonds, then, by all means, chase that ace high diamond flush. On the other hand, assume that if a pair flopped, at least one of your opponent’s almost certainly has a set—and may have flopped a full house.

2Be Aware of Omaha’s Ability to Change Your Hand Value Drastically

As with #1 above, the relative value of your hand can change dramatically on each street. Your pre-flop nut hand can drop to so-so value with the flop and then fold ‘em, burn ‘em, and bury the ashes on the turn.

3Wrap Draws in Omaha Are Much Better Than in Hold’em

In Texas Hold’em, a wrap draw is a straight draw four in which you hold the two outer cards—for example, you hold 7-T, and the flop is 8-3-9. At the flop, you are in the catbird seat.

But a wrap draw in Omaha is when all four of your cards provide both sides of straight draws.

Here’s an example: The board flops 9-8-2, and you are holding J-10-7-6. You have the end-caps for two open-ended straights—and your outs are not eight but 20. That’s Twenty with a capital T.

More than a third of the deck makes your hand. Shakespeare once pointed out that a wrap draw in Omaha is devout to be wished.

4Pre-flop Hold’em Hands That Dominate Are Fair-to-Partly-Cloudy Hands in Omaha

As with previous pointers, hands that might dominate pre-flop in Texas Hold’em can turn into big fat nothing burgers on the flop and to something even worse on the turn. Read our Omaha guide to learn how to choose the correct strategy for every Omaha hand you play.

Getting to Omaha from Here

Quad of Aces

Deciding whether to play Omaha or Texas Hold’em is not easy, but it bears consideration. First, anything you do to exercise your math and threat-assessment skills is worthwhile.

Also, once you’ve experienced the many differences of each game yourself, you will find that you can switch between the two as easily and as seamlessly as switching between five-card draw and seven-card stud.

If you can’t switch seamlessly from five-card draw to seven-card stud, you might want to hone your skills in either Hold’em poker or Omaha poker—but not both simultaneously.

Only chaos, confusion, and despair lie down that particular path. Don’t ask me how I know.

And lastly, remember that when trying out a new game, it’s always a safe bet to confine your learning experience to the lower-cost tables online. We’ve got a solid list of the best top poker sites, so choose one and start refining your strategy today.

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