Two good, four great, five amazing
It would be interesting to know if anybody reading the PokerStars Blog doesn't know the basic rules to Texas Hold'em. I'm inclined to think not, with the rare exception (Hi Mom!), so I won't bore you with those.
And most of you have probably heard of, if not played, Omaha. It's hold'em, only you get four cards. The key rule that trips up Omaha newbies is that you must use exactly two cards from your four-card hand and exactly three cards from the board. Thus three hearts in your hand and two on the board does not a flush make, nor does four on the board and a singleton heart in your hand (which is where hold'em converts are generally caught).
There are two other twists of which you should be aware:
First, Omaha is sometimes played "pot limit" rather than no-limit (which is the format that most hold'em is played). To a first approximation, this means you can bet up to the amount that's in the pot. The good news is that, because you're playing at PokerStars, you don't have to know the rules for how much you can bet and raise - the software won't let you break them. After a while, you'll start to get the hang of how pot-limit betting works.
Second, there is an emotionally disturbing variant of Omaha called "High-Low" in which the pot is split between the best traditional high poker hand and the "lowest" hand. Rather than go into the gory details of this version here, I'll let you read all about them on these pages.
And honestly, I told you all about the four-card version of Omaha so I could tell you about the new version that we're releasing this week (today on PokerStars.net and later this week on PokerStars.com). We wanted to call it "Thermonuclear Omaha" but that wouldn't fit on the headers in the client, so we called it, more simply, "5-card Omaha".
That's right, poker fans - our software wizards have found a way to squeeze a fifth card into your Omaha hand. Now, you might say "Well, that's just one more card - what's the big deal?" But combinatorics is a funny thing. Consider: a hold'em hand has (somewhat obviously) a single two-card combination available. A four-card Omaha hand has six possible two-card combinations (you can look it up). A five-card Omaha hand offers the player (and his opponents, it must be noted) a whopping ten possible two-card combinations. 67% more hand combinations for free.
Needless to say, this results in more big hands, more nut hands, more draws with outs that humans have difficulty counting - all the things that go into making a great poker game.
Not surprisingly, a lot of serious players are huge five-card Omaha fans. For instance, PokerStars Team Pro Johnny Lodden said, "Hvorfor spille med to eller fire kort når du kan spille med fem?"1
Oh, and I don't think I mentioned Courchevel. Courchevel is another twist on five-card Omaha that we've added to the mix. Popular in France, it's simply five-card Omaha, but with one of the flop cards exposed prior to the first round of betting. That is, you can know you've flopped a set before the first bets go in. And we are offering both high-only and high/low versions. Whee.
Now, while four-card Omaha is fairly popular (particularly pot-limit Omaha, or "PLO" as it's affectionately known), there hasn't been much written about correct five-card Omaha strategy. While it's safe (and true) enough to say "Be very afraid of non-nut hands", that doesn't really constitute sufficient advice. So we've asked the people at CardRunners and Deuces Cracked to develop some training materials about these new games for us and they've been kind enough to cooperate.
You can see those training videos at the links below.
Intro to Courchevel--w/ Benjamin "foldngst8n" De'Ath
Intro to 5-Card Omaha--w/ Andreas "skjervoy" Torbergsen
5-Card Omaha Game Theory-- w/ Matthew Janda
5-Card vs 4-Card Omaha--w/ Mike "schneids" Schneider
I encourage you to have a look at those videos and then come on back here and fire up what is likely to be the biggest action game on PokerStars; we think you'll get hooked.
1. We have it on good authority that he's saying five-card Omaha is better. We at the PokerStars Blog sincerely hope that Johnny's not pulling our leg.
Lee Jones the Head of Poker Communications at PokerStars; he first joined the company in 2003. He has been involved in the professional poker world since the mid 1980's.