Modern poker game variations have 3 clear cut and named categories: Draw, Stud and Community Card. Technically, Omaha and Texas Hold’em are both ‘Hold’em’-type games, which are games using community cards, with some differences — indeed Omaha also is known as ‘Omaha Hold’em’.
Poker Game Families
The Hold’em family of games (one of three basic types of poker) just refers to variations that feature community cards. Players in these games are dealt cards of their own to use in conjunction with shared cards on the table.
Let’s take a look at these main categories of poker formats in order to glean the best understandings of Omaha and Texas-style Hold’em individually.
Community cards are the main characteristic of Omaha and Texas Hold’em poker. These are the communal or shared cards, placed on the table (called the ‘board’) for all players to see and to use in their own hands, to be combined with the cards dealt to them privately to hold (which are called their hole cards).
Based upon this basic feature of gameplay, there are many variations, which are what distinguish the Omaha and Texas styles. The ways these games work with community cards have differences that include:
- the pattern of how cards are placed upon the board
- the number of community cards visible
- the number of hole/hold cards each player gets
- how many board cards can be/must be used
- how many hole/hold cards players must use
- specific patterns of how to use community cards
We’ll go into depth about how Omaha and Texas games handle these options below, following more on the other two main poker families.
If you learned to play simple poker with your family as a kid, then chances are that you learned the basic Draw game. In this family of poker variations, each player is dealt a complete hand (usually 5 cards), all of them private hole or hold cards.
In order to make a final hand through the betting rounds, players ditch cards and replace them with new ones, hence the name ‘draw’ meaning the drawing of cards. Without shared cards, of course, the probability and odds are tighter for each player’s likelihood of forming a winning hand.
Arguably a draw poker game format is more suspenseful and less interactive amongst players — since each player has a more individualistic ownership of one’s hand in complete isolation from others’ hands.
Whereas the other two poker families are ‘positional’ games because betting is organised strictly according to where players sit relative to the dealer (with action starting to the dealer’s immediate left side), Stud games allow players to bet in variable order.
The other important feature of a Stud game is how players are dealt both hole and face-up cards. Which player bets first can be decided according to the strength of face-up cards rather than position at table.
4-card and 5-card Stud poker games were popular from the American Revolution through the American Civil War, and they are the origin of most other poker variations enjoyed today. There even is a 7-card variation offered in casinos.
Omaha Compared to Texas Hold’em
Since both Omaha and Texas varieties of Hold’em poker games use community cards, the main difference between them lies with the specific usage of a player’s hole cards and the shared cards on the board. Here are their basic comparison points:
- In Omaha each player gets 4 hold cards and in Texas Hold’em each player gets 2 cards.
- Texas Hold’em’s rules are lighter since hole and board cards can be combined in any way. In Omaha, the player must use exactly 2 of the 4 hole cards with exactly 3 community cards to form the final hand.
- In Omaha, a player might be able to form more than one ‘nut hand’ (meaning the best hand in a certain context such as a betting round) from his hole cards, up cards and the community cards; in Texas Hold’em, with only 2 hole cards and complete flexibility in forming hands this is not so.
- Despite the differences for forming hands, both Omaha and Texas Hold’em feature the same layout of their community cards and the same betting rounds, as well as the 5-card structure.
Are You In Omaha or Texas?
Lastly, we will resist offering any hard and fast rules about who should play Omaha and who should play Texas Hold’em. The truth is that the two games, being in the same poker family, so to speak, can be understood and enjoyed by the same players and chosen according to their moods or interests. There are a few caveats, however, regarding their differing gameplay and payoffs.
For instance, predicting your opponents’ nuts (best hand) and their betting is more difficult in Omaha. It is more important to apply more strategy to calling and raising bets in Omaha. On the whole, Texas Hold’em is faster paced; in Omaha the greater complexity of hand-formations (so-called ‘nuts’) slows down gameplay even for experienced participants.
The margin of skillful winning or by edges typically is smaller in Texas Hold’em, while in Omaha it is much wider. In other words, Texas Hold’em games can contain more hawks, while Omaha games will have more average players. Obviously, the only way to figure out which game style to study and play is to try each — and that is much easier to do online, of course!