New Omaha Games at PokerStars: Rules and Core Strategy

Posted: October 1st, 2013

Pokerstars recently expanded their game portfolio with 4 new variants of Omaha, namely: 

  • 5-Card Omaha 
  • 5-card Omaha Hi-Lo
  • Courchevel
  • Courchevel Hi-Lo.  

Let's take a look at the rules of the games and the best strategies for new players looking to tackle them.

5-Card Omaha Rules & Basics

Five Card Omaha

5-Card Omaha is sometimes refered to as The Big O.  It is a simple expansion of Omaha itself from 4 starting cards per player to 5 starting cards per player. It's proven to be popular in the Vegas casinos and in home games but only now has it made an appearance online.

It starts with 5 hole cards getting dealt face down to each player, and then things proceed as normal with the various betting decisions. By the end of all betting and the flop, turn, and river you need to be playing exactly 2 cards from your hand and 3 from the board.  You can't play 0,1,3,4 or 5 cards from your hand.  You can only play 2 of them.

For obvious reasons this game is not played full-ring (lack of cards), but tends to get played 6-max. 

The main strategy for playing 5-card Omaha is to only invest significant chips into a pot if you have the nuts.  Quite often you'll find weak players playing the non-nut straight, and non-nut flush, or a flush when a boat is onboard, etc.  This is where you will pick up the majority of your money.  But at the same time don't play too tight against everyone or you will get marked out as an easy target for bluffing.  

Be prepared to look-up very loose players occasionally with a bit less than the nuts, to keep them honest and make them less likely to bluff you again in the future. 

The best starting hand is open to a little debate.  The following 3 all have their merits: AAKKQ, AAKQJ, AAQJT.  All with two suits to the ace, avoiding three of a suit.   The one that just about nicks it in most eyes is AAQJT because it's a little bit more wrappable than AAKQJ.

One thing for certain to avoid is hands with 2 or more low cards (5's and below).  These are pretty dead cards really, and low ends of straights are bad.  Our lowest starting hand that is kind of attractive is 56789, but even that is so specialist.  It's likely to be very poor for everything (eg flushes/full houses) except for straights.  Frankly even that powerhouse of a low wrap hand is a little rubbish in Big O.  

As a general rule stick to hands with at least 4 cards higher than an 8, preferably including at least one pair, and preferably have a paired suit to an ace.

5-Card Omaha Hi-Lo Rules and Strategy

Again it's Omaha Hi-Lo rules just with 5 cards.  Play exactly 2 cards from the 5 cards in your hand.  Make your poker hand up of 3 cards from the middle of the table, and 2 from your personal 5 hole cards.

In this variant there is pretty much no reason to play any high-only hands.  Try to always have an ace in your hand when possible, and include 1 or 2 other low cards.  The other 2 or 3 cards can be anything really, but ideally should be as high as possible, and having a pair always helps.   The best starting hand is AA234.  Not far behind we have the likes of AA235, AA236, AA245 etc.  Any A2XXX hand is generally playable.

When we reach post-flop now more than ever do you need to be considering both sides of the draw.  With 5 cards it's rare you're going to be good with the 2nd low.  And likewise weakish highs are rarely going to hold up.  It's also very much a game of draws.  If a straight draw, flush draw or paired board comes in you can be pretty confident it's going to hit someone, so be very cautious not to fall completely in love with your set on the flop, or 2-pair, or even your made straight. 

Basics of Playing Courchevel

Courchevel Basic StrategyCourchevel
is a very interesting variant of Omaha in which 1 of the flop cards is turned face upwards before any action takes place.  You get dealt 5 cards each, as in 5-Card Omaha, and you must use just 2 of those cards.

The affect of the upturned flop card is fairly dramatic.  It gives a significant glimpe into how strong your starting hand is.  For example you might know that you already hold a set before any betting takes place.  The card might also be a key card to a wrap.  

For example if you hold KJ978 and face-up flop card is a Ten, then we can have a lot of confidence that we are going to hold some sort of draw.  And if you hold 2 cards of a suit and the face-up flop card is of the same suit, we know the chances of us having at least a flush draw have improved to about 40%.

The strategy of courchevel is to look for at least pairs with the flop card, or that it is significant to potential draws.   If we pair the card we are much more likely to hit 2 pair, or trips, or a boat.  So it is a great starting point to get involved from.  The fact that we pair it also lessens the chances that someone else has made a set using the flop card.

Courchevel is Only Online at PokerStars

Only PokerStars offers Courchevel. Click below to get $20 when you deposit $20.

Playing Courchevel Hi-Lo

Essentially it's 5-card Omaha Hi-Lo but with an upturned flop card before any betting action takes place.   It's a head start on what to expect on the flop.  In Hi-Lo this card has huge significance.  If it's a 2 then you know A3XXX is the strongest starting point.  If it's an ace we know that 23xxx is our strongest low, and that A23XX is very strong, and that KKxxx has been killed. If it's a card above 9 we know a low hand is less likely and we will always need to at least draw to the low from the flop.  If it's any of our low cards it weakens our hand due to the need for 5 unique low cards in total.  

I'm sure you get the idea.  This card really matters.   Courchevel widens the skill gap between good and bad LO8 players.  The good ones will benefit, and the bad ones will fall further behind.

The strategy for Courchevel hi-lo is a lot to do with the effect a low card has on your hand.  Does it kill your nut low, or make you nut low?  Does it take away one of your unique low cards (if it's 3, 4, or 5)?  

One great action point is if we make a low set with the upcard.  Normally low sets are a problem, but here it's a benefit, because whilst some people (often multiple players) are salivating over the benefit of the low card to their hand, you're just making sure they pay a high price to see the other 2 flop cards, under the knowledge there's a decent chance their low will still be unmade post-flop and that you will be able to charge them heavy again to draw against your set.

About Benny


Benny collects the tips, wisdom and insight of the InstantPokerBankrolls staff, who are constantly checking dozens of poker rooms and bankroll sites to identify and analyze the best free poker bankroll offers available for players.

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