The History and Origins of Omaha Poker
There is a lot of confusion and misconceptions about the history and origins of Omaha Holdem. Many people assume that this was an old 1800's Wild West game because of the name Omaha, which is the same name as the famous city in Nebraska, which is somewhat out west and out in the plains. You may be very surprised to learn the real origins of this game if you already don't know much about the history.
It turns out that this game was not created in the city of Omaha and really had nothing to do with it except for having the same name. Also, the game is extremely new. In fact, this poker game only has a history dating back to 1982 in Las Vegas, Nevada! That means this game is a child compared to the relatively unknown razz and badugi poker games that have been around much longer.
Before Omaha poker became official, there were a few variations of the game that evolved over time and had different rules. In fact, one of the earliest forms of Omaha originated in the Midwest in cities like Detroit and Chicago. The game they played back then allowed players to take 5 hole cards instead of 4 and the game was called Twice Three. The game started to evolved because each player got 5 hole cards and there are only 52 cards in a deck, so this limited the number of players that could participate.
Later on, the game was played with 4 hole cards and it started to spread all over the country, especially in the south and west. Names like Nine Cards, Fort Worth and Oklahoma were being used for the same game. Eventually, Omaha became the compromise and some theories suggest that Omaha was chosen since it was close to the center of the country, which was a good compromise to all the other names based in other states. Some of the more common names for this game were sometimes known as high/low split and 8 or better.
Eventually around 1982, the game was found in casinos in Las Vegas and it became a hit and one of the most popular poker games in recent history. Even today, Omaha is one of the top games besides Texas Holdem and it is still growing in popularity, especially pot-limit Omaha. This game held a lot of action, which was great for tournaments and involved plenty of strategy and this is why it became such an excellent gambling game to play back then. One of the exciting features of Omaha is the high variance of winning combination of cards. It was easier to get extremly powerful winning hands because each person had more cards to make combinations with, so four of a kind and royal flushes were much more frequent and this made it very exciting.
Historical Similarities between Texas Holdem and Omaha Holdem
Speaking of Texas Holdem, Omaha is almost exactly the same thing and some consider it a type of variation of the game. The only difference between them is that Texas Holdem only allows players to have 2 hole cards instead of 4, meaning less variance. Some early variations of Omaha required that players only be dealt 2 hole cards and they must use these two cards with the five community cards in order to make their strongest 5-card hand. This was somewhat similar to Texas Holdem but with a small difference.
The small difference is that Omaha required players to use both hole cards where Texas Holdem will let players make the strongest hand using any of the hole cards and communal cards on the table. In fact, the strict requirement of having to use two of the hole cards is one of the fundamental rules of Omaha and made the game what it is. People could use 2, 4 or 5 personal private hole cards with 5 community cards, but if the rules required that exactly two hole cards must be used with 3 community cards, then it is called Omaha poker.
History shows that Omaha was not very popular with only 2 hole cards (and 3) because there wasn't enough variance. It was not popular with 5 hole cards because not enough people could play. Using 4 cards was just right because it provided enough variance with the hole card restrictions and it allowed more people to play and this is now the standard of Omaha poker that is most popular. As you can see through the history, a lot of work went into forging just the perfect game. It is also a very easy game to learn and the strategy makes it great for experts and advanced players to get involved as well. In fact, many people believe Omaha will one day overtake the crown of the most popular poker game in history instead of Texas Holdem! If you never played the game, I would suggest trying it out for free at some of the online poker rooms and see what this game is all about.