The deal and betting structure

Four cards are dealt face down to each player, and a round of betting takes place. On the first round, players may either call or raise the blind bet, or fold their hands. Most casinos allow a bet and three or four raises per betting round, with one exception. When only two players contest the pot, the number of possible raises is unlimited.

When the first round of betting is complete, three communal cards, called the flop, are simultaneously turned face up in the center of the table. Another round of betting follows. On this and each succeeding round, players may check if no one has bet when it is that player's turn to act. If there is no bet, a player may check or bet. If there is a bet, players must either fold, call, raise, or reraise.

A fourth communal card — called the turn — is then exposed. Another round of betting takes place. Then the fifth and final community card — known as the river— is placed in the center of the table, followed by the final betting round.

The best five-card high poker hand and the best five-card low poker hand split the pot — with these provisos:

V A player must use exactly two cards — no more, no less (from among his four private cards) to construct a poker hand.

V To have a low hand, a player must combine any two unpaired cards with a rank of 8 or lower with three unpaired communal cards with a rank of 8 or lower.

A player can make a high and a low hand by using different cards from his hand to construct the two hands. For example, if your private cards are A*2*3*K* and the five communal cards are Q*9*7*6*4*, you have a flush. The flush is made by mating your K*3* with the communal Q*7*6*. You'd have a low hand too, which would be created by combining your A+2* with the board's 7*6*4*.

You'd have a terrific two-way hand. Although it's possible for an opponent to have made a bigger flush if she held the A* and any other heart in her hand, no one could have a better low hand than you do. You could be tied for low by anyone who also has an ace and a 2. In that case, you'd simply split the low side of the pot. But take our word for it, this is a terrific holding, and one that doesn't come around all that often.

Beginning players often have difficulty in determining the best Omaha hand. Before you plunk your money down and get in a game, we recommend dealing out some hands and trying to identify the best high and best low hands.

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