Basic Omaha Hi Lo Strategy
One of the most popular poker variants after No Limit Holdem and Pot Limit Omaha is,Omaha hi/lo, which is also known as Omaha eight-or-better. The game is played very similarly to Pot Limit Omaha with the same use of blind bets, and flop, turn and river community cards. The only difference arises when it comes to the showdown, where half of the pot is awarded to the player with the best low hand. What constitutes a low hand? Simply a five card hand where all cards are eight or below, hence why the game is sometimes called Omaha eight-or-better.
The upshot of this twist in the rules is that as well as trying to make a typical strong poker hand as you would in PLO, you’re also trying to go after the low half of the pot. To further complicate things, you can use different pairs of your hole cards to play in the high and low halves of the pot, but you still have to use exactly two cards from your hand and three cards from the community cards to make your hand.
The astute reader may notice that if there aren’t three cards with a value of 8 on the board by the river, then it’s impossible to make a low hand, and they’d be correct. In the situation where no player can make a qualifying low hand, the entire pot is awarded to the player with best high hand. In Omaha hi/lo, Aces play both high and low, so if you have an Ace, you can use it to make both your high and low hand, and the same Ace can be used to lay claim to both the high and low halves of the pot. The split nature of the game and the some of the nuances take a while to get a handle on, but become second nature after playing for a while.
Omahahi/low is typically played as a fixed limit game and a pot limit game. Most often when the game is being played as part of a mixed game rotation it’s played fixed limit, and when being played on its own the pot limit variety is more common.
Ranking of Low Hands
One important thing you need to know about Omaha hi/lo is how to determine the winning low hand. As with all lowball games, the best way to evaluate low hands is by reading them out as a five digit number in order from high to low. If the resulting number is lower than that of the other who are still in the pot at showdown then that hand wins
If, for example the board reads 346JQ at the end of a hand and you hold 72xx and your opponent has A8xx. You have 76432 for a low, and while your opponent is playing 8643A, therefore reading them in this order (with Ace counting as 1), you win because your 5 digit number is lower.
Omaha Hi/Lo Strategy Tips
The goal in Omaha hi/lo is to ‘scoop’ or win the whole pot and playing against people who don’t realise how important this is and only play for half the pot is what makes playing Omaha 8 so profitable. To enable us to scoop, we obviously need to be playing starting hands that are capable of winning both the low and the high half of the pot. This type of hand is known as a ‘two way’ hand.
An example of a good Omaha hi/lo hand would be AA23 double suited. In fact this is the best starting hand in the game. This hand has a pair of aces as well as 2 possibilities to make the nut flush and the possibility to make a low straight. The A, 2, 3 element also plays extremely well if the flop brings a low draw or a made low. You should always be looking to play two way hands aggressively. Any double suited Aces with low cards are very strong, as well as hands like A234. Aces are absolutely key inOmaha8 because of their potential to lead to good two pairs, nut flushes and good low hands.
You largely want to avoid one way hands. If you enter a pot with a hand like KKQT which is quite a good hand in PLO, you’re straight away giving up half of the pot if the board qualifies for low hands. The means that for each bet you put in, you’re only putting half of it to work. The only times where playing a one way hand like this would be in a multi-way pot where you’re getting good pot odds and you can play fit or fold on the flop, looking for boards that hit your hand hard, but don’t offer much in the way of low draws.
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Discipline on the flop is one of the key requirements to being a winning Omaha8 player. While a hand like AsKs2h3h might look pretty before the flop, you have to be willing to dump it immediately on a flop like 2c3cTd with a flush draw. Two pair and a back door low can look tempting, but in reality your hand is very weak here and you shouldn’t be looking to play any kind of big pot with it. Even a raggedy hand like Ad Tc5dKd is a 2-1 favourite against you.Hands which look very tempting to new Omahahi/lo player but should be avoided at all costs are medium rundowns like 6789. These hands can look attractive because they have good potential for making straights and also for making a qualifying low, but in reality this type of hand will often make the low end of a straight and a poor low. Even if you do make the nut straight on a board that has 456 on it, you’re still giving half of the pot away to any player with a good low hand.
One other important thing for new Omaha8 players to understand is the concept of counterfeiting. It’s probably best explained with an example. Let’s say you’re in a pot with AAK2 and the flop comes down 4-5-8. Bingo! You’ve flopped the nut low and still have an overpair that might be good for the high. Now a 2 rolls off on the turn; all of a sudden your hand has become a lot weaker. Anyone with A3 now beats you (7-5-4-3-A), as do hands that contain combos like 76 (7-6-5-4-2)and 36 (6-5-4-3-2).
This is why it’s useful to play hands that contain 3 low cards, because you’ve now got ‘counterfeit protection’. If you were playing AA23 in the same hand, you’d still have the nut low on the turn by playing your A3 for a 5-4-3-2-A. Don’t worry if this seems confusing, it definitely takes a while to get used to and if you play live Omaha hi/lo its not unusual for it to take a minute or so for even the dealer to figure out who wins at showdown!