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Omaha Hi Lo Strategy

Playing for the Nut Lo and the Nut Hi in Omaha

Next to Texas Holdem, Omaha Hi Lo is the most popular poker game played both live and online. Commonly referred to as Omaha 8 or better, this game is easily confused by new players who have yet to grasp the concept of how to read their hands. There are two significant differences between Omaha Hi/Lo and Texas Holdem. The first being that players will have four hole cards and five community cards, with the object of the game to use two of the hole cards with three of the community cards. This is a must not an option and is the biggest mistake players make. Secondly, Omaha Hi Lo awards one or two pots depending on the hands at showdown. Players will play for the best hi hand AND the best lo hand, whereas Texas Holdem only awards one pot, and that’s too the winner.

The rules in both games are essentially the same, and players will follow the same hand rankings. With the hi and lo hands in play, players should understand that all lo hands must consist of any card up to 8. Anything over 8, and it qualifies for hi. We mentioned the goal was to make the best high hand or low hand, but realistically speaking, the object is to make both high and low as that’s where the money really is. You want to scoop the entire pot, not split it with someone else.  To do this you need to understand your starting hands, what qualifies as a great starting hand in Omaha Hi Lo and how to win both high and low. Being able to scoop the pot can significantly increase your bankroll, and is an excellent PLO cash game strategy.

Omaha Hi Lo – Playing for the Low

The majority of novice players mistaken the low pot and will often play for low without being able to draw to the nut-low.  The best possible lo hand in Omaha Hi Lo is the same as Razz and consists of 5432A, otherwise referred to as the “Wheel”. Lo Omaha hands do not take straights or flushes into consideration. If there is no qualifying lo hand, the entire pot will be awarded to the player with the best Omaha hi hand.

Careless Reads = Careless Mistakes

We all know reading your hand wrong is careless and novice players often confuse the number of cards they can use with their hands. They also have a tendency to mistaken the actual strength in their hands. Much of this has to do with understanding what qualifies as a low hand when holding an Ace and just how strong that low hand is - whether it's the low nut or not. As an example, we know that 5432A is the best low hand possible, but what if you hold 6538A and your opponent has 72364 – who wins? Novice players would assume the A hand would win because A is the lowest ranked card when playing low. This is not the case, and a mistake that will cost you a fortune over time. To rank a hand as low the dealer will use the lowest high card and move from there. 72634 will win the pot because the first high card in that particular hand is lower than the first high card in the 6538A.

To simplify it a bit better we’ve created a few hand examples showing a high low split, a high only hand, a low only hand which will help you understand who actually wins the pot in Omaha Hi Lo and why.

Example #1
Player #1 – A Q 5 5

Player #2 - 6 4 7 K

Board – A Q 2 5 J

In this hand example Player #1 takes the high pot with trip 5's while Player #2 takes the low pot of 6542A. Player one misses the low hand

Example #2
Player 1 – 3 5 A 6

Player 2 – 3 2 6 Q

Board – A 4 2 K 5
These hands make it a bit trickier. In this hand here we can see that BOTH players have the wheel (5432A) however Player 1 has the nut flush A K 5 4 2 . Since the two players tie for low, the dealer would than chop the low pot between both players and award the entire high pot to Player 1 since he's the only player with the highest ranked hand. The split in the low pot is often referred to as being quartered. Simply put the player ends up receiving only 1/4 of the pot instead of 1/2. Quartering your opponents is an excellent strategy to use. If you find yourself playing for both pots and you know your opponents are playing for one side or the other, your best strategy is to continue to bet and increase the amount of the pot. Often times you'll find novice players will make the mistake of assuming they are the only one with lo and will assist in the process by making careless raises.

On the opposite side if your gut instinct tells you your quartered, your best option is to keep the pot as small as possible. In a FL Omaha game this is fairly easy but in PL or NL you can pretty much guarantee the player who's quartered you will be pushing the pot to full value. If your opponent bets do not raise him or reraise.

Like any game, starting hands are very important especially in Omaha Hi Lo. You need to start with a hand that will allow you to scoop both pots not split them. You also don’t want to be put into a situation similar to our second example where you end up tying for high or low only. That’s a sure fire way to lose your bankroll quickly. Opposite of playing Omaha 8, your worst starting hands are those which only play for one pot such as AKQJ or A234. Aim for two not one.

Omaha Hi Lo - Starting Hands and Position

Since we know that AKQJ is a terrible starting hand, what makes a good starting hand? You really want to aim for double suited connecting cards, specifically AA23 double suited or A234, AAxx, 2345 etc. Be careful with your low hands. Don’t play with a non low nut and if you do play your hand with caution. Players really want an A in their hand simply because it gives you a good starting point to aim for both pots. If you don’t have an A, and your high hand is mediocre at best you really need to be careful of what you’re willing to risk and how much. Some aggressive betting on the right board will is generally a pretty good indication that someone has the low hand and will milk it for all its worth. These situations are the ones you want to avoid and will help save some unnecessary betting.  Position is equally important in Omaha Hi Lo as it is in other poker games. Limping with mediocre hands should only be done in late position. Likewise you really shouldn’t play for low unless there are two low cards already in play on board and your drawing to the low nut. Not only could your hand lose to a better low hand, but drawing to the low is one of the most expensive mistakes you can make.