Omaha Hi/Lo

published on 11/28/05 at 8:32 am

—Rules—

A favorite Poker game for many people is Omaha Hi/Lo. By nature, it is far more unpredictable and fun than Omaha Hi. The name Hi/Lo means that the highest and lowest ranked hands can split the pot at the end of a hand. If there is no qualifying low hand, the pot goes solely to the highest hand.

For a hand to qualify as a low hand it must consist of five different cards lower than an 8. Straights and Flushes don’t count against a low hand. So, a hand consisting of an Ace-2-3-4-5 is the lowest hand possible, whether they are suited or not. Ironically, the same hand, whether suited or not, could become the highest hand.

Because of this interesting facet, the tedium of playing for and waiting for good hands is not as evident as in Texas Hold’em. So there is far more action and more active players in every hand. Mere tactics like Bluffing and Raising put a whole new spin into the game.

Omaha Hi/Lo is played the same as Omaha Hi except for the pot being split at the completion of a hand. So, like Omaha Hi, four upcards are dealt, only two of which can be used to make a hand. After a round of betting, three upcards are dealt to the middle of the table. These three cards are referred to as ‘The Flop’. After another round of betting, a fourth upcard is dealt alongside the flop. This card is referred to as ‘The Turn’. After another round of betting, a fifth and final upcard is dealt alongside the turn. This card is referred to as ‘The River’. After all five ‘Community Cards’ have been dealt on the table, a final round of betting occurs and the remaining active players show their four downcards.

Betting moves clockwise, always starting with the player to the left of the dealer. Omaha Hi/Lo also has forced bets called ‘Blinds’. Before each hand is dealt, the player to the left of the dealer places a bet called a ‘Small Blind’. This player is also referred to as ‘The Small Blind’. The player to the left of the small blind must then place a larger bet called a ‘Big Blind’. Likewise, this player is also referred to as ‘The Big Blind’. The price of the blinds are established before play begins.

During the first two rounds of betting, both before and after the flop, the minimum bet players can make to stay in the hand must be equal to the price of the big blind. However, during the last two rounds of betting, after the turn and after the river, the minimum bet must equal double the price of the big blind.

—Glossary & Definitions—

Hole Cards: The first four downcards dealt to each player.
The Flop: The three upcards dealt on the middle of the table.
The Turn: The fourth upcard dealt alongside the flop.
The River: The fifth upcard dealt alongside the turn.
Pot: The total amount of money the player with the best hand wins.
Bet: An increment of money placed into the pot.
Check: Not making a bet when no one has bet beforehand.
Call: Placing an equal bet to remain in a hand.
Raise: Increasing the bet that others must make to remain in a hand.
Pot Odds: An estimation of the profitability of a potential bet.
Rags: A bad hand.
Bluffing: Bets and raises designed to force players to fold when you have rags.
Bad Beat: Losing a pot to a great hand when you have a good hand.
Pocket Pair: Two of the four hole cards of the same value.
Bullets or Pocket Rockets: Two Aces of the four hole cards.
Big Slick: Ace and King of the four hole cards.
Suited: Two of the four hole cards of the same Suit.
Connectors: Two of the four hole cards in sequence (4-5, J-Q, etc).
Boat: A full house.
Trips: A three of a kind.
Nuts: The best low or high hand.
Flopping A Hand: A good hand made only from the Flop.
On A Draw: Needing a turn or river card to make a good hand.
Open Ended Straight Draw: A hand with four cards in sequence, and needing one of either two possible cards on the turn or river to make a straight.
Inside Straight Draw: A hand missing one card in the middle to make a straight.
Flush Draw: A hand with four suited cards needing a fifth on the turn or river to make a flush.
Overcards: When the flop doesn’t give you a pair, but your hole cards are individually higher than the three in the flop.
Outs: The number of cards needed on the turn or river to make a winning hand.
Limit: Bets and raises set at a fixed price.
Pot Limit: Bets and raises cannot exceed the value of the pot.
No Limit: No limit to the price of a bet throughout a hand.

—Strategy—

It is easier to win in Omaha Hi/Lo than in Texas Hold’em. However, the pendulum between winning and losing is not as extreme. Successive large wins interrupted by bouts of failure are uncommon. For this reason, Omaha Hi/Lo can often not be as profitable, but it does not demand constant observation and analysis from a card player as Texas Hold’em does.

In Omaha Hi/Lo, the best practical strategy is to always try to win the low hand. Mathematically, the odds of obtaining a low hand exceed those of obtaining not just a high hand, but a winning high hand. A high hand is so hard to come by that it is not sensible to try to obtain one at a potentially large cost. There are usually so many people in each hand that flopping a three of a kind wont be enough to win the high hand. The chances are, ironically, that when trying for the low hand a winning high hand will develop easier.

Having any two of the lowest three cards is a strong position to be in. With this combination, only one card is needed on the flop to have the lowest low hand possible. If dealt a 2-3 in the hole, an Ace is all that is needed to have the lowest hand possible. If dealt a 2-4, however, an Ace and a 3 will be needed to guarantee a low hand. There is, therefore, more chance of guaranteeing the lowest hand possible than it is to conjure up a winning high hand.

These low hands don’t happen regularly, but there are more potential hands open to play when aiming for the low hand. Having at least two of the lowest five cards possible is a solid basis to work from. It is often profitable in Omaha Hi/Lo to see the turn for one bet with a lot of outs, but not paying double the blind to see the river unless you have a lot of possible outs, or the pot is big.

When calculating pot odds, bear in mind that most pots will be split between the high and low hands, so the pot will be half its actual value at the time. Call a bet on the flop to see the turn cheaply and calculate the implied odds of the bets after the turn and river if the needed outs are obtained.

A lot of patience through those long periods of no hands to play is required in Omaha Hi/Lo. Your frustration is your opponent’s ally. Influencing you to make rash or inappropriate decisions. Playing only the good hands will fatten the bankroll, but it will happen slowly. Let your opponents play loosely, taking advantage of the bad players when you have good cards.

A wild, loose table is ideal. Surrounded by players who will play anything they are dealt is to your advantage. In Omaha Hi/Lo, the high and low nuts happen more frequently than in Texas Hold’em. So, when you have them, it is essential that there’s a lot of money in the pot.

Try to check whenever you are on a draw. Only bet on a draw when you’re in one of the later positions, have many outs, and a way to see a free river card. Every active player in Omaha Hi/Lo tends to have a lot of outs, so one large bet will fail to persuade opponents out of their hands. Often, one of your opponents will make that large bet for you, which helps conceal the strength of your hand. Bluffs don’t often work, so focus on making bets when hold strong cards. This may seem like exposing your game, but remember that all your opponents will often have many outs and will typically call you. Slow playing is not as effective in Omaha Hi/Lo in increasing the pot as it is in Texas Hold’em.

Something else to consider is that the “Lo” pot is regularly shared by more than one player. So, avoid ballooning the pot just because you have the best low hand possible. You will find that not only do you end up paying more rake for a pot that is to be split evenly, but you are also giving half of each bet to the player with the high hand in only getting a quarter of each bet when you split the low.

Out of Eden is a regular contributor to PokerPlasm.com. He also contributes articles to other sites about world travel, political affairs, and Aussie Rules Football.

Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a Reply