Depending on whether you are in the USA or Europe will depend on the popularity of the game Omaha Hi-Lo. The Americans love the game and will often see this game feature more often that is sister game Omaha (Hi) which on the flip side is much more popular in Europe. The games provide similar concepts, but the Hi-Lo add an additional chance to win a percentage of the pot.
The game is actually called known by a number of names such as Omaha 8, Omaha Split etc.. but for ease – and thankfully – its better known as Omaha Hi-Lo. In this game, instead of just offering the pot to the high hand as you would know it in regular Omaha, the Hi-Lo version also offers a low hand ranking from the card number 8 downwards of which we will discuss in more detail later in this article.
With the multiple chances to win the pot also adds another dimension to the game in the fact that players will have to be aware of both possible wins. By winning just the high hand, you will win half the pot and, by just winning the low hand, you will win half the pot. If you manage to win both hands then you will ‘scoop’ the pot, taking all of the money in the middle.
How to Play Omaha Hi-Lo
We have established that the game requires you to win two pots to scoop all the money, so now we will explain just how it works. The high hand is the simple part; this basically is the main section to the game and works the same as if you were playing a regular game of Omaha. There are no limits or requirements for the high hand, simply put, the best hand wins this pot.
Now the low hand is where it starts to get a little tricky, at first anyway. The low hand works as a sort of flip from the high hand. To qualify you need to use two cards from your starting 4 hole cards and three cards from the community cards to make a hand that runs from 8 downwards. You must have 5 cards all with 8 or lower, pairs count as only one card and Aces are low for this section of the game. So the best low hand would read A-2-3-4-5 which is also known as the wheel. But you can have any variations of these for example, A-2-4-5-7 would qualify as would 3-4-5-6-8 and so on.
If now player has an eligible 5 card low hand (I.E. they can’t make it out of their hand and the community cards) then the whole of the pot goes to the best high hand.
The game runs very much the same theme as a regular Omaha table when it comes to dealing. Each table will have a button, small blind and big blind with each player getting dealt 4 cards each. The betting in Omaha Hi-Lo is generally fixed limit, which means you can only bet 1 big blind at a time. On occasion, you may find games that are pot limit or even no limit, but these are rare.
A round of betting occurs before the first three community cards are dealt, known as the flop. A second round betting occurs after the flop before the turn is dealt and again until the river is dealt. From here players still in the hand must declare their high hand and low hand before the pot then distributed accordingly.
Tips & Strategy
In Omaha Hi-Lo your starting hands become so much more important than probably any other format of poker. It’s important because of the fact that you need to be aware of not only making a high hand, but also a low hand as well. That being said, it’s going to be more profitable to make sure you have the best high hand than low hand due to the fact that if no low hand qualifies, then it goes solely on the high hand. Starting hands that include an Ace are always a good start as these are going to be involved in both the nut end for a high hand and also that of a low hand.
Don’t get caught in pots chasing the low hand unless you have the nut, or close to it, hand. This strategy will be a break even strategy at best, especially in pots that have been two way for the majority of the hand.
Remember that pairs aren’t as friendly as they are in Texas Holdem or even Omaha when playing Hi-Lo. These only count as one card on the low count and also the value of a pair in Omaha in general is pretty weak to begin with.
If you manage to learn Omaha Hi-Lo to a even a reasonable standard then its going to be highly likely that you will become profitable to the game. A lot of players don’t fully grasp too many different concepts in the game with some still playing low hands incorrectly. Take advantage of training aids such as video tuition sites that have high quality information from professional players of the game. There is no better way to learn than to to watch others be successful and also explain concepts that you possibly weren’t aware of.
As an addition to the video sites, try to stay active within poker communities and forums. Sometimes having another opinion on a hand that you’ve played may open your eyes to ways in which you could have not only played differently, but more profitably. The best players are the ones who have been active in finding ways to improve and eventually the guys who simply just sit and play will stagnate as you continue to improve.
Finally, bankroll management is massive with any Omaha format, not just Omaha Hi-Lo. With it being a draw based game the potential swings can be massive, so bear this in mind and practice a strict bankroll regime. 10% of your bankroll on the tables at any one session is usually a good place to start, but then again there have been players who will reduce this number again to maintain proper practice.