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Omaha Hi/Lo rules and strategy

Omaha Hi/Lo

Omaha Hi / Lo is among the most exciting types of poker to date. It’s a very fun and entertaining game that differs from other poker variations. 

This game is becoming increasingly popular among players as it provides lots of action.

Omaha Hi/Lo is a part of mixed games, for instance, exciting H.O.R.S.E. where the letter "O" represents omaha high low. It is an element of the 8-Game Mix (also famous as T.H.O.R.S.E.H.A.), which is also in a great request.

There are three main modifications of the game:

  1. Pot Limit Omaha (or PLO8). Here, bet sizes are restricted by the size of the pot.
  2. Fixed Limit Omaha (or FLO8). In this variation, each betting stage has special restrictions on the bet sizing.
  3. No Limit Omaha (or NLO8). Playing NLO8, a player is allowed to bet using all poker chips that are before them on the table.

As usual, the game is carried out with fixed bets, but pot limit and no limit forms are also popular with poker players across the globe, especially online. To date, most top poker rooms provide an opportunity to try your hand at playing omaha poker high low.

In this article, you will familiarize yourself with the rules, main distinctions as well as basic understanding of omaha hi lo strategy, but first things first.

How to play Omaha Hi/Lo?

Omaha High Low

In fact, Omaha Hi/Lo rules have a strong resemblance to classic Omaha poker, which is in some way a variation of Texas Hold'em. The difference manifests itself only in determining a winner at the showdown stage. In other respects, the basic rules of these games are identical.

As with traditional PLO, each participant receives 4 cards face down as their hole cards (also called pocket cards). Players are bound to use 2 of their 4 hole cards in conjunction with any 3 cards laid on the board (also termed community cards) to form a combination of 5 cards. Betting action also proceeds in a clockwise motion: it starts with the participant (UTG) that sits to the left of the BB (big blind).

There are also standard stages of betting:

  • Preflop
  • Flop
  • Turn
  • River
  • Showdown

If a person places bets and other participants muck their cards prior to showdown, then this very person is given the whole pot (no need to show a hand). However, if two or more participants reach the showdown stage, then their combinations must be compared in order to determine who has hit the top “high” and the top “low” (five-card) combination. In so doing, each of the winning hands gains half the existing pot (it's chopped into two equal parts).

There is also a possibility that one player will grab both pieces of the pot at once. This situation is termed "scoop". Also, there may be no low hand, so the holder of the most powerful combination is awarded the full pot.

We suggest that you watch a short video on how to play Omaha High-Low created by the famous poker professional Daniel "KidPoker" Negreanu to facilitate understanding of the game rules. Here is the video:

Determining hands in Omaha Hi/Lo

In this game, a “high-hand” is defined based on standard hand ranking, while a “low-hand” requires greater attention, particularly if you have never played high-low poker.

The low hand includes 5 different cards but no stronger than eight. Take into account that neither flushes nor straights are counted here, and Ace is regarded as the lowest-ranked card. However, when completing the high hand, Ace is taken as the highest-ranked card.

To estimate the top-flight low combination, one should first compare the highest cards. Next, the second-highest card, and so forth. The weaker your cards, the greater the hand. For instance, 6-5-3-2-A will definitely win over 7-4-3-2-A, but, it is worse than 6-4-3-2-A.

The most powerful 5-card low that you can form is as follows – 5-4-3-2-A. This combination of cards is perceived to be the most powerful in hi lo omaha. Here is the list of all low combinations ranked from the most powerful to the weakest one:

  • 5, 4, 3, 2, A
  • 6, 4, 3, 2, A
  • 6, 5, 4, 3, 2
  • 7, 5, 4, 3, 2
  • 7, 6, 5, 2, A
  • 7, 6, 5, 4, 2
  • 8, 4, 3, 2, A
  • 8, 6, 4, 2, A
  • 8, 7, 6, 5, 3
  • 8, 7, 6, 5, 4

Important! Remember that neither straights nor flushes influence the strength of the low combination; therefore, the low-hand that is either a straight or a flush can be powerful enough to win both parts of the pot. As mentioned above, this situation is called “scoop”.

Hand examples

Let's consider some omaha high-low hand examples.

Hand example #1

  • Your cards: 3-4♥-A♥-Q
  • Board: A-3♥-6♥-K-K♥

You had a strong starter on the preflop, but you don't have a low hand on the river. Besides, your high hand isn't the strongest on this board. To form the low hand, you need to combine 5 different cards starting from eight and below. Here, you have just 6-3-A from the board plus your 4, which is not enough to make the low. As far as the high hand is concerned, you have a flush thanks to A♥-4♥ in your holding. But, the board shows a pair, meaning that someone could have collected a full house of even four of a kind (both beat your flush of hearts), holding such cards as 33, 66, KK, AA, K3, K6, or AK.

Hand example #2

  • Your cards: A-Q-3-3
  • Board: Q-7-5-7-7 (rainbow)

In this example, your best combination is a full house – 7-7-7-3-3. Since you have to use 3 board cards, these will be triple sevens, so your pocket 33 complement them to the full house. The Queen on the board can't be used, so you have by no means a full house of 7-7-7-Q-Q, as beginners might decide. Any opponent holding a seven or a pair stronger than 33 beats you. It should also be noted that in this situation, chopping the pot is impossible as the board has to include three low cards of various denominations to complete the low hand.

Hand example #3

  • Your cards: 4-2-J-A
  • Board: 3-A-7-J-A (rainbow)

Here, you have a very strong hand to enter the action with: Ace and Jack give you the greatest possible high combination on this board. It is a full house of A-A-A-J-J. In addition, 4 and 2 complement the best possible low hand – it is 7-4-3-2-A. This means that you will grab the whole pot. With such a monster hand, you should bet whenever possible as monsters like this don't come often.

Omaha Hi/Lo Basic Strategy

In this part of the article, we will give you the necessary info regarding the basic Omaha Hi/Lo strategy, so that you can reconsider your play and improve it with the new knowledge. However, you should understand that poker, especially hi lo omaha, is an unpredictable game so there are always situations that defy general advice.

Choose the right starting hands

A lucrative omaha hi lo strategy begins with evaluating your SH (starting hands), that is, pocket cards you are dealt at the beginning of the game. Unlike Hold'em, there are no ready-made charts that you can use to understand which cards and in what position are most profitable to enter the action with.

Once you have received the starting hand, you need to determine its value. Our goal is to hit a strong combination, a draw or a made hand, already on the flop. The more connected your hole cards are, the more chances that it will happen.

Combinations like 2-3-x-x, A-2-x-x, A-3-x-x, A-4-5-x are seen as the best to play if you want to obtain the low-pot. If you intend to win the high-pot, then you should use the following combinations: Q-Q-x-x, K-K-x-x, A-K-x-x, A-A-x-x, and similar ones. If your hand is right for both types, then you should definitely enter the action. Note that A-A-2-3 is found to be the strongest starter in Omaha Hi/Lo.

omaha hi lo

However, be careful with combinations like A-2-x-x that don't have the potential to grab the high-pot, for instance, 2-A-T-6. Enter the action with hands that can scoop the pot.

Take onto account position and playing style

The way players make decisions in poker depends on their position at the table, and Omaha Hi/Lo is no exception. If you are the last player to take a decision, you receive much more info about your rivals. When playing from early positions, you should be cautious and enter the game with really strong SH, as you will be the first to bet throughout the hand.

Also, don't overlook the fact that omaha hi lo strategy varies according to the size of the poker table. For short tables with 3 or 4 participants, you should behave more aggressively, and when you fight with up to 8 people, use a tight style.

If you have reached the flop and hit a pretty strong hand, try to apply more aggressive play. But, do not continue to play on the postflop unless you have the nut potential. Hence, be ready to send your cards into the muck on the flop very often.

Study attentively behavior and actions of the people you are playing with at the table. Do not bluff against weak opponents who often play call until the end of the hand. Against them, make large bets with made hands

Preflop raise: yes or no?

Omaha Hi/Lo strategy

In Omaha Hi/Lo, pre-flop aggression to knock out opponents is used less often. Preflop bets serve to increase the pot in the vast majority of cases.

If you are in an early position, try to avoid raising with your premium hands. As a rule, players don’t seek to reduce the number of participants and invest a lot of money in the pot until they see the flop. On the other hand, if you are fighting from a late position and a few participants called before you, then it's worth playing raise in order to boost the pot.

Taking the early position, you can safely raise with a hand like A-A-x-x (where x-x should represent 2 high cards) with the intention to cut the number of players because these cards are excellent to vie at short tables. However, if you hardly reduce the number of opponents by using raise, then the most profitable decision will be just calling. You should muck this hand if the flop brings two or three low cards.

Final thoughts

In fact, it's not that difficult to learn Omaha Hi/Lo rules, particularly when you are not new to play traditional Pot Limit Omaha. A distinctive element of this game is the "law" according to which a poker player can win the pot (at showdown) making either a high hand or a low hand. Players are also able to scoop the pot, that is, win both pieces of the pot if their hand is defined as high and low at once.

The strategy can be daunting, however, the biggest thing is to figure out what starters are the most profitable to enter the game with. Also, do not make the common mistake of only fighting for just one piece of the pot.

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Cardmates journalist, news editor and translator since 2018. Specialization: poker news and review of events.
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