Omaha Hi-Lo

One of the best pieces of advice a player can get is this: Don’t go to the Omaha Hi/Lo table with the same game plan you use for Omaha Hi or Texas Hold’em. Of course, there are some similarities between the Hi game and the Hi/Lo game. The differences between Hold’em and Omaha are significant. Watch a televised poker tournament and you are most likely to see Hold’em action, exclusively. Occasionally, the World Series of Poker will look in on a hand or two of Omaha. But the media exposure for this version of poker is so limited that many players don’t understand it at all.

Second only to Hold’em in popularity, Omaha Hi/Lo offers interesting and challenging action for those willing to learn this intricate game. The major difference is that, in Omaha, each player is dealt four cards face down rather than two, as in Hold’em. Getting four hole cards is just the beginning, however. Players must make the best five-card hand using two and only two of their hole cards. Splitting the game in Omaha Hi/Lo adds yet another twist or two. Here are a few basic tips for Omaha:

  • Starting hand requirements are different for Omaha
  • You must have two cards of a suit in your hand to make a flush. Three or four of a suit doesn’t help. It just cuts down your chances of getting flush cards on the board.
  • Three of a kind on the board and a pair in your hand for a full house.

But what about this Hi/Lo split? Here’s how a successful pro sees it. Bobby Baldwin wrote the chapter for Doyle Brunson’s Super System 2. The game is also referred to as Omaha 8 or better.

  • Omaha 8 or better is a high/low split game.
  • There is always a high hand and sometimes the high hand wins the whole pot.
  • A low hand is a hand with 5 different cards below a 9. The lowest low hand wins a share of the pot.
  • Sometimes there is no low hand to share the pot because a player must have five unpaired cards 8 or below to make a low hand.

One example of how a player might win both high and low should give us a good idea how the game is played. Baldwin writes that if your hole cards are Ace of clubs, 2 of diamonds, 7 of clubs and King of hearts, and the board is 3 of clubs, 4 of clubs, 6 of clubs, Jack of hearts and Queen of diamonds – we can use our Ace and 7 to make a high-hand flush in clubs; we can use the Ace and 2 for a low-hand – Ace, 2, 3, 4, 6. If you are considering a poker career based on Omaha Hi or Omaha Hi/Lo, give yourself plenty of time to gain experience! Here is how a typical game proceeds:

  • Blinds – The small and the big blind post their bets.
  • Hole Cards – The dealer deals four hole cards (aka. pocket cards), face-down.
  • 1st Betting Round – Betting starts with the player to the left of the big blind. Players fold, check or raise (re-raise). Betting limits are set to the lower limit of the table stake (e.e. $5 in a $5/$10 game).
  • The Flop – The dealer deals three community cards face-up.
  • 2nd Betting Round – follows the rules of the 1st betting round.
  • The Turn – The dealer places the fourth community card on the table, face-up.
  • 3rd Betting Round – Similar betting rules as for the 1st and 2nd round, but the maximum bet is raised to the higher limit of the table stake (e.e. $10 in a $5/$10 game).
  • The River – The fifth and final community card is dealt face-up.
  • 4th Betting Round – The final betting round, with the same rules as the 3rd betting round.
  • The Showdown – Players show their hands, and the player with highest poker hand wins the pot. The first player to show their cards is the last one to have placed a bet or made a raise. In the event that no bets were made during the hand, the player to the right of the dealer button shows their cards first and the winner is determined according to the best five-card hand.

The button moves one seat clockwise (as do the blinds), and play begins again.