Introduction to Omaha Hi-Lo – The Differences to Hold’Em

By | June 10, 2019

Omaha Hi-Lo (also known as Omaha 8 or Better) is a community card poker game similar to Texas Hold’em, where each player is dealt four cards and must make his best hand using exactly two of them, plus exactly three of the five community cards.

Omaha Hi-Lo is also a ‘ hi-low split’ game. That is to say, at the end of the hand, the pot is divided into two. The best high hand takes half the pot, and the best low hand takes the other half.

The high hand is calculated in the same way as in normal (high only) Omaha. You must take any two cards from your hole cards, and any three cards from the board, to make the best five card hand you can. Note the difference to Texas Hold’em, where you may use two, one or even zero of your hole cards. In Omaha and Omaha Hi-Lo, you must use precisely two of your hole cards.

To make a low hand, you again take two of your hole cards and three cards from the board. Your aim is to make a five-card hand with five cards ranked eight or below. Note that the five cards making up the low must each be of a unique rank (e.g. a starting hand of A-A-9-9 can never make a low because you only have one unique card of 8 or lower).

It will not always be possible to make a low. For example, if you hold A-2-3-4 in your hand, the board still has to show three unique cards of eight or below for your low to qualify. If the board only shows two cards below eight (e.g. 6-7-J-J-K) it does not matter that you have three low cards in your hand. No low is possible.

The best possible low hand in Omaha Hi-Lo is the wheel, A-2-3-4-5. It does not matter for the low that a wheel is also a straight. Equally it does not matter for the low if the five cards are all of the same suit. A wheel is a strong hand as you have a straight for a high and the best possible low.

When a player wins both the low and the high half of the pot, they are said to have ‘scooped’ the pot. The most common ways to do this are:Omaha Hi Lo - The Wheel

  • By making the wheel;
  • By making a nut flush and an A-2 low.

Scooping the pot is the key way to make money in Omaha Hi-Lo and you should seek to play starting hands which will give you the potential to scoop. Low suited aces are particularly useful for this.

Limit betting structure

If you come from a No Limit or Pot Limit background, then you will be in for a shock when you play Limit for the first time. Limit truly is a different beast. In particular:

  • the bets are fixed, which takes away the bet sizing decision (and all the attendant issues re pot control, over betting or under betting),
  • it is impossible to bully an opponent out of the pot with a huge overbet,
  • maths / pot odds involved in calling, raising or folding come far more to the fore.

In my view this favours skilled players and weights the skill/ luck element (an eternal debate in poker) more in favour of skill. However I know that many No Limit and Pot Limit players will disagree with this. Anyway, let’s see how this works in practice.

Betting sizes: In Limit Omaha Hi-low the betting limits are fixed. The size of the game is determined by the bet size. For example, in a $2/$4 game the small bet is $2 and the big bet is $4. The blinds are $1 and $2. As in Hold’em, the blinds are to the left of the button and play proceeds clockwise. Bets and raises are made in increments.

Pre flop and flop: Before and on the flop, bets are made in increments of the small bet ($2 in our example). A bet would be $2, a raise would be to a total of $4.

Turn and river:On the turn and river the bet size increases. Bets are made in increments of the big bet ($4 in our example). A bet would be $4, and a raise would be to $8.

The cap:The Limit betting structure caps the number of raises. Most live venues allow a maximum of a bet and three raises, although some rooms have a cap of four raises. Online, the major sites all use a maximum of a bet and three raises, and we will assume that approach in this book. Note that pre flop, the big blind is assumed to have posted the initial bet, so three raises are allowed after the blind has been posted.

Why play Omaha Hi-Lo?

Relatively unknown amongst your average Hold’em crowd, Omaha Hi-Lo is a game of choice amongst world class players. It is spread at high stakes in some of the better US casinos. It is also the ‘O’ game featured in H.O.R.S.E, and forms part of the increasingly popular ‘Eight Game’ played both live and online.

Why should you play Omaha Hi-Lo Limit?

If your aspiration is to win hundred thousand dollar prizes in multi thousand player tournaments, then Omaha Hi-Lo is not the game for you.

If on the other hand you want a game where technical skills are important,  and the best player can expect to make a steady profit, then welcome aboard.

For more details

For more details on the difference between Omaha games and Texas Holdem see this excellent article in 888:

https://www.888poker.com/magazine/strategy/omaha-poker/the-difference-between-omaha-and-texas-holdem

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Andy 'IggyPop77' Mack

About Andy 'IggyPop77' Mack

Andy's first love was chess. Three times a competitor in the British Championships, he has played regularly at international level, achieving the rank of FIDE Master. On a fateful day in 2007 Andy visited Las Vegas for the first time. Since that point, his attention has switched from chess to poker. Initially focusing on Hold'em, Andy has branched out, and has been working hard over the past couple of years to perfect his Omaha 8 game. He also plays all the other variants of the 8 Game. Away from poker, Andy's hero is rock star Iggy Pop. Andy claims to love Iggy's wild man image, although even his best friends would find it hard to compare Andy's solid poker style with that of the Godfather of Punk.