Today’s question comes from Geoff ‘Aussie’ Thompson. Geoff has sent us the following question: ‘Hello Doctors. After many years playing No Limit Hold’em I switched to Omaha 8 around a year ago. I was told it was a low variance game and that if played sensibly I could expect to make a steady and reliable profit. I’ve had some good results, but my overall profit and loss has fluctuated hugely over the year. Can you tell me how much variance is there in Omaha Hi Lo?
Good question Geoff. Iggypop1977 and Alexis23o have both had similar experiences. Firstly, a few general words about variance: Losing sessions can be frustrating, particularly when your opponents play like donkeys and luck out on you time and again with one or two outers. Remember though that variance is what keeps weaker players in the game. The possibility that even the fishiest fish can beat a champion on a good day is what keeps our aquatic friends going. We need fish in the game, so remember not to tap on the glass and don’t begrudge them when they do luck out on you.
Turning now to Omaha 8, the full ring game (9 or 10 seater) is possibly the lowest variance game in poker. By sticking to strong hands and opening up your game only in late position, you should be able to grind a solid profit right up to mid stakes level (say $2/4 online or $8/16 live). The problem of course is that the full ring game has become increasingly rare on line. Partly that is due to the loss of the American market. It also follows fashion, as much as anything. When playing live, there is a different problem, which is that the rake is often high, certainly at anything under $8/16, and this can eat into your profits.
Iggy and Alexis have both been playing a lot of FLO8 6 max lately, including as part of the 8 game on Pokerstars. 6 max has a lot higher variance than full ring. The blinds come round quickly and you can’t simply sit there and wait for premiums. In our estimate, however, it is still a lower variance game than limit hold’em and a much lower variance game than Pot Limit Omaha.
The cross over point seems to come where there are 3 players or less. You now have to play almost every hand. Hand reading becomes difficult, and – hand values pre flop being so close together – the flop is absolutely critical. O8 Legend Danzasmack (no relation to Andy) believes that heads up limit O8 is one of the highest variance games that there is. The best players will win over time, but expect a rollercoaster ride first.
We hope this has helped Aussie Jeff. For further info on win rates and variance in Omaha Hi Lo see Omaha 8 or Better: Winning at Hi Low Poker by Andy Mack
Good luck at the tables,