Omaha Hi-Lo

by Joseph MacNaughton

 Omaha HI-Lo AKA Omaha/8 or Omaha 8 or better where both the High and the Low hands Win

 

 

What is Omaha Hi-Lo Poker and Where did it come from

Omaha Hi-Lo poker is another variant of the game Omaha. It's also known by the names Omaha/8 or Omaha 8 or better. It is most commonly played with a Fixed Limit betting structure, however, it can also be played at no limit and pot limit too. Fixed Limit means you have a set amount of chips you are allowed to bet and cannot choose the bet size during gameplay.

As is the case with most games and variations of poker, it is difficult to pinpoint precisely when the game of Omaha Hi-Lo was first introduced. Omaha became popular in the 1980s with Robert Turner credited for bringing Omaha to the spotlight. He added the game to the Golden Nugget Casino in Las Vegas. No other casinos were hosting or playing Omaha, and the Golden Nugget tried to brand the game as 'Nugget Hold'Em'. This name didn't stick, and it is still unconfirmed why the name Omaha prevailed. Some reports say it's because a man from Omaha was always at the table playing Nugget Hold'Em, but no one knows for sure.

It is even more uncertain when the fixed limit Omaha Hi-Lo games were first played, but it is thought that it started not long after Omaha hit the casino. The first major Omaha High-Lo tournament was the World Series of Poker Omaha Hi-Lo event in 1990, won by Monte Kouz.

Rules and how to play Omaha High-Lo

Omaha Hi-Lo has the same primary aim as Pot Limit Omaha. You must use precisely two cards in your hand and three community cards from the board to form a hand. The pot is always divided into two, one half awarded to the player with the best high hand and the other half awarded to the player with the best low hand. Unlike games like Razz where any low hand can win the pot, Omaha Hi-Lo has a requirement that to win the low portion of the pot your hand must be eight high or lower. If no player has a hand that is eight high or lower than the entire pot will be given to the poker player with the best high hand.

The most popular and frequently played version of Omaha High-Lo is Fixed Limit, and are the rules we will be covering in this game guide. There are three positions to take of note: The Button or Dealer Position, the Small Blind, and the Big Blind. The first player left of the button is the Small Blind, and the player left of the Small Blind is the Big Blind. The position and set stakes will determine the amount the blinds must put into the pot before any cards are dealt. The Big Blind will post twice the amount of the Small Blind. After all blinds have been added to the pot, all players at the table receive four cards face down.

The person left of the Big Blind is first to act. They have three choices of action: call, raise, or fold. Calling means to match the same amount as the Big Blind; raising is to make it twice the size of the Big Blind r more, and folding is the same as throwing your hand away. The action will proceed around the table clockwise.

After completion of this first round of betting the dealer will deal three face-up community cards that everyone may use to improve their hand. This is called the Flop. The player to the dealer's left will now start the action from this moment onwards and has the option of checking or betting. Checking is a neutral move and is the same as passing the decision to the next player. If the player chooses to bet at this stage of the hand, they may only bet the same size that the big blind previously posted.

After completion of this round of betting the 4th community card is placed face up and added to the flop, and another round of betting commences. From this moment onwards the size of the bet must be twice the size of the big blind. All players who have not folded will now receive a 5th community card, and a final round of betting will take place.

If at least two players remain who have not folded after completion of this round, they must now turn their cards face up and make the best five-card High hand and best five card Low hand using two cards in their hand and three community cards. If no player can make an eight high or lower hand, the entire pot will be awarded to the player with the highest ranked hand.

Straights and flushes do not improve the strength of your low hand, and you could even have a straight or flush of A-5 that would be eligible to win both the High and Low portions of the pot.

High hand ranking table

POSITION

Hand

Description

Example

1ST

Royal Flush

Top five cards in sequence in the same suit

A♥+K♥+Q♥+J♥+10♥

2ND

Straight Flush

Any five cards in sequence in the same suit

3♣+4♣+5♣+6♣+7♣

3RD

4 of a Kind

Four identical cards of any value

J♣+J♦+J♠+J♥+K♥

4TH

Full House

Three of a Kind + A pair

7♥+7♦+7♠+A♠+A♣

5TH

Flush

Any five cards the same suite

A♣+7♣+4♣+3♣+10♣

6TH

Straight

Five cards of any suit in number sequence

8♥+9♦+10♦+J♥+Q♣

7TH

3 of a Kind

Three cards of the same value any suit

A♣+A♦+A♠+4♠+J♦

8TH

Pair

Two cards of same value any suit

K♦+K♥+2♥+7♣+10♦

9TH

High Card

The highest value card in hand where A is Highest

A♦+7♦+4♣+Q♣+9♦

 

Low Hand Ranking table

1.            5, 4, 3, 2, A          5 to A high - Best Low hand possible

2.            6, 4, 3, 2, A          6 to A high

3.            7, 3, 2, 4, 5           7 to 5 high

4.            8, 7, 6, 5, A          8 to A high

5.            8, 7, 6, 5, 3           8 to 3 high

6.            8, 7, 6, 5, 4           8 to 4 high - Worst hand possible (that can still win the low portion of the pot)

 

Tips, Tricks and Game Strategies

Omaha Hi-Lo is undoubtedly a very different game but similar to Omaha, hence the name. However, because it's almost always a Fixed Limit betting structure and there is also a Low portion of the pot to be won you can even compare it to Seven Card Stud or Razz.

In this game, you want to try and obtain an excellent high and low hand. You can win both the high and low parts of the pot if you have an eight high or lower hand and a decent ranked upper hand. If you can accomplish this, it is called a scoop. A scoop means you win all the chips in the middle of the pot.

If you have a very low hand and a very high hand it's a good idea to not slow play your hand. Slow playing is playing your hand weak or passive. You want to bet and raise your strong hands because fixed limit is a game where you can only bet small, and people call at a high frequency. While you may not always scoop the whole pot while holding a high and low hand, you will likely win at least half the pot in the middle.

Try to sit back and observe the other players around you. Notice if you see some players that are being too aggressive and getting to the river too often with weak holdings. Try to notice if some players keep folding often before the river card (final card). These are good signs to look out for that can help you decide when you can bluff or when you should fold.

Because the most common variant is Fixed Limit, players are always going to get a better price to call. This will generally mean you need to pick a good spot and the right players to bluff. It would help if you focused on playing fewer hands and value betting more. Value betting is betting or raising when you have a strong hand.

Which position you're in can matter significantly. If you are on the button, it's a good idea to play a lot more hands. When you're on the button (aka in position) you get to act last and see what everyone else does first which is a huge advantage. Play more hands in position and fewer hands out of position.

Things to Keep in Mind When Playing Omaha Hi-Lo

This game will have you thinking about multiple factors every time you're at the table. There will be many split pots, and sometimes it's okay only to win half. This game is different yet similar to other forms of poker, and even an experienced Texas Hold'Em player or Omaha player could have difficulty adjusting to it.

It is recommended that it should not be the first game of Poker you learn to play, as It's unlike traditional poker in many ways. It is common for a novice to poker to become overwhelmed by some of the nuances of the game before mastering the fundamentals. Players with some experience from other forms of poker can apply the necessary skills, and knowledge acquired from other poker games.

There has not been a whole lot published or talked about on Omaha Hi-Lo. This game isn't as popular as Pot Limit Omaha or Texas Hold'Em. Most significant casinos and online sites will offer Omaha Hi-Lo cash games and will have tournaments all year round. The best way to get started is by playing low stakes games to build confidence. Study and read all the strategy guides you can, and most importantly, get as much experience as you can and study what winning players are doing.