If ever there was a game created for sheer fun and excitement, it has to be Omaha-Hi-Lo! Haven't had the pleasure of playing this quick-fire poker format? Well, you've certainly not lived in your online poker life. This is the sort of game that has humongous pots and even bigger poker hands.
Jumping straight in and playing is one option. However, getting familiar with both the rules and the strategy will make the game even more enjoyable. You'll be making money with better hands while having an absolute blast! And, at 888poker there are more Omaha-Hi-Lo games than you can shake a stick at.
But, firstly, let's go over a few key strategy points, you'll need to know before getting caught up in this action-packed game.
Omaha-Hi-Lo Strategy – The Main Components
One of the first things you'll need to know about Hi-Lo is that there are two winning hands at showdown: a High Hand and a Low Hand. They get to split the pot 50/50. Not bad! But it gets even better. Make the best Hi and Lo on the river and scoop the lot! 100% of the pot is yours.
The main betting format for Omaha-Hi-Lo is Pot Limit, but you will also find a lot of Fixed Limit games. Ultimately, the choice is yours when it comes to which one you should play. Pot Limit games play a lot like No Limit when you compare pot sizes. Whereas the Fixed Limit games restrict the amount of your stack you can get into the pot to a maximum of 4 times the Big Blind, on each street.
In Omaha MTTs, using Omaha Hi-Low tournament strategy can really help you go deep and make more final tables. It's a case of balancing solid starting hands with good knowledge of how low hands work.
Now, let's get into the mechanics of Omaha-Hi-Lo game strategy, starting with pre-flop hand selection.
Because there are two winning pots in this format, you should pick starting hands that can scoop both. In fact, one of the main strategy rules of split-pot games is, “Go for the low and back into the high”. A hand like A-A-2-X double-suited gives you the chance at the nut-low and the nut flush (high hand) draws.
Take a look at this Top Ten list of Best Starting Hands:
- A-A-2-3 DS
- A-A-2-4 DS
- A-A-2-3 Suited
- A-A-2-5 DS
- A-A-2-4 Suited
- A-A-3-4 DS
- A-A-2-3 Non-suited
- A-A-2-2 DS
- A-A-3-5 DS
- A-A-2-6 DS
Now many Hi-Lo gurus will fall in love with any A-2-X-X, but not all A-2 hands are created equal. For example, look at the hand A-2-Q-Q double-suited and compare that to A-2-J-8 non-suited. The A-2 with the Queen kickers just beats the J-8 hand into submission. It's not even a fair fight!
So even though the low is an important part of this poker genre, it only makes up 50% of the winning hand. You should look for hands that contain cards that can help in making a winning high hand, too.
Hands that have suited aces, big pairs, or other high cards that can help you make nut flushes or straights, are perfect.
Now going for the Lo and having the best Lo are two entirely different animals in Omaha. It's common to see players calling massive river bets with a Low Hand that is solidly beat.
Have a look at the following board and starting hands. See if you can determine which Low wins:
Player 1's Low reads 7s-6s-4d-2d-Ac: They have used the 7s, 6s and 2d from the board along with the Ac and 4d from their hand make their best possible Low.
Player 2's Low reads 7s-6s-3d-2s-Ah: They have used the 7s, 6s and Ah from the board along with the 2s and 3d from their hand make their best possible Low.
A great way to calculate lows is from top to bottom, with the Ace being the bottom card. So, in this example, even though both players have the A-2, from the top down Player 2's 3d beats Player 1's 4d. And so, Player 2 has the better hand.
Now you can easily see why being able to calculate the best possible Low is so important. It's easy to get beat by just one card. If you find yourself in a situation where your Lo could be beat, folding or just calling (a small bet) is a good option.
In the above scenario, if Player 2 felt they had the best Low Hand, they would likely build a big pot. Where would this leave you? Up the creek without a paddle and sinking fast!
However, once you get more familiar with making and reading Lows, you'll start to know when you have the best of it. If an opponent that you suspect has a Low is just calling, go for it. More than likely they don't have your Low beat and are trying to get to showdown without losing any more chips.
Counterfeit Lows & Backup Cards
While A-2-X-X is a super-strong starting hand, having something like A-2-3-X is even better. Why? Because now you also have a good backup card. What's a backup card, you might ask? Well, these are cards that will “back up” your draw, if one of your Low cards falls on the board.
Remember that in Omaha, players must use 3 cards from the board to form a hand. Therefore, if they happen to have an A-3-4-X hand, the 2 will fill the gap between the A and the 3 quite nicely. And, unless your X-card is a 4 your Low would be beat!
This is why staying aware of what low cards can counterfeit (match one of your low cards making it useless) is so important. And, don't forget those backup cards, if you really want to make certain your Low comes out on top.
Limp! Limp! Limp!
Omaha is a game of draws – big draws. It's not uncommon to see more than one Low or multiple flush hands in the same suit on the river. And, with players drawing to lots of different highs and lows, there's bound to be a lot of action in this game.
So, getting your chips all-in pre-flop isn't a great idea. In fact, being able to see a flop for cheap is a good thing. If you hit the board hard with nut high and low draws, bang it! Get as many of your chips into the middle as possible. In a Pot Limit game, this isn't that hard to do.
Just make sure that, when you do make your draw, it has a good chance of holding up.
Yes, Position Matters in Omaha!
As with other poker games, in Omaha Hi-Lo position is very important. You should restrict playing early position to premium starting hands – like the ones on the Top Ten list. This will help you conserve chips and avoid having to play your draws out of position.
Playing drawing hands when you're closer to the button just makes more sense. You get to control the pot and your opponents. If a player tries to check-raise you, you can check behind. If they lead out, you can raise and build a big pot for yourself.
Keep in mind that Hi-Lo can be a volatile game because of all the drawing hands and starting hand combinations. So get maximum value for your big draws, by playing more hands in position and minimise weaker ones, by folding more out of position. It's as simple as that!