Explanation of Qualify
In split pot variants of poker, the pot is split between the best high hand and the best low hand. There is always a high hand available (no matter how weak), but there is not always a low hand possible. There is minimum criteria for how strong a low hand needs to be in order to be considered a qualifying low hand. In scenarios where no low hand qualifies, the entire pot will be awarded to the best high hand.
Different split pot games may have different rules for qualification, but the most common example is the qualifying rules in the game of Omaha Hi/Low split. Players must have 5 cards eight or lower in order to qualify. This is why Omaha Hi/Low split is also known as Omaha-8, with reference to the fact that low hands require 5 cards “eight or better (lower)” in order to qualify.
Example of Qualify used in a sentence -> In Omaha Hi/Lo there needs to be 3 cards 8 or lower on the board otherwise it is impossible for any player to qualify.
How to Use Qualify as Part of Your Poker Strategy
By looking closely at the board in Omaha-8, we can deduce whether it is possible for our opponent to hold a qualifying low. Since the standard Omaha rules of needing to use exactly two hole-cards apply to making low hands, it means that there must be at least 3 cards eight-or-lower on the board in order for qualifying low hands to be possible.
As an example, imagine the following flop textures in Omaha-8
1. K♦Q♥T♣ – Not only is no low possible directly on the flop, but even if the turn and river come running low cards, this is still not enough for any player to make a qualifying low. For all intents and purposes this hand now continues as if we are playing the high-hand-only version of Omaha.
2. K♦A♠Q♥ – Making a qualifying low by the river is not that likely on this texture, but it is certainly possible. Since the Ace counts as a low card, running low cards on the turn and river would make qualifying low hands possible.
3. A♠5♥T♦ – While no qualifying low is currently possible, there are a number of low draws that a player may hold. Any two low cards (excluding Ace and Five) make four cards to a low, and simply need one non-paired low card to fall on either the turn and river in order to complete the qualifying low.
4. 2♣3♣7♦ – Watch out! The made low hand is directly possible on this flop. If any player has two (non-paired) cards eight and lower, they have flopped the made low. The nut low at this stage will be the A4xx.
The less low-hand possibilities on a certain texture, the more valuable it is to have a strong high hand. Having a super strong high hand on the fourth board texture is less valuable since our opponent might already be chopping after making a qualifying low.