Four hole cards, two parts of the pot to play for and plenty of action! Are you ready to learn how to play winning limit Omaha hi/lo?
Hold’em might be the most popular form of poker today, but there are plenty of people that love Omaha. Pot limit Omaha (PLO) might be the favoured format for action junkies, but Omaha hi/low could prove to be the more profitable game. There are usually two sides of the pot to play for – the high and the low (although sometimes there will be no low and the high hand will win the whole pot) – which requires meticulous starting hand selection in order to give yourself the best chance of ‘scooping’ – winning both halves. What this translates to is playing hands with strong interconnectivity; in hold’em your two cards only make one combo, but in Omaha – with four cards – you have six two-card combos, so you want as many of them to have a chance of winning as possible.
In Omaha hi/lo you’re dealt four hole cards and must try to make both a high and a low hand, using any two of the four for each. High hand rules are standard, but a low must consist of five differently ranked cards Ace to Eight, the best hand being A-2-3-4-5, called the wheel (straights and flushes are irrelevant). Follow this link to play Omaha online now
Because a hand has to consist of two hole cards and three community cards, a low is only possible when there are three low cards on the board, and if there is no low then the high hand scoops the whole pot. Also note that because players usually play hands including A-2 or A-3 the low part of the pot will often end up being split, so besides ‘scooping’ or winning half in any given hand you might also get ‘quartered’ if you only have a low that another player also has, or ‘three- quarter’ someone if you both split the low half but you win the high.
In other forms of poker low hands are assessed from the top down with the lowest values winning (A-2-5-6-7 beats A-3-5-6-7), but because of the rules of Omaha Hi-Lo the easiest way to work out the nut low is to simply look at the board and see what the lowest two vacant slots are (assuming a low is possible). So if the board reads A-3-4-K-Q then 2-5 is the nut low. One exception to this is when there are four cards to a wheel on the board. So on a board of A-3-4-5-Q any player with a deuce and another wheel card would have the nut low as they must use two hole cards and three community cards.
Most players will initially look for good low combos that also have a chance of winning the high, with the best possible hand you can receive being A-A-2-3 double-suited. This is the best hand, because if there’s a low possible (which there usually is) you can win it with A-2, A-3 or 2-3, and you may also make a wheel (A-2-3-4-5) for high, or win with one of your flush draws, or even win by using your Aces. Note that with A-2-3 you can still win the low if one of your cards pairs, whereas if you have only A-2 and an Ace or deuce hits the board your chances of winning the low are very slim. For example, if the flop comes 6-7-8 then you would have the nut low with A-2 by making A-2-6-7-8, but if the turn brought a deuce then a player with A-3 would now beat you with A-2-3-6-7 as the lowest two vacant low slots would have changed.
Lower your expectations
The trouble is you won’t be dealt a hand that powerful very often, so you will have to settle for playing inferior hands that share its characteristics. The most important thing to look for is hands that can win both ways (high and low) with nut outs in at least one direction – so any A-2 is usually playable and so is an A-3 with a nut flush draw, as are hands with very strong high potential and a low draw like A-A-x-x or A-K-Q-4 double-suited. Low wrap hands with three or four cards to a wheel (including an Ace) are also very strong as they are harder to counterfeit when they hit and will sometimes make a straight as well.
Turn to Twitch
Daniel Negreanu has been streaming $400/$800 mixed games from PokerStars on Twitch, and explaining the strategies behind his play. Follow him on Twitter @RealKidPoker to find out when he’s streaming live and catch all of his past broadcasts at Twitch.tv/dnegspoker.
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