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How to Play Omaha Hi-Lo Poker for Beginners (May 2024)

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Learn Omaha Hi-Lo Poker (Omaha 8s or Better)

To the observer or the new players, Omaha Hi-Lo looks like an abstract game that vaguely resembles poker. Do not worry, the principles are practically the same as Texas Hold’em, save for a few crucial rules. If you like thrilling poker that keeps you on your toes, then you simply must try Omaha Hi-Lo.

The game requires wits and quick decision-making. The learning curve for this game is quite large, especially if you have never played Omaha poker or Hi-Lo poker. However, once you have mastered it you will find plenty of opportunities to play, and hopefully win big.

What is Omaha Hi-Lo Poker?

Omaha Hi-Lo is Omaha poker that has a Hi-Lo dynamic. Omaha poker is basically the same as Texas Hold’em, only instead of 2 hole cards you receive 4. Hi-Lo poker is a format in which the pot is divided between the best high hand and the best low hand. There is a lot to consider whilst playing, and no one becomes an expert after their first few tries. If you keep on going at it though, you will see how much fun this game is. The Hi-Lo and having 4 hole cards bring a whole new dynamic to each round.

Hi-Lo Games

In Hi-Lo poker, the pot is split at the end of each round and is given to the player with the best high hand and the player with the best low hand. However, the pot will only be split if a low hand qualifies. If it does not, then the strongest high hand will take the whole pot.

This means that even if you are dealt low cards, you still have a chance to win half the pot.

What Qualifies as a Low Hand

There are different kinds of Hi-Lo, but generally, the low hand qualifies if there are no poker hands apart from the high card, and the highest card in the hand is not over 8. Generally, Omaha Hi-Lo is referred to as Omaha/8 or Omaha Eights or Better. There are also games with 9-low, but these are rare. To qualify, you need to form a 5-card hand with 2 of your hole cards and there cannot be any pairs, three of a kind, or four of a kind. However, you can have a straight or flush. Also, Aces are not considered to be high cards. You can have an Ace, or multiple Aces, and still qualify for the low hand.

Therefore, if you want to win with a low hand, you need to have the “best” low hand, which can have a flush, straight, or simply wins by having the lowest card. For example, a 5-card hand of 8, 6, 5, 3 and 2 is will beat a hand of 8, 7, 5, 4, 3 because the second highest card of the first hand is 6, which is lower. Between 7, 6, 4, 2, Ace and 7, 6, 3, 2, Ace, the latter wins again, as the third highest ranking card is 3, which is lower than 4.

Omaha Poker

Omaha poker is almost identical to Texas Hold’em, only you are dealt 4 hole cards instead of 2. The rounds have the same steps and betting cycles, and at the end of the round you will need to form your best 5-card hand. The 5-card hand must have 2 of your hole cards and 3 communal cards. You cannot have 1 hole card or no hole cards in your 5-card hand.

How to Play Omaha Hi-Lo Poker

Each round of Omaha Hi-Lo consists of 5 phases and 4 betting cycles. The goal of the game is to form the best 5-card poker hands, aiming for either the high or low pot. During the betting cycles, all players at the table will get the chance to increase the pot. When it is your turn during a betting cycle, you can either raise, fold, or call.

Raising is when you increase the pot. When someone raises, then the next player can call the bet, meaning they will put in enough money to meet the bet. If the player does not want to call, they can fold, in which case they throw away their cards and forfeit the round. Of course, there is no rule against the player calling and then raising the bet, which the next player in the cycle will need to react to.

Before the betting cycles conclude, every player still in the game needs to check. What this means is that you have already put your money in the pot, and do not want to make any more raises. If all players check, then the betting cycle finishes and the game can move to the next phase.

The Preflop

The round starts with two players paying ante bets. These are the small and big blinds. Once these are paid the game can begin: the dealer draws 4 hole cards for each player. This is followed by a betting cycle.

The Flop

Once the first betting phase is over, the dealer will draw the first 3 communal cards. These are the first 3 communal cards. Players can then react by increasing the pot in the following round of betting.

The Turn

The dealer draws one more communal card, and this is followed by the third round of betting.

The River

The last communal card is revealed, and then the players have one more chance to increase the pot.

The Showdown

The remaining players in the round reveal their cards. If there is no low hand, then the player with the strongest high hand wins the whole pot. Otherwise, that player has to share the pot with the player who has the best low hand.

Practise with Scenarios

It is all well and good to talk about best high and best low hands, but to get a better picture here are a few examples.

Game 1

Preflop and Flop

  • Your cards: 5 of hearts, Ace of clubs, Ace of spades, 9 of diamonds
  • Player A's cards: 10 of clubs, 7 of spades, Queen of hearts, 3 of spades
  • Player B's cards: 3 of clubs, 4 of hearts, 8 of clubs, 8 of diamonds
  • Communal cards: 6 of clubs, 5 of spades and 10 of diamonds

You have a pair of Aces, and have the best high hand so far. Player A has a pair of 10s, which will not beat your high hand. They can also go for the low pot. Player B has a pair of 8s for the high pot but has a better chance of winning the low pot. They only need a 2 or 7 to be drawn amongst the communal cards to form a straight.

Turn and River

  • Turn: Ace of diamonds
  • River: 3 of hearts

You win the high pot with three Aces. After the river, player A does not have a good high hand so they can go for the low pot with Ace, 3, 5, 6, and 7. Player B did not get that 2 or 7 and so finishes with a low hand of Ace, 3, 4, 5, 6. This gives player B the low pot, as they have a 6-high hand whilst player A has a 7-high hand.

Game 2

Preflop and Flop

  • Your cards: 3 of clubs, 7 of hearts, 8 of hearts, Jack of spades
  • Player A's cards: 6 of clubs, 8 of spades, 8 of hearts, King of spades
  • Player B's cards: Ace of clubs, Ace of hearts, 6 of hearts, Jack of diamonds
  • Communal cards: 3 of hearts, 6 of spades and 10 of diamonds

Your best bet is to try to go for the low pot, as your highest card is a Jack. However, you need to be wary that you cannot use both 3s, so you need another low card to be drawn to form your low hand. Player A has an 8 pair high. Player B has an Ace pair high which is better than player A. This puts Player B in the best position to win the high pot.

Turn and River

  • Turn: 7 of diamonds
  • River: 8 of clubs

Unfortunately, you cannot form the low hand. You cannot have a pair in your 5-card hand, leaving you with only four cards under 8 (3, 6, 7 and 8). Player B is going for the high pot and has a pair of Aces, which is the highest pair in the game. However, player A will win the round with three 8s. Thus, player A takes the whole pot.

Game 3

Preflop and Flop

  • Your cards: 2 of hearts, 2 of clubs, Ace of spades, 10 of diamonds
  • Player A's cards: 6 of diamonds, 7 of clubs, King of clubs, King of spades
  • Player B's cards: 5 of clubs, 6 of hearts, 9 of hearts, 9 of diamonds
  • Communal cards: 3 of clubs, 5 of clubs and Queen of diamonds

You have a good low hand with an Ace and a 2. Player A on the other hand has the best high hand, with a pair of Kings. Player B has a pair of 9s but should probably try to go for the low hand. This will be tricky as the low hand cannot include a pair, and there are 5s in player B's hole cards and in the communal cards.

Turn and River

  • Turn: King of diamonds
  • River: 4 of spades

With the King at the turn, player A now has three of a kind and is in pole position to win the high pot. Player B cannot make the low pot and only has a pair of 9s which is beaten by player A's three Kings. However, you win this round. With the 4 of spades, you now have a straight: A, 2, 3, 4 and 5. This is the best low hand, but it is also the best high hand as straights beat three of a kind. In this rare situation, you have won both halves of the pot with your low hand.

Top Tips for Playing Omaha Hi-Lo

Omaha Hi-Lo is definitely more difficult to master than Texas Hold'em or Omaha poker. This is because you are not only concentrating on the 5 communal cards but also on which of 2 your 4 hole cards work best. On top of that, you need to figure out whether you are going for the high pot or the low, or whether your hand can go for both. Here are some tips to help ease you into your first few games.

Middle Cards Are Not Useful

Cards from 7 through 10 are not very useful unless you have three other strong cards. If you have multiple “middle cards” then this may damage your chances of forming a strong high or low poker hand.

Big Pairs and High Cards Hold No Guarantees

If you played Texas Hold'em before, then it is especially important not to get overconfident on big pairs or high card combinations. Drawing an Ace + King, Ace + Queen or a pair of Aces or pair of Kings is no guarantee that you will smash through the competition.

Look Out for Flushes/Straights

Big pairs and high card combinations need to be treated with caution because they can be beaten by flushes and straights. A high pair is a good hand, but it is beaten by three of a kind, straights, flushes, and so on. You need to keep a special eye on straights and flushes because these are allowed in the low hand. A full house, three of a kind, or even a mere pair cannot be included in a low hand.

Try to Scoop the Pot

So it is possible to win both pots with the low hand. If you have a low straight or a low flush you can do this. If you win the low pot with either of those, you have a good chance at winning the full pot. However, if you only have a good high hand, there is no guarantee that you will win both pots. If another player merely qualifies for the low pot, then they will take half the pot regardless of how good your cards are.

Be Prepared to Fold Often

Not all hands will work for you. You have to be prepared to fold when you have a bad hand, especially if the flop does not go in your favour. It may feel like throwing money away, especially after calling the blinds and any raise that may be made in the preflop round. However, you can save yourself a lot of money in the long run if you do not play every single hand you get. In addition to that, other players may catch on and then force you into more difficult situations. Be patient, and only play your hand if you feel like you have a realistic shot of winning one of the pots. Preferably, hitting the low pot with a solid straight or flush.

Frequently Asked Questions

When do low hands qualify?

You need to form a 5-card hand that does not have any cards over 8, and no pairs. Straights and flushes are allowed. There are alternatives, such as Omaha 9-low, but these are not commonly found.

Is the pot always split?

No, it is only split if there is a high hand and a low hand. The low hand needs to qualify, and regardless of how weak it may be, that player will take half the pot. If the low hand has a flush or a straight, then it may beat the 5-card high hand. In this case, the low hand takes the whole pot.

What are the best low hands?

The best starting hand for the low pot in Omaha Hi-Lo is Ace, Ace, 2 and 3, double-suited. The next best hand is Ace, Ace, 2, and 4, double-suited. If you are dealt these hands, then you not only have a fantastic chance of hitting the low straight and flush, but you also know that there is a reduced chance of another player having an Ace.

Conclusion

Now you should have a good idea of how Omaha Hi-Lo works, and what you need to look out for when starting to play. The key to getting really good at this game is patience, and not giving up. Before long, you will improve your game and learn how to bring the most out of the cards you are given. This means folding sometimes, which is one of the most important skills across all forms of poker. When you master Omaha Hi-Lo, you will find that it is a thoroughly enjoyable game and that it can be tremendously rewarding. The complexity of Omaha Hi-Lo can be used as a huge advantage, and it suits players who have a keen eye for detail.

Lloyd is passionate about online gambling, he lives and breathes blackjack and other table games, and he enjoys sports betting.