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How to play great omaha hi/lo poker

by Telica, July 2010.

You may have mastered Texas Hold'em or Omaha but Omaha Hi/Lo is a different beast altogether, so unless you want to increase your "donations" to other players at the table, it pays to know a few basic strategies.

As with Hold'em pre-flop card selection is crucially important. It may seem obvious but as around 40% of completed boards will allow a lo, you'll want a starting hand that has both hi and lo potential. Aces are more important than in Hold'em because they not only make the highest pair and best flush but they count as the lowest card as well. Starting hands with big pairs such as AA, KK and QQ are also good, particularly when they contain good lo cards or strong high cards in addition. Good starting hands include hands like AA23 (this, double suited is the best hand in the game), A2TT, A234, AKQ2, KK23, QQ23 and so on, however strong high hands such as AKQJ or all lo hands such as 2345 are also playable. In general hands that can make the best high hands and best lo hands are winners. Be careful with mid-range cards that look good but will seldom win the whole pot due to having to split with a lo hand when you connect. Examples of this type of hand would be 4567 or 8867, with these hands you might make a winning straight, but half of the time there will be a lo that you won't have a part of. Mid range straight draws can be expensive to chase in Hi/Lo, flopped nut flush draws, top sets and nut lo draws are the way to go.

Moving to the flop, there are a few basic rules to follow in order to avoid trouble. If two lo cards flop you should generally throw away hands without lo potential. Similarly, if two high cards flop you should discard lo hands. Ask yourself the following questions at this stage: "Have I got the nut flush draw, nut lo draw (or at least 2nd to nut lo draw) or a set?", "Does my lo draw have protection?" (protection means you have a backup lo card in your hand that will play if one of your lo cards comes on the turn or river). Hands that can't be counterfeited bring the odds of making a lo up from around 50% to 70%. If you have a set, is it the best set? Watch for check-raises from other players, as set over set happens quite frequently in Hi/Lo.

Before making a play at any stage, consider your position at the table, the price to play and whether or not you're pot committed. It is far easier to play from a late position than an early one. This is because you'll have more information when it comes to your turn to act and can adjust your play accordingly. You can make a bluff if no one has bet or discard hands more easily if faced with raises or re-raises in front of you. If you decide to bluff or semi-bluff, be particularly mindful of check raises from early position players as this is usually indicative of a strong holding. Price means how much it will cost for you to stay in the hand. If it is cheap enough, consider staying in the pot with hands that have little chance of hitting but pay off big when they do. For example, say you have a big pair type hand such as KK25 and the flop comes 998. Although you've missed your set, if the price is right consider sticking around as you're likely to get paid off big if a King happens to hit on the turn or river. Someone slow playing a set of 9s may not realise you've made a better hand and they may get too attached to their hand to let it go resulting in a big pot for you. Sometimes it might not be worth folding, even if the odds are not in your favour. This is where you need to consider the "pot odds", that is, how much you've already invested in the pot compared with what you have left to bet with. Folding in some of these cases is a worse decision than calling with bad odds, as it is the only sure way to lose. However, please ensure you actually have a chance of winning before employing this strategy!

After you've played a particularly interesting hand, you may want to analyse your play, share the hand with others and check the odds to make sure you played it right. In this case I recommend All In Poker Odds (www.allinpokerodds.com). As well as being able to calculate your equity at each stage of the hand, you can save your hands and share them with friends or other site members. The site also features the ability to copy and paste your hand history from the popular poker sites meaning you don't have to type in all the cards in play.

Like most poker games, Hi/Lo requires both skill and luck. While you can't do a lot about the luck part (apart from maybe collecting a few four leaf clovers), by working with the basic strategies and tools mentioned above, your Omaha Hi/Lo game will surely improve. Enjoy yourself but don't play beyond your means. Play smart and think before you act. Best of luck at the table!

 

Poker Terms Glossary

Check
An action whereby the player passes their turn without betting.
Community cards
Cards dealt face up that everyone can use in addition to their private ("hole") cards to make the best poker hand.
Early position
A position at the table that is relatively close to the dealer meaning during betting rounds players in this position must act before players in a later position.
Equity
The odds of winning when compared to other hands still in play.
Flop
The first 3 of the community cards that are all dealt face up onto the table.
Fold
To discard your hand and take no further part in the betting round.
Hi
In Omaha Hi/Lo a high (or hi) is simply the best hand the player can make according to the hand ranking in poker. The ranks in order from best to worst are, royal flush, straight flush, 4 of a kind, full house, flush, straight, set, 2 pair, pair and high card(s).
Late position
A position at the table farther from the dealer meaning actions are taken after players in an earlier position.
Lo
In Omaha Hi/Lo, when 2 cards from your hand are used with 3 different cards from the board to make 5 different cards 8 or under (aces counting as 1).
Nut (flush / flush draw)
A flush or flush draw with the ace as the highest card of that suit. The best type of flush.
Omaha
A poker game where each player is dealt 4 cards and the community cards total 5, dealt in 3 stages (flop, turn and river). Players must make the best poker hand using 2 cards from their hand and 3 from the board.
Omaha Hi/Lo
Same as Omaha, but a lo hand is also possible. If a lo hand can be made, half of the pot is awarded to the player with the best lo hand.
Pot
The total chips or money bet by all players during the betting round. The pot is awarded to the player(s) with the best hands.
Pre-flop
The betting stage that occurs after players are dealt their own cards but before any of the community cards are dealt.
Raise
To place a bet or to bet higher than another player's bet.
River
The last card of the 5 community cards to be dealt.
Set
Making a poker hand where 3 cards are the same, also known as "trips".
Texas Hold'em
A type of poker game where players each get 2 private cards. Players must use their cards and the 5 community cards to make the best poker hand.
Turn
The 2nd to last of the 5 community cards that are dealt.