Omaha Hi/Lo Guide
Omaha Hi/Lo Poker is a useful introduction to online poker for new players, as it teaches the benefits of observing the betting trends of other players, acting from position and knowing your pot odds. Having the potential for two pots, Omaha Hi/Lo Poker can also prevent the scenario of a new player losing a substantial portion of their bankroll due to a novice mistake.
A further reason why Omaha Hi/Lo Poker is a popular game is because more players tend to get involved in a hand, creating bigger pots from which a higher amount of rake is deducted and awarding more points towards clearing a poker bonus. However, despite its attractions, Omaha Hi/Lo Poker can be the downfall of a player if the rules of the game are not fully understood.
How to Play Omaha Hi/Lo Poker
Omaha Hi/Lo Poker is played with each player receiving four hole cards. Using two of these hole cards and three of the community cards dealt during the “Flop”, “Turn” and “River”, a player must try to make either the best five-card “Hi” hand (see our hand ranks page to see how “Hi” hands are determined) or the best five-card “Lo” hand – which must consist of five individually ranked cards with a value of Eight or lower.
It is not guaranteed that there will be a “Lo” hand in every pot. So, although you may be dealt an Ace and a Deuce among your hole cards, it is a hand to be cautious of. However, it is possible for a player to win both the “Hi” pot and the “Lo” pot using different combinations of their hole cards and the community cards. For Example:
Player A is dealt A♥2♠8♣10♥
Player B is dealt 3♦4♦8♠J♣
The board plays out A♦2♣7♣9♠10♦
Player B wins the “Hi” hand for his (or her) Jack-high Straight using the 8♠ and J♣ and the “Lo” hand using the A♦2♣. Player A´s best “Hi” hand is two pairs (Aces and Tens) while they have no qualifying “Lo” hand.
Starting Each Hand
Each hand of Omaha Hi/Lo Poker begins with the two players to the left of the “button” (or “dealer”) paying forced bets known as the “Small Blind” and the “Big Blind” (in the Fixed Limit version of Omaha Hi/Lo Poker, these are known as the “Small Bet” and the “Big Bet”). The amounts paid by the “Blinds” are determined by the stakes being played for and the variety of the game. For example, in a game of $0.10/$0.25 Pot Limit Omaha Hi/Lo Poker, the “Small Blind” would pay $0.10, and the “Big Blind” $0.25.
Once the blinds/bets have been paid (and sometimes antes in the later stages of poker tournaments), each player receives their four hole cards and the first round of “pre-flop betting” begins with the player to the left of the Big Blind (or Big Bet). This player has the option of calling the Big Blind´s forced bet (in a game of $0.10/$0.25 this would mean paying $0.25 to remain in the hand), raising the forced bet (betting $0.50 or more) or folding their cards.
The pre-flop betting continues in a clockwise direction, with each player having the opportunity to call the Big Blind or any raises that have already been made, to increase the value of the pot by making a raise of their own, or to fold their cards. The round of pre-flop betting concludes when the players who have chosen to remain in the hand have paid equal amounts into the pot.
When the round of pre-flop betting is concluded and all the bets have been matched, the first three community cards dealt face upwards on the middle of the table – the “Flop”. Mindful that players can only use two of their hole cards to make the winning hands, it is usually too early to determine what the winning hands may be. However, the Flop can give players an indication of the strength of their hand.
Consequently, after the “Flop” has been dealt, there is another round of betting. Unlike the first round of betting, there are no forced bets; and also unlike the first round of betting the action starts with the first active player to the left of the “button”. Players have the options of “checking” if no bets have yet been placed, “calling” a bet made before them in the clockwise order of action, “raising” if they wish to increase the value of the pot, or folding their cards.
Once the post-flop round of betting is concluded and all bets have been matched, if any have been made, a fourth community card is dealt – the “Turn”. The Turn card can make a good hand into a better hand or reduce the number of outs that players have to create a winning “Hi” or “Lo” hand. Following the Turn, a further betting round follows – again starting with the first active player to the left of the “button” and with the same betting options as before – check, call, raise or fold.
In the popular Fixed Limit version of Omaha Hi/Lo Poker, the value of bets after the Turn is double the stake value of the two previous rounds of betting. Therefore, in a game of $0.10/$0.25 Fixed Limit Omaha Hi/Lo Poker, the betting after the Turn is conducted in multiples of $0.50.
The “River” is the last of the community cards to be dealt. Once this card has been dealt, each player can see the full strength of their hand compared to what other players may be holding. A last round of betting takes place between the players still active in the hand – again starting with the first active player to the left of the “button”.
Once any final bets have been matched and the round of betting is finished, the remaining active players have a “showdown”. Starting with the last player to bet or raise, each player takes it in turn to reveal or muck their cards (mucking is a good way of shielding your betting motives from your opponents if you cannot beat the hands shown so far). The players with the best five-card “Hi” and “Lo” hands of poker share the pot.
If there is no qualifying “Lo” hand, the player with the best “Hi” hand takes all the money; and, if there is a tie for either the “Hi” hand or the “Lo” hand, the respective pot is divided between the two (or more) players – the suits of the cards do not matter when determining if one hand is better than another. It is worth pointing out that not every hand has to go to showdown. If, in any round of betting, a player makes a bet which is not called, he (or she) collects both the “Hi” pot and the “Lo” pot.
My P.O.K.E.R. advice for Omaha Hi/Lo Poker varies slightly from the advice provided on other pages. This is because the dual-pot game often encourages more players to get involved in each hand and bet more freely. I played a lot of Omaha Hi/Lo Poker when I first started playing online poker, so I have compiled this advice from my own experiences and from observing other players around me.
Position – In Omaha Hi/Lo Poker, position is king – especially in Pot Limit Omaha Hi/Lo Poker. If you have an early position in the betting action, it is sometimes not a good idea to give away the strength of your hand by betting too much, too early. You could face a pot-sized raise later in the betting, which will help you determine whether you should call, raise or fold.
Opportunities – Understanding the opportunities for making very strong hands in Omaha Hi/Lo Poker can be exceptionally beneficial during the early rounds of betting – not just in relation to your own cards, but for your opponents´ cards as well. It can also be useful to know the relationship between your odds of making the best hand and the implied odds of how much you may have to pay to get to showdown.
Key Cards – I mentioned above that being dealt an Ace and a Deuce in your hole cards does not necessarily mean you are going to take down the “Lo” hand. Ideally your hand should comprise of a high pair, suited with lower value cards. This gives you more opportunities to take down a “Hi” pot with a Flush or Full House, while still being active in the “Lo” pot.
Education – Learning how to play Omaha Hi/Lo Poker can be very rewarding, but if you want to take your game to the highest level, you must educate yourself on the betting preferences of the players you most commonly meet at the tables. Taking notes on your opponents – and reviewing your own game – will make the difference between winning and losing over the long term.
Risk – One very important skill in Omaha Hi/Lo Poker – particularly when playing Pot Limit Omaha Hi/Lo Poker – is knowing the level of risk you can comfortably afford to take to remain in a hand. To calculate this risk, you need to take into account the betting preferences of the players around you, your position in the betting action and the strength of your hand IN THAT ORDER. Players-Position-Cards is a useful mantra to have in any form of poker, but no more so than when you are playing Omaha Hi/Lo poker.