Omaha Hi-Lo Beginners Guide Part 1

David Benyamine
David Benyamine: 2008 O8 WSOP World Champion.

Omaha Hi-Lo, or O8 as it's commonly called, is growing in popularity both live and online thanks to its heavy action and complexity of play compared to No-Limit Hold'em.

This article details basic beginner strategy for playing O8 in a loose-aggressive cash-game setting.

The majority of O8 games you will play - especially at the lower limits - will be very active and aggressive games, with upward of five players seeing a flop every hand. This is even common in many higher-limit games.

For the basic rules of how a Hi-Lo game works, refer to this article: More to Poker Than Hold'em Part 1: Omaha.

Key Skills for Winning at Limit Omaha Hi-Lo

  • Seldom raise before the flop.
  • Remember that your aim is to scoop the pot.
  • Be able to fold on the flop very often.
  • Play premium starting hands.
  • Select your table carefully. Only play in loose games where five or more players see the flop on average.
  • Hone your ability to quickly calculate accurate odds.

All of this advice is very general, but will serve you well if you apply it judiciously. Seldom raising before the flop does not mean it's incorrect to ever raise before the flop.

In a game like O8, with almost-guaranteed high, loose action, raising before the flop with anything less than a premium hand does little more than increase the size of the pot.

Ted Forrest
Don't let the shirt fool you: Ted Forrest is not 21 years old.

Key Advice for Limit Omaha Hi-Lo

Much as Omaha Hi is, O8 is considered to be a nut game. Meaning that if you do not have the nut hand, there is a very good chance you will not win the pot. For this reason, you want to be very selective in the hands you play, only playing hands with "nut" potential.

The most important thing to remember is the scooping advice. Your main goal in O8 is to win both the high and the low. In reality, scooping (winning both the high and low) is a difficult thing to do and, for the most part, rather rare.

When playing Omaha, your goal is to play for the high, with a redraw to the low. If you have the nut high, you are guaranteed half the pot. Holding nothing but the nut low still puts you at risk for being quartered, or worse.

Common Mistakes in Limit Omaha Hi-Lo

  • Playing too many starting hands.
  • Calling all the way with only a low potential.
  • Seeing flops with four middle cards, like 6-7-8-9.
  • Raising with A-2 in early position and making players fold instead of seeing the flop cheaply with more players in.

Starting Hand Guide for Limit Omaha Hi-Lo (full table, 8-10 players)

The best starting hands in Omaha Hi-Lo are A-A-2-3 double-suited, followed by A-A-2-4 double-suited. This kind of hand is very strong because it can be played for both high and low, which gives it great scoop potential. Of course, being suited or (even better) double-suited adds value to every hand.

Profitable starting hands
A-2-x-x (suited ace)
2-3-4-5 (fold if there is no ace on the flop)
2-3-4-x (fold if there is no ace on the flop)

'Miami' John Cernuto
"Miami" John Cernuto is something of an O8 specialist.

Any four cards between a ten and an ace.

Beginners may find themselves getting overzealous with any hand containing an ace-deuce. Although A-2 will make the nut low more often than any other two-card combination, it's a losing-money proposition to be overly aggressive with weak hands containing strictly low possibilities.

You're also better off folding hands that hold two gaps (for example A-4-5-9). The chances of making a straight are under 1% and you seldom win the low.

Hands like 3-4-5-6, 4-5-6-7, 5-6-7-8 and 6-7-8-9 also have a negative expected value. Omaha variants being the nut games they are, these sorts of middle-connected hands are useless. They have a very low possibility of making the nuts and thus should not be played.

High pairs with two random cards like K-K-x-x or Q-Q-x-x are rarely, if ever, playable on a full table, although a high pair with two low cards that also make your hand suited or double-suited is playable in most games.

For example K-K-2-4 double-suited is a playable hand with decent scooping potential. Be sure not to over-value the hand when hitting second nuts.

Part two of the beginners guide to Omaha Hi-Lo will go into basic strategy and play on all five streets, plus how to put your starting hand selection into use.

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