Omaha Hi-Lo Beginners Guide Part 2

Gus Hansen
Gus Hansen: He's better than you.

Part one of this guide went over starting hand selection and key skills for playing Omaha Hi-Lo. Part two focuses on playing your hand on all streets.

  • Generally, you should only play hands that include an A-2, A-3 or 2-3 for low hand along with a high-card combination with strong nutable potential.
  • You should occasionally play A-4 suited and A-5 suited if the other two cards work well with the hand. This is a marginal hand at best, but can be a useful holding for mixing up your play.
  • Usually, do not raise in early position with your good A-2 hands. Instead, raise with them in late position when there are several callers in front of you. This type of raise builds the pot when you are likely to have the best hand going in. With an A-2 hand you want to encourage large pots with many runners. Getting quartered with A-2 with six players in the pot will be profitable, while it will lose you a significant amount of money when heads-up.

Naked Pocket Aces

You could raise with pocket aces and two high cards from an early position to limit the field, since this type of hand plays well short-handed, especially if the flop brings three high-value cards. At this point, the hand will play out the same as Omaha high, with you having the best hand.

Daniel Negreanu
Daniel Negreanu at the final table of the 2006 WSOP Event 8: Omaha High/Low Split.

An exception to raising in this context occurs in a situation where the raise is not likely to limit the field. In a game where the other players are going to be seeing a flop, regardless of the price (such as most online low stakes games), it is most beneficial to simply call. A pair of aces alone is not a high enough high to get too embroiled in the hand if three small cards peel off. You'll be playing a weak high hand for a poor percentage at half the pot.

With this type of hand it is very hard to scoop the pot, and you do not flop the nut low hand often enough to make this hand profitable. Hands such as A-2-3-4 rainbow are a marginal starting hand, and should be played diligently.

If you have the nut low with an A-4 or a 3-4, you're far more likely to take the whole low pot than with a more commonly played A-2. In a situation where A-2 is the second-nut low, only to a 3-4 or some other more random holding, you can gain a large number of chips from players who overvalue their low holdings.

At the same time, it can be a risky play to pump a pot with nothing but a nut low. Running into a player sharing your low will get you quartered for a significant loss on the hand. I can't stress this enough: always play for the high with low redraws.

You should only play this type of hand if you have two other good cards to go with your high pair, for example, if your hand is double-suited and/or has low potential, like a Q-Q-2-3 double-suited.

There is no reason to ever play a naked high pair such as a rainbow K-K-6-9. This hand is -EV in O8 because it only has a weak high, with no low draw.

Playing the Flop

Barry Greenstein
Barry Greenstein was playing O8 seriously long before many of us ever even heard of the game.

  • Count the pot and the number of outs you have to make your hand and then determine if it is profitable to draw.
  • You should only call with a drawing hand if you think you will get paid off if you hit. (This is solid poker advice, applicable to all forms of poker, not just O8.)
  • Consider which opponents you are up against and how they play their hands.
  • Be prepared to fold your hand on the flop. Amateurs give away too many bets seeing turns with low-probability hands.
  • Be ready to raise in a big pot if the flop gives you many different draws. A good example is if you hit a something like a weak flush draw, the nut low draw and an inside straight draw. You should then raise to force your opponents out and give your hand a better chance to win if you hit. If you are lucky enough to hit the inside straight giving you the nut high, it will be well disguised and you are likely to be paid off. However, be prepared to release your hand if there is heavy action behind you on the flop.
  • If you flop a straight or weak flush draw and there exists no chance for a low, you're best to fold, or play the pot cheaply.
  • If you flop the nut-flush draw and there exists no chance for a low, whether you call or fold is dependent on the odds - that is to say, on the size of the bet, size of the pot and size of the remaining stacks.
  • If there is a pair on the board, you should release your flush and straight draws. There is little worse in poker than paying to draw dead.

Playing the Turn

  • Play a straightforward (ABC) game.
  • In general, you should fold if there are three suited cards on the board and you do not have the flush.
  • It is best to fold if there is a pair on the board and you do not have trips or a full house.
  • You should fold if there is a potential straight on the board and you do not have a good draw for a better hand.
  • If you have the nut hand, you should usually attempt a check-raise.

Playing the River

  • You should play much the same as on the turn.
  • Play aggressively if you think you have the best hand.
  • Occasionally you can bluff if there is no possibility of a low hand.

Part three finishes the guide with a slightly more in-depth look into starting hands as well as some crucial odds and statistics and a quick chart explaining odds in relation to outs.

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