Omaha High versus Omaha Hi-Lo

Gus Hansen
Gus Hansen: Omahalic.

Many players understand the rules of Omaha and basic strategy concepts, but are not sure how to play a split game.

This article lays out the similarities and differences in strategic approaches to each of the two Omaha variants. In the interest of saving keystrokes, I'll refer to the two games as

I can't tell you how often amateur O8 players make the following mistake: You should never make a naked bluff on the river in O8. If you have nothing, but have represented a strong high, the bluff is always a mistake.

The reason for this is simple, as the other player only has two options to choose from: they put you on a bluff, or they will believe your act and think you have a huge high to call you down with a weak low to save half the pot. Often their second or third nut low will include some sort of pair to scoop the high as well.

In O8, always remember that your opponent is not going to fold a low to you; don't bluff with air. Beginners should only ever semi-bluff in situations where they hold the nuts for half the pot, and are trying to force a fold to scoop the second half as well.

Bluffing in Omaha can be effective, but is an advanced play. With all the possible hand combinations available in a four-card game, your opponent will commonly have enough of a hand to want to call - far more frequently than in Hold'em.

Until you're able to make strong reads on your opponent, feel the texture of the board and understand the betting story, you will not be able to make bluffs with a high rate of success.

Drawn and Quartered

Although it's possible to share the best high hand with another player, it's somewhat of a rare occurrence. Playing for the nut high will typically give you half of the pot.

In O8 the low is most often won by a player holding A2 as their two low cards. For this reason, it is very common that the low is split between multiple players, all of whom hold A2 as the nut low.

Getting quartered is unique to high/low split games, and only very rarely happens in a split Stud game. O8 sees more players get quartered than any other game.

Beginner players get overzealous with the nut low, thinking they have a lock for half the pot. In the best-case scenario, you end the pot heads-up.

The other player is making the largest bets they can, and you're calling with your nut low. On the showdown, they win the high, but they also have the A-2 to share the low with you. You've now put in half the total amount of the pot to win one quarter.

The more players in the pot, the less of a share you will receive. It's crucial to treat the low as just a bonus to your strong high hand.

You should also work quartering into your O8 game plan. When you have the nut-nut (holding both the nut high and the nut low), and your high is obvious (there are three to a flush on the board) it can be common for another player with the nut low to put you on just the high and call any bets to take half the pot.

In this situation you want to take them to the cleaners and pump the pot to the maximum. Any player who feels they have a lock for half the pot will be willing to put in any amount of money.

The common theme between the two games is that you are playing a nut game. You need to be very strict in your starting-hand requirements, and play solid, tight, by-the-book poker.

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