A Complete Beginner's Guide to Omaha Hi-Lo Poker

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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.

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 sake of this beginner Omaha Hi-Lo Strategy guide we'll map out basic beginner strategy for playing O8 in a loose-aggressive cash-game. For the basic rules of how a Omaha Hi-Lo poker game works, check here:

How to Win at 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 that you should never ever raise before the flop, though.

omaha hi lo strategy

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

Key Advice for Limit Omaha Hi-Lo

Just like Omaha Hi, O8 is considered to be a nut game. Meaning that if you don't have the nut hand, there's a very good chance you will NOT win the pot.

For this reason you want to be very selective in the hands you play and only play 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're 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.

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Omaha Hi-Lo Starting Hands

The best starting hands in Omaha Hi-Lo are A-A-2-3 double-suited followed by A-A-2-4 double-suited. These are very strong because they can be played for both high and low, which gives them great scoop potential.

Of course being suited or (even better) double-suited adds value to every hand.

omaha hi lo strategy

With four cards in Omaha it is possible to create 16,432 unique combinations. This fact, combined with the possibilities of winning with both a low and a high hand, makes a top list of starting hands in loose O8 very different from those for other poker games.

Since there are so many more kinds of playable hands in loose Omaha Hi-Lo than in Hold'em, a list limited to the top 100 starting hands leaves out too many playable four-card combinations.

However, the following lists should provide you with a good idea of what types of starting hands are strong in loose Omaha Hi-Lo.

  1. A-A-2-x
  2. A-A-3-x
  3. A-2-3-x
  4. A-2-4-x
  5. A-2-x-x
  6. A-3-4-x
  7. A-A-x-x

It's essential that you consider how all of the hands above vary in strength, depending on the x-card/s and whether the hand is non-suited, suited or double-suited. In general, all of these combinations are strong hands in loose Omaha Hi-Lo.

For example, an A-2-K-K double-suited is significantly stronger than an A-2-Q-8 non-suited, even though both hands belong in the A-2-x-x category. Likewise, an A-A-K-K double-suited is quite a bit stronger than an A-A-Q-7 non-suited, etc.

  1. A-A-2-3 double-suited
  2. A-A-2-4 double-suited
  3. A-A-2-3 suited
  4. A-A-2-5 double-suited
  5. A-A-2-4 suited
  6. A-A-3-4 double-suited
  7. A-A-2-3 non-suited
  8. A-A-2-2 double-suited
  9. A-A-3-5 double-suited
  10. A-A-2-6 double-suited
Profitable Starting Hands in Omaha Hi-Lo
A-A-2-x
A-A-3-x
A-A-4-5
A-2-3-x
A-2-K-K
A-2-Q-Q
A-2-J-J
A-3-4-5
A-A-x-x
A-2-K-Q
A-2-K-J
A-2-x-x (suited ace)
A-3-K-K
A-3-4-x
2-3-4-5 (fold if there is no ace on the flop)
J-Q-K-A
T-J-Q-K
K-K-Q-J
Q-J-T-9
2-3-4-x (fold if there is no ace on the flop)

Don't Get Overzealous!

Omaha Hi-Lo 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.

omaha hi lo beginners

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.

Playing Your Hand on 5 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 "nut-making" 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, don't 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're 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.

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How to Play Pocket Aces in Omaha Hi-Lo

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.

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's most beneficial to simply call.

how to beat omaha hi lo

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's very hard to scoop the pot and you don't 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.

How to Play the Flop in Omaha Hi-Lo

  • 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.

How to Play the Turn in Omaha Hi-Lo

  • 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.

How to Play the River in Omaha Hi-Lo

  • 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.

Omaha Hi-Lo Odds and Statistics

The following examples of O8 odds are not meant for you to memorize. Knowing that a flop is 16.2% to come all low cards is no more helpful than knowing that it's somewhere around 15%.

Unless you're planning on designing some substantial odds-dependent prop bets, this knowledge is moot. These scenarios will, however, give you a general idea of the numbers, allowing you to play your hands accordingly.

  • If you hold a hand such as A-2-3-4, there is a 5.6% chance that the flop will not contain any low card, a 32% probability that it will include one low card, a 45.6% possibility that it will contain two low cards and a 16.2% chance that the flop contains all low cards.
  • If you have a high hand, the chance of a high flop containing two or three high cards is 30%.
  • You are dealt an A-2-x-x about 6.2% of the time and an A-2-3-x about 1% of the time.
  • If you hold an A-2 in a nine-handed game, there is a 36% likelihood that one or more players also hold an A-2.
  • In a nine-handed game about 50% of all players will be dealt a pocket pair before the flop.
  • If the board has not paired on the flop or the turn, it will pair on the river 27.3% of the time.

List of Outs to Help You Calculate Pot Odds

Number of Outs % On Flop (2 cards to go) % On Turn (1 card to go)
1 4.4 2.3
2 8.8 4.5
3 13.0 6.8
4 17.2 9.1
5 21.2 11.4
6 25.2 13.6
7 29.0 15.6
8 32.7 18.2
9 36.7 20.5
10 39.9 22.7
11 43.3 25.0
12 46.7 27.3
13 49.9 29.6
14 53.0 31.8
15 56.1 34.1
16 41.0 36.7
17 61.8 38.6
18 64.5 40.1
19 67.2 43.2
20 69.7 45.5
21 72.1 47.7
22 74.4 50.0
23 76.7 52.3
24 78.8 54.5
25 80.8 56.8
26 82.7 59.1
27 84.6 61.4
28 86.3 63.6
29 87.9 66.0
30 89.4 68.2

How to Play Omaha Hi-Lo Hands with A-2: A Case Study

Omaha Hi-Lo will often play any hand that contains an A-2 regardless of the other two cards. While a hand containing A-2 does indeed have potential for the nut low, you need to be careful playing just any A-2 hand.

Not all A-2 hands are created equal; here's some to stay away from.

omaha hi lo strategy

A-2 With Unsuited and Uncoordinated Cards

Hands with A-2 that are unsuited and uncoordinated are among the worst to play. Hands such as A-2-6-9 unsuited should only played sparingly. You're need to catch three cards for your straight and you're gapped as well.

If the deuce gets counterfeited, your hand is virtually worthless.

A-A-A-2 or A-2-2-2 

Three aces with a deuce or three deuces with an ace are also terrible A-2 hands. In most cases you should fold this hand unless in the blinds. Even getting a suited A-2 here makes playing the hand marginal at best.

In most cases, the only way you're going to scoop here is to either catch a wheel or catch the case ace (or deuce) and the board produce another pair.

A-2 with Non-Nut Flush Holdings

Hands such as A-2 with two non-nut suited cards are hands that should be played carefully. Even if you make the flush, chances are it will not win as it will be second best or worse.

Often, the only way you're going to win any part of the pot with this hand is to get low. In most cases, you're going to throw money away chasing.

A-2 with Coordinated Trap Cards

A-2 with either 6-7,7-8, 6-8, 8-9, or even 7-9 are hands that you probably should only play in the blind. Sevens through nines are considered trap cards in Omaha Hi-Lo that will often give you the 2nd best hand for high.

If the ace is suited, this hand becomes a bit strong, but then you're looking to get your flush and low rather than hoping for a middling straight.

Many of the above hands are ones that you should only play in the blind unless you're playing against really bad opponents. You don't not want to call a raise with them.

Yes, you are starting with the two best low cards but when you have little to go with them, you are gambling for 1/2 the pot at best. Remember that counterfeiting is a definite possibility in the game. Do you really want to gamble for 1/4th of the pot?

----------- 

Remember that not all A-2 hands are created equal and remember the above hands the next time you play. By playing these hands carefully, you will find yourself chasing less and avoiding big trap situations.

Where to Play Omaha 8 Online

Omaha and O8 are becoming more popular again. When the poker boom hit, a significant number of Omaha players moved to Hold'em, as that's where all the games and action were.

omaha hi-lo online

Now that everyone and his dog knows how to play Hold'em, though, interest in Omaha has been rekindled and it's much more commonly played.

As of mid 2008, a significant portion of online poker action, especially in the highest stakes on Full Tilt, is Omaha or O8.

Almost every major card room, both live and online, spreads Omaha as an alternate variation to Hold'em. Stud and its variants are most commonly limited to the larger American casinos, while Omaha is more universal.

Learning to play this game will open up the door for making massive profit against players unable to remove themselves from their Texas Hold'em mindsets.

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