Omaha Hi/Lo (high/low) is often referred to as Omaha 8 Poker, and sometimes called “Omaha 8 or better” and “Omaha H/L.” Known for its large size pots, Omaha 8 Poker is a widely popular game that is played in many various venues all around the world. The similarity between Texas Hold‘em and Omaha 8 Poker are just as variable as their differences.
Omaha 8 Poker is often referred to as the “game of scoops” where players can win the pot with either a high or a low hand. Because of that, it is imperative to form effective strategies to use with every type of hand.
Omaha 8 Poker is one of the few games of patience that require a conservative and carefully thought out process. When played properly, Omaha 8 Poker can be one of the simplest games to win consistent money. However, it requires determined patience and a quality selected hand, every time.
Starting Hand Rankings
Starting hands in Omaha 8 Poker are often quite more complex than when playing Texas Hold‘em. The value of every hand rises significantly, making it easy to win having a high hand, or a low hand. Using a consistent, strong strategy, players can quickly become winners in Omaha 8 Poker. Many novices at the game tend to make considerable mistakes by betting far into the game when they believe nearly any hand they hold is a playable one. The following effective strategies work well for a pre-flop bet, or one that is placed before the community cards have been exposed.
· A Paired Hand – By the very nature that Omaha 8 Poker is played with four hole (pocket) cards, instead of the traditional two pocket cards of Texas Hold’em, nearly every hand will have pairs, or two suited cards together. Usually, these paired hands will be of a substandard quality, or a non-winning combination. Often times, professional gamblers will call these types of paired hands a “cash trap”. This is usually a result of the limitations of only being able to draw to a low end of the straight, or a non-winning flush draw.
· Premium Hands – The following premium hands should certainly be raised or re-raised when playing Omaha 8 Poker. They include:
o The A23x – Holding any combination of an A23x provides the best opportunity for winning the low hand, and also raising the possibility of winning the high hand. Any suited ace adds a significant bonus to the potential of winning big.
o Double Suited Aces – Usually, double suited aces improves the potential for producing a flush draw, “boating up” and/or hitting a set.
o A2xx Combined with the Suited Ace – Usually, this combination of a player’s hand with a suited ace increases the potential for winning when raising the bet before the flop.
· Quality Hands – Quality hands are those that are better than just a playable hand, but not quite as advantageous as a premium hand. They include:
o A2xx or A3xx – These combinations can be played to win the low hand, with a far-off potential of increasing the ability to win the high hand as well. In the event that the player does not improve a pair, a low draw, a flush draw or a set after the flop, they should consider folding their cards, once the flop has been exposed.
o Coordinated Big Pairs – These types of pairs can be significant. A big pair is defined as a hand with double pairs that include Jacks and above. Holding big pairs is significantly more advantageous than holding smaller pairs because they can generate the best full house. Holding strongly coordinated big pair hands increases the potential of flopping a strong flush draw or straight draw.
o Coordinated Low Cards That Include a Deuce – This type of quality hand increases the potential to improve a pair, a straight, a low draw, a straight draw or set, after the flop.
· Playable Hands – The definition of a playable hand is one where the player might simply call a small raise, but never one that would be used to call a raise-capped pot. A playable hand would never be used as a raise before the flop. They include:
o Big Pairs – Any JJ, QQ, KK or AA is considered a big pair. This playable hand will usually take the player past the flop. However, the hand is typically thrown away if a set has not been hit after the three community cards have been exposed.
o Suited Ace – When players hold suited aces, they typically hold on to their hand until after the flop to see if they can improve their hand with two pairs or trips.
o 23xx – Sometimes, it is very easy to hit the low with an ace exposed with the first three community cards. Therefore, many players stay in play until the flop and fold only if they do not get a straight draw, low draw, or two pair.
o 4 Low Cards Missing a Deuce – Players that hold a combination of four low cards that are missing a deuce (paired or unpaired) tend to stay past the flop, in an effort to make a set/straight.
· Cash Traps – Many inexperienced players fall into cash traps, with hands that are believed to be playable, but are not. It is essential to never play any of the following hands. Doing so tends to run up the value of the pot that is impossible for the player to ever win. They include:
o Two Pairs Disconnected – Typical disconnected pairs include 44-88 or 99-33. These non-playable hands have low or no potential, because they eliminate any possibility of a straight or flush.
o Junk Double-Suited Hands – These types of junk hands decrease the possibility of scooping the pot, and should be avoided at all costs.
o Middle Connections – Any hand that has a middle connection, like a 5679 or 6789 are simply not playable. The only combination for winning would be drawing to the high-end of a straight, or the bottom end. Either way, the player will lose the pot. Whenever the possibilities and potentials decline, it is best just to fold the hand before the flop is revealed.
o A Single Suited Big Card – Holding a single suited king or queen is usually a no-win strategy, and should be avoided.
o Low/Middle Pair and Junk – Due to the low potential and limited probabilities, any low/middle pair with a junk hand including 88-94 or 22-79 are usually just walk away hands.
· Junk Hands – A junk hand can be described as anything that is evidently unplayable, or simply an impossible way to win. These include nearly any jacks or lower three of a kind, or something like a 469Q. Traditionally, professionals will generally fold their hands pre-flop unless they are in the blind, which will provide them a free look at the flop. Any player that holds a junk hand should never be tempted to call the raise, as it is just a sucker bet.
In Omaha 8 Poker, quartering is a key concept to the game. The process of quartering is defined when a player has become eligible for receiving only one quarter of the entire, sizable pot. Usually, this happens when a player holds a nut-low, and the opponent holds a high-end of the pot with complementary cards. What happens is each player splits one-half of the total of the pot, receiving one quarter. The player that holds the best high hand will receive the other half of the total of the pot, plus their one-quarter of the pot, earned from the nut-low.
Quartering the pot with competing players is a crucial concept to becoming a successful player in Omaha 8 Poker. What is more, it allows the player to maintain a small pot at times when it is apparent they may be quartered by other opponents. If the player recognizes they may be quartered, they should never raise or re-raise the bet to their own nut-low, which will keep the winnings of their opponent to a minimum.
Playing Omaha 8 Poker can appear to be confusing at times. Even professional dealers at casinos struggle with making a determination of the best hand in a game. Omaha 8 Poker, or Omaha Hi/Lo, requires an understanding of the high hand, as well as low hand, combinations to determine a winner.
Because a player holds four cards initially, they often struggle with laying down even obviously weak hands, because of the far-reaching potential of making it better. Because the game has a split-pot structure it easily generates the illusion that a player has numerous hand combinations. However, in the end, the superior player will have far more options due to their strategy.
Much like the position strategy used in Texas Hold’em, it is essential that every move fit the specific hand the player is holding. Whenever the flop does not improve the hand, it is imperative to at least consider folding the cards. Being able to win by holding the lowest cards and the highest cards, Omaha 8 Poker offers a unique experience in a table game.
In Omaha 8 Poker, the strategy for developing a good hand before the flop is all based on the selection. Reading opponents, or using bluffing skills, holds little value in this game. It is essential to develop a good pre-flop strategy that focuses on developing the best hand possible, out of the four cards dealt before the flop.
If the player has been raised, they can assume their opponent has a high probability of holding one of three specific hands that include:
· The best possibility of a high hand
· The best possibility of a low hand with the potential of drawing to a high hand
· A high hand with an extensive possibility of drawing to a good low hand
Like the type of strategy used in most any poker game, holding a hand that is stronger than the opponent’s will always be required to call a raise as compared to just placing one. It is essential that the player only call a raise if they have a resilient belief that they are holding a stronger hand. If not, it takes patience, determination and skill to simply fold a bad, or weaker, hand.
Strategy for Playing the Turn
Part of any effective winning plan requires a strategy for playing the turn in Omaha 8 Poker. Once the player has reached the Turn, it is essential that they hold a very strong hand. It should include at least one combination of the following:
A hand that will be drawing to the best high hand
The best high hand achieved by the flop
The best nut-low hand achieved by the flop
A hand that is drawing to a nut low
The player believes they have a two-way hand that can be won two different ways
In the event that the player has the best possible hand after the turn, it is essential to start betting very aggressively. However, the player should never risk driving away other hands. This can be avoided by not raising, and instead, simply betting and calling. Due to the fact that Omaha 8 Poker does not really entertain bluffing well, continually raising a bet will likely push away players that could make the winning pot bigger.
Considering the pot odds is critical when holding a strong hand. Anytime the player is drawing to a better hand, they need to consider the potential of calling, based on pot odds. Anytime the pot odds exceed the odds of player’s hand, it is crucial to simply call the bet.
Strategy for Playing the River
Many traditional Texas Hold‘em players recognize that the flop is usually the place that reveals the defining moment of who holds the strongest hand, even if it is not recognizable to everyone in the group. In the game of Omaha 8 Poker, this is usually not as obvious. Playing the game with four potential hole cards, in combination with five community cards, will generate a huge varieties of flushes, straights, and full house possibilities, that simply never show up in the same large numbers when playing Texas Hold‘em.
When a player recognizes they have the best hand after the River card has been exposed, it is crucial to continually bet and raise, to increase the size of the pot. The player must believe their hand will win at least half of the pot. Because of that, an effective strategy is built on the foundation that the player can possibly steal the entire pot should there be no low hand in the group. However, effective betting while holding a good low hand is not as easy as it sounds.
If the player only holds a nut low, they should continually bet and raise, in an attempt to increase the size of the pot. However, if the player recognizes that an opponent also has the identical nut low, the results will be “quartered,” which will dramatically reduce the size of the player’s profit.
If the player has a two-way hand, and recognizes they have the best hand for winning in either direction, it is vital to bet as aggressively as possible, in the effort to scoop up all of the winnings in a huge pot.
Many newbie Omaha 8 Poker players typically produce the same mistakes, often with dramatically poor results. Some of the key mistakes they make include:
Continually raising before the flop
Betting on far too many starting hands
Participating in the game after the flop, when holding four middle cards including 5-6-7-8
Forgetting that the goal of the game is to scoop the pot
Not having the capacity to fold after the three card flop, even when it is the only option
Never playing premium or quality starting hands
Sitting in any Omaha 8 Poker table without watching the play beforehand (playing in tight games were five or more players never see the flop is a losing table)
Having the inability to calculate the odds of the pot
For any beginner player, it is essential to only play hands that contain four cards that are 9 or higher to achieve the highest hand. Mixing up the play requires an occasional hand where an A-5 or an A-4 is suited, with two other cards that strengthen the hand. Other advice includes:
Anytime a player has strengthened their hand from the flop, they should play far more aggressive than usual
All players should learn how to flop often, even with marginally bad hands
Strengthen the play when the hands have the ability to scoop the entire pot
If the player does not hold the hand with nut potential, they should avoid any play once the flop cards are revealed
If the player recognizes there is no low hand revealed, after the River card is exposed, consider bluffing
Bluff very infrequently
The player should consider playing any marginal starting hand where other players have already called
Omaha 8 Poker is an exciting and challenging game, with far more opportunity for winning than traditional Texas Hold’em. With a little effort, an effective strategy, and patience, any beginning player can quickly hone their skills.