Omaha is the 2nd most popular poker game, like Texas Hold-em it uses the three card flop, 4th turn card and 5th river card as community cards. But instead of two hole cards in Omaha you get four. The hi-lo version of Omaha is used in HORSE games.
We will define the basic rules of Omaha and differences with Omaha hi-lo, followed by a detailed segment on the best Omaha Hi-Lo Starting Hands.
Omaha Hi-Lo Poker Rules
In Omaha a player must use two of their hole cards with three of the board or community cards. At the showdown all four hole cards must be shown to win the pot. Unlike hold-em it is not possible to just play the board as your hand must contain two of your hole cards.
In variations like Omaha High / Low split, 8 or better, the players must use any combination of two hole cards and three from the board to make the best high hand and another or possibly the same combination to make the best low hand. For a qualifying low hand, a player must have 5 cards 8 or lower with no pair.
Omaha Hi-Lo Basics
Omaha Hi-Lo is a Hold-em poker game where two winning hands split the pot – the High Hand and the Low Hand.
High Hand: Strongest ranking 5-card poker hand wins.
Low Hand: Lowest 5-card hand, with no card higher than 8, wins. Aces are low and Straights/Flushes don’t count. If no hand meets this criteria, no one has a Qualifying Low Hand, and the High Hand winner gets the whole pot.
Hand Development Rules: Players must exactly 2 Hole Cards and 3 Community Cards to develop the best possible 5-card poker hands. The same cards do not need to be used for the High and Low hands, so long as they contain 2 hole and 3 Community Cards each.
To start the hand, Small Blind and Big Blind bets are placed. Each player is then dealt 4 Hole Cards (face down), followed by the first betting round.
The Flop: 3 Community Cards are dealt face up in the centre of the table. Community Cards are combined with Hole Cards to create the best possible 5-card High and Low hands. Another round of betting takes place.
The Turn: One more Community Card is dealt, then another round of betting.
The River: A fifth and final Community Card is dealt, followed by the final betting round.
The Showdown – High Hand
All players (those who didn’t Fold yet) combine 2 Hole Cards with 3 Community Cards and reveal their highest ranking 5-card poker poker. Highest hand wins half of the pot.
The Showdown – Low Hand
Once again, players combine 2 Hole Cards with 3 Community Cards to develop the lowest possible hand. The lowest hand wins the other half of the pot. If no player has a Qualifying Low Hand, the High Hand winner is awarded the entire pot.
Note that it is possible for the same player to win both hands, High and Low – known as ‘scooping’ the pot.
Omaha Hi-Lo Starting Hands
The most important aspect of an Omaha Hi-Lo strategy is Starting Hand selection. The fact is, some starting hands have a higher probability of resulting in a win than other starting hands. The Omaha Hi-Lo starting hands with a high probability of winning are known as Premium Starting Hands. As a novice Omaha Hi-Lo poker player, you should immediately fold any hand that is not considered a good starting hand.
A good Omaha Hi-Lo starting hand should be structured well enough to potentially win both the High and Low Hands. The fact is, winning only half of the pot is not nearly profitable enough to maintain a positive chip balance when you consider how many hands you will either fold or lose in between your winning hands.
A player should always look to scoop the pot, but absolutely never move on if your only good Hole Cards relate to a low hand; A-2 for example. If at least three cards of 8 or below (no pairs) do not come on the board, no player will Qualify for the Low Hand.
It is also common for the low hands to tie, meaning you’ll only collect half of the Low Hand pot. Again, Low Hands are not nearly as valuable as High Hands.
With that said, let’s go over the best Omaha Hi-Lo Starting Hands…
Your 4 Hole Cards should be coordinated in as many ways as possible – for Straights, Flushes, etc. a perfect example would be…
This hand has the potential for 3 or 4 of a Kind in Aces, a Flush in Hearts or Clubs, an Ace-High Straight and the perfect Low Hand, A-2-3-4-5. A Full House is always possible if the board cooperates.
There should be at least three options for improvement in order to make a good Omaha Hi-Lo Starting Hand. You should have some kind of Straight potential, two suited cards (one or both high) for Flush potential, plus one other improvement option.
Because each player has 4 Hole Cards to work with, it is very common for the winning High Hand to be at least a Straight. A Pair rarely wins in Omaha Hi-Lo. A 3 of a Kind might win on occasion, but without a strong enough hand, there is no reason to move on. Fold and wait for better holdings. Chasing the pot with second best will get you nowhere in Omaha Hi-Lo.
To continue developing please read our Omaha Hi-Lo Strategy Guide