Omaha Hi-Lo is a very intense poker variant that should not be entered into lightly. The hand development rules and payout structure of Omaha Hi-Lo may be simple enough to learn, but can take quite some time to master.
If you’d like to start playing Omaha Hi-Lo, or have already started, but want to apply a winning strategy, you’ve come to the right place. We have developed a 3-part strategy guide that will assist players in integrating the proper tactics to decrease chip loss and maintain steady profits.
Omaha Hi-Lo Beginner Strategy
We highly recommend starting with the beginner strategy, invoking all strategies with success before moving to the intermediate, and then advanced strategies.
let’s get on with the Omaha Hi-Lo Beginner Strategy.
Because of the complexity of Omaha Hi-Lo, a player should never start out with high stakes games. Instead, scour the poker lobby for a cheap table, no higher than $0.05/$0.10. Fixed Limit is recommended, as No Limit and Pot Limit can become incredibly expensive, despite the minimal stakes.
Importance of the High Hand
So many players will look at their hole Cards, see a great opportunity for a Low Hand, and immediately choose to stay in the pot – even raising from these holdings. What they don’t usually realize is that the board MUST reveal at least 3 cards of 8 or lower, with no pairs involved, for anyone to qualify for a winning Low Hand. There’s about a 30-35% chance of this occurring.
Without a decent combination of Hole Cards for High Hand development, holding A-2 means relatively nothing.
Something else often overlooked by novice Omaha Hi-Lo players is that even if the board does cooperate, and your Low Hand becomes a Qualifier, another player may easily tie your Low Hand. Should this occur, you’ll only bring in half of the Low pot. This greatly decreases the overall value of Low Hands in Omaha Hi-Lo.
Simply put, focus on High Hand development, especially in Starting Hand selections. It is the key to becoming a consistent winner in Omaha Hi-Lo.
Patience & Discipline
This is perhaps the most important element of any poker strategy. A player must have the patience to wait for a great Starting Hand, and the discipline to maintain focus and composure when the cards aren’t falling in your favour for an extended period of time. Long downswing’s happen to every poker player, but it is those that display adequate patience and discipline that turn these expansive periods of boredom into monumental gains.
Omaha Hi-Lo Intermediate Strategy
In the previous section we discussed the importance of the “High Hand” in Omaha Hi-Lo, as well as the value of starting at the lowest stakes and the quintessential need for patience and discipline.
In this section, we’ll further your knowledge covering knowing the “Nuts” – both High and Low – Sequence Betting and knowing when to raise the bar (moving up to higher level stakes).
Knowing the Nuts
A good poker player should always know the Nut – that being the best possible hand a player could be holding, according to the Community Cards on the table. In Omaha Hi-Lo, establishing the Nuts is a double effort, as you’ll need to find both the High Hand Nuts and the Low Hand Nuts.
High Hand Nuts: Finding the Nuts isn’t nearly as hard as it may sound. Simply observe the cards on the board and determine what 2 Hole Cards would make the best possible hand. For example, with Ah-Jd-Kd on the Flop, the Nuts would be an Ace High Straight. If 5d fell on the Turn, the Nuts would become an Flush in diamonds, Ace-high being best.
Let’s try something more difficult – the Flop: 3h-8d-Kc
There are no suited cards and no connectors. What are the Nuts? A set of Kings would be the best possible hand. Next would come Top and Middle Pair (Pair of Kings + Pair of 8s).
One last example – the Flop: 4h-9d-9s
the Nuts would be a Full House, 9s over 4s. Remember that anytime there is a Pair on the board, a Flush becomes a possibility.
Low Hand: In Omaha Hi-Lo, the Low Hand Nuts are pretty simple to find, since there are only so many possibilities for a Qualifying Low Hand. If the board does not offer three cards (no pairs) of 8 or below, there simply cannot be a Qualifying Low Hand.
Example – the Flop: 4-9-2
the Nuts would require an Ace-3 in the Hole, but the hand cannot be complete unless another low card falls. If a 5 comes on the Turn, the Nuts remain the same, A-2-3-4-5. This is the best possible hand in the Low Hand development of Omaha Hi-Lo.
Another example – the Flop: A-4-7
the Nuts would be 2-3 in the hole for A-2-3-4-7.
Why are the Nuts so important, you may ask ? Because too many inexperienced poker players do not even realize they are holding the best possible hand, resulting in a guaranteed win. Without this information in mind, you could end up folding an amazing hand to a threatening Raise, or under-betting the pot when you could have drawn in a lot more chips before the Showdown. Like we said, a good poker player always knows the Nuts.
Knowing the best move at each betting round will decrease your rate of chip loss and increase your overall profits substantially. We covered Pre-Flop play in the Omaha Hi-Lo Starting Hands guide and Omaha Hi-Lo Beginner Strategy. At the Intermediate level, we will cover Post-Flop, Turn and River betting.
As a quick refresher, we should already know that without a good High Starting Hand, you should not even be attempting to see the Flop. A Low Starting Hand, without a High Hand to back it up, holds little or no value.
Post-Flop: this is a relatively easy decision to make. Either the Flop improved your hand, and you should move on; or the Flop did not improve your hand, and you should Fold. An improvement is considered a Made Hand (one that needs no further improvement, such as a Straight, Flush, Full House, etc.), or a one-away Draw Hand (needs only one card for a Made Hand). If you would require two cards for a Made Hand, it’s rarely worth the extra chips to find out if your Outs going to fall.
Another way to look at Draw Hands is how many Outs you have. If you have only one Out, as in the case of an Inside Straight, don’t bother. However, if you’re one card away from a Full House, Flush or Outside Straight, there are as many as 21 Outs that could give you the monster finish. The more Outs you have, the higher the recommendation of moving forward.
So far, we’ve been talking about High Hands. To move on with a good Low Hand (without a High Hand to back it up), you must have an amazing hand. This means at least 4 very low cards with no pairs. If the board offered only 2 low cards, you still have a chance at two more, but if you are holding something like 6-8 in the Hole, it’s not worth it. Someone is going to have you beaten if the board gives a third low card. If you’re holding A-2, you should only move on if it’s fairly cheap (or free) to do so.
Turn: On the turn is when you really need to strap down a decisive nature. If you were working on a Draw, and the turn didn’t bring it, it’s time to bluff your way to victory, or get off the wagon. Bluffing will only work if a strong scare card hit on the turn, like an Ace or a third same-suit card. Also consider someone else may have hit the hand your bluffing, so be warned. It’s usually best to fold at this point unless it’s still very cheap to move on.
With a strong hand, place a valiant bet/raise and eliminate any other Draw Hands in the mix. If you have a Made Hand, or the Nuts, slow play it and draw as many chips as you can into the pot.
River: It’s all or nothing at this point – you have it or you don’t. Unless you bluffed on the Turn, you should already have a strong enough hand to move on with. If it’s a sure winner, make your strong move here. If not, stay conservative and hope for the best. If you were bluffing and no one fell for it, you have two options – perpetuate the bluff and risk everything with an all-in push (NOT recommended) or Fold out, saving what you have for a better hand (and stop bluffing for awhile
Raising the Bar (Stakes)
Knowing when it is time to raise your stakes level is very important in Omaha Hi-Lo, or any poker variant for that matter, and is generally a tough lesson learned by trial and error. Instead of making this costly mistake too early, heed our advice here.
A poker player should never increase the stakes level until he or she is winning “consistently”. The consistency part is extremely important. When this is achieved, only move up one stake level. Do not jump from $0.25/$0.50 up to $10/$20. The competition is entirely different at these levels. Working your way up one level at a time until you’ve reached consistent profits per level is the only way to maintain the exponential growth of your bankroll. If you move up a level and find that you are not ready for this skill level, don’t be afraid to drop back down to your previous level of success. A good poker player always knows his limits.
Omaha Hi-Lo Advanced Strategy
In this final section we will reveal the key elements of an advanced Omaha Hi-Lo strategy. These include appropriate Bluffing and Semi-Bluffing techniques, reading your opponents, and keeping yourself under the radar.
Bluffing is a classic poker strategy used by just about every poker player in the world. The difference between an experienced and inexperienced bluffer is the timing and frequency of bluffing. For starters, you never want to bluff too often. Once you are labelled a bluffer, your chances of pulling off another successful bluff at the table are slim to none. Secondly, timing is everything!
The best time to Bluff is Pre-Flop from late position (On the Button, Small Blind or Big Blind) when no other player before you has shown certainty in their holdings. This means all previous bettors have either folded their hand or are simply limping in (calling the Blind). Place a moderate to large Raise, and each opponent should fold, proffering the Blinds and any limped calls to your stack.
Another good time to Bluff is after the Flop/Turn/River, when a scare card hits the board. A scare card is generally an Ace, King, or the third same-suit card to fall. Again, this is best done from late position when no other player is attacking the pot. It is a very good idea to be able to read your opponents (see “Reading your Opponents” below), giving you a more precise prediction of how each player will react to a bluff at any given time.
Semi-Bluff is pretty much the same as a Bluff, except that you should actually have a decent hand to fall back on. For instance, top Pair is not the strongest hand in the book, but it wins often enough to be a valid betting hand. Using the same techniques as above, the Semi-bluff can be a very effective way of scaring others away from a pot.
Reading your Opponents
This is one of the most proven poker strategies of all time. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as reading a manual and suddenly being able to read your opponents, predicting their every move. Reading your opponents takes time and practice. However, once you become accustomed to the consistent behaviour of different player types, it can become second nature.
You are looking for patterned behaviour, such as betting high from every late position opportunity. This points to a bluffer. You should call them out and see how they react. Some players are tight, meaning they fold around 905 of their starting hands. These players require a strong hand to go up against, because they only stay in a hand when they have a great starter, or a monster after the Flop.
Loose players are also easily recognized as they love to see the Flop. If it helps them, they’ll stay in, even with a moderate Draw hand. If it does nothing for them, they still may stay in if it’s cheap enough to do so. These are the easiest players to siphon chips from, but you must be careful. As a loose player, they will often get lucky on Draw Hands. You’ll have to play a tight game against them to wipe them out.
Staying Under the Radar
Staying under the radar refers to a reverse of the last section; reading your opponents. Just as you are reading them, you can be certain they are trying to read you. Don’t let this happen. Be unpredictable, changing up your playing style on a regular basis. Don’t always bluff in late position. Don’t play a consistently tight or loose game. If you can keep them guessing, you’ll take the upper hand every time.