How to Play Omaha Hi-Lo Poker
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What is Omaha Hi-Lo Split-8-or-Better Poker?
If you know how to play pot-limit Omaha (or "Omaha high"), you are well on your way to learning how to play Omaha hi-lo.
As the name suggests, Omaha hi-lo is a "split-pot" version of Omaha poker in which players compete for both the "high" and "low" halves of the pot. Omaha hi-lo is usually played with fixed-limit betting and often turns up in "mixed game" formats like H.O.R.S.E. (in which Omaha hi-lo is the "O") or the popular 8-game mix.
You will sometimes see the game referred to simply as "Omaha 8" or even "O/8" or more elaborately as "Omaha hi-lo split-pot-8-or-better." The name gets styled differently, too, as "Omaha High-Low," "Omaha poker high-low" and so on.
Pot-limit and no-limit versions of Omaha hi-lo are also popular, especially online either as cash games or tournaments.
How to Play Omaha Hi-Lo Split-8-or-Better Poker
Just like in pot-limit Omaha, players are dealt four cards in Omaha hi-lo and are required to use two of those four cards in combination with three community cards in order to make a five-card poker hand.
As in hold'em or pot-limit Omaha, if a player bets and everyone folds before the showdown, the player wins the pot without having to show a hand. However, if the final bet is called and there is a showdown, hands are examined to see who has the best "high" hand and who has the best "low" hand, with each winning one-half of the pot.
Omaha Hi-Lo Split-8-or-Better Rules
In Omaha hi-lo, the "high" hand is determined exactly the same way as in hold'em or Omaha "high" games (like PLO), following traditional hand rankings.
The "low" hand requires a little more explanation, especially if you are new to split-pot games or hi-lo poker.
First of all, whatever cards you use to make your high hand, that makes no difference when making your low hand. You can use the same two cards, the other two cards, or any combination just as long as you use two cards from your four-card hand plus three of the community cards to build your five-card poker hand.
The rules of Omaha hi-lo is usually played with a "qualifier" for the low hand, meaning all of the cards making up a low hand have to be ranked eight or lower. That's where the "split-8-or-better" comes from, a phrase usually added to the name of the game.
A qualifying low hand consists of five unpaired cards ranked eight or lower. For the low hand, the ace is considered a low card (the lowest), while it can also serve as the highest-ranking card in high hands.
Also worth noting — if your lowest five cards make a straight or a flush, that doesn't matter in Omaha hi-lo, you've still got a low hand (if all are ranked eight or lower). In other "lowball" games like 2-7 no-limit triple draw, flushes and straights hurt you by making your low hand higher, but in Omaha hi-lo that is not the case.
That means a hand consisting of 5-4-3-2-A would be the lowest possible hand — that is to say, the best "low hand" in Omaha hi-lo. This hand is sometimes called a "wheel." The next lowest possible hand is 6-4-3-2-A. The worst low hand that qualifies as a low in Omaha hi-lo would be 8-7-6-5-4.
A good way to figure out which low hand is best is to arrange the hand from highest card to lowest card and then to think of the hand as a five-digit number, with the lowest number being the best (or lowest) hand. Thus 5-4-3-2-A (54321) is better than 6-4-3-2-A (64321), and 6-4-3-2-A is better than 6-5-3-2-A (65321) and so on.
An Example of an Omaha Hi-Lo Split-8-or-Better Poker Hand
Let's say a hand of Omaha hi-lo goes to showdown with the final board reading A♦6♣3♠K♦Q♦.
You hold A♣K♠7♦4♣, and your opponent has Q♠J♦4♦2♠.
Your best possible high hand is two pair, aces and kings — using the A♣ and K♠ in your hand pairing them with the ace and king on board, with the queen being a kicker.
Your best possible low hand is 7-6-4-3-A — using the 7♦ and 4♣ in your hand along with the three low cards on the board. Note how you can't use the ace in your hand when making your low hand, since you have to use exactly two cards in your hand and three on the board (and there is an ace on the board).
Your opponent, meanwhile, has you beat both for the high and the low!
Your opponent's best possible high hand is a flush — using the two diamonds in his hand (J♦ and 4♦) and the three diamonds on the board.
Your opponent's best possible low hand is 6-4-3-2-A — using the 4♦ and the 2♠ in his hand along with the three low cards on the board. 64321 is lower than 76431, so your opponent has you beat.
Winning both halves of the pot like this is called a "scoop" or "scooping," which is something you always want to try to do when playing split-pot or hi-lo poker games.
Sometimes in Omaha hi-lo there is no qualifying low hand. This is the case whenever there are less than three unpaired cards ranked eight or lower on the board.
For example, if the board is 9♣K♦A♥4♥J♠, there are only two cards ranked eight or lower on the board (the ace and four), which means it is impossible for anyone to make a low hand. When that happens, whoever has the best high hand scoops the whole pot.
Omaha hi-lo is not difficult to learn, especially if you already know how to play pot-limit Omaha. The strategy can be complicated, though, with a great deal of importance placed on understanding what are strong starting hands (e.g., hands containing an ace with at least one or two low cards, especially a deuce) and not making the mistake of battling for only half of the pot (just the high or low).