How to Play Omaha Hi-Lo
How to Play Omaha Hi-lo
Kick your poker action into high gear with Ignition Casino’s Omaha Hi-lo – a game with big pots and two ways to win. This might be the most action-packedof the three “flop” games available at Ignition. Once you learn how to play Omaha Hi-lo, the world of poker is going to open to you like never before. But to learn the game, first you have to learn the Omaha Hi-lo rules. This handy guide will take you through the basics; you’ll learn the history of Omaha Hi-lo, the rules to the game, and a simple Omaha Hi-lo strategy to get you started.
Introduction to Omaha Hi-Lo
Omaha Hi-lo is a special version of Omaha Hold’em, a game originally introduced by casino executive Robert Turner in the early 1980s. When Turner was managing the Horseshoe card room in Gardena, California in 1986, he introduced a mixed version of Omaha; one round would be the standard game, then the next would be a “split-pot” variant, where the pot was divided evenly between the best high hand and the best low hand. The split-pot round proved popular enough to stand alone as its own game.
If you already play Omaha for real money, you know how great “four-card” poker can be. The game gets even better when you have both the high and low hands to chase after. But even if you’re a dedicated Texas Hold’em player who’s thinking about exploring new games, making the leap to Omaha Hi-lo shouldn’t be too difficult. All three flop games at Ignition share most of the same elements of gameplay. We're going to give you the lowdown on how they're different so you can adjust your play.
Difference Between Hold’em and Omaha
The first step in learning how to play “high low” poker is to figure out the “high” part. If you know the standard Texas Hold’em rules, you pretty much know how to play Omaha High. The key difference is that you start with four hole cards instead of two. Your mission is to create the best possible poker hand using exactly two of your hole cards, and three of the community cards that are dealt face-up on the table.
While this one rule change is simple enough to understand, it has a dramatic impact on your basic Omaha strategy. All those extra cards make it a lot easier to complete a big hand; while something like Top Pair-Top Kicker may be worth betting on the flop, turn and river in Texas Hold’em, you’ll be lucky to get a single street of value from TPTK in Omaha. When you do get one of those big hands, like a Straight, you can get yourself in trouble if you don’t have the best Straight available. And even if you have the nut Straight, one of your opponents could have those same two cards you’re using, plus a draw to an even better hand like a Flush or a Full House. Never bring a knife to a gunfight when you’re playing Omaha poker.
Difference Between Omaha Hi-Lo and Omaha
Once you’ve got Omaha High figured out, it’s time to work on the other half of Omaha Hi-lo. This is the most difficult part of learning the game, but again, if you know how to play the other poker variants, you shouldn’t have too much trouble adapting. The main difference between Omaha and Omaha Hi-lo is, of course, the split pot. With Omaha Hi-lo, half the pot goes to the player with the highest hand, and the other half to the player with the lowest hand – if there is one, which we’ll explain in a moment.
Omaha Hi-Lo Rules
When Omaha Hi-lo poker first came out, and for decades before that, the most popular game in California card rooms was lowball poker. Instead of trying to make the best hand, players would try to make the worst hand possible. In the case of California lowball, the worst hand possible is Five-Four-Three-Deuce-Ace; Straights and Flushes don’t count in California lowball, and the Ace is always the low card.
These “Ace-to-Five” lowball rules are the same rules that were folded into Omaha Hi-lo. You can use any two of your hole cards to make the low hand, and any two for the high hand. They don’t have to be the same two hole cards for both halves – as long as you are using two hole cards and three community cards to make up your 5-card hand, you're ready to get in on the action. If there’s a tie for either the high or the low, that half of the pot will be split among the winners on that side.
Omaha Hi-Lo Variations
We mentioned earlier that the pot in Omaha Hi-lo only gets split if someone makes a low hand. That’s because there’s an important restriction in the most popular version of this game, and the one that’s played here at Ignition: All the low cards have to be “Eight or Better.” That means the face value of each card can’t be higher than Eight. You’ll sometimes hear this game referred to as Omaha Eight or Better, Omaha-8, or simply O8 for short.
You might encounter different versions of Omaha Hi-lo if you play at a live casino. Old-schoolers sometimes play the game without the “Eight or Better” restriction, which means there will always be a low hand at the end. Five-card and Courchevel versions of Omaha Hi-lo have also found their way to the table over the past decade. Each variant requires a slightly different approach with your poker strategy, but once you’re familiar with Eight or Better, you’ll be well on your way to mastering all forms of Omaha.
Best Hands in Omaha Hi-Lo
Now that you know the rules for both the high and the low hand in Omaha Hi-lo, you know how to figure out which hand wins. The high poker hand uses the same standard poker hand rankings as Texas Hold’em, with the Royal Flush (Ace-King-Queen-Jack-Ten of the same suit) at the very top, and High Card (no paired cards, no Straight or Flush) at the very bottom. The low poker hand uses the California lowball rules mentioned above; Five-Four-Three-Deuce-Ace is the nut low, and Eight-Seven-Six-Five-Four is the least powerful low hand you can make.
New players can get tripped up sometimes with reading the board and figuring out the low hand, especially when they’re on the clock and running out of time to act. If you have an Ace for your lowest card and someone else has a Deuce, that doesn’t necessarily mean your hand wins; you could have Eight-Seven-Six-Five-Ace, and your opponent could have Six-Five-Four-Three-Deuce, which is a significantly better hand for the low. To avoid confusion, always read your low hand starting with the highest-ranking card, as we’ve done in these examples. For extra help, pretend the five card values in question are part of the same 5-digit number, and whichever player has the lowest number wins. In this case, your 8765A is a higher number than 65432, so your opponent has the low hand.
Omaha Hi-Lo Poker Games
When you're ready to hit the felt, take a look at the stakes of the games being played at Ignition Poker; this will tell you how much money you can expect to see in the pot, and how big you’ll be betting. There are three different betting limits for Omaha Hi-lo:
Fixed-Limit Omaha Hi-Lo Rules:
The amount wagered for each round is pre-determined in Fixed-Limit Omaha Hi-lo. For example, $2/$4 Fixed-Limit features $2 bets (the small bet) on the pre-flop and on the flop, and $4 bets (the large bet) on the turn and river. Fixed-Limit is the most popular way to play Omaha Hi-lo, especially when it’s part of a larger mixed-game rotation.
Pot-Limit Omaha Hi-Lo Rules:
The most you can bet with Pot-Limit stakes is the total pot size, which includes any amount that has already been bet into the pot on the current street. The stakes in Pot-Limit Omaha Hi-lo refer to the size of the blinds; a $2/$4 PLO8 game has a small blind of $2 and a big blind of $4.
No-Limit Omaha Hi-Lo Rules:
Just like No-Limit Hold’em, you can now bet any amount from the minimum to the size of your entire stack. As with Pot-Limit Games, the given stakes tell you how big the blinds are. Let’s take a look at some specific stakes to show you how they work within the game flow of Omaha Hi-lo.
Omaha Hi-Lo Poker Betting Rounds
Once again, assume we’re playing $2/$4 Fixed-Limit Omaha Hi-lo. The game starts with the small and big blinds being posted; the small blind is $2, paid by the player sitting left to the Dealer, and the big blind of $4 is paid by the next player to the left. Once the blinds are posted, each player is dealt four cards, face-down, and the first round of betting takes place, starting with the player to the left of the big blind. Players can raise, call, or fold as they see fit.
After the first round of betting is finished, if there are still at least two players in the hand, the Dealer will reveal the flop, which contains the three community cards. The player to the left of the Dealer, either the small blind or the next person on the left who’s still playing, starts the action by betting, checking (a de facto bet of zero chips), or folding – although it wouldn’t make much sense to fold as the first player to act. Once that player has acted, the next player to the left can either bet, check or fold if a bet hasn’t already been made. If the previous player did bet, the next player can either raise, call or fold. The players continue taking turns clockwise around the table until everyone has acted and the action is closed.
If the hand has yet to be won at this point, the fourth card, called the turn, is revealed next, and this begins another round of betting. Remember: In Fixed-Limit games, the amount that players can bet doubles once you reach the turn. Play continues clockwise around the table until the action is closed, and if necessary, the fifth and final card revealed by the Dealer is the river, which prompts the final round of betting.
After all the betting rounds are complete (or once everyone except one player has gone all-in), the showdown takes place between the remaining players in the hand. Whoever closes the action gets to see their opponents’ hands turned over first; if all five community cards have been dealt and that person sees that they have a losing hand, they can choose to show their cards or fold without showing, also knowns as mucking. If that player sees instead that they have the best hand, they must turn over their cards to collect their winnings.
If the showdown takes place before all five community cards have been dealt, once the other hands have been revealed, the player closing the action will turn over their hole cards, and the Dealer will provide the remaining community cards. Then the winner is declared. The player(s) with the highest 5-card hand takes half the pot, and the player(s) with the lowest qualifying 5-card hand takes the other half. If no player qualifies for the low hand, the player with the highest hand wins the entire pot.
Omaha Hi-Lo Strategy
When you’re at the table playing Omaha Hi-lo, you’ll make most of your money when you’ve got the nuts and your opponents call with worse hands. As with most split-pot games, it’s the low side that drives the action in Omaha Hi-lo. Almost all the hands you start with, in this game will contain an Ace; most will contain another low card, preferably a Deuce, so you can draw to the nut low. You’ll be playing these hands quickly with bets and raises – for the most part.
Don’t ignore the high side, though. That Ace in your hand plays as a high card for this half of the pot, making it incredibly valuable. Having two Aces is even better. The best starting hand possible in Omaha Hi-lo is Ace-Ace-Deuce-Three double-suited, giving you a Pair of Aces and two nut Flush draws (plus a backdoor Straight draw to the wheel, which is also the nut low in O8). Again, if you have the best possible high hand pre-flop or on any street, you’ll usually be putting as much money into the pot as you can.
But not always. If you have a starting hand that’s only good for either the nut high (say, Ace-Ace-King-Queen double-suited) or the nut low (Ace-Deuce-Five-Seven rainbow), you want to have as many players putting money in the pot as possible, so when you collect your half of the pot, you’ll get back more money than you put in. This may require some slowplaying with checks and calls, rather than the bets and raises that might chase away your opponents. You can even limp in pre-flop with these one-way hands – something that’s generally not recommended in Texas Hold’em and Omaha.
Bluffing in Omaha Hi-Lo
Bluffing opportunities in Omaha Hi-lo may appear rare at first blush since it’s a split-pot game with four hole cards instead of two. However, this actually works to your advantage when it’s time for a little subterfuge. Blockers play an elevated role in this game; if you have cards that make it less likely for your opponent to scoop both the high and the low, your bluff will have a much greater chance of getting through.
Also, since Omaha Hi-lo is a split-pot game, the community cards will often give you the window you need to run a sick bluff. If all three cards on the flop are higher than Eight, no low hand is possible, so you’ll have a better chance of getting your opponents to fold. Even a single low card on the flop might be enough to discourage other players from calling with their low draws. As with any other poker variant, pick your spots and bluff only when it makes sense – not just because you feel like being tricky.
And there you have it. You now have all the basic knowledge you need to play Omaha Hi-lo at Ignition. You know how this great game got started, the rules you need to follow, how to tell who wins, and the first strategic steps towards making sure that winner is you. Give this thrilling game a try today, and don’t be surprised if Omaha Hi-lo becomes your new favorite poker game.