There is a poker game growing in popularity due to the recent attention given to high stakes mixed games in Omaha Hi/Lo or what is sometimes referred to as Omaha Eight-or-Better. The “O” in HORSE, Omaha Hi/Lo is a split-pot game which awards half of the pot to the best “hi” poker hands and the other half to the best “lo” poker hands. Omaha Hi/Lo is typically played in a fixed-limit format, but can also be played as both a Pot-Limit and No-Limit game. Bigger online poker rooms like PokerStars spread it in all three forms as well as in their HOSE, HORSE, and 8-game. Those with a Texas Hold’em background will need to first understand the rules of the game and then move onto proper starting poker hand strategy.
If you are completely unfamiliar with Omaha, the following should clear up the differences between NL Hold’em and Omaha Hi/Lo. The most obvious difference is in the number of hole cards you are dealt. In Omaha (and Hi/Lo) you will receive four hole cards which will be used to make a five card poker hand. The board will be dealt identically to Hold’em with a three-card flop followed by a turn and river. In Texas Hold’em you are allowed to use 3-5 of these community cards to make poker hands but in Omaha you can only use 3. You can also only use two of the four cards in your hand to make a five-card hand. This can cause some confusion for those new to the game as players might feel they have a flush with just one of the same suit or could believe they have a full house by using four of the cards on the board. Remember, you have to use two (and only two) cards from your hand and three cards from the board.
In Omaha Hi/Lo the pot will be split at showdown as long as a low hand qualifies. In order to qualify you must have 5 unpaired cards 8 or lower. The Ace can play as both high and low and is the nut low card. The best low hand possible is the wheel, or A-2-3-4-5. It can be a bit confusing at first to figure out which low hand wins their half of the pot but you always start with the highest card in the low and work down. For example A-2-3-4-8 loses to 3-4-5-6-7 because the 7-low bests an 8-low. Understanding the poker hands order is vital to your success in Omaha Hi/Lo.
Poker Hands Order – Top Omaha Hi/Lo Hands
Below you will see the top 10 Omaha Hi/Lo starting hands. As you can see, having a Hi and Lo combination hand is very important. Your hand strength also goes up when suited or double suited, especially if the Ace is suited.
Aces/23 Double Suited
Aces/24 Double Suited
Ace Deuce Three Five
Poker Hands – Omaha
In Omaha Hi/Lo you can use all four cards in your hand if you are making both a high and low but you can only use two for each half of the pot. In some situations you might use the same two. For example, holding A2KK on a 3-4-5-X-Y board you would play the wheel for a straight (high half of the pot) as well as the nut low. This hand would guarantee you the low portion of the pot and could very well win the entire pot, or what is known as “scooping”. It would be possible to only win 1/4th of the pot (known as being “quartered”) if your opponent held a hand like A267 which makes the same low and a better straight. This is not as uncommon as you might think, especially in tougher games where players understand proper starting hand strategy. If you follow a strong poker hand order strategy you should be able to avoid those losing situations.
Most players coming from Texas Hold’em will understand starting hand strength and its importance in poker. However, the ability to choose the correct poker hands in Omaha Hi/Lo cannot be emphasized enough. There are two extremely important fundamentals to becoming a winning Omaha Hi/Lo player. First, choose starting hands which can make both a high and a low, and second, play the majority of your hands in later position. Employing the correct poker hand order and using position to your advantage can result in profits from Day 1. Reference the Omaha Hi/Lo Poker Hands Order table in this article, which will list the top-10 starting hands for this game.
To expand on the first rule, it is a great idea for new players to never play poker hands without an Ace. The Ace is such a powerful card in Omaha Hi/Lo as it gives you an opportunity to make the nut-low and it carries some high-hand strength in the form of nut flushes, top two pair, or even just a pair of Aces. However, you cannot make a low with just an Ace; you are going to need another card. In this case we are looking for a 2 or sometimes a 3, which gives us the best chance to make the nut low. Hands like A23x are strong starting hands as when a love is present they will always have the nuts and be guaranteed a portion of the pot. Hands such as A2xx with two other big cards are great two-way hands which can scoop. The best possible hand in Omaha Hi/Lo is AA23 with both aces suited. This allows you to flop a wide variety of strong hands and draws which you will allow you to play aggressively after the flop. Remember to check out the top-10 poker hand order below for more examples of good starting poker hands.
For the time being you should play very tight and get a feel for the game. Play the majority of hands in later position and come in raising when doing so. If you are interested in beating mixed games such as HORSE you will need to learn Omaha Hi/Lo.