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How to play Omaha Hi-Lo – Rules, FAQ, Strategy and Tips

Introduction

Omaha Hi-Lo 8-or-Better is in the same “family” of poker games as the most popular ones out there, No-Limit Hold’em and Pot-Limit Omaha. Evidently, as the name suggests, it’s a variation of the latter one.

All of these games award some of the pot to the player who has the best 5-card hand at showdown, made out of their hole cards and the 5 community cards (“the board”) in the middle. What is specific to this game type, Omaha Hi-Lo, is that half the pot goes to the best low hand.

If none of the players call a bet, the betting player takes the pot without a showdown – this once again applies to all the 3 poker games mentioned above.

Omaha Hi-Lo usually is third in ranking in terms of traffic in online poker rooms among the different game types, behind the aforementioned NLHE and PLO.

omaha-8


Basic Rules

If you play PLO, a lot of this is going to sound familiar.

You get dealt 4 cards face down. The small blind (the person left of the dealer button) posts the small blind, the big blind posts the big blind. The player sitting left to the big blind opens the action pre-flop.

A player can either call the blind (often referred to as “limping”, and it is not an advised strategy), fold their hand or raise. If they fold, their hand becomes dead, they can no longer win the pot, but nor do they have to put any more money in the middle either. If they raise, the other players have to match their raise if they want to stay in the hand.

If you play Pot-Limit Omaha Hi-Lo 8-or-Better, the maximum amount you can bet or raise is the same amount which was in the pot before you made your raise. The No-limit version of this game is also playable online, although the action is much more scarce. In the NL version, no such restriction is in place – you can bet or raise whatever is in front of you.

If at least two players remain in the pot after the pre-flop betting round, 3 cards – the flop – are dealt in the middle. Then there is once again an option to bet, starting from the person sitting left to the dealer button. If there is at least one caller or it “checks through”, meaning no bet is made, the turn, a single face-up card, is dealt on the board. Another betting round follows. The last street is called the river – the fifth and final community card is revealed. After one more round of optional betting, the showdown follows.

The showdown is where Omaha Hi-Lo rules get tricky.

The best high and the best low hand are awarded half the pot. The best low hand is the one with lowest unpaired high card in it, discounting straights and flushes. So the best possible low hand (the so-called “nut low”) is A2345 – this is what we call “the wheel” in Hold’em, but it’s sometimes called “the nut low” in O8. However, A2233 is no good – you can’t pair your low cards.

Not every pot is chopped in Omaha Hi-Lo since a low hand is not possible in every hand. In order for a hand to be considered “low” the highest card cannot be higher than 8 – hence the game’s name, “8-or-Better”.

So if the board is for example, JJ4 8 9, all the money in the middle will go to whoever has the best high hand, the hand that would win in regular Pot-Limit Omaha.

The reason for this is because you make your hand using 2 out of your 4 hole cards and 3 out of the 5 community cards in the middle. This means if there are no 3 cards on the board that are lower than 9 you cannot make a qualifying low hand.

The high hand is counted the same way as in Pot-Limit Omaha. 2 from the hole cards, 3 from the board. This is especially noteworthy when it comes to flushes. If you’re used to No-Limit Hold’em, beware that if there’s four of the same suit on the board and you’re holding one of that suit you still don’t have a flush! Once again, you have to use two of your four hole cards.

What is specific to O8 is since the Ace can be both the highest and the lowest rank in the deck, it is a very powerful card to hold.

You can have the best low and the best high hand simultaneously in this game. You take both halves of the pot in this case.

What’s more? The same hand can be the best high and low at the same time! Since straights are counted for high hands but not for the lows, A2345 can take the low pot and the high pot, if there are no higher straights, flushes, boats or quads at showdown.


History

Omaha games were first offered in the Golden Nugget Casino in Las Vegas, NV in 1982. The game type got popular quickly and was adopted by the World Series of Poker who’s been holding Omaha championships since 1984. The first ever Omaha Hi-Lo WSOP tournament was held in 1990.

Omaha Hi-Lo also became a regular feature in the popular mixed game events. It is part of the H.O.R.S.E games – the “O” stands for Omaha 8-or-Better – the 8-game, and the Dealer’s Choice tournaments.

Mixed games are poker games where the game type is changing after a given number of hands.


Notable O8 Professionals

It is hard to find a big name poker pro who specializes in Omaha Hi-Lo; however, there are plenty of great mixed game players out there who play a substantial amount of the game, mixed with other types of poker.

The likes of Daniel Negreanu, Shaun Deeb and Viktor “Isildur1” Blom often play these types of games, some of them even advocate for it publicly, claiming that mixed poker is superior to regular No-limit Texas Hold’em.

One of the biggest events in poker each year is the $50K Poker Players Championship at the WSOP, another tournament where multiple variants of poker are played, including Omaha Hi-Lo. Here, we have to mention Michael Mizrachi’s name – the man won that event no less than three times already!

As for exclusively O8 events, last year American poker pro Paul Volpe won the $10,000 Omaha Hi-Lo 8-or-Better tournament at the World Series of Poker, pocketing $417,921 along with his third gold bracelet.

 

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