Omaha High-Low is unique in that it plays great with fixed betting limits, with pot-limit betting or with no-limit betting rules. With each pot getting split between the best high poker hand and qualifying low hand at showdown, the strategy for this game is fascinating too. This article covers key strategy tips for players new to Omaha Hi-Lo. These will stop you making classic beginners mistakes and help you win money at the tables.
First of all, a big error is covered – playing far too many starting hands. This is followed by a section on what starting hands are the best to choose. Next the importance of scooping the pot is discussed, there are two different methods of doing this. Getting ‘quartered’ is a big problem in Omaha Hi-Lo and spotting situations where this can happen will save you a lot of chips. Finally you will find some words of warning about drawing to a low hand when heads-up.
With a low pot and a high pot up for grabs in most hands, many players play too many starting hands in this game. They take everything with the potential to make a high hand, then add in those with low potential on top. This can leave new players with 50% or even more of all hands being played.
It is even more important when you are new to a game to stop the big leaks of chips, and playing too many hands is the biggest leak of all. Instead you should play only the very best high hands and make sure that the low hands you choose have some potential to make good high hands on top.
Hands which contain aces and small cards which match their suits are the real premium hands in this poker game. For example A-A-2-3 with just 2 suits is a monster that can win both the high and low portion of the pot. The worst hands to play contain medium ranked cards which are not coordinated. These can get you in trouble with both the 2nd best low and 2nd best high hand at showdown – an expensive combination.
Winning both sides of the pot in Omaha Hi-Lo is key to making a big profit in this game. There are two ways of achieving this. When there is no qualifying low hand (30% of the time), the high poker hand will take then entire pot. Remember to choose only the best high-only Omaha hands, it can be expensive ending up with the 2nd nuts in this game.
The other way to scoop the pot is to hit the low and high hands at the same time. This is where the suited babies come into their own, with the ability to win both sides from opponents who are only going for one. There is nothing better in Omaha Hi-Lo than to find yourself with the nuts for both the high and the low hands at the same time.
Oftentimes you will tie for one side of the pot, while another player wins the opposite side. This is most common when 2 players both hold A-2 in their hand and split the low side of the pot. One of those players also hits the high (though this could also go to a 3rd player). Danger signs of this occurring include times when someone wakes up betting when a high card hits, or only ever gives heavy action when they are confident in scooping the pot. I also recommend that you have something in the way of backup with a 3rd low card A-2-4-X for example. This can help you to avoid yet another big danger in Omaha Hi-Lo poker – being counterfeited on the turn or river.
My final new player mistake is to pay money to draw to a low hand in a heads-up pot. If you have no chance of winning the high side of the pot (for example with a low straight) and you feel your opponent is ‘going high’, then the current size of the pot should help you decide whether to continue.
If the current pot is small, you are putting bets into the pot with the best-case scenario being that you get them back with no profit. This is an obvious losing proposition when you see it written down, however many new players ‘chase the low’ in this way without realizing their error.
When the pot is already large you can profitably call, the overlay of chips already in the middle should be assessed in relation to the number of outs you have to make your low hand before you start calling bets though.
Omaha Hi-Lo is a great game and is available at many US Poker Sites as well as European rooms.