Basic Poker Strategy: Understanding Omaha Hi-Lo’s Basics

Want to try out Omaha Hi/Lo but want to get a firm grounding in the best hands to play first? Check out this piece that explores your options.

You’ve seen Omaha Hi-Lo being played and you have a basic understanding of the rules (either the highest or lowest Omaha hand can win) but are still a bit confused by which hands you should be willing to play with versus ones that “look” right but aren’t as playable. While high hands are easy enough to understand, low hands can frequently get players into trouble and understanding how they interact and

Low Hands
First of all, we should make sure that we understand what counts as a “low” hand: there are no cards higher than eight in your five-card hand and flushes or straights are ignored when making the low hand, which means the lowest possible hand in Omaha Hi/Lo poker is A2345. Remember that since you’re playing Omaha, you must use two cards from your hand and three cards from the board. If there is no qualifying low hand, then the winner with the highest hand takes the entire pot.

Many players get into trouble with A2 because they think of it as the pocket rockets of Omaha Hi-Lo, but there are a couple of caveats that you should pay attention to when you get this tempting duo in front of you. You have to remember that to qualify for low hand status there have to be three other low cards on the board and that if an Ace or 2 gets dropped on the board; your hand will no longer qualify for low status. It’s also the most common hand to get quartered, meaning that you’ll have to split not just with the high winner, but with anyone else who got A2 and is playing the same way you are. You could actually lose money playing that way!

The Ideal Hand
As you have four cards in your hand, you can use any combination of two of them to generate both high and low hands. It takes some work, but getting to know the space where the two interact is the single best thing any budding Omaha Hi/Lo player can do. Work to coordinate your hands and remember that you want cards that can help you make a straight, flush or full house. It’s very rare for a single pair to win on Omaha games.

Bill Boston’s guide to the game took a look at the possible starting hands and how they fared in a game and came to the conclusion that AA23, double suited gives you the best chance to win on either side, especially as you get a good chance at the nut flush in two different suits and have the strong possibility of a straight as well, as a deuce or three dropped on the felt just gives you the chance to make a straight versus being directly counterfeited.

Hopefully this will help the budding Omaha Hi-Lo player better understand how they should approach the game.