Playing High-Only Hands In Omaha Hi-Lo

The math says that a low is possible in Omaha Hi/Lo games 70% of the time you reach the river. That means, of course, that 30% of the time there’s no real chance at anyone building a low hand and you might stand a chance with the right combination of higher cards.

Statistically, there are going to be three or more different cards ranked 8 or below that you can build a low hand from. Of course, it’s possible that someone may fold the non-nut low to a large bet, or duplicate the low cards on the board with the cards from their hand, but the math stands, 30% of the time no low hand is going to be possible will be possible and thus, a high-only hand will scoop the pot.

What should you consider playing if you’re holding a hand that’s destined for high-only status? First of all, your high-only hand should be both coordinated and very high to make it playable. Middle hands are the worst possible in Omaha Hi/Lo games and while 8-9-10-10 double suited may look good before the flop, it’s likely to end up making a second best straight or flush than the nuts. The times this type of hand does hit the flop, you’re going to end up splitting the pot with a low anyway and that seriously affects the hand’s value. In other words, never play

Of course, a hand with both ugh and low potential is idea, but that doesn’t mean that when you’re holding AJJ5 with a salad of suits that you’re going to be profitable. You’re going to actually have your range of playable flops narrowed dramatically, but when you do hit a good one, you can definitely play it. Likewise, high pairs can be safely folded from early position, your K-K-J-9 needs to be sure of seeing the flop cheaply to be profitable. Unless your table is very passive (little raising before the flop) then it is usually safer to muck these hands from the first few positions.

Hands holding AA are strong because of card-removal at the table, but it’s definitely a hand that will need backup to scoop the pot effectively. Many players get carried away with A-A-x-x in Omaha Hi-Lo because holding 2 aces means your opponents are less likely to hold nut draws. That said, a bare over-pair to the community cardboard is very unlikely to scoop. You’ll want to play aces with backup in the form of 1 or 2 other ‘Wheel Cards’ (cards 5 or below) that have some suitedness or two other high-cards. These hands are much stronger than ‘bare aces’ before the flop and should be played accordingly.

With these considerations in mind, the flop is a much less scary place for the thoughtful poker player. Make sure that you eel an eye on your opponents and remember that even if you can’t make the low easily on the flop, there may well be another player who can.