Introduction to Omaha Hi-Lo
Omaha Hi-Lo is an increasingly popular poker variant, similar to its brother Omaha High but still a completely different game. In recent years many Omaha High players have moved on to play Omaha Hi-Lo to get a new challenge as well as due to it being well known for providing lots of action.
Just like in Omaha high, the players are all dealt four cards each face down, which creates a lot more opportunities hand wise and provides loads of action. But unlike in Omaha High, Omaha Hi-Lo is a split pot game, which divides the prize pool into two, half for the winner of the high hand and the other half for the winner of the low hand.
Players have to create the best possible Omaha High or Omaha Low hand in order to win a share of the pot. Sometimes players can even win both pots with their hands, but it is more common to win just one of them. The high part of Omaha uses the traditional Omaha rules, where the low part has its own rules, which we will explain in the next chapter. In Omaha Hi-Lo you are only allowed to use exactly two of your hole cards and three community cards to create the best possible five card combination. If you try to use three cards from your hand, your hand is not valid.
Unlike Omaha High, its Hi-Lo brother is not mainly played as pot limit only, but is very popular in all the different limit formats. You should choose the format that suits you and your playing style the best to optimize your profits while playing and ensure that you don't make any mistakes.
Basic Game Play and Rules
When you start playing Omaha Hi-Lo it is very important that you know and understand the rules that apply to the game. The Omaha Hi part uses the traditional rules from Omaha High and Texas Hold'em card ranking wise, where Omaha Lo is about getting the lowest hand possible.
The Omaha Lo rules are based on the Ace to Five card ranking system, where flushes and straights do not count and the lowest card is the ace. Basically in Omaha low it's a matter of creating the lowest "wheel" from A to 8. This means that any hand that has a pair or a card over 8 cannot apply for the low pot. Instead you will have to have five cards within A to 8 and the lower the better. Below you can see some examples of low hands that apply for the low pot:
- 8, 7, 6, 5, 4
- 8, 6, 5, 3, 2
- 7, 6, 5, 4, 3
- 7, 5, 4, 3, A
- 6, 5, 4, 3, 2
- And the nuts: 5, 4, 3, 2, A
A low hand will always be ranked from the highest card and downwards, which means that a hand starting with a seven will always be known as a seven-low. Now that you have a clear idea about the rules of Omaha Hi-Lo, it's time to explain about the basic game play.
One player will start out with the dealer button each hand, meaning that he will theoretically deal the hands to the other players. The dealer deals the four cards to each player clockwise, starting on his immediate left and finishing with himself. The cards are dealt face down so the other players cannot see the cards and when everybody has received four cards, the game begins.
The first two players to the left of the dealer will be forced to post the first bets known as blinds. The first player to the left of the dealer will be posting the small blind and the second player to the left will post the big blind. The blinds have been integrated in poker to ensure there is something to gamble about in each round, creating action instead of players folding until they have a great hand.
The player right after the blinds will then be the first guy to choose his action and the action then goes clockwise until everybody has made their decision. The dealer will then deal a total of five community cards on the table, starting with three cards on the flop, one on the turn and one on the river. The players with the best Hi and Lo combination will then split the pot at showdown.
Omaha Hi-Lo can be played with 2-10 players, but is more preferable with 3-6 players as it will create more action and you will see more hands.
The Button and Posting Blinds
When you play Omaha Hi-Lo, all hands played will have a dealer assigned. The dealer will receive the button, which shows that he is the dealer and will be the last to act every betting except pre-flop. When you play online you don't have to worry about this, since the software will take care of everything for you. When you start up a new table, a dealer has to be assigned for the first hand before it can start to move around the table clockwise. The dealer is decided usually by dealing cards face up on the table for each player and the highest card wins the button. When the button has been decided the game will start and the button will move around making sure that every player will have the advantages of the button.
After the button has been decided, it is time for players to post blinds. The two players to the immediate left of the dealer will be forced to pay blinds every round, meaning that all players will be paying blinds sooner or later. The first player to the left of the dealer will pay the small blind and the second player to the left will be posting the big blind. The blinds are being posted to ensure action in the game, always having something to gamble about. When you play online poker, the blinds will automatically be posted and deducted from your balance when it's your turn to pay them, so that you can focus on playing poker rather than when it's your turn to post blinds.
Pre-flop (First Betting Round)
The first betting round is known as pre-flop, which means that it's before there has been dealt any community cards. All players are dealt four cards face down and will have to make a decision about what they want to do with their hand. The first guy to act when the cards have been dealt is the guy to the immediate left of the big blind, also known as Under the Gun (UTG).
All players now have different options of how to play their hands in the first betting round. Players can either:
Fold: Give up the hand from the beginning because it is to weak and sit out the rest of the hand
Call: When you have a good hand that you would like to see a flop with, you can call the big blind or the amount that has been raised to before your turn
Raise: When you have a premium hand where you want as much money in the pot as possible, you raise the hand and hope that other players will call, creating a bigger pot size
After the first player has made his decision, the action goes clockwise around the table and finishes with the big blind, unless a player have raised after another player has called, which means that the action will continue until the last player before the raise has had the chance to call, raise or fold.
When all players have chosen their action the hand will continue to the next betting round, the flop.
The Flop (Second Betting Round)
The flop is the second betting round, where the dealer will deal the first three community cards on the board and a new betting round will begin. The player that was the small blind pre-flop will now be the first player to act, giving him the opportunity to check, bet or fold. This player will not have the opportunity to raise as there has yet to be any bets in the round, meaning that if he bets, the next player is eligible to raise. It is also possible for him to simply check the hand, meaning that he gives the turn to the next player without paying any money. Players cannot check if a player prior to them has bet into the pot.
The action then continues clockwise until the dealer, who is the last person to act has chosen his action. This pattern continues for the rest of the betting rounds, meaning that only in the first betting round the third player to the left of the dealer had to act first and the big blind act last.
When all of the players have chosen their action, the next betting round known as the turn will begin.
The Turn (Third Betting Round)
The third betting round is known as the turn, where the dealer deals one more community card, so there is a total of four cards on the board. The betting round works exactly the same way as in the previous round, making it possible for players to check, call, bet, raise or fold. When all players have made their decision the fourth and final betting round known as the flop will commence.
The River (Fourth and Final Betting Round)
The final betting round is known as the river, where the dealer deals the fifth and final community card on the board. After the cards has been dealt, the players begin yet another betting round just like the flop and the turn, but being the last round for bets the players will be more aggressive than in the other rounds.
Once all players has made their decision, it is time to see who has created the best Omaha Hi and Lo hand, using exactly two of their hole cards and three of the community cards on the board. This is known as the showdown.
After the hand has gone through all four betting rounds, the players left has to figure out exactly who wins the Hi and Lo pot. This is done by showing the cards held by the players and the dealer will then determine upon the hand rankings who wins the pots. When you play online, the software will highlight the cards used for the best combination for each pot, so you won't have to think so much about the opponents hand after showdown.