Omaha High-Low Basics
The object of Omaha High-Low is the same as nearly every other version of poker. To beat the other players by building the best possible five-card hand and win the pot. However, the player with the best hand will not win the entire pot, only half of it. The other half goes to the player with the best hand from the Low Poker Hand Rankings.
However, it becomes slightly more complicated than this, as players are able to play for both pots and submit both a high and a low hand using their four hole cards and the five community cards. For both hands, players must use exactly two hole cards and three community cards, but they do not need to be the same cards for each hand.
As mentioned, Omaha High-Low is sometimes called Omaha or Better. This is became the qualifying low hand must meet the following conditions:
- It cannot contain a card higher than an 8
- It must contain no pairs, trips or quads
- Aces are always considered low is a low hand, and straights and flushes are not counted.
- The best possible qualifying low hand is 5, 4, 3, 2, A and the worst is 8, 7, 6, 5, 4
If no hand at the table qualifies for the low hand, then the high hand winner will take the entire pot.
In all other ways, the game is pretty much the same as Omaha High and Texas Hold’em. Each round follows the same structure, which is explained below, and ends with a showdown, where the pot is awarded.
How to Play Omaha High-Low
As with many other forms of poker, Omaha High-Low makes use of a dealer button to show who is dealing and the order of play in a betting round. The button moves one player to the left with each hand, and at the start of each hand the compulsory bets, the small and big blind, are placed,
The player sitting directly to the left of the dealer places the small blind. The bet is placed before any cards are dealt and it is normally equal to the lower end of the table stakes, so in a €1/€2 game the small blind is €1.
The player sitting directly to the left of the one that placed the small blind places the big blind, in other words, two to the left of the dealer. It is usually the size of the higher end of the table stakes, so in a €1/€2 game it would be €1.
Once the two blind bets have been placed, each player is dealt four face-down cards, which are known as hole cards. When this is done, the first round of betting, known as the pre-flop, takes place beginning with the player sitting to the left of the big blind. In each betting round, there are a number of actions that each player can take:
- Check: The first player to place a bet in a betting round has the option to Check. It means that they do not place a bet but remain in the round. It should be noted that this is not possible in the first betting round, as the big blind has already been placed, and this must be matched in order to remain in the round.
- Bet: This can be done by the first player to place chips into the pot in a betting round. In the first round, it is the big blind.
- Call: This is the action of matching the last bet placed in a betting round.
- Raise: This is when a player increases the size of the bet. They first call and then increase, or raise, the bet, which means that future players must then match it to stay in the round.
- Fold: This is when a player forfeits the hand and loses any chips that they have already bet.
- All-In: An all-in bet can only be placed in a no-limit game or in a fixed or pot limit game if a player has just enough or too few chips to call, bet or raise. The player pushes all of their chips onto the table near the main pot, but keeps it separate. This is because a player can only win an amount equal to the all-in bet.
Once the betting returns to the small blind and big blind players, they will have the option to call the current bet level by adding the difference between their blind bet and the current size of the bet. If the bet has not been raised at any point during the round, then the big blind has the option to check or bet.
When the first betting round is complete, the first three community cards are dealt to the centre of the table. Known as the flop, the cards are dealt face up and can be used by all players when building a hand.
The second betting round is then started by the first player to the left of the dealer who is still in the hand. The structure of the betting round is the same as in the first round, so players must match or increase the bet if they wish to remain in play.
After the second betting round, the fourth community card, known as the turn, is dealt, followed by the third betting round. The final community card, the river, is then dealt and the final betting round takes place. This is the players’ final opportunity to increase the size of the pot before the winners are determined in the showdown.
In the showdown, any remaining players must reveal their hands. The players with the best five-card hand then wins half of the pot and the other half is won by the player who has the strongest low ranking hand. As mentioned, this can be the same player.
Once this has happened, the dealer button moves one player to the left and the entire process starts again.
Omaha High-Low Hand Ranking
While the rules of Omaha High-Low may be simple, the game is complicated by the presence of both high-ranking hands and low-ranking hands. It is essential to understand these, as you will need to be able to identify which potential hands you hold very quickly.
The high-ranking hands are the standard poker hands, which from highest to lowest are as follows:
- Royal Flush – This is the strongest hand possible and it contains the cards 10, J, Q, K and A all from the same suit.
- Straight Flush – This is five cards in numerical order from the same suit; for example, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 of Clubs.
- Four of a Kind – This is a hand that contains four cards of same value, such as 3 Diamonds, 3 Clubs, 3 Spades, 3 Hearts.
- Full House – This is a hand that contains three of a kind together with a pair, for example, three 5s and two Jacks, the suit is irrelevant.
- Flush – This is a hand of five cards all from the same suit, for example, 4, 6, 8, 9 and Queen of Spades.
- Straight – This is five cards in numerical order, the suit is not important. For example, 4 Diamonds, 5 Clubs, 6 Hearts, 7 Spades, and 8 Diamonds.
- Three of a Kind – This is three cards of the same value and two unrelated cards. For example, 7 Clubs, 7 Diamonds, 7 Spades, 2 Spades and King Hearts.
- Two Pair – This is a hand that contains two individual pairs of cards and one unrelated card. For example, 6 Spades, 6 Hearts, 9 Diamonds, 9 Spades, 2 Hearts.
- Pair – This is a hand that contains two matching cards and three unrelated cards. For example, Jack Spades, Jack Clubs, 4 Diamonds, 6 Clubs, 8 Hearts.
- High Card – If a hand does not contain any of the above, then it is judged according to the highest value card in it.
The low ranking hands are not quite as straightforward. When looking at low ranking hands, it is best to read the cards from the highest to the lowest to avoid making a mistake. The strongest low ranking hand is the one that has the lowest high card. If the high card is equal, then it comes down to the second lowest high card, and so on. Therefore, 7-5-4-2-A beats 7-5-4-3-A, as even though the first three high cards are equal, the fourth high card of the first hand is a 2, which is lower than the 3 in the second hand. One advantage of low hands is that suits are irrelevant.
Based on this logic, the best possible low hand is 5, 4, 3, 2, A, the next would be 6, 4, 3, 2, A, the next, 6, 5, 3, 2, A, and so on.
Omaha High-Low Strategy
Unfortunately, the strategy for Omaha High-Low is very complicated due to the presence of high and low hands. However, the good news is that bluffing is far less important in this type of poker, so if you can get your head around the statistics, then you have a good chance of success.
You will find a huge amount to read about Omaha High-Low strategy. However, the most important thing is to practise. You will find many places online to play for free and you can also practise with friends at home. Once you have understood the game and how it works, you can then begin looking into advanced strategies, and with a bit of luck, start winning many pots.