Omaha Hi Lo - Game domination strategy, tips & rules

Omaha Hi-Lo is a fun variation on the poker game of Omaha. While players still receive 4 hole cards (like most Omaha variants) the key difference is how the pot is awarded once showdown is reached:

 

  • 50% of the pot is awarded to the highest hand
  • 50% of the pot is awarded to the lowest hand (provided that the “low” qualifies)

 

This twist on a popular game gives players double the chances of winning some chips at the end of the hand, while also giving them an opportunity to make both the highest and lowest hands, in which case they’d “scoop” 100% of the pot!

 

Learning the Game of Omaha Hi-Lo

 

As unlikely as it seems, Omaha was not created in the city of Omaha, Nebraska in the USA. In fact, the city has nothing to do with the game. Also, Omaha has only been around for a few decades. The game dates back to as late as 1982 in Vegas!

 

If you’re already familiar with the normal game of Omaha, the gameplay is identical, except for how the pot is divided at the end (along with the knowledge that you’ll need to know what kind of hand can qualify as a low).

 

On the contrary, if you’re brand new to the game of Omaha altogether – no sweat! We’re about to review how each hand of gameplay proceeds, along with the essential rules you’ll need to know in order to fully enjoy playing this exciting variant.

 

Hole Cards

Players are dealt 4 hole cards at the start of each hand. Ultimately at showdown, they will have to use 2 hole cards from their hand in combination with 3 community cards on the table to make the best (and/or lowest) 5-card poker hand. (This part differs from Texas Hold’em, a game in which players can use as many of the community cards as they want to make their best 5-card hand.)

 

Betting Rounds

 

At the start of each hand, blinds are posted (as in Texas Hold’em and Omaha Hi). These are forced bets that players must put out before cards are dealt. From hand to hand, these forced bets move clockwise around the table from player to player.

After everyone receives a starting hand, a betting round occurs. Play commences with the person seated to the left of the big blind. At this time, players can either fold (discard their hand), call (match the bet of the big blind), or raise (put in at least double the amount of chips relative to the big blind).

Once this betting round concludes, a “flop” is dealt, which consists of 3 community cards. Another betting round now occurs, this time starting with the small blind (or next player clockwise from the small blind who is still active in the hand).

After this, a 4th community card is dealt, called the “turn”. At this point, another betting round occurs, with a similar structure to that of the flop.

Once completed, the 5th and final community card (the “river”) is dealt onto the table. Players will now determine their best and lowest (if it qualifies) 5-card poker hand.

If two or more players are still in the pot once this betting round concludes, we reach a “showdown”. This is where players turn their hands face-up, and the pot is awarded accordingly to the winners.

 

The Pot at Showdown

As mentioned earlier, 50% of the pot will always be awarded to the player with the highest poker hand (as per standard poker hand rankings). The remaining 50% of the pot will also be awarded to the player with the lowest poker hand (if it qualifies – see below for details). In the case that the low hand doesn’t qualify, 100% of the pot is awarded to the player with the highest hand.

Please keep in mind that it’s imperative that players use exactly 2 hole cards and 3 community cards in determining their highest and lowest 5-card hands.

Also, note that if the exact same high or low hand is held by two or more players, the 50% of the pot for either high or low hand is divided equally amongst the winners. (i.e. If you won the low half completely and tied with another player to chop the high half of the pot, then you’d win 75% of the entire pot).

 

Low Hand Qualifications

 

Below are the qualifications for what is considered a “low hand” that can be in contention to win the low half of the pot at showdown:

 

  • The hand must contain 5 unpaired cards of the value of 8 or lower.
  • Suits (flushes) and connected cards (straights) are irrelevant when considering the low hand.
    • If players have the same exact low hand (in terms of each card’s value), no “trump” is awarded to any of the suits. They must split their half of the low equally – meaning they would each receive 25% of the entire pot.
    • Players can play the same 5-cards for their best and low hand, as straights are irrelevant. Therefore, the best low hand would be A-2-3-4-5, which could simultaneously be used to form a 5-high straight for the best high hand.
  • Low cards are counted from the highest card down
    • i.e. 2-4-5-6-7 would beat A-2-3-4-8. In this case, because the highest card (7) in the first hand is lower than that in the second hand (8).

 

Now you know a little bit about the game of Omaha Hi-Lo and how it's played, why not give it a go?