Introduction to Omaha Hi/Lo Poker
Omaha Hi/Lo (also known as Omaha 8-or-Better or Omaha 8) is a specific poker variant that enjoys enormous popularity in all parts of the world. It is one of the rare poker games where two players can each win a piece of the pot with two different hands — one for the low and one for the high, hence the name.
This game is similar to Texas Hold’em in a sense that each player receives a certain number of hole cards and combines them with five community cards that are dealt face up on the board. However, players are limited to using only two cards from their hand and three cards from the community board. This is a strict rule you can’t go around.
Due to its relatively complex rules, Omaha Hi/Lo is not that attractive to beginner players. Nevertheless, the game is played in many land-based casinos and online operators often include this poker variant on their websites.
While the rules are somewhat complicated, we will try to explain them to our readers to the best of our ability. Apart from the rules, we will talk about how to play a round of Omaha 8 from the beginning to end, and we will also share some examples. Read on!
Omaha Hi/Lo Poker Rules
Omaha Hi/Lo uses a 52-card deck and can be played with up to 10 people, although most casino tables allow up to six or eight players.
The cards are ranked in two ways. For high hands, the rankings are the same as in Texas Hold’em or Five Card Draw. Ace is always high and is followed by the King, Queen, Jack, and so forth. Flushes and straights count.
For low, the rules are similar to Razz, meaning that players must hope for the five-card combination of the lowest possible value, and Ace is always low in this situation. One difference is that the cards in low hands only count if their rank is eight or lower. This is why the game is also called Omaha 8. Straights and flushes don’t matter when it comes to low hands.
So the players in each round play to make two different combinations with the same cards — high and low. The player who has the best low hand at the showdown takes half of the pot, while the other half goes to the player who has the best high hand. If one player has the best hand for both high and low, then that player takes the entire pot, commonly known as the scoop.
The tricky part, however, is that each player can only use two of his/her own hole cards, and three cards from the community board.
How to Play Omaha Hi/Lo Poker
The start of an Omaha Hi/Lo poker round is indicated by the dealer button. The player sitting left of the button is known as the small blind, and he/she needs to chip in with a nominal amount before the game begins.
Left of the small blind is the big blind who usually needs to put twice as many chips in the middle. The size of the blinds depends on the table’s rules and the limit type of the game. We will explain this in more detail later.
The action starts with the player positioned left of the big blind and moves in a clockwise direction. The dealer gives four hole cards to each player and the game is ready to start.
Before the dealer puts any community cards on the table, players decide whether to bet or not based on the hole cards that were dealt to them. Just like in any other poker game, players in Omaha Hi/Lo can choose to call, bet, raise, check, or fold.
The first player to act can either call, raise, or fold since the blinds already indicate how many chips are needed for the remaining players to include themselves in the pot. The betting continues around the table until all players who haven’t folded bet an identical amount.
After the initial betting round is over, the dealer will put three cards face up on the table. All active players can now use these cards in combination with the cards that were dealt to them. Another betting round begins.
If more than one player remains after the flop, the dealer will put a fourth community card face up on the board. Players bet again.
On the river, the dealer will put one final card face up next to other community cards. Yet another betting round begins. In all betting rounds, the first decision is made by the player sitting left of the button.
After all the cards have been dealt and the final betting round has been completed, the remaining players need to show their cards. The player who bet or raised last shows the cards first. In a scenario in which there were no bets on the river, the player left of the button is the first one to show his/her cards. The winning players are decided by the rules we explained earlier.
If players have identical hands, the pot is split in equal parts among them. If no hand qualifies for low, a player with the best high hand wins the whole stake.
All of this may seem a little confusing, especially to someone who has never played any poker games, let alone Omaha Hi/Lo. That’s why we decided to give you an example of how a typical Hi/Lo hand plays out.
Let’s say that two players remain after the river and that we have the following cards at the showdown:
- Player 1: Ace of hearts, 2 of hearts, King of clubs, 4 of clubs.
- Player 2: Ace of clubs, 3 of spades, 7 of clubs, Queen of clubs.
- Community board: 4 of hearts, 3 of diamonds, King of spades, 6 of spades, 8 of hearts.
High: Player 1 wins because he/she has two pairs: Kings and 4s, as well the 8 kicker (the highest-value card not included in any combination).
Player 2 only has a pair of 3s alongside an Ace, a King, and the 8. Queen won’t count because the player can only use two hole cards and must use three community cards. Suits don’t matter because neither player has a flush.
Low: Player 1 wins again as his/her best combination is 6, 4, 3, 2, A.
The best combination Player 2 can make out of this hand is 7, 6, 4, 3, A. Remember, when counting low hands in poker, you always start from the highest card downwards. In this case, six beats a seven.
So in this scenario, Player 1 takes the entire pot (the scoop), since he/she has better hands for both high and low.
Omaha Hi/Lo Poker Variations
Omaha Hi/Lo games all follow the same rules except when it comes to betting. There are three recognized betting variations of this game — limit, pot limit, and no limit.
Limit Omaha Hi/Lo is the most common one; it suggests that betting amounts are predetermined. A specified amount can be wagered on the pre-flop and flop, but the amount doubles on the turn and river.
So let’s say that the game has a $5/$10 limit structure. This indicates that the highest bet you can make in the first betting round is $5, extending to $10 in the last two betting rounds. Players who are challenged with a bet can raise with the same amount, and the raises are capped at four.
For example, if one player bets $5, another player can raise to $10 during the same betting round. The first player can then re-raise to $15, and the final raise made by any of the players can be $20.
Pot Limit Omaha Hi/Lo is a bit rarer, but you can run into it if you play online. In this variation, the bets can only go up to the size of the pot, while the minimum bets are equal to the size of the big blind in that round.
When it comes to raises, a minimum raise is determined by the size of the previous raise or bet. Maximum raise, again, is the same as the size of the pot.
No Limit Omaha Hi/Lo gives freedom to players to bet the entirety of their chip stack (all-in). Minimum raises at the start are suggested by the big blind, but as soon as someone bets or raises, the minimum raise for the next player is indicated by that previous bet.
Omaha Hi/Lo can be a very exciting poker game once you get the hang of it. The rules are not simple, but the game isn’t rocket science either. Watch a few Omaha 8 hands online to get familiar with all the different scenarios that can occur. However, it’s best if you try playing this game with a couple of your friends and learn along the way.
Mastering the game is difficult, but it can turn out to be quite profitable if you do manage to learn to play it well. Omaha Hi/Lo can be found in many online casinos, as well as in some larger brick-and-mortar casino rooms.