Omaha Hi/Lo Split is a variant of Omaha poker. See the article on “Omaha Rules” for more information.
Omaha Hi/Lo split is sometimes referred to as Omaha Eight-or-Better or FLO8/PLO8/NLO8 (depending on the betting structure). O8 is a split pot game meaning that all players compete for two pots at the same time, a high pot and a low pot. For the most part O8 is played as a pot-limit game like it’s counterpart Pot-Limit-Omaha. However it was initially most commonly played with a fixed-limit betting structure. In more recent years it has also appeared and some networks with a no-limit betting structure.
The objective of Omaha Hi/Lo is the same as most other poker variants. In a cash game the objective is to win our opponents chips which can be exchanged for real money after the game is over. In a tournament setting the objective is to be the last player remaining with all of the chips.
Playing a Hand of Omaha Hi/Lo
For the most part the betting structure is exactly the same as other games which involve community card such as regular Omaha, and Texas Hold’em.
Positions are exactly the same as on an Omaha table also, and mandatory blind payments must be placed in the pot before the hand can begin. If any of this is unfamiliar then check out the article on “Omaha Rules” to see a more detailed explanation of how this works.
Preflop – After the blinds have been paid each player receives 4 hole-cards which he does not show to any other player. A street of betting takes place referred to as “pre-flop”. Betting takes place in a clockwise direction starting with Under-The-Gun (UTG) and finishing with the Button (BTN).
Flop – Once all betting is complete, three community cards are placed in the centre of the table which each player may use to help create a 5-card hand along with exactly 2 of their hole-cards. (More on this later.) Another round of betting takes place starting with the Small-Blind (SB) (or whichever remaining position is earliest) and finishing with the BTN (or whichever remaining position is latest).
Turn – One additional card is dealt face up on the table alongside the flop. This is referred to as the “turn” card. Another round of betting takes place.
River – Another card is dealt face up on the table next to the turn card. This is referred to as the “river” card. Another round of betting takes place.
Showdown – The remaining players expose the strength of their hand. Half of the pot goes to player with the strongest hi-card hand. Half of the pot goes to the player with the strongest lo-card hand. If a player has both the strongest hi-card and the strongest lo-card hand he wins (or scoops) the entire pot. This is referred to as “scooping”. It’s possible for a player to have the best hi-card hand and then tie for the best lo-card hand. In this case he will win half of the pot with his hi-card hand and half of the lo-card pot for a total of 75% of the pot. His opponent will now receive 25% of the total pot. This is referred to as being “quartered”.
It’s necessary to split up our hand rankings into two parts here. The hi-card hands and the lo-card hands. The hi-hands are exactly the same as in Omaha-hi and are as follows.
Royal Flush – T, J, Q, K, A all of the same suit. This is the strongest hand in Omaha-8 and is made somewhat rarely. It will generally be made less frequently than in Omaha-hi due to the different types of starting hands that are generally considered premiums.
Straight Flush – 5 cards in a row, all of the same suit. For example 7,8,9,T,J all of hearts.
Four-of-a-Kind – 4 cards of the same value. For example QQQQ, or 8888. Usually referred to as “Quads”
Full-House – 3 cards of the same value along with 2 cards of the same value. QQQ44, or KKKJJ. Often referred to as a “boat”.
Flush – Any 5 cards of the same suit.
Straight – Any 5 cards in ascending order. For example 7,8,9,T,J but not all of the same suit.
Three-of-a-Kind – Three cards of the same value, for example KKK, or QQQ. Since all hands are 5 card hands the other two cards are referred to as “kickers”. KKKT7 loses to KKKAT for example. Commonly referred to as “trips” when made with one hole-card and a “set” when made with both hole-cards as in the case of holding a “pocket-pair” such as KK72.
Two-Pair – 2 cards of the same value along with 2 other cards of the same value. For example KKQQ5 or JJ447.
One-Pair – 2 cards of the same value. For example TT523, or QQ764.
High-Card – Assuming no player has a made hand then the highest card wins. Assuming both players share the same high card, then the second highest card wins, etc.
Important – Remember that unlike Hold’em, in Omaha we must use exactly 2 of our hole-cards to make a 5 card hand. We don’t want to make the mistake of thinking that we have the nut flush when we hold the Ah in our hand and there are 4 hearts on the board. Only a player holding at least 2 hearts would have a flush on this texture.
We don’t want to make the opposite mistake either of trying to use more than 2 of our hole cards. If we get dealt QQQQ we do NOT have four of a kind. We have a pair of queens. Being dealt 4 of a kind is actually one of the worst possible starting hands in Omaha. We now know that it is impossible for us to improve by hitting another Q since we have all 4 of them.
Omaha Low Hands
The low hands are read in a similar way to other lo-card variants. There is some variation in how lo-hands are ready depending on the exact game so here are the rules.
– Flushes and straights do not count against our hand. The nut lo-hand is therefore A,2,3,4,5. Remember that we must use exactly two of our hole-cards for the lo-hand also. These don’t have to be the same 2-cards that we use for the hi-hand however. So if we hold AQJK, and the board is 2,3,4,5,Q we do not have the nut-low and we do not have a straight for a decent hi-hand. We actually have pair of Queens and no low-hand.
– Aces are always low unlike in other variants such as 2-7 triple draw. If we struggle to read lo-hands, we simply should think of them as a number. For example it’s a common beginners mistake to assume that A,2,3,4,7 is a better hand than 2,3,4,5,6. If we read them backwards as numbers – I.e 74,321 and 65,432 it should be pretty easy to see that the second hand is lower and therefore stronger. We can refer to the first hand as a 7-low and the second hand as a 6-low. The nuts, A,2,3,4,5 is referred to as the “nut low”.
– Suits are not relevant to the strength of our hand unlike other variants such as Stud. Equivalent hi-hands will chop the high pot regardless of the suits contained.
– Low hands must “qualify”. In order for a low hand to “qualify” it needs to contain 5 cards below an 8. Remember that only two of these can be from our hole-cards. This means that it is impossible for anyone to have a qualifying low hand if there are not at least 3 cards below an 8 on the board. In such situations Omaha-hi/lo plays like the regular Omaha-hi. There is no low pot awarded and the best hi-hand scoops the entire pot.
While initially Omaha-8 was primarily played with a fixed-limit betting structure, PLO8 has rapidly become more popular and is the most common format of the game played. In recent years NLO8 tables have begun to spring up on certain networks.
For information on how the pot-limit betting structure works and how to calculate a pot-sized raise, see the “Omaha Rules Article”
Why Play Omaha-8
– Omaha-8 is hugely challenging, even when it comes to simple things like understanding the strength of our hand. This can be complicated enough in the Omaha-hi variant when we have a wrap and flush-draws going on at the same. Now imagine this situation but we are also at the same time calculating what our current low-hand is or our percentage chance we will hit our low-draw. Initially we may even feel that playing a single-table of this variant takes our full focus and concentration.
– Due to the challenging nature of Omaha-8 games, the competition is relatively soft. Very few players understand good strategy – and many do not even understand fully how to read the strength of their hand. Some are even surprised that they have chopped the pot with someone since they thought they were playing Omaha-hi.
– Omaha-8 is a lot lower variance than hold’em or Omaha. This is to do with the split-pot nature of the game. In the majority of showdown situations we are not going to be losing the entire pot. We will often end up splitting or quartering the pot. This means that going on prolonged downswings is less likely assuming that we have a winning strategy. As a result we can get away with lighter bankroll requirements and play higher stakes. Low variance, soft-games, a fun challenge. What more could we want!
Play to Scoop! – The number one beginner mistake in this game is that players are aiming to win only one of the two pots. They’ll typically decide each round whether they are trying to make a hi-card hand or a lo-card hand. This is not going to be a winning strategy in the long run. Our objective is to scoop both pots as much as possible.
Starting Hands – Some of the hands that are decent starting hands in Omaha-hi are actually not decent starting hands in Omaha-8. Firstly we are looking to play hands that contain an Ace and a Two in most cases, to maximise our chances of making the nut-low. Something like As2sAd3d would be an excellent starting hand. Notice how we have nut-flush potential in 2 suits and also excellent nut-low potential.
Avoid Mid-Rundowns – Rundowns are excellent starting hands in Omaha-hi. For example 6s7s8d9d. These are horrible hands in Omaha-8. In many cases to make a decent straight with this hand it means that there is likely to be a qualifying low available. So we can basically never win the entire pot. Even though such a hand can qualify for a low-hand it’s rarely going to be the best low-hand since it will usually be an Seven-Six-low.
Counterfeiting – It’s useful to be aware of this concept since we can get into trouble if not. Let’s say we hold A2 and the board texture is 8,7,5. We have the absolute best nut-low. A,2,5,7,8. However let’s the say the turn card comes a 2. We have now been counterfeited. Why is this? Our absolute hand-strength has not changed, but our relative hand-strength has changed. If opponent has A3 he now has A,2,3,5,7 for Seven-low which will beat our A,2,5,7,8 for Eight-low. Holding A23x on the 8,7,5 board gives us counterfeit protection, because if that 2 falls we still hold the nut-low.