Omaha – Hi/Lo Split – Rules

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.

Objective

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”.

Hand Rankings

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.

Omaha High-Hands

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.

Betting Structure

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!

Omaha-8 Pointers

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.

2-7 Triple Draw Rules

Origins

2-7 Triple Draw is still a relatively new poker variant, making it’s WSOP debut in 2004. Prior to this it’s origins can be traced through similar low-ball draw games. In 2002 A-5 Triple Draw was offered at the WSOP, the same year that triple draw games were first offered online by Ultimate Bet.

Prior to 2002, triple draw games were rare and most commonly were offered as part of mixed games at ultra high-limits rather than as stand-alone games.

A precursor of the 2-7 Triple Draw was offered during Amarillo Slim’s “Super Bowl of Poker” tournaments which ran from 1979 to 1984. The name of the variant was “Ten-Handed Triple-Draw Lowball”. It was clearly different from the modern 2-7 triple-draw since players started the hand with 10-cards, but we can see that the origins of lowball draw games stretch back several decades at the very least.

2-7 Triple Draw Objective

2-7 Triple Draw is a lowball draw game which involves 3 rounds of drawing and 4 rounds of betting. The objective of the game is to win our opponent’s chips which typically have a monetary value. In a tournament game the objective is to be the last player left standing with all of the chips.

Structure

2-7 triple draw is a positional game meaning it makes use of a dealer button similar to hold’em. Pre-draw (first round of betting before any drawing takes place), the blinds act last. The blinds must also make a mandatory payment of the small-blind and big-blind. Post-draw (after the drawing rounds have begun), the button acts last on every street while the player directly to the left of the button acts first on every street.

2-7 triple draw can be played with any betting structure, I.e limit, no-limit or pot-limit, although it is most commonly played as a fixed limit game.

The action proceeds as follows

– Dealer deals 5-cards to each player
– First Round of betting
– Players draw cards
– Second Round of betting
– Players draw cards
– Third Round of betting
– Players draw cards
– Final Round of betting
– Showdown

Drawing

On each round players have the option to discard as many of their cards as they wish up to a total of 5. These should be replaced with fresh cards from the desk. Assuming a player is happy with their hand they have the option to “stand pat”, which means they don’t discard or draw any additional cards.

Watching how many cards our opponents draw is an important part of hand-reading in 2-7 triple draw.

It is possible to run out of cards when playing draw variants. In such an occurrence the discard pile is shuffled and players continue by drawing from other players’ discards.

Hand-Rankings

It’s important to take note of the hand-rankings in 2-7 Triple Draw as they are different from other lowball variants. In the majority of low-ball variants Aces are low and flushes/straights are ignored, but this is not the case in 2-7 Triple-Draw. Flushes and straights (and any pair+) count against our hand and Aces are always high. And we mean always – A,2,3,4,5 does not make a straight in 2-7 Triple Draw.

So rather than other low-ball variants where A,2,3,4,5 is the nuts, the nuts in 2-7 Triple Draw is actually 2,3,4,5,7. Note that 2,3,4,5,6 would make a straight and would actually be a very weak hand. Essentially, when compared to hold’em we are simply trying to make the absolute worse hand possible while remembering that Aces are always high. When analysed like this some might even find hand-reading in 2-7 triple draw easier than the standard low-ball method of reading hands where straights and flushes are ignored.

Basic Strategy – The Draw

The first concept to master is understanding how many cards to discard and draw based on our hand-strength.

As a rough guide

5 cards 9 or below(no pair or straight or flush etc) – Stand Pat
4 cards 8 or below and a higher card – Draw 1
3 cards 8 or below and 2 higher card – Draw 2
2 cards 7 or below and 3 higher cards – Draw 3

Hands weaker than this should be discarded in most situations. It’s generally recommended to play hands that hold a 2, but to be cautions when playing hands that hold a 6. The 6 is needed for all low straights, so without the 6 we don’t need to worry as much about making a straight and losing. It’s also recommended to start out with low cards and draw to higher cards rather than the other way round. So it’s better to hold 2,3,4,8 and draw to the 5,6 or 7 rather than hold the 8,7,6,3 and draw to the 4,5,or 2.

Basic Strategy – Position

Similar to other positional variants of poker, our standard hand criteria is going to be dependent on our position. We might fold something like 2,7,A,K,Q in early position yet this hand might be fine to open-raise on the BTN or the SB.

We should also keep in mind that it’s better to raise-first-in if we want to play a hand rather than to open limp. There are exceptions to this however, we might be able to limp if several other players have already limped before us or if the action is on us unopened and we are in the SB. It’s also fine to check-back the BB if our hand is not strong enough for an iso-raise.

Basic Strategy – Hand Reading

There are 2 main ways that we can hand-read in 2-7 Triple Draw. The first is observing our opponents betting patterns. The second is looking at how many cards he draws. As a guide for hand reading, the strength of a player’s holding is roughly proportional to the amount of cards they draw. If they draw 1 card they are likely reasonably strong while if they draw 5-cards they likely had total garbage. Assuming someone stands pat they usually have a decent made low hand, probably 10-low or better at the very least.

For the most part 9-low and 10-low hands are considered bluffcatchers while 8-low and better are considered the value hands.

Basic Strategy – Betting Structure

Whether the game is played no-limit or fixed-limit will have a big effect on the correct strategy. There are 2 main differences with the fixed-limit variety of the game. Firstly we will have less fold-equity on any given street since we can only bet in accordance with the allowed fixed bet-sizing. Secondly we will have less implied odds in any situation since it is not possible to get all of the remaining stacks in at any given time.

This will often have an effect on the types of hands we can play profitably pre-draw. Certain weak draws we might be able to play profitably in no-limit while we can’t make them profitable in fixed-limit. In a no-limit game we might pick up a big payout if we hit our draw, and we also might be able to bluff our opponent post-draw if he shows weakness. This is a lot harder to do in fixed-limit. We won’t get a big enough payout if we hit to justify our pre-draw investment, and it’s overall less likely that we will be able to successfully bluff our opponent post-draw.

Why You Should Play 2-7 Triple Draw

If you like draw games, especially lowball games that generate a ton of action then maybe 2-7 Triple Draw is for you.

Since 2-7 Triple Draw is less studied and understood by the average person it can be easy to find soft games and make money with less effort than in more popular variants such as Hold’em.

Badugi Rules

    Badugi Rules

The exact origins of the card game “Badugi” are unclear, although the general consensus is that it originated in South Korea in the 1960s. There is some speculation that the game is named after the Korean word for “spotted dog” although this is unlikely to be true since no such word exists in the Korean language. There was a South Korean cartoon which contained a spotted dog by the name of “Paldugi” which could be where some have got the idea that the game was named after a dog.

Overall it seems a somewhat unlikely theory and possibly simply a misconception that has arisen as a result of the various different ways of pronouncing the word “Badugi”. (It sounds a bit like “Paldugi” when you think about it). While most people pronounce the word as bah-doo-gee, there are a variety of different acceptable pronunciations. Many claim that the first sound in the word is actually “pah” while the last sound in the word is “kee”, so some pronounce the game as “pah-doo-kee”.

Objective

Badugi is a draw game where the objective is to make a 4-card hand known as a “badugi”. A badugi is essentially any 4 cards of different suits (excluding pairs). Badugi is a low-ball game and so badugis are ranked in order from high to low. A,2,3,4 is the strongest available badugi (assuming all cards of different suits).

Similar to the majority of variants the objective is to win our opponent’s chips. Assuming we play Badugi in a tournament setting, the objective is to be the last player remaining with all the chips. There are 2 ways to win –

a) Make the best hand or badugi at showdown
b) Get our opponents to fold


Structure

Badugi is most commonly offered as a fixed-limit game although there is no reason why the game would not work with a pot-limit or no-limit betting structure.

Badugi is a positional variant like no-limit holdem and hence there is a dealer button which moves clockwise around the table. Before players are dealt cards the blinds must make a mandatory blind payment (along with any antes assuming an ante game). The positional system works exactly the same as in Hold’em. Pre-draw the blinds act last, while on subsequent rounds after the first draw has taken place the blinds now act first with the BTN acting last.

Drawing

Badugi is a “triple draw” game which means 3 rounds of drawing take place. The action proceeds as follows –

1. Cards are Dealt
2. Round of Betting
3. Draw 1
4. Round of Betting
5. Draw 2
6. Round of Betting
7. Draw 3
8. Round of Betting
9. Showdown

Players may draw up to 4 cards on each drawing round. They also have the option to “stand pat” which means they wish to stick with their current hand and draw no additional cards.

Hand Rankings

The best hands in this game are those which are “badugi” hands. This means that all 4 cards are of a different suit. Any badugi hand will beat another hand which has 2 or more cards of the same suit. Let’s start by ranking the 4-card badugi hands.

Since badugi is a lowball game the best possible badugi is A,2,3,4 of different suits. (Ace is low).
The worst possible badugi is K,Q,J,T.

Note that it is the highest card that determines the value of the hand. So a 5,4,3,2 badugi will beat a 6,3,2,A badugi. We can refer to the first as a “five-high-badugi” and the second hand as a “six-high-badugi”. A common mistake is to assume the badugi with the Ace is better since it holds the lowest card. A useful trick to reading low-hands for the first time is to read them as a number. 5,342 is a lower number than 6,321 so 5,4,3,2 is the stronger hand when using a lowball ranking system.

However not all hands make badugis, and we can further categorise hands into 3-card hands, 2-card-hands, and 1-card hands.

So for example, Ad,5d,4c,3s has 3 cards of unique suits, but is not a “badugi” hand since it contains two diamonds. We can refer to this hand as a “three-card-four”. It’s a three card hand and the highest card is a four. Also note that if our hand contains a pair, it does not qualify as a badugi even if all the cards are of different suits. So if we have 5,5,4,3 of different suits we again have a three card hand. We can refer to this specific holding as a “three-card-five”.

It’s also possible to make 2-card and 1-card hands. A 2-card hand would be made when we have 2 cards of one suit and 2 cards or another suit or 3-cards of 1 suit and 1 card of another suit. We select the two lowest of different suits to make a 2-card hand. 1-card hands are possible also assuming that we are dealt 4-cards of the same suit. We simply select the lowest of these to make our 1-card hand. 1-card hands are pretty rare after all the draws have taken place and are essentially garbage, but it would not be a complete discussion of hand-rankings if we did not include these. So the weakest hand in badugi is a “one-card-King” where we hold 4-cards of the same suit and one of these is a King.

Why Play Badugi?

Being a draw game learning the rules of Badugi is somewhat simple. On sites like Pokerstars it is also possible to play tournaments and take a nice payout while playing against a softer field. Despite Badugi being very simple many players do not follow a decent strategy so there is money to be made.

The downside is that Badugi often has lower traffic than other variants making it a little harder to play professionally, but when played alongside other variants it can be a good way to supplement our poker income.

Since it’s very easy to teach the rules of badugi to others it can be a nice choice for a home-game.

Badugi Tips

Hand Reading – Hand reading does not occur in the same sense it occurs in Hold’em because there are no community cards that each player can use to create a hand. However we can learn more about what our opponents are holding from the amount of cards they draw each round.

This is potentially a little more transparent than other draw games because we know that everyone at the table is specifically attempting to make a badugi hand. As such the amount of cards players draw will usually be an indication of how many unique cards they are currently holding. If we see a player repeatedly drawing 1 card it’s likely that they already have a 3-card hand and are looking to pick up that fourth suit to make a badugi. If they draw two it’s likely that they already have 2-unique suits and are looking to pick up another 2. This does not always follow since it makes sense that players would be trying to get rid of cards higher than a Jack in an attempt to make a stronger badugi, even if some of those cards were of unique suits. However our main focus in the game is to make a badugi hand regardless of how strong or weak it is. So if we have a 3-card hand and need one more unique suit to create a badugi, we should usually be going immediately for the badugi even if our 3-card hand is K-high meaning we can never make a badugi stronger than K-high.

Breaking Hands – So long as our opponent continues to draw cards then we know that our weak badugi is the best hand. However if our opponent now starts to stand pat and we have a weak badugi such as K-high or Q-high, there is now a pretty strong chance that our opponent’s badugi is going to beat ours. So while we may previously have been standing pat with our made badugi it can become necessary to “break” our badugi by getting rid of our high-card and shooting for a stronger badugi. But unless our opponents are standing pat we can generally assume that any badugi is the nuts.

Raise First In – Like most variants of poker the default strategy involves raising-first-in if the action is on us in an unopened pot and we have a decent starting hand. We don’t want to raise just any hand and are looking for hands with the highest potential. This will usually be hands that either already have a badugi or are one card away from a badugi. As such we can keep in mind that if we see any of our opponents drawing 3 or 4 cards in the first draw round they are likely recreational players. The exception to this is if our opponents are in a free-play situation (I.e they checked behind in the BB).

Aggression – This is not overly complicated but we want to play our badugi hands as aggressively as possible while our opponents continue to draw. Assuming we have a badugi and our opponents are still drawing it’s a pretty clear indication that our badugi is good unless our opponent specifically hits his draw. We should apply maximum pressure in these situations.

Position – Hopefully this is obvious to anyone that has played other variants seriously. Acting last after the draw is an advantage and should allow us to make better decisions. As such we can play weaker hands if we are likely to have a positional advantage post-draw. Our pre-draw decisions should reflect this and our raise-first-in range from UTG should consist of stronger hands than our BTN raise-first-in range. We can sometimes raise very weak holdings from the BTN and SB if we know our opponents are folding too much pre-draw. As in most draw games however (especially fixed-limit) many players are not folding that much pre-draw and drawing as many cards as they think they need in order to make a badugi.