Of the community poker games available, Omaha hi lo may be one of the most fun and exciting to play. This game is also known as Omaha Eight or better which stands for the "O" in H.O.R.S.E. A variation of regular Omaha hold’em, Omaha hi lo brings the challenge and excitement of a low hand to the game. While the game is pretty simple, beginners will find the concept of the low a litte overwhelming at first. This article will get you up to speed on the rules of Omaha hi lo. If you already know how to play please read our Omaha Hi-Lo strategy article to improve your play.
Set up and Deal
Omaha hi lo is set up just like Texas hold’em in that there is a dealer button with a small blind and a large blind directly to the left of the button. The small blind is usually half of the small bet in the game and the large blind is equal to the small bet. So if you were playing in a $2/$4 game of Omaha hi lo, the small blind would be $1 and the large blind would be $2. Once the blinds have been posted the dealer gives each player four cards face down and play begins.
After the blinds have been posted and the cards dealt, play begins with the player to the left of the large blind. This player must either call the large blind, fold or raise. Once the player has decided, then action continues around the table in a clockwise motion until all players have had a chance to act. Once all players have acted, the dealer burns a card and puts three cards face up in the middle of the table. This is known as the flop and play will now begin with the small blind and continue around the table in a clockwise motion until all players have had a chance to act.
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After the flop round concludes the dealer then burns another card and lays another card on the table. This is called the turn and during this round, players must now bet in the hier amount. So in the $2/$4 game, players must now bet $4 for the rest of the hand. Once all players have had a chance to act the dealer burns one final card and lays out the last card on the table, also called the river. As with the turn, players must now bet in $4 increments. Once all players have called, there is a showdown to determine the winner of both the hi and low pots.
Playing the hand
A quick note on Omaha hi lo is that it is different from Texas hold’em in how the players may utilize the cards. Of the four cards the player receives, he or she must use exactly two of them to construct their hand. Additionally, the player must use exactly three cards from the board to make their hand. You may not use three cards from your hand and two cards from the board. Since the game is Omaha hi lo, you may use two separate cards from your hand for the lo and two separate cards from your hand for the hi. The same rule applies for the cards you use on the board. The bottom line is that you must use exactly two cards from your hand and exactly three cards from the board to construct both you hi and lo hands.
The showdown and the low hand
During the showdown in a hand of Omaha hi lo, most of the time the pot will be split in two halves, one for the hi hand and the other for the lo hand. The hi pot is awarded to the best normal poker hand like a full house or two pair. The low hand however can be a bit confusing to new players, so we have a few pointers that will help you get through your first few lo hands.
Sometimes a low hand isn’t even possible. Keep an eye on the board, only when there are three unique cards ranking eight or lower on the board can there be a lo hand.
An ace is the lowest card in hi lo and it can be used to form the best hand in Omaha hi lo which is called the wheel. A wheel is A2345 and in addition to being the most powerful lo hand, it is a powerful five hi straight for the hi hand!
Sometimes you will have competing lo hands and it is difficult to decide which one is best. The easiest way to decide is to start counting from the highest card down. In the event of a tie, you simply keep going through the cards. Who ever has the lowest set of cards after accounting for ties, wins the low half of the pot.