Secrets of poker Poker

Test your fate with Omaha 8

Written by Ben Blaschke

Last week we looked at Pot Limit Omaha and some common mistakes many players make – particularly those who have recently transitioned from No Limit Hold’em. Today we’re going to look at a popular variant of Omaha known as “Omaha Hi-Lo” or “Omaha 8” and what adjustments you must make to be successful at this entertaining but challenging game.

Omaha 8 is identical to Omaha in the way it is played but rather than the biggest hand winning the pot, the pot is actually split between the best Hi hand and the best Lo hand. A Lo hand consists of five cards from Ace to 8, with the best being A-2-3-4-5, the second best being A-2-3-4-6 and so on up to 4-5-6-7-8. Like Omaha, you must use two of your hole cards and three from the board to make your hand so it’s vital to pay close attention to how your cards interact with the board on each street. If there is no Lo hand – such as when the board runs out all high cards – then the pot is scooped by the biggest Hi hand.

Of course, it can be extremely frustrating when you make a monster Hi hand only to have to split the pot with someone holding trashy low cards and so the ultimate goal of any good Omaha 8 player is to play hands that have a great chance to make both the best Hi and the best Lo hand. With this in mind, hands such as A-A-2-3 double suited are great starting hands, as is any hand with an Ace and two more cards valued 5 or lower.

In standard Omaha, A-A-2-3 is considered a relatively weak hand and certainly isn’t one you would feel too comfortable playing for stacks, but in Omaha 8 it is the best example of a hand that can make both the best Hi and best Lo hand.

Of course, the added consideration of the Lo half of the pot means there are now even more mistakes for you to make if you aren’t paying attention or fail to take into account what certain flops mean for both of your hands. For example, let’s say you hold A-A-K-2 – not a bad hand. If the flop were to come 3-7-8, you’ve pretty much got a lock on the Lo half of the pot at this stage because you’re A-2 gives you an A-2-3-7-8 Lo. Unless someone else holds an A and a 2 as well, half the pot is yours and the A-A means you’ve got a pretty decent chance of winning the Hi as well. But be aware, should the turn land, say, a 2 then your hand will be counterfeited and anyone holding an A-4 will now have the best Lo (A-2-3-4-7).

Like Omaha, Omaha 8 can also trick you into playing too many hands. With chips often flying on the flop, Omaha 8 is certainly an action game and it can be tempting to get involved despite holding a hand that will likely struggle to scoop both halves of the pot. Resist the urge! Patience is a virtue and while it can be frustrating to have to sit back and wait for the right moment, you will be rewarded handsomely if you do.

Omaha 8 isn’t an easy game to master, but it is a lot of fun and with so many players at the lower levels struggling to adapt to its unique requirements, there is a great opportunity to do well for those willing to put in the time.