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Best of Fred Renzey

Gaming Guru

 

Drawing to the 'Nut Low' in Omaha Hi/Lo Poker

22 October 2005

About the only game besides Texas Hold'em that anybody plays in poker rooms anymore is Omaha Hi/Lo Split. Any kind of Stud poker has been just about trampled to death by the Hold'em stampede.

Omaha, however, is similar to Hold'em with its three-card flop, turn card and river card. In Omaha Hi/Lo, though, the pot is split between the best high and best low hand – and you have four hole cards rather than just two. You must use exactly two cards from your hand and exactly three from the board to make either your high or low hand. Also, to qualify for the low half of the pot, you must make an 8 low or lower.

So today, let's talk about the single most important strategy principle in playing Omaha Hi/Lo Split. That's when you have an Ace/Deuce in your hand among your four hole cards. Having an Ace/Deuce is such a big factor because if the final board looks anything typical -- like this:

8-6-Q-4-J

you'll have the best possible low, or the "nut low" in poker lingo. That's because nobody can possibly beat an 8-6-4-2-A for low, since you must use exactly two from your hand.

In fact, any five-card board that contains at least three cards between a 3 and an 8 (with no ace or deuce) will give you that coveted nut low. And plenty of common boards will fit into that category. For this reason, the old Acey/Deucey is usually good enough to make your hand playable, almost regardless of your other two cards.

So then, how often will you be dealt an Ace/Deuce? Just once out of every 14 hands, on average. And when you do have the Ace/Deuce, how often will you make the nut low? That's where the flop becomes all-important.

You'll make the nut low right on the flop only one time in 15 – such as when it comes something like:

8-7-6, or
7-3-5, or
6-4-3, etc.

But another 5 times out of 15, you'll flop a nut low draw such as with:

8-7-Q, or
7-3-J, or
6-4-K, etc.

with two more cards yet to come. So in all, your Ace/Deuce will flop either the made nut low or "nut low draw" 40% of the time (6 times out of 15).

Okay then, when you flop two low cards giving you the nut low draw, how often will you end up making your nut low? You'll get there almost exactly half the time. If you miss on the turn (fourth card), you'll still make it at the river one third of the time. All in all, an awful lot of half pots go the player holding an Ace/Deuce.

That's not to say an Ace/Deuce is automatic money in the bank now. It comes with its own pitfalls, the same way "Big Slick" (Ace/King) does in Hold'em. First of all, one third of the flops will contain either two or three high cards (9 or higher).

When two high cards flop such as 5-10-K, you'll need two consecutive helping cards to make your low. That's a 5-to-1 longshot, and you should fold if you've got nothing for high. Even worse, if three high cards flop such as 9-J-K, your Ace/Deuce can't possibly make an 8 low.

Another detractor is that sometimes two players will have an Ace/Deuce. Here, you'll have to split the low half of the pot with somebody else. That's known as getting "quartered", since you'll end up with just a fourth of the pot.

And now for the final peril of the Ace/Deuce in Omaha Hi/Lo. Remember that wonderful one time in 15 when you make your nut low right on the flop as with, say:

8-5-4

Well, one fourth of those times an Ace or Deuce will come on the turn or the river and your nut low won't be the nut low anymore. If the final board is:

8-5-4-10-A

the nut low will now be a 2/3 -- and you will have been what is known as "counterfeited". Even a 2/6, 3/6, 2/7 or 3/7 will beat you for low and you'll get nothing.

Fred Renzey
Fred Renzey is a high-stakes, expert poker player. On a daily basis he faces--and beats--some of the best players in the country in fierce poker room competition. Now for the first time, Renzey offers his perceptive insights on how to play winning poker. For Fred's 13-page blackjack booklet "Ace/10 Front Count", send $9 to Fred Renzey, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL, 60009

Books by Fred Renzey:

Blackjack Bluebook II

> More Books By Fred Renzey

Fred Renzey
Fred Renzey is a high-stakes, expert poker player. On a daily basis he faces--and beats--some of the best players in the country in fierce poker room competition. Now for the first time, Renzey offers his perceptive insights on how to play winning poker. For Fred's 13-page blackjack booklet "Ace/10 Front Count", send $9 to Fred Renzey, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL, 60009

Books by Fred Renzey:

Blackjack Bluebook II

> More Books By Fred Renzey