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Best of Fred Renzey

Gaming Guru

 

Omaha Hi/Lo Is the Other Flop-Style Poker Game

20 March 2005

The Texas Hold'em poker rage is in full swing. One big reason why it caught on so rapidly is the game's sheer simplicity. Even non-poker players can watch a few hands on TV and quickly catch on to the gist of the game.

Until Hold'em came along, Stud poker was the cornerstone of public poker rooms. But the idea of flopping three community cards in the center of the table for everybody to use caught on like wild fire. Today, more flop-style poker games are dealt than stud games.

Texas Hold'em, however, isn't the only flop poker game around. Each hand of Hold'em is a traditional, high only, one winner game. That may be great for TV viewing, but in live card rooms many players like the action of hi/lo split poker where two players divide the pot. That's what Omaha Hi/Lo is. It's the other flop-style poker game and it makes big pots.

Omaha Hi/Lo uses the same community concept of flopping three, then a fourth and finally a fifth common card in the center of the table. But in Omaha, you have four hole cards rather than just two. The trick is that you must use two cards from your hand with three from the board to go high. Then you use two other cards from your hand with three from the board to go low. It takes an 8 low or lower to have a qualifying low or the best high hand gets it all.

Other than that, Omaha is dealt exactly like Texas Hold'em with blinds, a rotating dealer's button and all. The big difference is that with those two extra cards in the hole, Omaha Hi/Lo makes strong hands. A pair of Kings may be a pretty solid hand in Hold'em, but straights, flushes and full houses are commonplace in Omaha. And more often than not, you'll need a perfect low to take the low half.

So what's a winning strategy for Omaha Hi/Lo Split? Starting hands are paramount. The single most desirable thing to have is an Ace/deuce among your four hole cards. With that, you'd be guaranteed to win the low if the board contains at least three cards between a 3 and an 8 (and no Ace or deuce). Holding an Ace/deuce is such an asset that it's generally worth seeing the flop no matter what your other two hole cards are. Without the Ace/deuce, you need all four cards to be either very high or very low.

Overall, low hands have the edge over high hands since they may end up winning high by making a straight or a flush. Things like A/3/4/6, 2/3/4/6 and A/3/5/5 are worth a look at the flop. It's even better if your Ace is suited with another card so that you might make an Ace-high flush when three of your suit hit the board.

The only high hands you want to play are those containing all 10s and above, such as 10/J/Q/K or J/J/K/A, etc. Even a fabled pair of Aces should be folded if it's something like A/A/7/Q unsuited.

The three-card flop will be your defining moment in the hand. For low, you absolutely need either a made low with your Ace/deuce, such as when a 3-6-8 flops or at least a draw to the nut (perfect) low when something like a 3-6-10 comes. Anything less and you cannot continue playing.

For high, you need to flop the top straight such as 9-10-K on board with a J/Q in your hand or a set (three of a kind) such as 6-9-Q with a Q/Q in your hand, or the nut (best possible) flush draw such as 3s-8s-Jd with the Ace/anything of spades in your hand.

Is Omaha Hi/Lo a beatable game? Definitely! In blackjack, bad players at the table don't hurt you, but they don't help you either. In Omaha Hi/Lo, bad players help you big time because they are your opponents. And there's no shortage in either game.

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:

> 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