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Best of Fred Renzey

Gaming Guru

 

Omaha Hi/Lo Poker primer: Clearing up the confusion

12 October 2007

Due to the No-Limit poker tournaments on television, Texas Hold'em is all the rage today, but another flop-style poker game is still widely played by many veterans of poker.

Omaha Hi/Lo is more of an "action" game than Hold'em because the pot gets split between the best high and low hands. It also produces a much wider range of poker hands due to the extra cards held in each player's hand.

With all that going on, the game scares many novices away. But once presented clearly, Omaha becomes a logical game with a strategy based in step-by-step reasoning. Following is a basic Omaha Hi/Lo primer that should put you a few steps ahead of most novices at the game.

Step 1: In Omaha Hi/Lo you get four hole cards rather than just two as in Hold'em. There's a three-card flop, then a turn card and a river card, just like Hold'em. But you must use exactly two cards from your hand with exactly three from the board to make your best high hand. Then you use any two from your hand with any three from the board to make your low.

Step 2: Now here comes the first catch. In order to win the low half of the pot, you must be able to make an 8 low or lower. If nobody can do that, the best high hand gets it all. So if the final five-card board is

3-6-10-J-K

there will be no low since you can only use two cards from your hand, and the best possible low here would be A-2-3-6-10. That's not an 8 low, so the whole pot will be "scooped" by the best high hand. There must be at least three cards 8 or lower on board to make a low hand possible.

Step 3: Remember, you can use only two cards from your hand. So if your hole cards are A/10/10/10, you do not have trip 10s. That's just a pair of 10s. Likewise, if the board is made up of

club-club-heart-diamond-spade

and you have three more clubs in your hand, that's not a flush. Also, if the board contains four spades and you just have an unsuited Ace of spades in your hand, you've got absolutely nothing. It's two from the hand – three from the board.

Step 4: Realize that with nine cards to pick from (four in the hand and five on the board), Omaha Hi/Lo makes some very big hands. Where pocket "rockets" (Aces) will often win the chips in Hold'em, it usually takes a straight or better to win the high half in Omaha. As for the low, you'll seldom win with anything less than the best possible low, or second best low.

Step 5: Because step number 4 is painfully true, many attractive looking flops that would give you a pretty strong Hold'em hand are just sucker hands in Omaha. Say you've got an unsuited A/2/10/Q in your hand and the flop comes

10d-2d-3s

You flopped two pair – 10s up, and guess what? It's a sucker hand. Three things hurt you on the flop here. First, your excellent low draw (the Ace/2) got paired, ruining your prospects for low. Second, two pair are a very hard hand to fill and a straight or a flush is apt to come. Third, with two low cards in the flop, a low will end up being possible 75% of the time – and there goes half the pot even if you do win the high.

Step 6: This is the most important step in the lesson. Once the flop comes, you usually need either trips or a high flush draw to keep on playing for high. Only if the flop is all unsuited, can you pursue open-end straight draws – which are very common.

For low, you need to flop either the made best low, as in

4-7-8

when you have the Ace/2 -- or at least have two low cards in the flop to continue with your Ace/2. If two high cards come on the flop, fold your Ace/2.

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:

> More Books By Fred Renzey