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Five Tips for Winning at Omaha Hi-Lo

Omaha Hi-Lo is not a form of poker that you can learn in one day, or from simply following directions. This is a game that needs study and practice. Even experienced poker players may take a year or more to really get a grip on this most popular of all split poker games.

Nevertheless, there are basic concepts that if you know these, you are ahead of 90 percent of Omaha Hi-Lo participants. Of course the other 10 percent will still be highly dangerous to your bankroll, let it be known, but it's still better to be better than 90 percent of the rest of'em.

Here, then, are five essential strategy tips for winning at Omaha Hi-Lo:

1. Value Aces

Aces are highly (and lowly) important to Omaha Hi-Lo. That is to say that Aces are both the highest and the lowest card in the deck, so any time you receive an Ace in the hole, or better yet two, you may have a chance to scoop the pot if the flop favors you.

Folding all starting hands that don't include an Ace is not a bad idea when you're starting out, especially if you are in early or middle position.

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2. Find the Nut Low

After the flop, the best players in Omaha Hi-Lo instantly identify the nut low, i.e. the best low hand that can be made on this hand. For a beginner, identifying the nut low may take a bit longer, but you are wise to spend the time to do this.

Anytime you are drawing to a low hand--meaning you need a card on the turn and/or river in order to make your hand--you need to be drawing to the nut low, not the second or third best low. Drawing to the second-best low hand is a great way to lose money playing Omaha Hi-Lo.

Obviously you can only draw or not draw to the nut low if you know what the nut low is in the first place.

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3. Don't Raise When You're Quartered

Being quartered, meaning that you only receive 25 percent of the pot even though you hit your hand, is a distinctly unpleasant experience, but one that cannot be completely avoided.

Let's say for example that both you and one of your opponents hold A-2 in the hole, and the flop comes 4-5-6 unsuited. You two are going to split the low side of the pot, there is not really a way to avoid this fact.

What you can avoid, though, is putting more bets into a pot in which you will be quartered; doing so in the above situation will only increase the winnings of the high side winner, to the detriment of your own bankroll.

Therefore, when you know you are quartered, don't raise, just call.

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4. Eliminate Players

Omaha Hi-Lo, because each player receives four hole cards but also because there is both a high and a low side of the pot to be potentially won, is a game that offers a lot of drawing hands. This is a good thing in the sense that players with marginal hands may be induced to play hands they shouldn't, but it likewise can be a bad thing if those players stay in the hand and draw out on you.

Because you may be drawn out on in so many different ways, you must remember the poker axiom "a caller is a loser" when playing Omaha Hi-Lo. If you have a strong hand, it's best to try to eliminate players with weaker hands by betting and raising, rather than just calling.

All too often in Omaha 8, players who stick around end up taking part of a pot that would have been yours if you had only raised and caused them to fold.

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5. Fold Bad Starting Hands

Duh, right? But with four hole cards and two directions to win, there is a certain "something for everyone" element to Omaha Hi-Lo that can make it hard to fold marginal starting hands.

One way to counter this gambler's instinct is to make a list of starting hands you should either never play or only play from late position in an unraised pot. These bad starting hands that you kind of rather need to fold immediately include:
  • Four of a kind (again, this may instinctually feel wrong, but it's so right)
  • No Aces (see tip number one above)
  • Three of a kind other than Trip Aces or 2s
  • Lowest card is 5 or higher (in these cases, you have virtually no chance of making the winning low hand and have a good chance of being quartered to the high side)
The best starting hand in Omaha Hi-Lo is A-A-2-3, double-suited. All strong Omaha Hi-Lo hands share with this best hand the chance to make both the nut high and the nut low.

Starting hands that don't conduce to this both/and scenario usually should be mucked ASAP.

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