Omaha Hi/Lo is an interesting variation of Omaha, whereby the pot is split in half, with one half being awarded to the best high hand (as in Omaha high) and the other half going to the best low hand (with requirements). Each player is dealt four hole cards, whereby exactly two may be used to make the best High hand or Low hand. Five community cards are used as in Holdem and Omaha high, with the flop, followed by the turn and the river. The game is often described as ‘Omaha, 8’s or better’ (sometimes abbreviated to O8) as a reference to the necessity for a Low hand to meet qualification requirements to claim half of the pot as detailed below.
For a low hand to qualify:
- The low hand must contain five unpaired cards of 8’s or lower (down to an Ace), for example, 2-4-5-6-8.
- An Ace counts as the lowest card for a low hand (but still follows standard rules for High hands).
- A player must use exactly two of their hole cards with three cards from the board. A player may use the same hole card(s) to make their best low hand and High hand.
- Straights and flushes do not disqualify a low hand.
- If there is no qualifying low hand at the showdown, the entire pot is awarded to the high hand.
Ranking of Low Hands
To determine the best low hand at the showdown, the highest card of each players five lowest cards are looked at first. For example, if Player A has 3-4-5-6-7, against Player B’s A-2-3-4-8, Player A has the winning low hand with a Seven high, against Player B’s Eight high. The strongest Low hand is a five high of A-2-3-4-5, known as ‘The Wheel’, which also counts as a straight for a possible winning high hand.
The ranking of low hands, from the strongest first are:
- Small blind and big blinds are posted by the two players to the left of the button.
- Initial deal of four cards dealt face down to each player.
- First betting round.
- Three community cards are dealt face up in the centre of the table. These are known as the flop.
- Second betting round.
- A fourth community card is dealt face up in the centre of the table, known as the turn card.
- Third betting round.
- A fifth and final community card is dealt face up in the centre of the table, known as the river card.
- Fourth and final betting round.
- Showdown to claim the winning hand.
Player 1 has Ah-Jh-2d-6c
The best five card low hand this player can make is Ah-2d-3h-6h-7d, which is the best possible low hand in this example.
The best high hand for this player is Ah-Kd-Kc-6h-6s, for two pairs, Kings and Sixes.
Player 2 has Ks-Qd-Jd-5s
This player has no qualifying low hand as the 5s is the only card below a Nine, so he cannot use two cards from his hand to form a qualifying low hand.
The best high hand is Kd-Kc-Ks-Qd-Jd, for three of a kind, Kings.
Player 3 has 4c-5c-Td-Kh
The best low hand here is 3h-4c-5c-6h-7d.
The best possible high hand is 3h-4c-5c-6h-7d, for a straight, using the same cards as the low hand.
Player 4 has 3c-6d-7h-9h
There is no qualifying low hand as this hand does not contain five unpaired cards, whilst using two of the hole cards.
The best possible high hand is Kd-Kc-9h-7d-7h, for two pairs, Kings and Sevens.
In this example, the high hand is won by Player 3, with a Seven high straight, and the low hand is won by Player 1, with the best possible low hand in this case.
- A starting hand which does not contain two cards ranked lower than a Nine, can not possible make a qualifying low hand.
- The board must contain three cards lower than a Nine for there to be any possibility of a qualifying low hand.
- If the flop does not have at least one card below a Nine, there can not possibly be a low hand, regardless of which cards come on the turn and river, therefore the hand will be awarded to the high hand only. Example flops of K-Q-J or T-9-9, will not result in a low hand.
General Hi-Lo Terminology
Counterfeiting occurs when a player’s hand is weakened as a result of a community card that duplicates one of the player’s hole cards. This is more likely to occur at the low end in Omaha Hi/Lo, for example, a player with hole cards of A-2-K-J and a flop of 5-6-8, has the best possible low hand on the flop with A-2-5-6-8. If the turn card brings an Ace (or a Two), the player no longer has the best possible low hand as another player holding 2-3 as part of their hand would have a better low hand of A-2-3-5-6.
Double Suited refers to a starting hand with two sets of suited cards, for example, Ah-4h-Ks-3s.
Quartering occurs when two players tie for the best low or high hand (more commonly the low). This occurs most frequently when two players have Ace-Two in their hand and are aiming to win the low half of the pot.
Scooping refers to occasions when one player wins the whole pot from having both the best high and the best low hand.
Steel Wheel is the strongest possible Omaha Hi/Lo hand of A-2-3-4-5 of the same suit (a Five high straight flush).
The Wheel is the best possible low hand of A-2-3-4-5, which also counts as a straight.