Omaha hi lo is one of the best variations of poker going around. This is because the game attracts a lot of really players who are intrigued by the notion that half the pot is awarded to the best low hand. More to the point, many games are full of players who limp into pots with hands with low potential only and they don’t care much about who gets the half of the pot for the high hand. Therefore, forcing the “low-chasers” to pay as much as possible is the key secret to playing Omaha hi lo.
IF YOU HAVE BEEN BETTING AND MISS YOUR LOW, BET THE RIVER
Let’s say you have A-2-3-6 and the flop is J-5-4. In this spot, it is certainly worth betting and raising because the you will have the best low is any card below 9 falls (excluding 4 and 5 of course) and you also have a straight draw wrap. If an ace falls or a 2 falls, you may scoop or, at the very least, walk away with 75% of the pot.
But let’s say the turn is a Queen and the river is a repeat 5. If you have been betting up until this point, it is strongly advisable to bet again on the river and try to steal a pot. Remember that if there is $160 in the pot and you bet $20 on the river to steal, you only have to win one in eight times to show profit.
The truth is that you’ll win many more times than that for one simple reason: your opponents were also on low draws and they missed as well. If one opponent has A-2-4-K and the other has 2-3-7-7, they will usually be very reluctant to look you up – especially if you have been betting the whole way. They assume from the outset that you have the high and you’re making them pay to draw to the low. When they miss, the last thing that usually crosses their mind is that their high will beat yours!
POSITIONAL RAISING FOR FREE CARDS
Position is arguably more important in Omaha hi lo than in any other game. Aside from the obvious benefits, raising for free cards in position is of enormous benefit in this game, simply because you’ll be on a draw more often in Omaha than in hold’em. Further, raising for free cards in Omaha will succeed almost every time for three reasons:
1) Players are generally reluctant to put in third raise on the flop without the stone-cold nuts.
2) If they call, they are generally reluctant to bet into you on the turn if they don’t have the stone-cold nuts.
3) If they improve to the nuts on the turn (or slowplayed the nuts on the flop), they will usually check to you on the turn on the assumption that you will bet again.
Therefore, the conditions are absolutely primed for raising for a free card on the flop. That is one thing that people often misunderstand about Omaha: the winner will not always be decided by the stone cold nuts. For example, I see players who have 10-10-x-x in the hole and if they are raised on a flop of 10-9-7, they automatically assume that their opponent has J-8-x-x. As a result, a raise is a good weapon in Omaha because it will slow down extremely big hands (that fractionally fall short of the nuts).
Therefore, if you have A-Q-2-4 in position and the flop is 3-8-10, it may be worth raising the flop. On the turn, take a free card if don’t improve your low and hopefully you’ll get there on the river. On occasion, you’ll backdoor a high, such as two running queens or a king on the turn and a jack on the river.
CALL WHEN HEADS UP AND YOU HAVE THE SECOND BEST OF EACH END
Let’s say that you have Ac-2d-6c-Qs and the flop is 5h-7h-Qd. You bet and four people call. On the turn, a 2 falls. You check, another player bets and everyone calls. The river a 10. The person who bet the turn bets again and the other two fold. In this spot, you should probably call, even you don’t have a premium showdown hand. There is a reasonable chance that the bettor has a high hand or a low hand, but not both.
On many occasions, you will find that they have nothing but the nut low and your two pairs (Queens and Twos) will win the high. But I see many players make the mistake of folding on the river in this spot, simply because they assume that neither their high nor low will take half the pot. But this is not often the case and on some occasions, you may even scooped by calling the river in this spot!
The real trick is when the pot is three-handed on the river and you are in the same situation. This is where knowledge of your opponent will help. If you are in a pot where two players routinely chase low draws, it may be worth giving it up. If you were very convinced that your hand was good, call by all means. But generally speaking, loose callers are the types of players that will usually trouble you with bigger two-pairs and third nut lows.
On the other hand, if you are up against tight players, there is a better chance that your high hand will win. For example, if a tight player bet and another tight player called, I’d be inclined to say that one probably has a hand like A-A-K-10 and the other has something like A-2-3-J. In this case, your high is probably good enough to win half the pot. If they have good starting requirements, it would be surprising to see them make a better two pair than Queens and Twos on a board Q-10-7-5-2.