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How to play Omaha Hi/Lo

Often referred to as Omaha Hold'em, some players will say that Omaha is a Texas Hold em spin-off of sorts, though some poker purists may contest this description. Omaha Hi/Lo takes the variation one step further away from Hold'em, but still maintains some of the core principles.

As one of the most popular games, you'll find Omaha Hi/Lo on almost every online poker site, as well as all major tournaments, so it's important to know exactly what's going on when you sit down at the felt.

We cover the standard version of Omaha poker in full depth here, but today we're going to give you a deep dive into Omaha Hi/Lo.

All Omaha poker games are played with the same betting rules and hand ranking as Texas Hold'em, but the main differences are:

  • Each player is dealt 4 hole cards to their starting hands, not 2.

  • Players must combine 2 hole cards with 3 community cards to create a 5-card hand.

Standard Omaha

Standard Omaha is simply played "high", which means the player with the best hand wins the entire pot. This may seem like the only way to play poker, but when you understand Omaha Hi/Low, this description makes much more sense.

Check out our full guide on how to play Omaha poker here, for all the info on fixed limit, no limit and pot limit Omaha.

Omaha Hi/Lo

Otherwise known as Omaha 8, this variation competes on two levels - the highest and the lowest hand. That's right! Players compete with two hands in Omaha Hi/Lo. Omaha Hi/Lo games have a completely altered strategy as a result.

Now, if you already know how to play standard Omaha (Omaha High), then you should find this much easier to understand - here's how the game works:

Just like Omaha High, players are dealt four hole cards each and they must combine two of their hole cards with three of the community cards to form a five-card hand. The only difference is that they must do this twice. One for the 'high hand' and one for the 'low hand'.

The High Hand

The high hand in Omaha Hi/Lo is determined the exact same way as in Texas Hold'em or Omaha High - traditional poker hand rankings apply, and the winning hand gets the pot.

These rankings are as follows:

  1. Royal flush - The royal flush is the best possible hand in Texas Hold em poker. It consists of five consecutive cards, 10 through to Ace and all of the same suit. Regardless of anyone else's hand, a player with a royal flush will always be winning the pot.

  2. Straight flush - These can be any five consecutive cards of the same suit. This hand can only be beaten by a higher straight flush or a royal flush.

  3. Four of a kind - This hand is the same card in all four suits. The fifth card of this hand will be the highest value card in the community cards or the player's hole cards.

  4. Full house - This hand consists of one three of a kind and one pair, joined together to make a five-card hand called a full-house. Therefore the player must have three identical cards in different suits and two identical cards in different suits. If there are two full houses, the winning hand will have the highest value 'three of a kind'.

  5. Flush - Any five cards of the same suit, in no particular order. When two players both have flushes, the hand that contains the highest valued card is the winning poker hand.

  6. Straight - Five consecutive cards in terms of numerical value, but not all of the same suit.

  7. Three of a kind - Three of the same value card, in three different suits. The next two highest cards available in the community cards or the player's hole cards will contribute to the hand.

  8. Two pairs - Two sets of two cards with matching values. The highest value cards remaining will complete the five card hand.

  9. Pair - A singular pair of cards with the same value.

  10. High card - The worst hand on the table - simply the highest card in your hand.

The Low Hand

This requires a little more explanation...

First and foremost, the two cards you choose for your High Hand, are allowed to be used for your Low Hand too. You can use the same two cards, the other two cards or mix and match however you'd like.

The key point for a Low Hand is that all the cards used must have values lower than or equal to 8. This is where the phrase "split 8 or better" comes from, something you'll hear often during the Hi/Lo poker games.

Here's a few rules for the low hand you should remember:

  • Qualifying low hands consist of five unpaired cards with values 8 or lower.

  • An Ace is considered the lowest card in a low hand. (But is considered the highest card in the high hands)

  • Flushes and straights make no difference in your low hand.

  • The best or lowest possible low hand is A-2-3-4-5 - often referred to as a "wheel".

  • The worst possible low hand is 4-5-6-7-8.

The Showdown

Most of the betting and play progression in Omaha Hi/Lo is the same as Texas Hold'em and Standard Omaha too:

  • The pre-flop: you are given your four hole cards and a round of betting takes place.

  • The flop: the first three community cards are placed down face up and another round of betting takes place.

  • The turn: another community card is placed and another round of betting will commence.

  • The river: the final community card is placed and the last round of betting ensues.

There are also the same principles when it comes to big blinds and small blinds, folding, betting and raising. One of the biggest differences in the game, is the showdown:

Players will first show their High Hand and half the pot will be awarded to the winning player. Then the players will reveal their Low Hand, and the rest of the pot is awarded to the winning player.

Two players will either split the pot, or one player could win both the high and low hands and add the entire pot to their stack.

Now you know how to play Omaha Hi/Lo. Why not check out our other guides? Or if you feel confident enough, hit the tables at any one of the amazing sites we work with.