HOW TO PLAY OMAHA HI-LO
SHOW OFF YOUR POKER SKILLS WITH A GAME OF OMAHA HI-LO—BUT ARE YOU CONFIDENT YOU’LL WIN THE POT?
Ah, the highs and lows of poker. They come in many forms, as any poker player will tell you. One minute you’re on top of the world ordering magnums of Moët, the next minute you’re tearing your hair out reaching for a double Jack Daniels on the rocks.
But when it comes to Hi-Lo poker, we’re not talking about winning or losing. Or the emotional turmoil that will inevitably ensue following a bad beat. Hi-Lo Poker requires a different strategy altogether.
If you’re a Pot-Limit Omaha fan, then you’ve probably already heard of Hi-Lo Poker (or Omaha High-Low, Omaha H/L, Omaha/8 or Omaha 8-or-better, as it’s also called). And the good news is, if you already know how to play PLO, Hi-Lo won’t be too difficult to master.
Omaha Poker comes in a few different formats, all with slight variations on the common ruleset. In short, the games are broken down into different betting structures and pot sizes.
As the name suggests, Omaha Hi-Lo is a split game version of Omaha that essentially splits the pot you’re playing for. Players will use their high and low hand rankings (you can read more about hand rankings here) to split the pot between the players with the best high hand and the best low hand.
Other variations of the game include Pot-Limit Omaha and No-Limit Omaha, which are fairly explanatory—one has a fixed limit, one does not. But we’ve listed them below for your reference.
OMAHA POKER VARIATIONS
When it comes to game structure, there are four main variations of Omaha Poker:
- No-Limit Omaha (NL): As with No Limit Hold‘em, there is no limit to what you play (and therefore players can go all-in pre-flop, or at any time after on subsequent betting rounds).
- Fixed-Limit Omaha (FL): In Fixed Limit (FL) poker, the amount you want to play is fixed. This is good for new players as it minimizes the amount that you can play and the amount you could lose.
- Pot-Limit Omaha (PLO): In Pot-Limit Omaha, the most you can play or raise is the size of the pot on any given street. Thus in PLO, play is restricted to the size of the pot on the street. This is the most popular playing structure of Omaha games.
- Hi-Lo Omaha: This is a "split pot" game, meaning that at showdown, the pot is divided in half: one half is awarded to the winning best hand, and the other half to the best qualifying "low hand."
The basic rules for Omaha Hi-Lo are very similar to Pot-Limit Omaha (if you don’t know the rules for PLO, you can read them here), which as you may or may not know, are a variation of Texas Hold’em. So if you’re just starting out on the Omaha train, you can always ride Texan to start with so you can get your bearings.
Regardless of what variant you’re playing, each player is dealt at least three cards at the start of the game; five community cards are dealt in the middle throughout play and can be used by anyone to create the best five-card hand possible. In Omaha Hi-Lo, each player will be dealt precisely four cards.
As an added stipulation, players must use two of the cards from their hand, and three out of the five community cards on the board to create their best possible five-card hand combination. For example, if you have four kings in your hand, it's not counted as four of a kind because you must only use two hole cards.
Much like Texas Hold’em or Pot-Limit Omaha, if a player bets and everyone folds before the showdown, that player wins the entire pot without having to show a hand. However, if the final bet is called and there’s a showdown, each player reveals their hands and whoever has the best high hand and the best low hand each wins one half of the pot respectively.
OMAHA HI-LO RULES
To understand the rules, first, you’ll need to swot up on your poker hand rankings. But it’s ok, we’ve got you covered with our definitive hand rankings guide. And you can even download them to your phone as a handy cheat sheet. You can thank us later.
POKER HAND RANKINGS: YOUR DOWNLOADABLE CHEAT SHEET
The royal flush is the only unbeatable hand in poker. It must consist of a 10, Jack, Queen, King and Ace of the same suit. A royal flush is a combination of a straight and a flush, with the added stipulation of being a high straight.
Probability: 1 in 649,740
Five cards in sequential order that are also the same suit. A straight flush is a combination of a straight and a flush.
Probability: 1 in 72,193
Four cards of the same denomination, the suits don't matter.
Probability: 1 in 4,164
Three cards of the same denomination along with two of another, a combination of three of a kind and a pair. The suits don’t matter.
Probability: 1 in 693
Five cards of the same suit in any order, the numbers don't matter. There are four suits, diamonds, hearts, spades and clubs.
Probability: 1 in 508
Five cards in sequential order, the suits don't matter. Ace is counted as 1 in the event of a low straight and is the only card that can be used both high and low.
Probability: 1 in 253
Three cards of the same denomination, kickers are used to settle a draw. The suits don’t matter.
Probability: 1 in 46
Two sets of pairs, if two players have the same pairs, the highest kicker wins. The suits don’t matter.
Probability: 1 in 20
Two cards of the same denomination, if there is a draw, the kicker is used to determine the winner. The highest-ranked pair wins. Suits don’t matter.
Probability: 1 in 1.36
When there are no other poker hand combinations, the highest ranked card determines the strength of the hand. In the event of a draw with another player, the next most significant card, which is called the kicker, is used to determine the winner. Suits don’t matter.
Probability: 1 in 0.99
Unlike the standard game of Omaha, Omaha Hi-Lo has the possibility of a split pot, with half going to the best traditional, or ‘high’ hand, and the other half going to the best ’low’ hand. Note that there will always be a high hand—this is where your poker hand rankings cheat sheet will come in handy; high hands are the same as Hold’em and PLO—but there won’t always be a qualifying low hand. The low hand only comes into play if the final bet is called and there is a showdown.
You can use different combinations of two cards from your hand to make your high hand and your low hand, but in each hand you must have two from your hand and three from the community cards to make up your five-card hand. If a player has both the best ‘low’ and ‘high’ hands, the player will win the whole pot.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The rules are as follows. This is where you’ll need to pay attention; the low hand requires a little more explanation, especially if you’re a split-pot or hi-lo newbie.
Much like its Pot-Limit cousin, the goal is to make up the best five-card hand. BUT here’s the twist. Because the pot is split, players have to make up the best five-card high hand and the best five-card low hand, using exactly two hole cards and three community cards.
In Omaha Hi-Lo Poker, each player is dealt four private cards. Only that player can use those particular cards. In addition to those four cards, five community cards are dealt in the middle of the table for all players to use.
As with standard Omaha poker, players are required to use two of their four hole cards, in addition to three of the five community cards to form the best five-card hand.
Omaha Hi-Low poker is however a little different to Pot-Limit Omaha, in that two hands share the pot, provided the rules have been met. For the high hand, 8 or better serves as a qualifier, and for the low hand the 5 cards must rank 8 or lower. If these conditions have not been met, the high hand will win the whole pot. The strongest possible hand—the nuts—in Omaha Hi-Lo is 5, 4, 3, 2 & Ace. Note that Aces are counted as 1 according to the California system for hand rankings.
You can see the high and low hand rankings listed below.
LOW HAND POKER RANKINGS
To qualify as a low hand, all five cards must be ranked 8 or below, and be of different denominations. Straights and flushes don’t affect the value of a low hand, provided the cards are all ranked 8 or below. Aces can be used for both low and high hands. If nobody has cards that qualify for the low hand, then the pot will not be split and the player with the best high hand wins the entire pot. A low hand is always ranked from the highest card downward.
LOW HAND EXAMPLES
Ace, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 can all be used to form low hands. None of the cards in a low hand can be paired.
BEST LOW HANDS (IN DECREASING ORDER OF STRENGTH)5, 4, 3, 2, Ace
6, 4, 3, 2, Ace
6, 5, 3, 2, Ace
6, 5, 4, 2, Ace
6, 5, 4, 3, Ace
6, 5, 4, 3, 2
7, 4, 3, 2, Ace
7, 5, 3, 2, Ace
7, 5, 4, 2, Ace
7, 5, 4, 3, Ace
WORST LOW HAND8, 7, 6, 5, 4
HIGH HAND POKER RANKINGS
To determine the winner of a high card hand, Omaha Hi-Lo follows the same hand rankings as most forms of poker. From lowest to highest, the cards are ranked 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, Jack, Queen, King, Ace. The same hole cards that are used to form the best ‘low’ hand can also be used to form the best ‘high’ hand.
BETTING AND BLINDS
Omaha Hi-Lo follows the same blind set up as the regular game—there’s a small and big blind, and a rotating button to mark who the dealer is. The player to the left of the dealer button puts in the small blind, while the big blind is the next person in sequence after the small blind (the second player to the left of the dealer button). The big blind is the minimum bet amount and the small blind is typically half of the big blind.
The position of the dealer and the blinds also decides who is first to act. The player to the left of the big blind is first to act—they can fold, raise or call the big blind. Play then goes clockwise around the table. At the end of the round, the dealer button and blinds rotate clockwise. The big blind becomes the small, and the small becomes the dealer. There are four betting rounds in total—pre-flop, the flop, the turn and the river.
Antes are forced bets that players in certain tournaments (or certain stages of tournaments) have to make before the start of a hand. Antes are made in conjunction with blinds but unlike blinds, antes are paid by everyone rather than specific players.
OMAHA HI-LOW BETTING VARIATIONS
No Limit—No restrictions on betting. The size of all bets and raises is only constrained by the number of chips a player has. You can’t bet more chips than you have in your stack.
Fixed Limit—In the pre-flop and flop betting rounds, the bet amount is equal to the big blind. In the turn and river betting rounds, the bet amount is double the big blind. In any round, betting is capped after a bet and three raises
Pot Limit—Bets and raises are restricted by the number of chips in the pot. If the pot has 100 in it, then the next bet can’t exceed 100.
Mixed—The ruleset changes each round, alternating between no limit, fixed limit, and/or pot limit. Blinds are adjusted accordingly.
HOW TO PLAY OMAHA HI-LO: YOUR STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE
Now you know the written rules of Omaha Hi-Lo, fancy your chances at the poker table? Go on, show us your swagger. Here’s your step-by-step guide to Omaha greatness.
A standard game of Omaha High/Low will start with every player getting a card, the person with the highest is made the dealer. The person to the left of the dealer becomes the small blind, and the next in sequence becomes the big blind. After the blinds are posted, the cards are dealt and each player receives four cards. The first round of betting starts with the person to the left of the big blind. Options are to call the big blind, raise, or fold. Play continues around the table clockwise until everyone has chosen an option.
After the first round of betting, three cards are placed face-up as the first community cards. This is known as ‘the flop’. Play then starts clockwise from the dealer button with the closest active player. Everyone gets the same three choices: raise, call or fold.
If there are still at least two people in the round, then another card is dealt face up as the fourth community card. A round of betting follows with the same three choices, raise, call, or fold. Play starts clockwise from the dealer button with the closest active player.
The river is always the final phase of betting before the showdown. One more card is dealt face down or ‘burned’, and another is placed face up as the fifth and final community card. This round of betting is identical to all the previous ones, with play starting clockwise from the dealer button with the closest active player, and everyone having three options—raise, call, or fold.
If there are still at least two people left in the game after the final round of betting, all the remaining players show their cards in the showdown, starting with the last player who bets, going clockwise around the table. If no one bets, then the closest active player to the left of the dealer button shows their cards first.
The person with the best ‘high’ hand wins half the pot, while the player with the best ‘low’ hand wins the other half. If no cards qualify for the low hand, then the player with the best ‘high’ hand wins the entire pot like in a regular game of poker. The round ends and a new round starts immediately.
Simples. You’ll be turning pro before you know it.
REGISTER ON GLOBALPOKER.COM TO PLAY NOW!
Don’t forget you can practice your poker moves here for free. Register to play Omaha Hi-Lo and more at GlobalPoker.com for free. You’ll be able to put this theory into practice, by playing against other players online. And of course, the more you play, the more you’ll start to hone your own Omaha Hi-Lo strategy.
Or, if Hi-Lo isn’t for you, we’ve got plenty of other poker games to whet your whistle. Browse our poker games collection below to find out what kind of poker player you really are. A good one, hopefully.