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Omaha High/Low Tactics

Omaha Hand Selection

Omaha High/Low Tips

by Jesse Knight
Omaha High-Low Tips

Omaha Hi-Low Hands

Omaha Hand SelectionPlayers who are new to Omaha Hi/Lo are often struck by how many combinations and potential draws each hand contains. This seems to suit a certain type of player. Players who get bored easily, or do not like Hold’em because of tough aggressive action, often find Omaha Hi/Lo appealing. They find that with a four card hand, they almost always seem to have a draw of some kind, or will fall into one if they continue on in the hand. Omaha Hi/Lo appeals to action junkies of all kinds, because they tend to think that any draw justifies a call, and Omaha Hi/Lo is a game of endless draws. By definition, action junkies want to be in action as much as possible. They are happy to use the most marginal of draws as an excuse to continue on in the hand, and they want to play with other like minded players who also crave the action that Omaha Hi/Lo often provides.

Many players who have this approach have adopted the view that because of the prevalence of the draw, starting  hand selection really doesn’t matter as much in Omaha High/Low as it does in other games. Nothing could be further from the truth; Omaha hand selection is crucial. While it is true that there are many more draws available in Omaha High/Low than in other games, what matters is not the existence of draws, but the relative strength between your draws and those of your opponents. A player with sixteen outs is twice as likely to get there as a player with eight outs, and a player with eight outs is twice as likely to get there as a player with four. Of course, you won’t know what you are drawing to until the flop, but certain starting hands are much more likely to produce strong comprehensive draws than others.

Let us start by discussing the importance of holding aces. Aces play for both high and low in Omaha High/Low, and represent the top ranked card for each. Players may even mix and match the same ace, in a different combination, to produce both a high and a low holding. It is even more powerful to have two aces in your hand than one, especially when they are coupled with other cards that create strong draws. Aces are often a key component of a winning low hand, and they increase the value of a starting hand when they appear in combination with other consecutive low cards, like A-2, or A-2-3. This value is further increased when your ace also appears with another card of the same suit, giving you the potential to make a nut flush draw. A double suited ace-ace hand has the potential to make two nut flush draws. The importance of the ace high flush draw cannot be overstated in Omaha High/Low. Although players are typically looking for multi-way draws, it is not a stretch to say that the ace high flush draw is the preeminent draw in Omaha High/Low. One reason for this is that is it has a fairly high rate of completion once the draw is flopped, and a fairly low rate of suckout, one the draw is made. A player who flops an ace high flush draw will complete it roughly 40% of the time, depending upon the suits of the other cards in his hand. Once the flush is made, your opponent will need to make a full house or better in order to beat you. This will require the board to pair, unless your opponent makes a straight flush. If you make your flush draw on the turn, there is only about a 20% chance the board will pair on the river. Often, even when the board does pair, you will still win the pot anyway.

So, we’ve established that most starting hands should generally contain at least one ace, and should have the potential for a multi-way draw. Also, having four cards “working” in your hand is very important. This means that all of the cards in your starting hand fit together into legitimate potential draws. Cards that appear unlikely to fit in with the rest of the starting hand are sometimes called “danglers.” Omaha Hi/Lo hands which contain danglers are typically less strong than hands that do not, however, many hands that contain a dangler are playable and may even be considered raising hands (a hand containing AA2x for example). When selecting hands to play preflop, in addition to considering the factors that destroy hand value (danglers for instance), we also need to pay close attention to the factors that create hand value. Consecutive connecting high or low cards can be valuable because of their potential to wrap a straight draw, a low draw, or both. Consecutive connecting middle cards do not have much value outside of shorthanded games, even if they are suited or double suited. Double suited hands can make two flush draws, definitely a positive, but this is generally not enough to make the hand playable without any other draws. Holding at least one suited ace should be a priority, but again you will need more going for you than just a suited ace to have a playable hand. Deciding on playable hand content is certainly critical, but to be effective, we also need to consider the impact position has on Omaha hand selection.

The quality of your position absolutely affects hand playability. We know that late position is typically regarded as good, and early position is regarded as being bad. There is a lot of truth to this, but in Omaha Hi-Lo, it’s not that cut and dry. Position is very important in Omaha Hi-Lo, but the way it affects preflop hand values is unique. This first thing to realize is that the power of the draw is huge, and must be respected. Also, since Omaha Hi-Lo is a split pot game, players will have the opportunity to make a hand one way (low for instance) and represent it another (as a high hand). This is done most effectively from late position. These are some of the characteristics of Omaha Hi-Lo which give position its power. The power of late position is slightly enhanced, to the detriment of early position. This means that many hands that are playable in late position should not be played in early position. It also means that if you are going to play a middle to late position hand, you should probably raise, in an attempt to buy the button. Acting last in Omaha Hi-Lo is perhaps more important than almost any other poker game.

The Omaha High/Low hands that lose the most value up front are one way hands, especially low only hands, as well as hands which do not contain aces. Also, many of the marginal two way hands you would be willing to buy the button with should be thrown away up front. This includes most suited A-3 hands. The idea is that you really want to stay out of trouble up front. Drawing to a one way hand up front is a recipe for disaster, especially if you are stuck on a dry low draw. Good Omaha players will constantly have scooping pots on their minds. Remember, each player who acts after you will have six different combinations, six chances to make the nuts, and you won’t have any idea where you are at until after they act. This makes trying non-nut hands up front a very shaky proposition.

Another thing you should consider when deciding which hands to play and where, is the texture of the game. The more people who enter the pot on average, the more it gives value to the low oriented hands. This is because low hand typically get half the pot or less when the make a low only. When you are averaging a greater number of players into the pot, the low portion of the pot becomes larger and more profitable. If you have a lot of loose limpers in front of you, you may want to consider trying to buy the button with just about any A-3. By contrast, in a tight, aggressive game, a wide swath of naked ace-deuce hands become unplayable, even for one bet. You will often be able to tell if your late position non-nut hand is good, simply because of the actions of the other players in front of you. If you act last, and can get the field to check to you, you can decide whether or not the bet goes into the pot. This is exactly what you want, because in poker, and especially in Omaha Hi-Lo, the player who drives the action has a definite advantage.

When it comes to Omaha hand selection, it makes sense to have a flexible framework which you can adjust as logic demands. Certainly, playing ability, your knowledge about your opponents, and your perception of the texture of the game are all factors, along with each hand’s innate strength. Hand selection is truly critical to success. If you better understand the factors that go into hand selection, you will make better decisions, and this will be reflected in your bottom line. One of the things that make Omaha Hi/Lo such a great game is all of the action and all of the fish. If you can learn to give the right action with the right hands you can do very well. Mastering preflop hand selection is definitely a key component to this and one of the most important Omaha High/Low tips we can offer you.

Once you have learned Omaha High/Low, you might want to give Pot Limit Omaha (commonly called PLO) a try. Due to the amount of action in PLO, it is quickly becoming one of the most popular games currently spread in casinos.

Also see: Omaha Poker Tips and Omaha High/Low Basics

Omaha Eight or Better

Articles written by Jesse Knight:
Poker Game Theory
Poker Logic: Game Theory Modeling and Poker
A few in-depth definitions by Jesse Knight:
Angle, Backer, Behind
Big Blind, Floorman, Cards Speak
Value, Variance, Check Raise

Omaha High/Low Strategy

Translations

(c) Shirley Rosario

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