Basic Evaluation of Hands In Omaha Hi/Lo Poker: Recognizing Which Combinations Of Pocket Cards Should Be Played
Omaha Hi/Lo, also called Omaha Eight Or Better, is an action game. Few hands end before the river. Because of this, novice players tend to play all hands believing that any combination of pocket cards can potentially win the pot.
Any player who wants to win a hand at the river needs to know how their hand rates before the flop. This article is a basic introduction of how to understand the pocket cards that the player is dealt, and is for anyone just starting to play this fascinating variation of poker.
Please see this article for the basics on how to play both Omaha and Omaha Hi/Lo.
Evaluating A Starting Hand Against Many Players
The key to any hi/lo game is to scoop the pot, or win both the high and low hands. Keeping this in mind, players can use two things as a basis for evaluating their starting hands: The value of the cards and the number of players at the table.
Aces are most valuable in Omaha Hi/Lo since they are often needed to have the best possible hand, also called the nuts. The number of people at the table changes the chances of all four aces being in play. For example, with 10 players at a table, 40 cards are dealt as hole cards. With that many cards in play, it’s extremely likely that only the nuts will win the hand. Many players, therefore, opt to fold any hand that doesn’t have an ace because of the high probability that all aces are out and an ace will be needed to win.
That doesn’t mean that all hands without aces should automatically be folded. Cards with only high cards (kings, queens, and jacks) or with three high cards and one low card (so there is no hope of winning the low hand) can be played, but with caution. Players with these hands should not raise and should not stay in the hand if another player makes a high raise.
Pocket cards that have hopes of only winning the low can be played against a large number of people because of the chances that the pot will be big enough that winning half will still be a lot of chips. Remember, low hands often end in ties as well, which means players may be working for a quarter of the pot, which means only getting the bet back, or worse, losing money. A player who wins a quarter of the pot only gains if there are five or more people in the hand.
Evaluating A Starting Hand Against A Few Players
With fewer players at a table, three or four at most, chances are better that the player does not need the best cards to win. With four players, 16 cards are dealt at the start, which is less than one-third of the deck.
Aces are still the most powerful card, but hands without aces should be played more often. Hands with mid-cards only (sixes, sevens, eights, and nines) which should never be played at a full table, can be played with extreme caution against a low number of players. These hands should be folded after the flop if no decent hand has been made.
Fewer players, though, means it is less likely to be profitable to play for only half of the pot. That means hands that can potentially win both the high and low hands, or only the high hand in case there is no low hand, are more important than those that can win only the low.
If opening bets from other players start to get high, hands that can only win the low — those with twos through eights — should be folded. Hands with three low cards and one ace can be played as long as there is another card in the hand of the same suit, giving the player a shot at the best possible flush. If there are no cards of the same suite as the ace, the hand can be played with extreme caution, with the player being prepared to fold if the flop does not give any chance of making any kind of high hand.