This page is a how to play Omaha hi lo poker tutorial. You’ll learn the basics of how to play Omaha hi lo here. If you already know how to play Texas holdem, then learning to play Omaha hi lo should be a cinch.
High Low Split
Omaha hi lo is a “high low split” game. That means each pot is split between the person with the high hand and with the person who has the best qualifying low hand. Standard poker hand rankings are used to determine who wins the high. (You probably know these rankings already: two pair beats a pair, a three of a kind beats two pair, a straight beats three of a kind, a flush beats a straight, a full house beats a flush, four of a kind beats a full house, and a straight flush beats a four of a kind.)
Omaha hi lo poker is an “eight or better” game, which means that the low hand is determined by the player who has the lowest five unpaired cards below 8. Flushes and straights are ignored when determining a low hand, and the hands are compared with the highest card first. Therefore, a 5432A, regardless of suit, is the best possible low hand, while 87654 is the worst possible low hand that would still qualify as a low hand.
Some novices have trouble figuring out which low hand is better than another. Thinking of the low hand as a five digit numeral often helps. So it’s obvious that 87,654 is higher than 54,321.
High low split games are great because the pots can wind up really big.
Omaha Hi Lo Poker Hands
Omaha hands consist of four hole cards for each player and five community cards that all players share. When determining the hand rankings, the player must use two cards from her hand and three cards from the community cards. (This can confuse Texas holdem players, who are used to using any combination of hole cards and community cards to make up their hands.) The community cards are also often called “the board.”
If you’re having trouble understanding why this difference makes such a huge change in strategy and gameplay, consider this. Suppose you have the ace of diamonds as one of your hole cards. And suppose that four of the five cards on the board are also diamonds. In Texas holdem, you have an ace high flush, which is almost a sure winner. But in Omaha hi lo poker, you have to use TWO cards from your hole cards. If you don’t have another diamond in your hand, then you don’t have your flush.
Omaha Hi Lo Poker Hand Starting Combinations
In Texas holdem, you have two hole cards, and that gives you one combination of cards to work with.
But in Omaha hi lo poker, you have four cards, which doesn’t double the number of starting hands you have to think about. It actually gives you SIX different starting hands to look at. As a result, winning Omaha hands tend to have higher ranks than winning Texas holdem hands.
Here’s an example. Suppose you’re dealt A234. (We’ll ignore the suit for this example.) Your potential starting hands include the following combinations:
Winning Omaha Hi Lo Poker Hands
Two pairs win a lot of hands in Texas holdem, but in Omaha hi lo, two pair is usually a loser. That’s because, with the additional hole card combinations, straights and flushes become far more common.
And even if you have a really big high hand, if three of the community cards are ranked 8 or below (and they’re not paired), you’ll probably have to split the pot with the low hand.
Unless you make the low hand AND the high hand. That’s called “scooping the pot,” and that’s the ideal situation for a consistent Omaha hi lo winner.