Sometimes poker hands are won or lost before the flop is dealt. This is true in Texas holdem, and it’s even more true in Omaha hi lo. The trick to understanding Omaha hi lo starting hands is understanding that your hole cards should be coordinated. If your opponents play any four cards that “look good,” or if they play hole cards where only three of the four cards are coordinated, then you’ll gain a mathematical advantage by folding unless all four of your hole cards are coordinated.
The Best Possible Omaha Hi Lo Starting Hand
The absolute best starting hand you can hope for in Omaha hi lo is A234, especially if the ace and one of the other cards are the same suit.
One key to winning money at Omaha hi lo is “scooping” pots. You’re said to scoop a pot when you have both the best high hand and the best low hand, so you win both halves of the pot.
If you have an ace and another card of that suit, your chances of getting a flush aren’t bad, and an ace high flush is the best possible flush you can hope for. It’s not a sure thing, as a flush can still be beaten by four of a kind or by a full house, but a flush is a mighty fine hand.
Having the ace and the two also give you a great shot at getting the best possible low hand. And having the three and the four will help you get the best low even if a two hits the board. (If your low cards pair on the board, then that’s called being “counterfeited.”)
The Other Best Starting Hands in Omaha Hi Lo
These are also great starting hands:
- AK34 – You’re especially looking for this combination to be “double suited.” For example, if you have the ace of spades and the four of spades, then you’ve got a great chance of hitting an ace high flush. And if the king and three are both diamonds, you’ve got two opportunities to hit a big flush. And hitting the best low hand is easy as long as two hits the board with two other cards under eight.
- AA23 – You’re also looking to be double suited here, and for the same reasons. If you play Texas holdem, then you know that a pair of aces as hole cards is a strong opening hand, and if you’re double suited, you’ve got lots of opportunities for flushes here. Since you have both a two and a three, you’ve got some counterfeit protection toward the best possible low hand.
- AAKK – This hand is weaker than the other hands, because it has no low hand potential. But not every board will have a low hand, so you can sometimes scoop the pot anyway. If this hand is double suited, then you have lots of high card strength and flush potential. High straights are a real possibility here too, as are full houses.
- A23x – You’re hoping that the ace is suited with one of the other cards, so that you have the flush potential. The “x” could be any card at all. You still have counterfeit protection. With lots of players in a pot, this somewhat speculative opening hand can win you a lot of money.
When you get premium starting hands like this, get money in the pot by betting and raising preflop. In poker, it’s always good to turn on the gas when you have the advantage.
More Good and Viable Starting Hands in Omaha Hi Lo
The last section covered premium starting hands. This section covers good starting hands.
- A233, A244, or A255 – Any of these hands provide opportunities for the low and offer some counterfeit protection. Full houses become a possibility too, since you have a pair. (As usual, we’re assuming that the ace shares a suit with one of the lower cards.)
- Axxx – In this example, we’re assuming that all three x’s are ranked ten or higher, and that they’re all different. (So we’re hoping for kings, queens, jacks, and/or tens.) Suited is a big bonus here. The goal is to flop the highest possible straight, flush, or straight flush. You can still scoop the pot if the board doesn’t allow a low hand.
- 2345 – If an ace falls on the board somewhere, then you’ve got a good shot at the best possible low hand. You’ve also got a straight draw. And if the cards are coordinated by suit, then you also have straight flush potential.
These hands are a little more speculative, but they’re playable. If you hit a favorable flop, then you can win a lot of money with them, especially if you got in cheap and you’re playing with loose players.
Speculative Omaha Hi Lo Poker Hands
These starting hands are called “speculative” because you’re hoping to get into a pot cheap, and you’re hoping that the board will hit your cards just right while missing your opponents’ hole cards.
- 234x – You’re hoping for a high card as your “x” here, preferably a king. If an ace hits the board, you’ve got a shot at the low, and if the suits are coordinated, the king provides you with some high flush potential. If you don’t get a perfect flop, fold it up.
- KKQQ, KKJJ, KKTT, etc. – You’ve got some decent potential straights here, and possible high card full houses, but no possible low hand. If the suits coordinate, you have some nice flush potentials too. If you’re a Texas holdem player, then this hand looks really strong, but don’t make the mistake of playing it like a premium hand. You need the right board to make this hand work.
- 89TJ – If the suits are coordinated, then you have straight flush potential. But you’ve got no possible low hand here, and if the suits aren’t coordinated, you’re likely to wind up with the second best straight.
- 23KQ – You’re hoping for an ace on the board. This hand is good to play if it’s double suited, but if you get the wrong ace, you run a big risk of winding up with the second best low or the second best flush or straight.
Mid range cards are poison in Omaha hi lo games. You want a hand made up of coordinated suits and high or low cards. The more mid range cards you have, the more likely you are to wind up with a second best hand. It’s better to fold up those kinds of hands and save yourself the trouble.