This variant of Poker is also called Omaha Hi/Lo, or Omaha H/L or Omaha/8 or even Omaha 8-or-better. Omaha Hi/Lo Poker has been able to establish itself as one of the most famous poker formats across the world. In this variant, each player is dealt with four private cards, also known as the hole cards, which completely belong to that player. There also are five community cards which are placed face-up on the board.
All players are required to use exactly two cards from their four hole cards along with three cards which are present on the board to make their respective best five-card poker hand possible. The pot is then separated in two categories, one with the best hand for high and the other one with the best hand for low, which in a way explains the name of the game — Omaha Hi/Lo.
It must be remembered that a player can use different combinations of the two cards from his or her hand to make their respective high hand or the low hand, but in each hand they must have a right mix of cards — two from their hand and three from the board. This segregation of cards must be followed strictly.
The game of Omaha Hi/Lo is played with an ‘8-or-better’ qualifier. This means that the low hand should consist of five different cards, all ranked eight or below, through which they will be eligible to win the low portion of the pot. As it is done in 7 Card Stud Hi/Lo, the low hands in Omaha Hi/Lo are also determined in the same way, and, if there is no qualifying low hand the high hand wins the entire spot.
In Omaha Hi/Lo, the ‘Ace to Five’ or the ‘California’ system is used for ranking low hands. The straights and flushes are not considered as a hand, and Aces are usually low in reading the low hand. It is also said that the best possible hand is a wheel: 5, 4, 3, 2, A.
There are different formats of playing the Omaha Hi/Lo game. The first in this list is the Limit Omaha Hi/Lo variation, which has a specific betting limit applied in each game as well as in every round of betting. In Pot Limit Omaha Hi/Lo, the bets are restricted to the amount of the chips that are there in the pot. In No Limit Omaha Hi/Lo, a player is free to bet all the chips available to him, and among the last variants is the Mixed Omaha Hi/Lo, which is considered to be a game that oscillates between the rounds of Limit and Pot-Limit. In this variation, in order to ensure that the stake levels are consistent, the blinds are increased when a game switches from Pot-Limit to Limit.
Rules of playing Omaha Hi/Lo
In this game, there is a marker which is called ‘the button’ or ‘the dealer button’, which basically determines and indicates which player is the nominal dealer in the current game. And before the contest begins, the player who is placed immediately clockwise from the top button puts out the small blind, which is the first forced bet. After this process, the players sitting immediately clockwise from the small blind will place the big blind, which is usually double the size of the small blind. But it must be remembered that these blinds can vary depending on the stakes and betting structure.
To understand this further, in Limit Games, the big blind is basically the same as the small bet and the small blind is usually half the size of the big blind but it may still be bigger depending on the stakes. For example, in a Limit Game of 2/4, the small blind is 1 and the big blind is 2. Similarly, in a 15/30 Limit Game, the small blind is 10 and a big blind is 15. In the case of Pot Limit and No Limit Games, they are determined by the size of the blinds.
At this junction, each player gets their four hole cards. And betting action continues clockwise around the table with the player who is under the gun, that is, sitting immediately clockwise from the big blind.
Pre-flop: After checking their hole cards, players now have the option of playing their hand by calling or using the big blind. The action here starts from the left of the big blind, which is also considered as a ‘live’ bet of this round. This player has the option of folding, calling or raising. To understand this better, if the big blind was 2, it will cost 2 to call or at least 4 to raise. The action continues clockwise around the table, and betting continues in each round until all the active players — those who have not folded — have placed equal bets in the pot.
The Flop: The Flop is dealt face-up on the board after the conclusion of the first round of betting. The Flop are the first three community cards which are available to all the active players. The betting begins with the active player who is seated immediately clockwise from the button followed by another round of betting. In Limit Omaha Hi/Lo, all the bets and raises on the Flop are in the increments of the small bet. For example, in a 2/4 game it will be 2.
The Turn: The ‘Turn’ is dealt face-up on the board post the conclusion of the Flop around. The Turn here is the fourth community card and play begins with the player placed immediately clockwise from the button. There is another round of betting in this too. In Limit Omaha Hi/Lo the bets and raises are in the increments of the biggest bet. To understand this further, it will be 4 in 2/4 game.
The River: After the conclusion of the Turn round, the River is dealt face-up on the board which is also the fifth and final community card in the Omaha Hi/Lo game. As usual, betting begins with the player immediately clockwise from the button followed by a final round of betting.
The Showdown: It is crucial to understand this part. If there are more than one remaining player after the conclusion of the final betting round, the last person to have bet or raised will show their cards, unless there was no bet in the final round. In this case, the player immediately from the clockwise from the button will have to show their card first. The player with the best five-card hand for high wins half the pot, and the player with the best five-card hand for low, wins the remaining half of the pot. It must be remembered that in Omaha poker games, the players must use only two of their four whole cards in combination with exactly three cards from the board. ‘
In case there are identical hands, the high and low shares of the pot will be equally divided between those players who have had the best hands. In case there is no player who qualifies with their hand, and no hand qualifies for the loo and the best hand for high wins the entire pot. The game can now be continued with the new round as the button will move clockwise to the next player.