Omaha high-low is a variant of Omaha in which the pot is split between the holder of the highest hand and the holder of the lowest hand if that low hand is topped by no worse than an 8. (The 8 is known in the poker world as a qualifier.) If that restriction is not met, the entire pot goes to the holder of the highest hand. Also, the same hand can win both the high and the low half of the pot. Winning the whole pot in either of these ways is called scooping. See "Hand Rankings" to see how low hands are determined and what beats what.
The game is also called Omaha 8-or-better, Omaha split, or Omaha/8 (and indicated on the lobby tab as Omaha H/L).
Whether online or in a brick-and mortar cardroom (b&m), Omaha high-low plays the same. As in most forms of poker, Omaha high-low uses a standard 52-card deck. Omaha high-low is usually played 9- or 10-handed online.
Each hand of Omaha high-low starts with two blinds. Blinds are preliminary bets made by two players before cards are dealt for the purpose of stimulating action. If there was nothing to win, the first player to make a decision would have no reason to make a bet. The deal position is indicated by a white disk, labeled D, called the dealer button, or, simply, the button. This is the position from which the dealer would distribute cards if the dealer were one of the players. Prior to cards being distributed, the player to the left of the button puts in chips equal to (usually) half the size of the minimum bet for the game (known as the small blind). The player to that player's left puts in chips equal to the minimum bet for the game (known as the big blind).
When you first sit down at a table, you must wait for the big blind to arrive at your position. This happens naturally, because the button moves one position to the left (clockwise) after each hand. Alternatively, to get dealt in at the start of the next hand that wouldn’t put you in the small blind or dealer button position, you can post (put in a blind the same size as the big blind).
Each player must put both a small blind and a big blind into the pot once each per round. If you ever miss the blinds in a round, you must either wait for the big blind to get to you, or post a blind equivalent to the big blind. This you do at one time.
When the blinds are in place, the dealer distributes four cards one at a time face down to each player, starting with the little blind. These four starting cards are called hole cards. Your hole cards appear face up on screen, but don't worry; only you can see your hole cards. Only the backs of every other player's hole cards appear on screen. Every other player has a similar view, with only his own hole cards visible.
Each player starts with four hole cards instead of two. Then the dealer places five cards face-up in the center of the table. These community cards are part of each player's hand, so each player has access to nine cards. In Omaha high-low, each player can potentially form two five-card hands, a high hand and a low hand. Each hand must adhere to the Omaha restrictions of using only two (no more, no less, but they can be any two) of the hole cards together with only three (no more, no less, but they can be any three) of the five community cards. A different two-card-plus-three-card combination can be use for the low hand and for the high hand. Given that, many more winning combinations are possible in Omaha high-low than in Omaha high. Accordingly, Omaha high-low hands often have more players and the pots are correspondingly larger.
Even if you haven't had experience with Omaha high-low, you don't have to worry which are the best cards; the software automatically chooses the best five for you when it comes time to compare hands. If you can make both a high hand and a low hand-and this is often the case-the software automatically chooses the best five cards for your high hand and the best five cards for your low hand.
For example, your hole cards are Ad Kd 3s 2s. The board is Jd 4d 3c Qd 5h. Your best high hand would be an ace-high flush. You make this hand by using Ad Kd from your hand in combination with Jd 4d Qd on the board. Your best low hand would be a wheel. You make this hand by using Ad 2s from your hand in combination with 4d 3c 5h on the board. Both hands are the nuts (the best possible hand for a given situation). Having the best possible low and the best possible high in the same hand is called nut-nut. (You could possibly split the low half of the pot if anyone else has both an ace and a 2. In the case of one other player with that combination, you would get three-fourths of the pot.) This example shows two different sets of five cards being used to form high hand and low hand, while adhering to the Omaha restrictions. You can see more about combinations and what beats what in Hand Rankings.
Omaha high-low, as any form of poker, is about betting. Omaha high-low has four betting rounds. The sizes of the bets depend on the structure of the game, of which Omaha high-low has three possibilities:
- limit game
- pot-limit game
- no-limit game
The betting on the first round always starts with the player just to the left of the big blind. This position is sometimes called under the gun. In the picture below you are under the gun. As the first player, you have three choices. You can:
- open for the minimum (limp)
- open for a raise
You choose your action by clicking in a dialog box. If you fold at any point, your cards are removed from play and no longer appear on the screen, you are out until the next hand, and you have no further interest in the pot. If you fold, the next player has the same choices. If everyone folds, including the small blind, the pot goes to the big blind, and the next hand is dealt.
If you or anyone else opens, each succeeding player has three choices:
- call, that is, match the preceding bet
- raise, that is, increase the preceding bet
Each player in turn has the same three choices. If there has been a raise, each player who chooses to continue must either call the total bet thus far or himself raise. In any one round of betting, there can be a maximum of one bet plus three raises. When the betting (also called action) gets to the blinds, they have the same choices. However, they already have chips in the pot, and those chips count towards their bet. For example, if, in a $2/$4 limit game, you had opened for $2, and two players had raised, the total bet would be $6. When it was the turn of the small blind, that player could fold. The player could call, by putting $5 into the pot. (He already has $1 in.) Or that player could raise, by putting $7 into the pot. This would cap the betting for that round, that is, cause it to reach the maximum. (Pot limit and no limit games have no cap on the number of bets that can be made.)
Similarly, the big blind, who already has $2 invested in the pot, gets in for $2 less. If there have been no raises when the bets gets to the big blind, that player has what is called the option. He can opt to raise, in which case each active player in turn is offered a choice of calling the raise or reraising-or folding. The big blind can also choose not to raise, which stops the betting for that round. The big blind in this option situation is known in poker parlance as a live blind.
Evaluating Your Cards
As you evaluate your cards, realize that since this is a high-low split game, good cards can be low cards as well as high cards. You want to end up with a hand that is best for either high or low-and, ideally, one that can win both high and low (scoop the pot). Keep in mind the qualifier. To end up with a low hand, your starting hand must contain at least two cards 8 or lower. Compared with seven stud high-low, Omaha high-low has a smaller proportion of pots split between high and low on the showdown. In seven stud high-low, since a player can use any five of his seven cards, the likelihood of a low hand is often quite high. An Omaha high-low pot, however, can have a low only if at least three of the community cards are 8 or lower-and even then, it sometimes happens that no player can make a low.
Once the betting for the first round is equalized, that is, once everyone has had an opportunity either to fold or match the total betting, the dealer deals three cards face up in the center of the table. These first three of the community cards are called the flop.
The second round of betting takes place. In this round, the betting starts with the first active player (one who still has cards) to the left of the button. If the small blind called on the first round, that player would be first to act, even though he was next-to-last on the first round of betting. Only in the first round (sometimes called the preflop round) does the betting start elsewhere. In all rounds after the first, the first player has two choices:
- check, that is, make no bet
- bet, that is, make a bet at the proper limit for that round
If no one bets, each player in turn has the same choices. It is possible in every round except the first for no betting to occur. No betting in a round is called being checked around.
If anyone bets, each succeeding player has three choices:
- call, that is, match the preceding bet
- raise, that is, increase the preceding bet
A player who checks retains his cards. If someone bets, when the action returns, a player who checked has the preceding three choices. To check and then raise when the betting returns is known, reasonably enough, as check-raising. If you check with the intention of raising, you of course risk the possibility that no one will bet.
Once the betting for the second round is equalized, that is, once everyone has had an opportunity either to check or match the total betting for the round, the dealer deals one more card face up in the center of the table. This fourth of the community cards is called the turn.
The third round of betting takes place. Again, the betting starts with the first active player to the left of the button. The betting proceeds exactly the same as the second round. In a limit game, in the third round and fourth rounds the betting usually proceeds in increments twice the size of the first two rounds.
Once the betting for the third round is equalized, the dealer deals a fifth and final card face up in the center of the table. This last community card is called the river.
The fourth and final round of betting takes place. Again, the betting starts with the first active player to the left of the button. The betting proceeds exactly the same as the two previous rounds.
Once the betting for the fourth round is equalized, the betting is over, and there is a showdown. Remaining active players show their cards. The best high hand, comprised of the best five cards from among two of each player's four hole cards in combination with three of the community cards, wins half the pot. The best low hand (as long as one qualifies by consisting of five different cards 8 or lower), comprised of the best five cards from among two of each player's four hole cards in combination with three of the community cards, wins half the pot. The software determines the winning hands, and awards half the pot to the holder of each hand. Occasionally the pot cannot be split evenly amongst all players. If there are any remaining chips left in the pot, the 'extra' chips will be awarded to the winner of the Hi hand. If there is a tie for the best Hi (or Lo) hand, that half of the pot will be further split between the tied players, and if there are any 'extra' chips that cannot be split evenly, they will be awarded one at a time to the remaining players, starting with the player closest to the left of the button. If no hand qualifies for low, the software awards the entire pot to the holder of the highest hand. If the same player has a combinations of cards that qualify as both the best high hand and the best low hand, the software awards the entire pot to the holder of that hand.
Players do not show their cards simultaneously. The showdown takes place in a specified order.
The software shows the cards of the first player to have bet or the last player to have raised in any previous round. (If there was no betting on the river, the cards of the first player to have bet or the last player to have raised on the turn would be shown first on the showdown-and so on.) If the next active player has a better high or low hand than the one just shown (or ties), the software shows his cards. If the next active player does not have either, the software offers that player a choice. He can show his cards, if he wishes, or he can just get rid of the cards (muck). The software treats each remaining active player in turn the same-either turning over the hand if it is better for high or low than (or tied with) any shown thus far or offering the choice of showing or mucking-and awards each half of the pot appropriately.
Don't worry about inadvertently misreading your hand and accidentally throwing away a winner. As long as you have called to the end, the software awards the pot to the winning hand-and reports in the chat box the value of that hand. You may, for example, have been concentrating so hard on making a low that you don't see that, while you missed the low, you had a straight-and it was the best high hand. The software makes sure that if your hand is the best for high or low at the showdown you win.
If the betting is not equalized on the final round, that is, one player bet or raised and no one called, there is no showdown, and the software awards the pot to the player who made that uncalled bet. This is the case on any previous round, as well. If it happens on earlier rounds, no further cards are dealt, because the hand is over.
Sometimes a player runs out of chips before all the betting is over. In such case, one or more side pots are created, and the software awards appropriate main and side pots. When a player is all in, a bet or raise can be made that is not called, but a showdown still takes place.
Players often do not show losing hands. You are entitled, however, to see any cards that were active at the showdown even if they were not shown. Click on LAST HAND to bring up a new window that shows the results of the last hand and all the active cards. You can also specify in that window any previous hand (up to the last 50 in your current session) on which to get a report.