Since Omaha high-low is a form of hold’em, it is played according to the same basic procedures as limit hold’em, nolimit hold’em, and even pot-limit hold’em. Because low-limit Omaha high-low is played with prescribed betting limits, it is more similar to limit hold’em than no-limit hold’em. The main difference between Omaha games and limit hold’em games is the number of cards you are dealt. Instead of receiving two hole cards like you do in hold’em, you receive four hole cards in Omaha.
Another important difference is that in hold’em, you may use zero, one or two cards from your hand to make your best five-card combination. In Omaha high-low, you must use exactly two of your four hole cards and exactly three of the board cards to make your best hand. Also, hold’em is a high game. The only time the pot is divided between two or more players is when all active players have hands of equal value. In Omaha high-low, the pot is usually split between the best high hand and the best low hand. The only time the best high hand wins the entire pot is when no low hand is possible; that is, three or more of the board cards are higher than 8.
With these major differences in mind, let’s review the basics of playing Omaha high-low.
The two players sitting to the left of the button, which marks the dealer’s position (indicated by a plastic disk that says “button”), are called the small blind and big blind, respectively. They must post forced bets before the deal. The small blind bet must be equal to one-half the small bet, and the big blind bet must be equal to the small bet. For example, in a $4/$8 game, the small blind posts $2 and the big blind posts $4. These are mandatory bets designed to stimulate action by ensuring that players have money in the pot to compete for before more cards are dealt.
Even in the unlikely event that everybody else folds but you, you figure to have at least the big blind to compete against before the flop. In my experience playing $2/$4, $4/$8 and $5/$10 Omaha high-low, you will have a lot more competition after the first betting round than just the big blind. The number of players who enter pots in low-limit games often ranges from four to seven in nine- or ten-handed games. Sometimes everyone joins the fun before the flop, in which case it’s called a family pot.
The Starting Cards
As soon as the blind bets are posted, the dealer distributes four cards, called hole cards, face down to each player. These hole cards are for you alone to see. They are the cards that you will be using to make your best possible hand when you combine them with the cards that will be dealt faceup in the center of the table. Naturally, no two hands can be exactly alike in both suit and rank, but two hands may be identical in rank alone. For example, you could be dealt the A♣ K♣ 2♦ 3♦ while someone else could be dealt the A♠ K♥ 2♣ 3♥.
The First Betting Round (The Preflop)
Play begins with the first player sitting to the immediate left of the big blind and moves clockwise around the table. You have four options when it is your turn to act. You can fold by turning your cards face down and sliding them to the dealer. This means a player is not willing to match the amount of the blind bet (and the possibility of future bets above that amount). When a player folds, he is no longer eligible to play during this deal and must wait until the current hand is completed and new cards are distributed to play again. You can call by placing an amount of money equal to the big blind in front of your hand. You can raise by placing exactly double the amount of the big blind in front of your hand. Or you can reraise if someone has raised before the action gets to you by matching the previous bets and raises and adding an amount equal to the size of the original bet.
Bets and raises during this round are in the lower tier of the two-tier structure. Thus, if it’s a $4/$8 game, all bets must be in $4 increments, and if there is a raise, that too must be for $4. So, if one player raises the big blind $4 and the next reraises $4, all players would have to put in $12 to stay active, or they would have to fold. There is usually a threeraise limit per betting round, so in the $4/$8 game, the most that any individual player could put into the pot during the round would be $16—the $4 blind bet plus three $4 raises. After the three-raise limit is reached, the betting for that round is capped—no more raises are allowed. However, all active players would have to meet the full amount of the bets and raises to continue with the hand.
If two or more players remain, more cards will be dealt. However, if at any point in time just one player remains active, because all his opponents have folded, that player is the default winner and collects all the money in the pot.
Want to learn more than just how to play Omaha Poker hi lo? Read Omaha High-low buy Shane Smiths Omaha High Low for Low Limit Players