Enjoy living on the edge? Omaha high-low is your game!

Jul 24, 2012 3:00 AM

Do you enjoy the thrill of living on the edge? Savor the possibility of narrowly escaping drowning on the river? Are you even-tempered enough to hang in there, through the thick of flopping a straight flush wheel and the thin of getting counterfeited? Then Omaha high-low is the game for you!

Back in 1989 when I first started playing Omaha high-low in the card barns of Southern California, the game was fresh out of the gate in public poker palaces. So, I asked around in my hometown casino, “How do you play this game? What kinds of hands do you start with?” I got some pretty fuzzy answers.

Seems there were lots of opinions, but no definitive answers. For instance, Joe said, “I only play four low cards goin’ in and one of em’s gotta be an ace.”

But Slick didn’t agree: “I don’t fool around with no low-card hands ‘cause I don’t like gettin’ split up. So just play big high hands and you’ll come out okay.”

Then Doreen contradicted him with, “I want a chance at both ends of the pot, so I only play hands with both possibilities – two high cards and two low cards, suited of course.”

And Spud refuted that with, “But then you’ve gotta be makin’ two draws and sweating that out. You’re better off with three low cards and a high kicker.”

Like most other newcomers, I took all this confusing advice, played by the seat of my pants, won some pots, lost a lot of them with second-nut lows, and generously contributed to the welfare of my opponents. You see, new players are like blood transfusions, injecting revived spirit into the “corpus pokerus.”

Except for Jim, of course. He arrived at the River City Club five minutes before our weekly Omaha high-low tournament, claiming he’d never played the game before. So one of the dealers on break sat Jim down with a deck and gave him a five-minute free lesson.

Guess who walked off with the $410 first-place money? And he didn’t even have the courtesy to stay for the follow-up ring game!

The real answer to, “How do you win at Omaha high-low?” isn’t all that tough. But it’s not that easy, either. It took me 140 pages to answer it in 1991, when I wrote my first poker book, Omaha High-Low: How to Win at the Lower Limits.

In this new series of columns, I’ll give you the lowdown on how to win at what has become one of the top three games spread in poker rooms across the country.