Best poker hand captures both high and low ends of pot

Sep 11, 2012 3:00 AM

What are the best starting hands in Omaha high-low? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to answer this question. The best hands are capable of capturing both the high and the low ends of the pot. They also have all four cards working together, with redraws to even better hands. 

A-A-2-3 double-suited and other pairs of aces with two wheel cards are powerhouses in Omaha high-low. You have the potential to make aces full, two nut flushes, and a wheel for a high-low scoop. 

When you hold the mega-high hand of A-A- K-Q double suited or A-A-K-K, your chances of scooping the pot are excellent—if the flop arrives with no low cards. However, if it comes with even one low card, many low-limit players will hang in through the turn and river for a chance to win half the pot.

And if no low cards flop, you usually don’t win a very big pot because the low players are not in there with you trying to outdraw you. So, because they have only high potential, these hands are not as strong as aces with two wheel cards.

A-K-2-3 double suited is a hand that King Midas would exchange his gold for. What makes it so powerful is its nut-nut potential. It makes a nut high straight, a wheel, one nut flush, one second-nut flush, and even top two pair.

I’ve seen players hang onto this hand even when only one low card came on the flop with only one card matching their two suits, and end up winning the nut low or making the flush with two running suited cards. How many flops can you think of that would induce you to fold this hand?

A-2-3-4 or any suited ace with three wheel cards are hands that rocks love, especially former lowball players who hide under it like snakes seeking shade. When the flop comes with two or more low cards, they coil, ready to strike on the turn. The power of this hand lies in its potential to make a wheel, which often wins both high and low; the nut flush; or the nut low.

Four wheel cards without an ace is a playing hand in Omaha high-low because it can make a wheel when an ace flops, a low straight (which can capture both high and low), and even a straight flush (for which you’ll often win a nice tee-shirt from your card room).

Because many A-2-only holders are counterfeited when an ace or a deuce flops, this lowly hand moves in on them like a sniper and shoots them down from the underbrush.

But what happens if an ace doesn’t flop? Oops! This four-wheeler has a greatly reduced chance of making the nut low. With no ace on the board, the 2-3 is a dangerous call for low, because two other lows beat it (A-2 and A-3). And when you make only a low straight, you almost always split the pot with the nut low. 

Just remember that when there is a lot of raising before the flop, most of the aces are out, so your chances of flopping one are slim to zero.

Contact Shane Smith at [email protected].