Endless possibilities playing Omaha high-low

Nov 27, 2012 3:00 AM

Not only should you fit the flop or fold your hand when you’re playing Omaha high-low, you also should keep in mind this important axiom: If it’s possible for someone to have a higher high or a lower low than you do, it is probable that they do.

It is not unusual for the nut-low player to smooth-call the betting on the flop. He does this for two possible reasons: (1) He may think another player also has the nut low and he might get quartered; or (2) If no one else also has the nut low, he doesn’t want to scare out the second-nuts and lose that money from the pot.

For example, with three people in the pot – two of whom hold the nut low, with only one of them holding the high hand – the two low hands will split one-half the pot (each receives a quarter of it), while the high winner will receive all of the other one-half.

Low-limit Omaha high-low is a game of the nuts. If you don’t have the best hand or a draw to it, you are in jeopardy—unless you’re pretty sure that no one else does, either. This is especially true for low hands, because they can be duplicated in two or even three (ugh!) places at the table.

Many players enter a hand with an A-2 “bare;” that is, without other options. Even an A-2 stands to win only one-quarter of the pot if someone else also holds it. More rare is a nut-high hand, such as the nut straight, being quartered by the nut-low hand, but it happens. In fact, everything incredible happens in low-limit Omaha high-low because the pots are usually multiway, each player holds a nine-card hand, and the river card has the power to drown even the strongest of swimmers unless they have an extra out to use as a life jacket.

You can greatly increase your chances of profitably playing the flop by asking this question: Does my hand fit the flop? There are six types of flops in Omaha high-low—low, high, flush, straight, paired and ragged (three unrelated cards).

• Low — two or three cards 8 and below

• High — two or three cards 9 and above

• Flush — two or three cards of the same suit

• Straight — two or three cards in sequence

• Paired — two cards of the same rank

• Ragged — three unrelated cards

When you have a draw to a straight and a paired board flops, you are out of sync with the flop. If your hand includes a high pair (Q-Q-10-9, for example) and the flop comes with wheel cards, abandon ship because high pairs don’t usually fare well against a wheel-draw board. Ideally, the flop should be the same type as your hand.

If you hold a low hand and the flop comes with two or three new low cards, you have a good chance of winning the low end of the pot, especially if you have a good wheel draw. When the flop contains two or three high card, and you have a high hand that matches them, be ready to play your hand aggressively.

When the flop has two or three unsuited cards that give you 8 to 16 outs to make the nut straight, you’re in good position. But beware! It isn’t unusual to see two running flush cards on fourth and fifth streets, thus demoting the value of your straight.

For this reason, expert players usually don’t drive a medium nut straight until the river. In fact, they will fold it on the flop if they think it has a negative expectation of holding up on the river. 

You can contact Shane Smith at [email protected].

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