Omaha High-Low Beginners' Guide

If you're already a Texas Hold'em player, you should have no problem at all getting the hang of Omaha poker. The rules are pretty simple, so even if you've never played a hand of poker in your life you should know all the Omaha poker rules within ten minutes or less. This article will teach you the differences between Omaha and Omaha Hi-Lo, and will explain the Hi-Lo split and how the showdowns work.

Differences Between Omaha & Omaha Hi-Lo

The only difference between Omaha and Omaha Hi-Lo is the fact that the pot is actually split into two sub-pots - a High and a Low pot (each of which are one half of the total pot). The object of the game is to win both pots at once (called "scooping" the pot), but you can still win money by winning just one half of the pot.

There are three ways to "scoop", or win the entire pot. First of all, you can bet everyone else out of the pot, so you're the only one left. Alternatively, you can go to a showdown with the best high hand, and if no one has a qualifying low hand you'll win the entire pot. Or, if you have the best high and low hand at showdown, you'll scoop the pot.

The best hand in Omaha Hi-Lo is the "wheel", which is A-2-3-4-5. This gives you the nut low hand, and also a great high hand with your straight.

The "High" Part of the Split

Ok, now we're going to discuss the "hi" part of Omaha Hi-Low. The high part of the pot is 1/2 of the total pot size, and is awarded to the best high Omaha hand. This basically works the same as a normal Texas Hold'em game. The hand rankings for the high part of the pot are as follows:

Hand Rank: Hand: Example Hand:
#1 Straight Flush 10JQKA of the same suit
#2 Four of a Kind AAAAK
#3 Full House KKKQQ
#4 Flush 2689A of the same suit
#5 Straight 56789 off suit
#6 Three of a Kind JJJ48
#7 Two Pair JJKKA
#8 One Pair AA874
#9 High Card AK543

As you can see, the high version of the game uses normal poker hand rankings.

One HUGE difference between Texas Hold'em and Omaha Hi-Lo is relative hand strength. In Texas Hold'em, the average winning hand at showdown is usually a big pair or maybe two pair. However, in Omaha the average winning high hand is much better because the players have four cards (think flushes, straights, and full houses). Basically, don't go to a showdown with just a pair of aces, because they're usually no good. Learn more differences between Hold'em and Omaha poker.

Another difference to think about is the fact that you want your four card hand to contain two card subsets. For example, having four of a kind in your hand is bad - since you can only use two cards, the best hand you can hope to make is a pair. Another example is suited cards - you only want two cards of the same suit in your hand - if you have three or four, that means there are less cards of your suit in the deck and it will be harder to make a flush.

The "Low" Part of the Split

The "low" part of the pot is where things get a little trickier. To win the low part of the pot, a player must have the best qualifying low hand. If no players have a qualifying low hand, the entire pot is considered high and goes to the player with the best high hand.

So what is a qualifying low Omaha poker hand? Well, a low hand is any five unpaired cards that are all eight or lower. An example hand that would qualify as being "low" is 2-3-5-6-7. If two players both have qualifying low hands, you'd examine the actual hands to see whose was best.

To compare two qualifying low hands, you start by looking at each hand's highest card. For example, a 6-5-4-3-2 beats a 8-7-6-5-4 because the six is lower than the eight. If the highest card in each hand is the same, you then look at the next highest card in each hand to see who's is lower. For example, a 6-4-3-2-A beats a 6-5-4-3-2 because the four is lower than the five.

If you're evaluating a starting hand in Omaha, you'd look to have at least two low cards to consider chasing a low hand, if not three. For example, A23J would be an excellent starting hand to go after the low end of the pot, while still having a good chance at the high end too. The reason why you would want three low cards is so you can still make a low hand if the board happens to pair with one of your low cards.

Getting Quartered

With a split pot you can come across a strange occurrence called "getting quartered". A player is quartered when two players go to a heads up showdown, and one player has the best high hand, and both players have the same low hand. The one player would win the high and half the low, leaving the other player with 1/4 of the total pot. This is obviously detrimental to the player getting quartered, so it's something you want to avoid. Observe the next example hand to learn more about quartering:

Imagine that you were playing Omaha Hi-Lo and your hand was AK23. The board at the end of the hand is AK774. Although you have the nut low (7432A) and a fairly strong high hand (Aces and Kings), you believe your opponent has at least three of a kind sevens. In this case, I wouldn't advocate calling a large bet, because you're likely behind in the high pot, and could be tied in the low pot - leaving you with 1/4 of the pot.


Now see, playing Omaha hi-lo is a lot less scary than it seems. Once you get the hang of the game you can really have a lot of fun playing it. Although Omaha Hi-Low is not the most popular and well known version of poker, it is a favorite amongst many poker players. For more info, read about Omaha Hi-Lo at one of my favorite poker sites.

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