Omaha Hi-Lo, also sometimes referred to as “Omaha 8 or Better,” is a split pot game in which half the pot is awarded to the player with the best traditional poker hand and the player with the “worst” low hand. The game serves as the next logical progression point from Texas Holdem and Omaha with rules that are just a bit more complex but still recognizable to seasoned vets.
The best Omaha Hi-Lo poker sites are easy to pick if you know what to look for. Most importantly, you need to know which poker sites even offer the game in the first place. Omaha H/L does not quite have the popularity to guarantee a place at every poker site. Larger poker sites tend to have the traffic numbers to support the game and thus, it is these major poker sites that I recommend first:
Best Omaha Hi-Lo Poker Sites
Continuing that line of thought, traffic is the second-most important thing to consider. There are a few sites that offer the game but are unable to provide any meaningful traffic. A smaller site may offer Omaha H/L, but the tables sit empty and unused. That serves no purpose for our goals here. That is exactly why I believe the above sites are the best.
Security, reputation and speedy cashouts are also equally important, but I consider those givens. There’s no way I would ever direct our good readers to poker rooms that cannot guarantee those basic qualifiers. If a site cannot be trusted to run safe games or pay winners promptly, it has no place here at BestPokerSite.com.
The biggest poker sites generally host Omaha Hi/Lo cash games with a smattering of tournaments. Fixed limit was once the primary format for cash games, but pot limit Omaha H/L has overtaken the cash game scene. Tournament play is still inconsistent simply because most people prefer to play NL Holdem and pot-limit Omaha. However, major poker sites that host special tournament series (either once or twice a year) usually hold at least one or two very large Omaha Hi-Lo tournaments with guaranteed prize pools exceeding $100,000 or more.
An Introduction to Omaha Hi-Lo
Omaha Hi/Lo hands follow the same basic structure as regular Omaha. It is only at the showdown where the rules of both games diverge. However, the showdown rules completely change the strategy implications for the entire hand. Omaha Hi/Lo may be similar to regular Omaha on the surface, but these are two very different games.
In the hi/lo version, each pot can be split among two hands: the hand that holds the best traditional hand ranking (Royal Flush, Straight Flush, etc.) as well as the worst low hand. You should already be familiar with traditional hand rankings, so we’ll continue straight to how low hands are ranked in this game.
Low hands in hi-lo are ranked according to the “8 or better” system. What this means is that a hand can only qualify for the low half of the pot if it consists of five unpaired cards all ranked 8 or lower. Additionally, Aces are always counted as high cards when going for the high half of the pot and are always counted as low when going for the low half. Straights and flushes are ignored. Note that this differs significantly from how low hands are treated in Razz.
Under these rules, the best possible hand in Omaha Hi/Lo consists of the cards A-2-3-4-5. The suits do not matter and the straight does not count against you. The only thing that matters is you have the five lowest cards possible without any pairs. When ranking the best low hands, you start with the highest card in the hand and work your way down.
For example, the hand A-2-3-4-8 would lose to 3-4-5-6-7 even though the first hand has an Ace while the second does not. The second hand wins because it has the lowest high card (a 7 vs. an 8). You always start with the highest card and then work your way down. If the highest card is tied, then you move down to the next highest card and so on. So for another example, the hand A-2-3-4-8 would beat the hand A-2-3-5-8 because they tie for the highest low card and then you move down to the next-highest card in each hand.
It is also possible for the best low hand to simultaneously be the best high hand. In that case, the player would “scoop” the entire pot. A somewhat common example of this is the hand A-2-3-4-5. It can take the low half of the pot as it is the best possible low hand, but it can also qualify for the high half of the pot as a straight. If nobody else has a better straight, flush or full house, you could take the entire pot by winning both halves.
The second way to scoop an entire pot happens when the board renders a low hand impossible. We should remember that like regular Omaha, the Hi/Lo version requires you to use exactly two cards from your hand and three from the board. If the board does not contain at least three cards ranked 8 or lower, it becomes impossible to create a qualifying low hand.
This leads to one of the most basic strategies in Omaha: look for staring hands that have scoop potential. Generally speaking, it is not a sound strategy to play for only half the pot. If you spend a lot of money trying to draw to a low hand, the best you can do is win half the pot – which lowers the payout and makes it less rewarding to chase your draws. In other words, the implied odds are cut roughly in half when the most you can win is half the pot.