Online Omaha Hi/Lo Poker
Online Omaha Hi/Lo is a variant of Omaha in which the pot is split between the holder of the highest hand and the holder of the lowest hand if that low hand is topped by no worse than an 8. (The 8 is known in the poker world as a qualifier.) If that restriction is not met, the entire pot goes to the holder of the highest hand. Also, the same hand can win both the high and the low half of the pot. Winning the whole pot in either of these ways is called scooping. See the Hand Rankings page to see how low hands are determined and what beats what.
The game is also called Omaha 8-or-better, Omaha split, or Omaha/8 (it’s indicated on the lobby tab as Omaha Hi/Lo).
As in most forms of poker, Omaha Hi/Lo uses a standard 52-card deck that is shuffled before every hand. Omaha Hi/Lo is usually played 9- or 10-handed online.
Below is a comprehensive description of online Omaha Hi/Lo.
Each hand of Omaha Hi/Lo starts with two blinds. Blinds are preliminary bets made by two players before cards are dealt for the purpose of stimulating action. If there was nothing to win, the first player to make a decision would have no reason to make a bet. The deal position is indicated by a white disk, called the dealer button, or simply, the button. This is the position from which the dealer would distribute cards if the dealer were one of the players. Prior to cards being distributed, the player to the left of the button puts in chips equal to (usually) half the size of the minimum bet for the game (known as the small blind). The player to that player's left puts in chips equal to the minimum bet for the game (known as the big blind).
When you first sit down at a table, you must wait for the big blind to arrive at your position. This happens naturally, because the button moves one position to the left (clockwise) after each hand. Alternatively, to get dealt in at the start of the next hand that wouldn’t put you in the small blind or dealer button position, you can post (put in a blind the same size as the big blind).
Each player must put both a small blind and a big blind into the pot once each per round. If you ever miss the blinds in a round, you must either wait for the big blind to get to you, or post a blind equivalent to the big blind.
When the blinds are in place, the dealer distributes four cards one at a time face down to each player, starting with the small blind. These four starting cards are called hole cards. Your hole cards appear face up on screen, but don't worry; only you can see your hole cards. Only the backs of every other player's hole cards appear on screen. Every other player has a similar view, with only his own hole cards visible.
Each player starts with four hole cards instead of two. Then the dealer places five cards face-up in the center of the table. These community cards are part of each player's hand, so each player has access to nine cards. In Omaha high-low, each player can potentially form two five-card hands, a high hand and a low hand. Each hand must adhere to the Omaha restrictions of using only two (no more, no less, but they can be any two) of the hole cards together with only three (no more, no less, but they can be any three) of the five community cards. A different two-card-plus-three-card combination can be used for the low hand and for the high hand. Given that, many more winning combinations are possible in Omaha Hi/Lo than in Omaha high. Accordingly, Omaha Hi/Lo hands often have more players and the pots are correspondingly larger.
Even if you haven't had experience with Omaha Hi/Lo, you don't have to worry which are the best cards; the software automatically chooses the best five for you when it comes time to compare hands. If you can make both a high hand and a low hand – and this is often the case – the software automatically chooses the best five cards for your high hand and the best five cards for your low hand.
Omaha Hi/Lo, as any form of poker, is about betting. Omaha Hi/Lo has four betting rounds. The sizes of the bets depend on the structure of the game, of which Omaha high-low has three possibilities:
- Limit game – in Limit Omaha Hi/Lo, each betting round has a fixed bet. For example, In $5/$10, the small blind is $2.50, the big blind is $5, and the first two rounds of betting are in increments of $5. The last two rounds of betting are in increments of $10. There is a maximum of three reraises per betting round.
- Pot-limit game – in Pot Limit, a player can bet any amount from the minimum bet to the size of the pot. In a $5/$10 pot-limit game, the small blind is $5 and the big blind is $10. The first player can call the big blind (in this case, $10), or raise to any amount up to the size of the pot. A raise must either equal or exceed the previous bet or raise. In this case, a pot-sized raise would be $25 ($5 small blind + $10 big blind + $10 call), meaning that, in total, player three can bet up to $35. Supposing player three makes a pot-sized raise, the total pot is now $50. If the next player wants into the hand, they must call $35, which is the size of player three's bet. If they want to raise the maximum, they would bet $120, which equals the size of the pot ($50) plus a $70 raise ($35 call + $35 raise).
- No-limit game – in No Limit Omaha Hi/Lo, a player can bet any amount from the minimum bet to the maximum number of chips they have in front of them. As in pot limit, a $5/$10 No Limit game means blinds of $5 and $10.
The betting on the first round always starts with the player just to the left of the big blind. This position is sometimes called under the gun. As the first player, you have three choices. You can:
Rules for Playing Omaha Hi/Lo
- Call for the minimum (limp)
- Open for a raise
You choose your action by clicking in a dialog box. If you fold at any point, your cards are removed from play and no longer appear on the screen, you are out until the next hand, and you have no further interest in the pot. If you fold, the next player has the same choices. If everyone folds, including the small blind, the pot goes to the big blind, and the next hand is dealt.
If you or anyone else opens, each succeeding player has three choices:
- Call, that is, match the preceding bet
- Raise, that is, increase the preceding bet
Each player in turn has the same three choices. If there has been a raise, each player who chooses to continue must either call the total bet thus far or himself raise. In any one round of betting, there can be a maximum of one bet plus three raises. When the betting (also called action) gets to the blinds, they have the same choices. However, they already have chips in the pot, and those chips count towards their bet. For example, if, in a $2/$4 limit game, you had opened for $2, and two players had raised, the total bet would be $6. When it was the turn of the small blind, that player could fold. The player could call, by putting $5 into the pot. (He already has $1 in.) Or that player could raise, by putting $7 into the pot. This would cap the betting for that round, that is, cause it to reach the maximum. (Pot limit and no limit games have no cap on the number of bets that can be made.)
Similarly, the big blind, who already has $2 invested in the pot, gets in for $2 less. If there have been no raises when the bets gets to the big blind, that player has what is called the option. He can opt to raise, in which case each active player in turn is offered a choice of calling the raise, reraising, or folding. The big blind can also choose not to raise, which stops the betting for that round. The big blind in this option situation is known in poker parlance as a live blind.
Evaluating Your Cards
As you evaluate your cards, realize that since this is a high-low split game, good cards can be low cards as well as high cards. You want to end up with a hand that is best for either high or low - and, ideally, one that can win both high and low (scoop the pot). Keep in mind the qualifier. To end up with a low hand, your starting hand must contain at least two cards 8 or lower. Compared with 7 Card Stud Hi/Lo, Omaha Hi/Lo has a smaller proportion of pots split between high and low on the showdown. In 7 Card Stud Hi/Lo, since a player can use any five of his seven cards, the likelihood of a low hand is often quite high. An Omaha Hi/Lo pot, however, can have a low only if at least three of the community cards are 8 or lower-and even then, it sometimes happens that no player can make a low.
Once the betting for the first round is equalized, that is, once everyone has had an opportunity either to fold or match the total betting, the dealer deals three cards face up in the center of the table. These first three of the community cards are called the flop.
The second round of betting takes place. In this round, the betting starts with the first active player (one who still has cards) to the left of the button. If the small blind called on the first round, that player would be first to act, even though he was next-to-last on the first round of betting. Only in the first round (sometimes called the preflop round) does the betting start elsewhere. In all rounds after the first, the first player has two choices:
- Check, that is, make no bet
- Bet, that is, make a bet at the proper limit for that round
If no one bets, each player in turn has the same choices. It is possible in every round except the first for no betting to occur. No betting in a round is called being checked around.
If anyone bets, each succeeding player has three choices:
- Call, that is, match the preceding bet
- Raise, that is, increase the preceding bet
Players who check retain their cards. If someone bets, when the action returns, a player who checked has the preceding three choices. To check and then raise when the betting returns is known as check-raising. If you check with the intention of raising, you of course risk the possibility that no one will bet.
Once the betting for the second round is equalized, that is, once everyone has had an opportunity either to check or match the total betting for the round, the dealer deals one more card face up in the center of the table. This fourth of the community cards is called the turn.
The third round of betting takes place. Again, the betting starts with the first active player to the left of the button. The betting proceeds exactly the same as the second round. In a limit game, in the third round and fourth rounds the betting usually proceeds in increments twice the size of the first two rounds.
Once the betting for the third round is equalized, the dealer deals a fifth and final card face up in the center of the table. This last community card is called the river.
The fourth and final round of betting takes place. Again, the betting starts with the first active player to the left of the button. The betting proceeds exactly the same as the two previous rounds.
Once the betting for the fourth round is equalized, the betting is over, and there is a showdown. Remaining active players show their cards. The best high hand, comprised of the best five cards from among two of each player's four hole cards in combination with three of the community cards, wins half the pot. The best low hand (as long as one qualifies by consisting of five different cards 8 or lower), comprised of the best five cards from among two of each player's four hole cards in combination with three of the community cards, wins half the pot. The software determines the winning hands, and awards half the pot to the holder of each hand. Occasionally the pot cannot be split evenly amongst all players. If there are any remaining chips left in the pot, the 'extra' chips will be awarded to the winner of the Hi hand. If there is a tie for the best Hi (or Lo) hand, that half of the pot will be further split between the tied players, and if there are any 'extra' chips that cannot be split evenly, they will be awarded one at a time to the remaining players, starting with the player closest to the left of the button. If no hand qualifies for low, the software awards the entire pot to the holder of the highest hand. If the same player has a combination of cards that qualify as both the best high hand and the best low hand, the software awards the entire pot to the holder of that hand.
Sometimes a player runs out of chips before all the betting is over. In such case, one or more side pots are created, and the software awards appropriate main and side pots. When a player is all in, a bet or raise can be made that is not called, but a showdown still takes place.
Players often do not show losing hands. You are entitled, however, to see any cards that were active at the showdown even if they were not shown. Click on “Show previous hand” to bring up a new window that shows the results of the last hand and all the active cards.
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