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THREE OMAHA HIGH-LOW HANDS



Three Omaha High-Low Hands
2006 Randy Saylor  

Omaha High-Low is a great game to play. There is lots of action. Draws that don’t pay in holdem can be successful in this game. It is a profitable game for medium-to-high skilled players, and is definitely worth learning. This article is intended for intermediate-skilled Omaha High-Low (O8) players, who have mastered the basics of the game. Total newbies to O8 can still read it for an idea of the attitudes and thoughts, and even holdem players will gain from the table selection and mindset comments.

Whenever I select a game to play, I use table selection rules carefully. I look for a table where many players are seeing the flop, with medium-to-high average pot sizes. This means a lot of loose, passive players who are fishing along, but not necessarily being aggressive where my draws don’t have the pot odds to continue.

I recently selected a $2/4 Limit Omaha Hi-Lo table at Poker Stars that looked good. The flop percentage (listed in the lobby; shows how many players see the flop) was above 50; this is high for a $2/4 game. The average pot was above $36; that is nine big bets. Any average pot size over six big bets is generally good for a holdem game. I like to see eight big bets in a high-low split game.

Although my bankroll supports higher-limit games than this, I always look for good games rather than my chosen limit. The typical loose play in Omaha High-Low means that I can go as low as $1/2 limit or $50 buy-in pot limit and still have a satisfying profit for the session.

I proceeded to almost double my buy-in over the course of twelve hands. This was due to some good starting hands, some nice draws, and some donkish play by my opponents. I wrote this article to share some of the attitudes I used to approach these hands and maximize my wins.

Hand One

I sat down at the table with $80 (20 big bets). This is a nice standard buy-in to a limit game. It allows you to lose a few chips without rebuying to keep your stack above 12 big bets (the minimum you should have in your stack at any time to maximize wins). Rather than post the $2 big blind, I elected to sit out a few hands until the blinds reached me. This gave me a chance to watch the other players in action. I picked out three players in particular that looked like targets, and two pretty good players.

The first thing I look at is the other stack sizes. Going around the table, they were $76, $101, $25, my $80, $88, $36, and $461. Most of those are insignificant, but three really tell me something. The $25 and $36 players are below 12 big bets. They may be playing above their bankroll, and will either be very tight and passive or very loose/aggressive. The other stack that is noticeable is the $461. I have serious doubts that player won that much in one session. Some players like to use it as an intimidation tactic. What they don’t realize is that the weak players generally don’t notice that stuff anyway.

The big blind arrived at my seat after a few hands. I auto-posted and was dealt 5 A 4 5. This is a good, but not great, starting hand. It has a nut-flush potential in spades, a small set value with the fives, and fair low value with the A45 combo. I’ll definitely see a flop with this hand.

Seat 1 (under the gun) calls, seat 2 calls, and seat 3 raises to $4. Two good players fold. The small blind calls. Now I’ve got a decision to call or raise. I consider my hand possibilities. The spade flush will limit my action on the flop because it will scare the others away. If I do flop the nut low with my A45 combination, many of the A2 and A3 will fold, since their low will be counterfeited. Since my hand will not get a lot of action if I flop well to it, I am raising now to build the pot and get good odds if I need to draw to the flush. If I get a bad flop, I’m done with the hand. I won’t chase bad draws. My hand is not really a re-raising hand, but the number of players tips the scales my way.

Seat 1 folds, seat 2 calls, and seat 3 caps the betting at $8. I identified this player as a maniac who probably bullied people out of a lot of pots, so I wasn’t terribly concerned about the re-raise. The small blind and I called. Seat 2 called. Four players see the flop (50%) with $34 in the pot already.

*** FLOP *** Q 2 4. I like this flop a lot. The spade draw is good, and I have the second nut low draw. The small blind checks. Since I’m second to act, I want to check too and see if the maniacs behind me bet first. They check behind.

*** TURN *** T . Excellent. I’ve made the nut high hand. My only fear is if someone has a set or two pair and is drawing to a full house. My second nut low might be good, too, if a low card comes. The small blind bets $4. I’m surprised that someone bet it for me! I can raise to build the pot, but I don’t want to advertise my made flush. I’d also like the players behind in to increase my chances of getting paid off on the river. My decision works and they both call.

*** RIVER *** 7. This is great for me. My high hand is the nuts. My low hand (7542A) has a chance to win. If someone has an A3, they will win low. The small blind bets again. I decide to raise this time, hoping that multiple players have A3. If this is the case, I will not win the low, but my high half of the pot will be bigger. After I raise, my plan fails since both players behind fold. I’m in good shape even if I only win half the pot now, because those two contributed a lot of dead money to this pot. The pot is $66 and $2 was raked.

*** SHOW DOWN ***
I show 5 A 4 5 (HI: a flush, Ace high; LO: 7,5,4,2,A)
The small blind shows 5 K A Q (HI: a pair of Queens; LO: 7,5,4,2,A)

Perfect. The best I could hope for (except possibly that my opponent didn’t have a low at all and called me down with a set or two pair). I win all of the high half, and we split the low. My take was $48, a net of $24. The small blind lost $8 on the hand.

Analysis

The small blind’s starting hand was borderline for seeing a flop after the betting was capped. I certainly would have called the first raise, but the decision to call the second raise is closer. I would probably call in that case, but it would be a loose call.

After the flop, the small blind has a backdoor flush draw, a backdoor straight draw, top pair (virtually meaningless in Omaha games with many players in), and second nut low draw. This holding is decent, but not worth a bet, which the player wisely avoided.

The turn bet by the small blind after the board went three to a flush is highly suspect. Although the lack of any bets on the flop suggests there may not be an A3 hand out there (and the A5 low draw might still be good), the third spade on the board virtually eliminates the chances for him to win high. Even another player holding a nine-high flush might call along here. The ten did give him eight cards for a straight (any J or 3 on the river), but that straight might already be beaten by a flush.

As it turned out, this was a break-even play, because the other two players called as well. In essence, the small blind bet $4 on the turn. Three players called the turn, so $16 went into the pot on the turn. The small blind got 1/4th of this back, so the turn was a break-even round for him (bet $4, got $4 back). This would have been a terrible bet if only one or two other opponents remain in the hand.

The river bet by the small blind player is terrible. With four players left in the hand, the chance of being beaten for high is huge (this player only has a pair of queens), and the chance of being beaten for low by an A3 is enough to make this a check.

The call of my raise is fair enough, considering that the player has gone this far already. When I end up winning three-quarters of the pot, he is contributing half of his river bets and calls to me, but I guess if you’ve gone this far, you have odds to invest four more dollars.

One more note on this hand: in a higher-limit game, this hand probably never makes it to showdown. The raises preflop would have been limited, and the extra bets I won on the river wouldn’t have been called. This is one situation where playing a loose lower-stakes game can be quite profitable.

Continuation of Three Omaha High Low Hands


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