Playing Omaha hi lo can be intimidating, especially for beginners. Hands offer so many combinations that even experienced players and dealers can miss things. And not only are there six combinations of hole cards to look at when determining your hand, you also have to look for the high hand and the low hand. So playing Omaha hi lo with a winning strategy becomes even harder.
Consider this an introduction to the most basic of Omaha hi lo strategy basics: hand selection, concentration, and position. You can find more detailed analyses of specific Omaha hi lo strategic concepts in other sections.
The biggest tactical mistake that most new Omaha hi lo players make is being too loose. A tight player plays only a limited number of hands, folding when the odds aren’t in her favor. A loose player, on the other hand, plays lots of hands and stays in action quite a bit. Since each Omaha hi lo player receives four cards preflop, there’s a tendency to see a lot of potential in a hand, and players tend to start with too many weak hands.
If you’re playing in low limit Omaha hi lo games, you can probably be a winning player by using a single strategy: player fewer, but better, starting hands than your opponents. Be selective. Make your starting cards prove to you that they should be played. And when the flop comes, make the combinations in your hand prove to you that you should continue in the hand.
Not only do you have a lot of combinations to think about, you usually have to consider the possibility of a low hand getting half the pot. To keep up with what’s going on in an Omaha hi lo game, you must be able to concentrate. And sadly, schools don’t teach classes in concentration, and television has systematically lowered the attention span of most people. So here are some Omaha hi lo poker tactics related to maintaining your concentration:
- Get enough rest. If you’re sleepy, you can’t concentrate. In fact, missing four hours of sleep in a night can have the same impairment as being legally intoxicated.
- Stay sober. Drunks can’t concentrate any better than the sleep deprived. So if you’re going to drink something while playing Omaha hi lo, stick with coffee or water.
- Meditate. This might sound a little Zen and new-agey, but nothing improves someone’s concentration skills like practice. And meditation is the ultimate form of practicing your concentration skills.
If you play Texas holdem well, then you already understand the importance of position. Unlike stud poker games, in community poker games like Texas holdem and Omaha, your position stays the same throughout a poker hand. The earlier you act, the more of a disadvantage you have, because you don’t know what your opponents are going to do. If you act later, then you can get away with playing weaker hands than if you play earlier.
Suppose you have a weak opening hand, but it might be playable if you can get in cheap with a lot of opponents. Since a lot of people are in the hand, you’re getting a bigger payoff on your speculative hand. If you’re the first person to act, you could limp in. But if the next three players to act cap out the betting and the raising, then you’re probably going to be forced out of the hand. They’ve made it clear that in this particular horse race, they’re already way out in front.
If you have the same hand in late position, you could have folded right away and saved yourself a bet.
Fit or Fold
When the flop comes, it should fit your starting hand, or you should fold. Keep in mind that most Omaha hi lo hands are won with straights or flushes. So if your four cards include a couple of diamonds and a couple of heart, and the flop comes up with three spades, you’re probably already beaten.
If you don’t have a strong hand on the flop or a decent draw to the nuts (the best possible hand), then you’re probably better off just folding your hand.