Omaha poker is usually played as pot limit Omaha, or PLO. Another version of this is Omaha Hi-Lo, also known as Omaha 8.
Omaha Hi-Lo; The game.
As in pot limit Omaha, in Omaha Hi-Lo you are aiming for the absolute nuts to be sure of winning a hand, be it high or low. A players hand and the community cards will result in the drawing possibilities to multiple different results. In a single hand a player may be drawing to a flush or a full house, or a low hand. It can take time to figure it out.
Its a complicated game and in Omaha Hi-Lo each player makes a five card high hand and may also make a low hand of which ace to five is the lowest to aim for – but it has to be eight high or lower to count. At the showdown the pot may be divided between the highest hand and the lowest hand if there is one which counts, which bizarrely may be the same player. This is because each player can only use two of the four cards in their hand to make the hand they are playing, but they can use two of the cards for a high and two for a low hand.
Omaha Hi-Lo; The low hand.
To count as a low hand the player must be able to play an 8 down to 4 or lower hand (which is why it is sometimes called Omaha Eight or better, or Omaha 8). It is possible that no one in a hand makes the low hand which case the pot will go to the winning high hand.
Omaha hi lo has some specific factors which you need to know. For anyone at all to qualify for a low there must be at least three cards of differing ranks, eight or below, on the board. If there is a A,Q,8,7,3 on the board a low is possible (the lowest accompanying cards in your hand being A2). A board of K,8,Q,8,3 would not make a qualifying low hand. There will however be a qualifying low hand about 60% of the time.
High straights occasionally tie and low hands often tie and sometimes even a full house will tie. In theory it is possible to win just 1/14th of the pot. Winning a quarter of the pot is common. Counterfeiting may occur, (when a player has a winning hand but a later card on the board pairs, making the players hand not as low as it was). For example if a player has 2,3 and the flop is A,7,6 that player has the nut low – on the flop. If a two or three hits the board on the turn or river the hand becomes much weaker, and anyone with a 3,4 or 3,5 or 4,5 makes a better low.
This shows you why having the nut low is so important. If a player has 2,3,4 in their hand, the low hand is protected and if a 2 or 3 hits the board they still have the best hand. If a player were to lose from here then a two and three, or two and four, or three and four would have to come down on the turn and river giving a better hand to a player with four and five or a two and five.
Omaha Hi-Lo; Good and bad starting hands.
The worst starting hands have three or four cards of the same rank. The very worst is 2,2,2,2. It is impossible to make a low with these cards. As there is no 2 to come down on the board no set or full house can be made and any one making a higher pair on the board will win. In the same way starting with four cards of one suit means its less likely that you will hit a flush. And starting with four cards of different suits makes it impossible to make a flush (because you have to use two cards from your four to make a winning hand). So as mentioned in Poker strategy the best starting hand is going to be A,A,K,K double suited. Another good starting hand is A,A, J 10 double suited because of the wide range of possibilities for making a nut straight. For a Hi-Lo combination starting hand the best hand is A,A,2,3 double suited.
Some hands are best avoided because of the low potential they give to achieve anything. This includes middle ranked cards which are of no use in making low splits and have a tendency to make low pairs and sets and weak flushes and low straights which can end up costing a lot of chips. As mentioned above four of a kind is the worst starting hand in Omaha hi lo.
The worst low hand rank 8,7,6,5,4 and the best is 5,4,3,2,A. Somewhere in the middle, as an example we have A,2,3,4,6 to A,2,4,5,6.