Texas Hold ‘Em stands as the most popular online poker game, but alternative strategic games are luring players to the virtual tables. Omaha Hold ‘Em, and its cousin Omaha Hi-Lo, employ similar modes of game play, but with rule variations that keep things interesting, and provide other places for online poker players to test their mettle.
Omaha Hi-Lo is also known as Omaha/8 and Omaha 8-or better. Sometime high and low are spelled out fully too, but no matter how the games are designated at particular sites, the rules are the same. New players may be stymied by the rules initially, but consistently large pots are all that’s needed to draw novice Omaha H/L players into the fold.
How Hi-Lo is Played
Omaha Hi-Lo shares most of its rules with regular Omaha Hold ‘Em, with an important nuance that changes the game significantly. The game is played with a standard 52 card deck. Each player receives a total of four face-down hole cards, from which 2 cards must be applied to the players best five card combination.
Five additional “community” cards are dealt to the center of the table, in a dealing sequence that resembles Texas and Omaha Hold ‘Em hands. Community games like Omaha Hi-Lo are distinguished from stud and draw games by the shared pool of cards that each player at the table incorporates into his or her hand.
Where Omaha games depart from Texas Hold ‘Em is the rule that requires Omaha players to use exactly three of the five community cards to make a winning hand. In Omaha Hold ‘Em, the player with the best hand containing exactly three community cards and exactly two hole cards wins the pot. In Hi-Lo, the pot is split equally between the best ‘high’ hand and the best ‘low’ hand.
Low hands are determined using the ‘California’ or ‘Ace to Five’ system, including an 8-or-better qualifier, which stipulates that a low hand must be 8,7,6,5,4 or weaker to be eligible to split the pot with the high hand. Straights and flushes do not apply to low hands, so the lowest possible hand in Omaha Hi-Lo is 5,4,3,2,A (Aces are always low). Straights and flushes become interesting plays in Omaha Hi-Lo, because while they are not applied to low hands, they are still powerful hands interms of their placement on the high end. A ‘scoop’ occurs when a single player wins the high and low hand simultaneously.
If noone qualifies a low hand during the course of a hand, the high hand winner takes home the whole pot.
Online Omaha High-Low
Online casinos use a theoretical disc, called the dealer button, to identify the dealer for each round. Since the physical dealer cannot be rotated during an online game, the position of the button is an important feature of internet Omaha play. The initial bets of each hand, called ’blinds’, are posted by designated players, based on their positions at the table relative to the dealer.
For example: In Omaha Hi-Lo games, the player to the immediate left of the dealer is responsible for the ‘small blind’, while the player to the small blind’s left is required to post the ‘big blind’. Blind amounts vary, but the big blind is usually worth twice the amount of the small blind. As the button moves around the table, each player takes a turn posting the blinds.
Once the blinds are in place, the cards are dealt, starting with four face-down hole cards for each player. The betting round commences with the player to the left of the big blind.
Omaha Hi-Lo Betting
In addition to simply placing a bet, online players have the traditional betting options at their disposal: ‘Fold’, ‘check’, ‘call’ and ‘raise. When a round advances to a player before any bet has been made, the player may choose not to commit a wager either; in which case the player must check. The bet then moves to the next player, in a clockwise direction, who may decide to place a bet. Calling matches the amount wagered, and raising bumps the bet higher.
At any time during a hand, a player may opt to fold by surrendering his or her cards to the dealer, and sacrificing a chance at the pot.
First Betting Round
The player to the left of the big blind has the first opportunity to call, fold, or raise -based on the strength of his or her hole cards. A call is equal to the amount of the big blind, while a raise must be at least twice that amount. Once the active players remaining in the game have made equal bets, the next cards are dealt.
Second Betting Round
The ‘flop’ sees hands beginning to take shape, as three community cards are dealt to the center of the table. Betting proceeds in the traditional manner, starting with the first active player to the dealer’s left.
Third Betting Round
The fourth community card comprises the ’turn’. Betting is again initiated by the first player from the dealer in a clockwise direction.
Fourth Round of Betting
The fifth, and final, community card is known as the ‘river’. Active players assemble their best five card poker hands, using exactly 2 hole cards and 3 community cards. Betting proceeds as in previous rounds.
The final player to contribute a bet is tapped to display his or her cards to the rest of the players at the table first. If no bet was made during the final round, the player to the left of the dealer is obliged to reveal his or her hand.
The pot is split equally between the winning high and low hands. If no qualifying low hand is put forth, the player with the high hand wins the entire pot. In the case of a tie, the winnings are split between the appropriate players
Omaha Limit Variations
Omaha Hi-Lo is played with several distinct betting variations that share the same fundamental rules, but impose specific betting regulations.
Limit Omaha Hi-Lo
In limit games, the big blind matches the table stake amount, and the small blind represents half of that. The flop and all preceding betting rounds require players to limit wagers and raises to correspond to the value of the big blind. Subsequent rounds grow the pot faster – as bets and raises are worth twice the blind amount. During each round of betting, Omaha Hi-Lo players are allowed to post four bets, inclusind raises, re-raises and final raises (known as ‘caps’).
Pot Limit Omaha Hi-lo
The value of the big blind designates the minimum bet amount for pot limit games, but players are allowed to bet any amount – up to the size of the full pot. Maximum and minimum raises are employed during game play; wherin minimum raises must be equal to the amount of the previous bet, and maximums may climb to the level of the entire pot.
No Limit Omaha Hi-Lo
Raises are not limited in number, so caps dont apply to no limit poker. Like pot limit games, players may not bet less than the big blind amount, but in no limit games the value of a wager is limited only by the size of a players stack. Raises must be equal to the size of previous bets, but maximum amounts are not imposed. A player may raise as many chips as he or she has on the table.