Omaha high/low split, eight or better (Omaha/8 or O/8 for short) is commonly found in larger brick and mortar card rooms as well as at all the major online rooms. There is another variant played for high hand only and, while the mechanics are the same, the game plays much differently.
The other major difference is on the showdown. There is both a high and low hand, with each winning half the pot. Additionally, and here's the really tricky part, you must use exactly two cards in your hand and three cards on the board. You don't have to use the same two cards for high and low hands. This is easily the most difficult part for a beginning player to grasp.
For the low hand, you're trying to get the lowest run of cards eight or under with no duplication. Flushes and straights have no value for the low hand. If no player has a valid low (no player can play five unpaired cards eight or lower), then the winner of the high hand wins the whole pot.
An example will make this more clear.
At the river, two players remain.
Player 1 wins high with two pair, Kings and Fours with an 8 kicker. Player 2 only has a pair of threes with an Ace, King, Eight kicker (note the Queen from Player 2's hand cannot play, since the A3 already plays and are the required two cards).
For the low, here are the two hands:
Player 1: 6s, 4h, 3d from the board and 2h, Ah from his hand. Since suits don't matter, we can just call this 64321.
Player 2: 6s 4h 3d from the board and 7c Ac from his hand. Making the hand 76431. The 3s in his hand can't be used because there is already a 3 on the board, so it is not an unpaired card.
If you compare the two low hands, you'll see that 64321 is lower than 76431, thus Player 1 wins the low and scoops the pot.
When comparing two low hands, you start from highest to lowest and the first player with a lower card is the winner. So 76531 beats 76541, for example.
The "wheel", 54321, is the nut low hand in Omaha/8.
Especially in live casinos, O/8 can be quite profitable because of incredibly loose games. In part this phenomenon occurs because Omaha is not as widely-understood as Hold 'em, and much of the conventional wisdom of Hold 'em cannot be applied to Omaha without adaptation. For example, whereas two aces are a monster hand in HE, dominant against any other hand, AA without much to go with it -- particularly if neither ace is suited -- is only a mediocre drawing hand in O8 unless you can get the pot heads-up. (At low limits, you simply can't. End of story.) Another example is mediocre non-nut straights, or medium straights with a good possibility of being outdrawn by a flush or full house. In essence every Omaha hand has something to like about it, but few have enough to really give them the best of it against mediocre hands. By sticking to those hands, a player with a little Omaha knowledge can go a long way.
Hold'em Players Trying Omaha/8
If you are a hold'em player trying Omaha/8 for the first time, remember this advice. Since you are starting with more cards than you are in hold'em, you must have tighter starting hand requirements than you do in hold'em. You're going to like the looks of your cards and want to play more, but don't fall into that trap.
Omaha/8 is a game of flushes and full houses. Two pair is very strong in hold'em but very weak in Omaha/8. A high pocket pair is a terrible hand unimproved. A straight can be strong if you have the high end, but be very careful with straights if the board shows three suited cards or a pair. For example, if there are more than two people in the pot and there are three of a suit on the board, the odds are extremely high that someone has a flush. In general the temptation for you to draw will be huge. Also, remember you're trying to scoop the pot; don't play for just half the pot.
- Buzz's excellent post for newbies (2+2)
- Vegas- Best Limit Omaha Hi/Lo Games? (Two Plus Two B&M forum, grandgnu May 2006)
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