Omaha Hi/Lo Rules
Omaha Hold'em, 8 or better high-low split was in definite need of shortening, so poker players commonly refer to it as Omaha/8 or Omaha hi/lo. As with any other game of poker, the rules are mostly simple, but mastering the game requires a talented, relentless student. Omaha is also thought to be the game of the future, with its popularity growing very quickly, and already outgrowing many 7 card stud populations. In fact, the most populated omaha 8b games are found online these days. Full Tilt Poker has the best Omaha hi/lo 8b games, with a combination of good player population and lots of big name pros to watch at $1000/$2000 limits and higher. Absolute Poker has fewer players, but their Omaha hi/lo 8b pot limit games are very loose at the lower levels.
Qualifying Low hands
In Omaha hi/lo, the pot can be a split pot if there is a qualifying low hand. To qualify as a low hand, the player must have five unpaired cards that are 8 or lower. An ace counts as the lowest card in a qualifying low hand, and flushes and straights do not effect the low value. The best "low" hand would be an ace through five straight (A2345). This hand is commonly called the "Bicycle." It is entirely possible for a player to have the best low and best high hand. Take for example a player has A2456, all of spades. He has a spade flush as a high and and an Ace through 6 low hand. Players can even use different cards in their hand to make a separate low and high hand. If a player has both the best high and best low hand, he wins the entire pot, also called "scooping" the pot.
The Blinds and Dealer Button
Omaha is a fixed position game, like Texas Hold'em. Position is determined by who currently is sitting behind the dealer chip or button. The dealer chip moves clockwise around the table after each hand. The dealer has the advantage of acting last on every round except for the first, and wise poker players know the advantage this brings. Also like Texas Hold'em, we use blind bets to get the pot started. The first player to the left of the dealer puts in the small blind, which is usually half of the big blind. The player to the left of the small blind is required to put in the big blind, and this is generally equal to the small bet at the particular limit being played. For example, in a $10/$20 game of Omaha, the small blind would be $5 and the big blind $10.
The initial deal is where we see the major difference between Omaha and Texas Hold'em. In Omaha, each player is dealt four cards face down instead of two. However, only two of these cards are allowed to be used in creating the players hand. This must be kept in mind as the hand progresses! The four down cards is the greatest stimulant for action for the Omaha variation of poker, as it is not hard to find a nice hand when you are dealt 4 cards.
After everyone is dealt 4 cards face down, the player to the left of the big blind must either call the big blind, fold or raise. Each player acts in turn, folding, calling, raising or re-raising. The blinds are considered "live," meaning that when the action gets to them in the first round of betting they can also fold, bet or raise.
When betting action is completed on the first round, chips are raked into the pot and the dealer places 3 cards face up in the middle of the table. These are community cards, used by all players to create their best hand. Again, do not forget that you must use exactly 2 cards from your hand and three cards from the community board to create your best five card hand! A round of betting begins, starting with the player to the left of the dealer button.
After betting action has concluded on the flop, another card is placed face up in the center of the table, called the Turn. This card is also a community card. Bets double on the Turn. In our game of $10/$20, while $10 bets were made before, we now have to be or raise $20 at a time.
The final community card is placed face up in the center of the table, and the final round of betting takes place. We again use double bets on this round.
When all bets are equalized on the River, a showdown occurs and the last player to make a bet or raise must turn over his down cards, revealing his best five card hand. If there was no betting on the final round, the first player still active to the immediate left of the dealer must show his hand. Each player in turn can either turn over his cards to reveal a better (or worse) hand, or muck his cards face down if he is the loser. Each player has to use exactly two of his hole cards and three cards from the community cards on the board. If there is no qualifying low hand, then the player with the highest ranking hand wins. If there is one or more qualifying low hands, then the player with the lowest qualifying low hand and the player with the highest ranking hand split the pot.
Notes and Frequently asked Questions
The best low hand is determined first by looking at the highest qualifying low card in each players qualifying hand. Someone with A2358 would say he had an "eight low." His opponent meanwhile has A2357. He has a "seven low" and wins the low side of the pot, since his seven is lower than the first player's 8. If the players have qualifying low cards of the same rank, we simply move down the chain of cards until one player's card is lower than the other. Example: A2368 beats A2378. Player one would note that he has an eight-six low, while the loser holds an eight-seven. It's not often to have two players who hold identical low hands, but it happens, and this results in a split of the low side of the pot.
Never forget: You form your hand using exactly 2 cards from your hole cards and 3 from the board.
You can use two of your cards to form a high and and two others to form a low hand. Keep all of your options and possible hands in mind!
An interesting event happens every now and then in Omaha hi/lo, and it is called "getting quartered." This occurs when two players tie for the high side of the pot and a third player is the only one with a qualifying low hand. The low hand gets half the pot, and the two high hands split the high side, hence they only receive a fourth, or a "quarter" of the entire pot. The same thing occurs when two players have identical lows, and another player has the high hand. The high hand takes the high half of the pot and the two low hands split the low side of the pot. Getting quartered is almost always a bad thing, as you will tend to put more money into the pot than you will get out of it, unless there were a lot of players in the hand donating towards the pot from the beginning.