Swimming With The Sharks: Chop Chop

Posted at 22:02 2009-10-01
After tackling the world of Omaha since my articles began, I thought it only fair that I talk briefly about a game that most Omaha players will encounter if they become serious players. Omaha Hi-Lo is far more complicated than regular Omaha, but with some simple strategies you can at least understand the game.
For those that are unaware, Omaha Hi-Lo is broken up into two halves. The first is the Hi hand, which plays as regular Omaha would. The second is the Lo hand. This hand requires you to make the lowest possible five card hand. For example, because aces play low and high in this game, the lowest possible hand would be 5-4-3-2-A. Straights and flushes do not count in this half of the game, keep in mind. The second best hand, therefore, would be 6-4-3-2-A, and so on.
Winning either the high hand or the low hand gives you half of the pot. Winning both? You get it all. So, the most obvious strategy to use is to simply try to win it all. This is known as ‘scooping’. If you scoop a pot, you have taken both the high and low hands. Now, to scoop a pot, you need to have a hand that has high and low possibilities. For example, the best starting hand in Omaha high is normally AAKK double suited. However, in Hi-Lo, this hand can only win half the pot at most, as it has no low possibilities. To have a low possibility, you need to have at least two cards eight or lower. Therefore, it is generally agreed that the best starting hand in Hi-Lo is in fact AA23 double suited, as this gives you two nut flush draws, the best starting pair, and the three lowest cards in the deck.
So, how do we go about scooping the pot? Well, let’s say we have that AA23. We raise, get a few callers, and the flop comes out 2-3-4. Now, whilst this flop might look good, it’s actually not as good as you might think. We have two pair, we have a gutshot straight draw, but we have no low. Our low draw is currently 4-3-2-A, which is not enough for a made low. On top of this, anyone with A-5-x-x has flopped a better high (straight) and a better low (nut low, also known as the wheel). It is on flops like this that you want to be careful, because a player with little experience could find themselves going broke here and losing a lot of money.
On the other hand, if the flop is A-4-5, it is time to party! You have flopped the nut high (the straight), the nut low (the wheel), and you have a redraw with your set of aces, so if the board pairs you would still have a big hand. That’s the flop where you want as much money in the pot with a caller as possible.
The third example leaves you with a decision. Let us say that the flop is 7-6-Q. This flop has advantages and disadvantages. On one hand, you have the nut low draw, and any card lower than an 8 (except a 7 or 6 as that would not allow a low) gives you the nut low. However, your high hand, which is just a pair of aces, is not particularly strong. Anyone with two pair or a set has got you beat, and it could leave you drawing to only half the pot unless an ace comes out. It’s on these sorts of flops that a lot of players will go broke with A2xx, and this is a very big mistake. When there is no low on the board yet, you have to be careful with how much you commit on this draw. The reason for this is that you may not be the only one on that draw. Other players can have A2xx as well, and if you make your hand, you might get ‘quartered’, which is where you literally get only a quarter of the pot. A good strategy is to make sure that you have a possibility of winning the high hand when playing the nut low draw. For example, a hand such as A-Q-2-10 on that flop may not be that bad, as whilst you only have one pair, you can take half if you make your low, and if the player you are playing against has the same low draw, your top pair, top kicker might give you the high, and therefore, three quarters of the pot.
Being aware of what low draws are out there on every board is very important to winning the game. Next week, we will be taking a much closer look at low hands, and about reading and understanding the board in relation to your hand. If there is one last piece of advice I can give you this week, it is that Omaha Hi-Lo still plays the same as Omaha. You have to use two cards from your hand with three of the community cards. This goes for both high and low hands.
You might not know everything about Omaha Hi-Lo yet, but in the coming weeks I hope to further extend your knowledge on this game, so that you can go out there and capitalize on other players’ mistakes.
As always, if you have any questions or comments, send me a message through the PokerNetwork Forums. I will be in Crown sporadically this week for the PokerNews Cup, so if you would like to discuss strategy further, come find me there. Until next week, I wish you all the best of luck at the tables.
- Michael ‘TheSharkBoy’ Palti.

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Swimming With The Sharks:  Chop Chop! Swimming With The Sharks: Chop Chop!

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