Swimming With The Sharks: Half-Pot Hazards

Posted at 10:46 2009-10-09
Last weeks edition of SWTS was a basic rundown of Omaha Hi-Lo. I know normally I cover Omaha, but for now I’m branching out into Hi-Lo. This week, I’m going to get a bit more complicated, with a focus on the title: half-pot hazards.
For those that don’t know, half-pot hazards are simply playing for half the pot. Now that you understand how the pot is split up in Hi-Lo, you can see that there are many possible ways to play for just half the pot. For example, playing AAKK double suited will only qualify you for half the pot (the high) because you have no possible low hand. On the other hand, playing A2xx on a board of 8765Q will only qualify you for the low half. The hazard comes in when you commit too much of your chips on a draw that only nets you half the pot.
Let’s say that you’re playing a pot heads up. You have A277. This hand isn’t too bad in Hi-Lo, as it gives you the nut low draw preflop, as well as a set draw. Because the set draw is a low card, you could potentially flop a set and the nut low, so this hand has scoop potential (the ability to take both halves of the pot is ‘scooping’). Let us say though that the flop is Q-8-5 rainbow. Your opponent checks, you bet – semi-bluffing your nut low draw – and your opponent check-raises. Let’s think about this now. You currently are playing a pair of sevens for the high, which is probably not the best hand (although remotely possible). So if you continue on in this hand, you are playing for the low. Now think a bit deeper. If your opponent is playing for the high, he’s got you drawing very, very thin. Maybe a 7 is good for you, maybe not. For arguments sake, let’s say he has top two pair. This means you have just two outs for the high. Now, in a multi-way pot this might not be too bad, but heads up, this is extremely bad.
If you both put ten thousand dollars in right now, and he rolled over Q8xx, you would be 10% for the high. And although you have the nut low draw, you have to hit the draw to get only half the pot back. So essentially, you would have put all your money in needing to hit to only get your money back, and need to get very, very lucky to win anything extra at all.
This is the half-pot hazard - committing your chips hoping to get only half the pot. Remember that the main goal in Hi-Lo is to scoop the pot, and if you don’t think you can do that, you have to assess whether you want to commit your chips and try and get lucky. In regular Omaha it is easier because you might not be too big an underdog against any four cards, but in Hi-Lo it is very easy to find yourself dominated for half the pot, and needing to get very lucky to make any money at all. It should seem obvious that continually chopping a pot up is bad for you, so eventually you will have to either win both halves, or lose both halves.
Another example - you have QQJT - a massive hand in Omaha, not so great in Hi-Lo. You see a multi-way flop of Q-7-6. Great flop, top set. There are two other players. Now, it can be assumed that at least one (if not both) of the players is on the low draw here. The first player bets. The second player moves all-in.
This is a fantastic situation for you, despite having no low draw, and here’s why. You have the best possible high hand right now. On top of that, you know that at least one of the players is on a low draw, and probably has a very weak chance of winning the high, if any at all. With that in mind, you definitely want to get it in here, despite only playing for half the pot. The difference here though, is that you have already made your high hand, and your opponents are on low draws, which means that if they miss, you take it all, and if they do hit their lows, you still make money because you will take half of a three-way pot, as opposed to a heads up pot.
The key difference is that you are a favourite in a multi-way pot for half the pot, which would in fact be more money than you have invested. Remember, when playing for half the pot, if the money you stand to make is not enough to warrant seeing another card, let the hand go. On the other hand, if you have half the pot wrapped up, play super aggressive, and force the other players to commit their chips. If they make their low, good for them, chop it up. But if they miss, they have donated chips to you when they shouldn’t have been in there to begin with. It is those players, the players that commit too much money playing for half the pot that you should capitalize on. Understanding that players will overplay nut low draws is the key to winning in Hi-Lo, as you will be able to force them to commit chips playing for a chop.
As you can see, Hi-Lo gets a bit confusing, but once you understand the basics and have tried it out for yourself, you will become more proficient and soon be able to start making money off weaker players. If there is one lesson you should take out of this article, it is that scooping is your aim, and you should try to play hands that have both high and low potential.
Hopefully you now have a better understanding of half-pot hazards, and you’ll keep an eye out for them next time you sit down and play. As always, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to message me through the PNW forums. I wish you all the best of luck at the tables.
- Michael ‘TheSharkBoy’ Palti

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Swimming With The Sharks: Half-Pot Hazards Swimming With The Sharks: Half-Pot Hazards

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