Learning Omaha 8 or Better by AVP Pro Benton Blakeman

Strategy & Advice by BentonBlakeman Posted
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With the rise in popularity of mixed games I thought that today would be a good day to write an article about one of the more popular (and complex) games that is currently found in most mixed game formats- Omaha 8 or better.

Omaha 8 or better, sometimes called Omaha 8 or Omaha Hi-Lo, is a split pot game where the high hand gets half the pot and the low hand gets half the pot. Just like in Omaha high a player MUST use exactly two cards from their hand and three cards from the board. The caveat here is that there must be a qualifying low hand of an 8 low or better to get the low part. A low hand would have to consist of 5 cards, two from your hand and three from the board, that are ranked ace through eight. Straights and flushes are used for the high hand but don't count against you when making a low hand. Here is a simple example of an Omaha 8 hand. You are dealt A-2-5-K with the Ace and 5 of hearts. The board runs out 3-7-J-8-Q. In this example you'd have the "nut low" using the A-2 in your hand along with the 3, 7, and 8 on the board. Assuming no one else has exactly A-2 in their hand, our hand would win us half the pot. Now, if we change the board to 3-7-J-8-Q but with three hearts on the board, now we still have the nut low with the A-2, but we also have the nut high hand with the A-5 of hearts making us the nut flush. This would be a monster hand and good enough to likely win the whole pot. When a single player wins both the high and the low in a hand it's often referred to as a "scoop."

A lot of your success when playing Omaha 8 will be directly tied to your starting hand. The more low cards in your hand the better. The reason for this is to avoid "counterfeiting." Counterfeiting happens when you are playing a two card low hand like A-J-T-2 and you end up pairing the Ace or the 2. An example of this when holding A-J-T-2 is if the board runs out 4-6-8-K-A. You had the nut low all the way until the river, but now with the Ace pairing you got counterfeited. You still hold A-2 in your hand and the 4-6-8 on the board for an 8 low, but now anyone with two unpaired low cards like 2-5 has your low beat with a (2-5) A-4-6 for a 6 low. Because of all these reasons it's often best to have a hand with three low cards. An ace is also a huge plus as it plays as both high and low and can help in making good two way hands when trying to scoop. A extra bonus comes when we have not only three low cards with a Ace, but if the ace is also suited with one of our other cards. An example of a solid starting hand would be A-K-2-5 with the A-5 suited and the K-2 suited in a second suit. This gives us great high possibilities with two potential flush draws and three good low cards. The theoretical "best" starting hand would be A-A-2-3 with A-2 suited and A-3 suited. This would gives us a starting high hand of A-A, two potential nut flush draws, and the three nut low cards. Obviously it's asking a lot to get dealt that exact hand but if you're lucky enough to you should play it fast and start getting money in because you'll be a big favorite to win at least 50% of the pot and often times you'll be able to scoop the pot.

Playing post flop in Omaha 8 is pretty straight forward. If you flop a high hand on a board that contains only one low card you can play your hand aggressively and make opponents pay if they want to draw to a runner runner low. Conversely, if you were playing a strong low hand and get an unfavorable flop like K-J-8 rainbow it's best not to chase for a runner runner low in hopes of getting half the pot. An exception to this would be if you had a hand like A-T-3-4 with A-4 of hearts and there was a heart on the K-J-8 flop. Your equity of having a gut shot Q for the nut straight plus your back door equity of making a very good low or the nut flush would be enough to justify seeing the turn card. Many players make mistakes and peel the turn too light looking for a low card to improve their draw when they have no high hand redraws. This will only cost you money long term. No matter how pretty your low hand looks, sometimes it's best to abandon ship on the flop and move on.

The last talking point is about how aggressive you should be when you make the nut low. Unlike the high hand, quite often several people are sharing cards like A-2, A-3, or 2-3 and make the nut low by the river. These players often go crazy betting and raising because they have "the nuts." While it's ok to raise sometimes with only the nut low, in general you shouldn't get too crazy if there are 3 or more people in the pot. Often times what will happen is one player will get half the pot for the high, and the remaining two will have the same low and get "quartered." Getting quartered is when one player gets half the pot for the high, and the remaining players each with the nut low have to split the low half of the pot, essentially getting 25%, or a quarter, of the pot. Even with the nut low in this spot every bet that you put into the pot is costing you money.

Omaha 8 or better is a very complex game but can be very fun and profitable as well. With good starting hand selection and knowing when not to chase I feel like there is a lot of money to still be made in this game. Like any other game it takes a lot of time and practice to get better but the rewards are there for those who are willing to put in the hands. So many players draw for half the pot in spots where they should be folding that a skilled player has a huge advantage in this game. Hopefully this simple guideline that I created will help you become profitable when playing Omaha 8 or better.

As always, please leave any questions or comments in the thread. Good luck at the tables and go out there and scoop some pots!

Comments

  1. Great blog, Benton. People chase WAY too much in O8 and it can destroy a player if they aren't thinking ahead.

  2. I think people make too many mistakes not understanding what starting hands to play. The less players the more you can open up but typically if you don't want to get in trouble you have to be super-patient and wait for you spot. One or two hands = big $$$.

  3. The point about getting quartered is huge. When I play, I see people that can't let go of with A2. They either end up missing the low or when in a multi-player pot not realizing if they don't have a shot at the high they're risking the quarter and often times get nailed by it. It's an easy way to lose chips quickly.

  4. Benton, we're gonna need a guide to Badugi, Badacey and Badeucy for the Dealer's Choice WSOP event! Plus I forgot how to play five-card draw! LOL

  5. @peteywarren If you find one let me know, lol. I've played those games as high as $150/$300 and I'm still clueless! But I hope to see you in the Dealers Choice. Hint: I'll likely be choosing PLO 8/b often as most are extremely weak at it.

  6. For beginners, what a good general starting hand range?

  7. @pocketrocket A-A with at least one baby, A-2-(3/4/or5)-X with a suited ace, A-K-3-4 double suited. There are many more but a suited ace with at least a deuce or two baby's is pretty key in Omaha 8

  8. Well said Benton. Good job. Personally, I love playing Omaha every now and then...it's a nice change of pace from playing Holdem. It takes a little adjusting to go from two pair to being the 'nuts' to being worthless, but fun to mix it up nonetheless.

  9. People really need to get into Omaha. Its popularity is picking up as NLHE gets tougher and tougher. I don't know if it will translate to TV but I think you'll start seeing more and more of it. Plus O8 is a hell of a lot of fun!

  10. Benton, what would you recommend to bring to the table to legitimately sit a cash game on the 3-6 and 4-8 O8 tables? Most of them have no max buy-in.

  11. My main rule is if the board pairs and you don't have a full house, 9 times out of 10 you should run away like a little schoolgirl.

  12. @linus It's limit poker so my general rule is 25 big bets, so $150 for $3/$6 limit and $200 for $4/$8 limit. You could easily sit with half those amounts but I've always just bought in to limit games for 25 big bets. I'd say the general public likely buy in $100 (or one rack of $1's) for both $3/$6 and $4/$8, mostly out of ease of carrying a singular rack of chips.

  13. @5150 Good rule, but remember, this is Omaha 8 or Better, so the low half of the pot is still in play so sometimes you need to stick around.

  14. I do think Omaha is starting to gain popularity. It's a nice switch from hold em and with those games getting so tough, playing games like Omaha is a good place to run and hide!

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