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!