Starting Hands in Omaha Hi-Lo

The following sections offer examples of Omaha Hi-Lo starting hands; of course, these are not the only possibilities. In the first example, a hand like A-2-3-5 is just about as good as A-2-3-4.

The Very Best Hands
A234: A suited ace with three low cards can make the nut low, as well as a straight, and the nut flush. By having sequenced low cards, you have protection against being counterfeited if one, or even two, or your low cards hit the board. You are said to be counterfeited if one of your low cards is duplicated on the board, thus weakening your hand considerably. For example, you hold A-2-7-9, and the board is 3-4-8. At this point, you have the best possible low hand (8-4-3-2-A). Suppose the turn card is a deuce. Now your low hand is 7-4-3-2-A, but it is no longer the nut low, and if an opponent holds A-5 in his hand, he will have an unbeatable low hand, as well as a 5-high straight (called a wheel or bicycle for a high hand, too).

AK34: A-K double-suited offer two flush combination, two straight combinations, a draw to a very good low hand, and protection against making a low and having it counterfeited.

AA23: A pair of aces, two nut flush draws, a low hand with counterfeit protection, and a draw to the nut low are the features of this hand.

AAKK: No low possibilities here, but a double-suited A-K is a very powerful hand, because you can make a straight, two flushes, and sets of aces or kings that can become a full house if the board pairs.

A239: Only three of the cards are coordinated, but with a large number of players in the pot, you have a draw to the nut low with counterfeit protection.

Very Good Hands
A255: Flush draw, nut low draw, straight draw are some of the possibilities. You might also flop a set to your pair of 5s. A-2 suited with any pair can be counterfeited for low and is not as strong as the very best hands, but it is a good hand nevertheless.

AQJ10: You'd like to see either all picture cards on the flop in hopes of making the best possible straight, or three clubs. If you flop a flush and two small cards are present, you must bet or raise at every opportunity to make it as costly as possible for low hands to draw against you. If a low hand is made, you've lost half your equity in this pot.

2345: You're hoping an ace falls along with two other low cards. If it does, you've made the nut low and you probably have a straight draw, too.

A357: Although this is good low draw along with nut flush possibilities, you won't make the best possible low hand unless the community cards include a 2. But you can easily make the second best low hand, which often spells trouble. Suppose that David holds A-3-x-x, Karen has 3-4-x-x, and Abby has A-2-x-x. Suppose that, at the end of the hand, the board is K-K-8-7-5. All three players made low hands, but Abby made the best possible low hand. David's hand is the second-best possible low hand, and if he were to bet and Abby were to raise, David would lose the low half of the pot.

Other Playable Hands That Aren't Ready For Prime Time
K234: This hand offers a draw to a flush, though it's not the nut flush, and a draw to a low hand that won't be the best low unless an ace hits the board. Nevertheless, it is playable in late position, although this kind of hand often must be released if the flop doesn't fit it precisely.

KK1010: Here's a hand that can make a straight, albeit with great difficulty, and can make a flush, although it is not the best flush. The hand can improve to a set or a full house, too. It's playable, but it's the kind of hand that looks a lot stronger than it really is.

8910J: This is a straight draw with no flush possibilities. If you make a 5-6-7-8-9 straight, any low hand will take half of this pot. If you make a big straight, you run the risk of losing the entire pot to a higher one. Mid-range cards are dicey holding in Omaha Hi-Lo, and this is another of those hands that looks a lot better than it is.

KQ23: This is a good-looking hand that can also lead to trouble. On the plus side, it's double-suited, providing two flush draws. And two straight draws are also possible, as well as a low hand. But the down side is that neither flush draw contains an ace, and you can't make the best possible low unless an ace appears among the communal cards. This hand and many others like it are what poker players call trouble hands. They're seductive, and even when you catch what appears to be a good hand, it might be more trouble than it's worth. Hands like this are always treacherous and often can be disastrous.

5678: Mid-range cards spell trouble—even double-suited, as in this example. With mid-range cards, you stand very little chance of scooping a pot. On the other hand, you can be scooped, particularly when you make a straight and your opponent makes a higher card straight.

Reprinted with permission, from "Poker for Dummies", by Richard D. Harroch and Lou Krieger, IDG Books Worldwide, Inc. ©2000


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