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BEN HANACHI

/Jan/2012

Advanced Concepts: OMAHA-Hi-Lo

By: BEN HANACHI @ 15:37 (EST) / 491 / Comment ( 0 )

With the basics of Omaha Hi-Lo under your belt, this final article sets out to address some of the omore advanced techniques you can add to your game.

Pushing and pulling

Although you should always look to play solid hands in Omaha Hi-Lo, there are certain instances where it is preferable to go easy on the betting, thus encouraging others into the hand pre-flop, or even post-flop, or pulling them in. The rational behind this is simple, some hands play better multi-way and some are better heads up.

Take the example of a high-only hand like Ah-Kh-Jc-Td. The hand is marginal at best as it only has one suit, contains no high pair and is missing a Queen for the straight draws. Add to that the fact that you can only win a high pot, it isn’t a hand you should be raising with in a full ring game.

However, if you do make a hand with these cards, it is more likely that you will scoop the pot, so late position calls are acceptable. Look at the following example;

Your hand Ah-Kh-Jc-Td

The table is $1/$2 limit Omaha Hi-Lo and you are on the button. The action is two calls ($1) and a raise (£$) before you. If you call here, you can be pretty sure that at least both of the original callers will also call and perhaps the blinds too.

You call, the blinds fold and the other two call.

The pot is $9.50.

The board Qh-4h-2c

The first player bets and the other two both call. Here again, you are unlikely to make a scoop hand but it is possible and with the nut flush draw, you want to play but without scaring off other players. You can call here and reassess on the turn.

Another example of a pulling hand follows;

2c-3h-6h-7c

Here again your hand has the potential to make a huge scooping hand (straight flushes, nut lows, 7 high straights) but it is going to need some pretty specific cards to hit to make this happen. Basically you are looking for an Ace on the flop and another low card that doesn’t counterfeit to your two or your three. The rule with pulling hands is that you should look to be able to have a hand capable of scooping if you’re only playing against two other players.

If you’re trying to only make the nuts in one direction, you’re going to need at least three, and preferably, four of you in the hand. You need to be especially careful when going for the low only. Your A-4-9-9 might seem to have trumped the original raiser for the low on a board of 2-3-J-J-8 but the painful truth is that he was playing A-A-2-4 and you actually called bets on the flop and turn with just a draw to a quarter.

An example of a hand that you want to isolate a single opponent with are the prime hands with real scoop potential, such as A-A-2-3 and A-2-3-K. Holding one of these hands and facing a raise, you should try pushing other players out of the way by re-raising.

Looking at some percentages:

Ah-Ac-2h-3c is going to scoop 57% times against As-4s-7h-8h, which will only scoop 16.5% of the time. A great place to be heads up in this game. However, if you had simply called the initial raiser and allowed another player in cheap with the high-only hand of Kh-Kd-Jc-Td, you’re now only going to scoop 28% of the time and you would actually no longer be favourite to win the high (34% vs 36%).

As such, with strong hands, you should look to push other players out and try to get heads up with someone with a hand closer, yet hopefully inferior, to your own.

Another time when it’s right to push at players is after the flop when you have a good lock on one side of the pot. For example;

Your hand Ah-2c-6d-Jh

The board 2h-7h-9h

Here you have managed to flop the nut flush but your low is counterfeit. With several players in the hand after the flop (notice your hand was a pulling hand prior to the flop), you want to try to push those with A-3-x-x draws out of the hand and make it expensive for those with a set to try to fill up. You need to bet and raise this flop as much as possible with an eye to either taking it down right here, or getting heads up against an opponent on a draw. You also have a back-up rough low draw here so even if a player with a set fills up on the turn, you could still take half of the pot on the river.

I need to stress that pushing at the low end of the pot is very dangerous, especially if you have no back up to being counterfeit and you should consider either passive play, or just folding.

Bi-directional betting

Bi-directional betting is a play you can make, especially in pot limit Omaha Hi-Lo, when you have a hand that has both a low and a high, but neither is the nuts. You should be heads up and in position against a player who has played a hand strongly but has slowed down on the turn or river. The idea is that you are betting to try and get your opponent to fold but with the knowledge that if he or she does call, you are probably going to be able to chop the pot. An example would be;

Your hand Ah-4c-9s-7c

The board 2h-6h-8c-Qd-Th

Your opponent raised before the flop and you came along with a couple of other callers with your pulling hand. He bet again on the flop and, despite the flush draw, you called with your up and down straight draw and knowing a 3 also made you the nut low.

You both checked the turn and he has checked the river to you. This is an ideal time to make a decent sized bet, one that is difficult to call as there is a good likelihood that one of your two hands is good here, maybe both. If your opponent had the nut low he should have bet the turn and if he has rivered a flush, it can’t be the nut flush (you hold the Ah) so again the best he can do is call.

Remember, the best result from bi-directional semi-bluffs like this is for your opponent to fold so you need to judge the size of your bet well. If your opponent check raises you it is very likely you should fold, so try not to make this move against “tricky” players and be sure that the circumstances are right for you to make the bet in the first place.

Tournament play

During Omaha Hi-Lo tournaments, as the blind levels increase, you will be eventually forced into circumstances which do not occur in a cash game. How you play when in these positions alters slightly from that of a Hold’em tournament.

Short stacked

If you are short stacked in a tournament you should be looking for a hand to double up with, but you should not be looking to shove with just any four cards. Omaha Hi-Lo is a game where short stacked players can linger for a very long time because not every hand has an outright winner.

In no limit Hold’em you might open shove with any cards once you have ten bets or less remaining, but this will not work in pot limit Omaha Hi-Lo as you can only raise the pot. With a decent hand you should either limp in and try to get your chips in the middle if you connect with the flop, or if you have a raiser already in the hand, push back with a pot bet re-raise to try and get heads up.

Big stacked

Although bullying other players once you have a large stack is a good idea pre-flop, you need to be far more cautious post flop than in Hold’em. When playing with two cards, your opponent is going to have missed the flop most of the time (which is why continuation betting works so well in Hold’em), but in Omaha Hi-Lo, there is a higher chance of them having something and if you have nothing, c-betting here can just spell trouble. Therefore try to keep to pressuring players prior to the flop and when you have position. Of course, should they call and you hit the flop, you should continue to press.

Short handed

When playing short-handed, high only hands should be played far more. Any four cards featuring a pair tens or above should be considered as they will play well three handed against wheel cards.

Once you get heads up, far more consideration should be given to post flop play. A made two pair, for example, can be bet far more aggressively heads up than it could be at a full table.

Player observation

My final piece of advice is one that applies to all forms of poker, but can be incredibly useful in Omaha Hi-Lo. By watching other players for patterns in their play and making notes, you can benefit in both the game you are playing and in the future.

As a split pot game with twice as many cards as in Hold’em, where most players these days get their introduction to poker, Omaha Hi-Lo seems to be a game that requires more concentration from those playing it. As such, fewer players concern themselves with varying their play and often fall into the trap of becoming readable. Very quickly you can establish who is prepared to play any four cards, who likes to make small “come” bets when they have a low draw that isn’t yet made, and who tries to get away with slow playing the nuts.

With these observations, you can exploit your opponents play. Here is an example of a real hand;

Your hand Ah-Kh-6c-6s

A marginal hand at best, you call from the button to a single early position raiser hoping to pull in the blinds too and make a hand in position. However, both blinds fold. The player who raised has only shown down A-2-x-x for hands that he has raised and has also folded to large turn bets more than once.

The board 5c-8d-Jh

The raiser bets about one quarter of the pot. Again, in your observation of this player you have seen him try to make come bets, i.e. small bets when he holds a draw that will allow him to make a bigger pot bet if the draw comes in. This would fit well with the idea that he has A-2-x-x. You call.

The board 5c-8d-Jh-2s

He hesitates and bets another small amount. The two is a great counterfeit card and if he really did raise with A-2-x-x, unless he has a back up 3, it would be hard to call a good bet here as there is no obvious made high hand.

You raise to somewhere above 75% of the pot and he folds showing A-2-K-Q.

Making plays like this when you hold next to nothing yourself can be expensive if you get them wrong, so you really need to be comfortable with the mechanics of the game first. Learning to play solid Omaha Hi-Lo is usually enough to make good money at the lower stakes tables, but once you progress higher, the game offers plenty of opportunity for creativity. Just don't try to bluff too often as your opponent is far more likely to hold at least something than in hold'em.

Enjoy playing .:arrow:

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