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Fred Renzey

Fred Renzey is a high-stakes, expert poker player. On a daily basis he faces--and beats--some of the best players in the country in fierce poker room competition. Now for the first time, Renzey offers his perceptive insights on how to play winning poker. For Fred's 13-page blackjack booklet "Ace/10 Front Count", send $9 to Fred Renzey, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL, 60009

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Omaha Hi/Lo Poker Is a Spin-Off from Texas Hold'em

24 Jan 2004

By Fred Renzey

Rumor has it that Texas Hold'em originated in the Lone Star State back in the early 60s. When I began going to Vegas in the late 70s, they were already playing it there. It was a catchy concept, what with its community "flop" and all.

Then, in 1982, a new breed of "flop style" game appeared in the Vegas poker rooms called "Omaha". Like Hold'em, there was a three-card flop, then a fourth "turn" card and finally the fifth "river" card. Difference was, in Omaha you had four cards in the hole.

That didn't really make it a nine-card poker game, though, because you could only use 2 cards from your hand. In fact, in Omaha you must use exactly two cards from your hand -- unlike Texas Hold'em where you could use two, one or none.

Having four hole cards to choose two from made the game a lot more action filled. That's because four cards can be broken up into six different pairs of hands. With 10-J-Q-K for example, you can make a hand using 10/J, 10/Q, 10/K, J/Q, J/K or Q/K. In Omaha, you actually have six Hold'em hands in one.

That being true, people soon realized that if you played the game as high/low split, you could use two cards for high and two other cards to go low. Ergo, Omaha Hi/Lo Split was born. Nowadays, the most popular Omaha games are the hi/lo split variety. As with most hi/lo games played in public poker rooms, though, you must make an 8 low or lower, otherwise the high hand takes it all.

What about strategy for this game? With so many different cards working so many different ways in your hand, you'd think Omaha Hi/Lo would be a nightmare to play effectively. Ironically, it's so easy to make "the nuts" (best possible hand) in this game, that somebody usually does! Consequently after all five cards are on board, you can usually just look at them and know what hand is going to win high and what the low winner will be. With so many cards out, somebody, somewhere will often make whatever the board will accommodate. Here's a "for instance". Suppose at the river the final board was:

3s - 8h - Jd - 5s - 10s

If this were Texas Hold'em, there's a pretty fair chance a pair of Jacks would win the pot. Yet, somebody could possibly have made a back door spade flush, and once in a while there might even be a 9/Q or a 7/9 out there for a "gut-shot" straight -- but not usually.

However, if it's Omaha Hi/Lo, you can forget about winning high with a crummy pair of Jacks, and probably the straight too for that matter. With all the combinations working in players' hands, a better question would be, "Who's going to have the higher flush?" And as for the low half of the pot? The vast majority of the time, somebody's going to show you Ace/Deuce for the "nut" (best possible) low.

Such is the nature of Omaha Hi/Lo Split. At the river if you don't have the nuts or something very close to it, you don't belong in there. This axiom is most true on the low side. Calling at the river with Ace/4 (second nut low in the above illustration) is going to cost you more money than it will ever earn. It follows then that you shouldn't even play an Ace/4 to begin with unless you have quite a bit else working for you in your other two cards.

Omaha Hi/Lo starting hand strategy is heavily tilted towards low cards. One of the key things to look for in your hand is an Ace/Deuce. That by itself usually makes it worth seeing the flop. An Ace/3 or a 2/3 with two other raggy cards are both sucker's bait.

If you have a high hand it should be all high, such as K-Q-J-10. Something like K-Q-3-4 is pure junk. Whatever you do start with, though, when the flop comes down if you don't have the "nuts" or a direct draw to the nuts -- get out.

This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at

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