Omaha Hi / Lo (O8), also known as Omaha hi-low split, is a variation on Omaha high-only, with the difference being that the pot is divided into two equal halves, one of which is won by the player(s) with the highest hand and one of which is won by the player(s) with the 'worst' or lowest hand.
To win, or 'qualify' for the low half of the pot, a player must be able to make a hand of 8 high or lower under the normal Omaha rules of EXACTLY two from the hand and EXACTLY three from the board. Therefore not every pot will have a low hand possible and not every player will always be able to make a low.
The standard qualifier for Omaha Hi/Lo is 8, but variants exist where 7 or 9 lows are the maximum. This maximum is called the 'ceiling'.
As with high-only Omaha, players compete for the pot with four hole cards, four rounds of betting, and five community cards. As in most poker games, if a player wins the hand by everyone else folding, it does not matter if they have a low hand or whether a low was even possible.
Awarding the pot
In the event that a showdown is required:
- If no player qualifies for a Low, then the pot is awarded according to standard Omaha rules.
- If one or more players qualify for a Low hand, then half of the main pot goes to the best High hand (according to normal Omaha rules) and half goes to the best Low hand. If several players have the same hand, then the pot may be split.
Once the main pot is awarded, side pots are awarded in the same manner.
Tie breakers for the low are decided by first looking at the high card of the best five card low hand, then the next highest card, and so on. Ace counts as low. Flushes and straights do not disqualify the low, so 5-4-3-2-A is the best possible low, even if they are all the same suit.
8-4-3-2-A loses to 7-6-5-4-2
7-5-3-2-A loses to 6-5-3-2-A
7-6-5-3-A loses to 7-6-4-3-2
Pairs do not count towards the low hand. This means there must be three cards of unique values between eight or lower on the board for a low to be possible. Remember, Aces count as low.
Two of your cards will be used to make your best high hand and two will be used for your best low hand. The same hole card(s) may be used to claim both halves of the pot. You do not have to use all four hole cards at the showdown and you do not need to have a low hand in order to claim the high pot.
Note: In live games, a player is obliged to show all four of their hole cards at showdown, even if they are using As-Ad for high, the same Ad with another card for the low and have a card which is not used to claim any part of the pot.
A player does not have to 'declare' high or low, like in some stud games, so it is possible to call with a low hand and find a small pair is enough to win the high hand.
If there is an odd number of chips in the pot, it will be awarded to the high half of the pot. The high hand is traditionally awarded first.
As per standard rules of poker, if there is an odd amount of chips in a pot which is tied between two players, the player in the earliest position will receive it.
Playing for both halves of the pot:
When considering whether to play a hand, or whether to continue in a pot with a draw, it is important to assess whether you are trying to win all of the pot or just have chances to win half. Pot odds for trying to make a flush or straight are significantly worse when half of the pot goes to the low hand. Combination hands such as A-x suited are premium and can present opportunities to hold the nuts for at least half of the pot and the possibility to 'scoop' the whole pot if you are lucky.
A player is said to be quartered when they win only half of one of the pots and their opponent(s) win all of either the high or low pot and half of the other pot. Be careful to not get carried away with the nut low if the action is fierce because you may get back less than you put in, even with the nuts! On the other hand, having the nut high and several players with low hands can reap rich rewards.
Holding the best low in the early stages of the pot can be ruined at the turn or the river. Having the A-2 nut low on a perfect looking 4-6-8 flop is vulnerable to another ace or two on the turn, making a better low possible, unless you also have a three in your hand.
It is possible to make the best possible hand in a tournament and still get knocked out.
Imagine you have just a single chip left and it is the lowest denomination chip left in play. You post a big blind and are all in against two opponents who check all the way to a showdown. Your hand qualifies for the nut low but since there are three chips in the pot, the high half winner gets two of them. The player in the small blind has the same nut low as you, but there is only one chip and he is in earlier position.
Qualifying Low Hands from Best to Worst