Selecting Starting Hands in Omaha Hi/Lo by Chip Jett

I firmly believe that it’s impossible to play too tight in Omaha Hi/Lo, especially in a ring game. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not especially fun to play the game that tight, but if you have the patience for it, it’s as good a game as any to make money in.

Here’s an idea of how tight I play Omaha Hi/Lo: if I’m playing HORSE and get dealt 10 Omaha Hi/Lo hands before we move on to the next game, there’s a good chance I won’t play a single hand. On average, I’ll probably only play one hand per round. It’s a tight strategy, but in a game like Omaha Hi/Lo where so many players don’t understand the strength of their hand and will make mistakes, it’s a winning strategy.

When it comes to starting hands, I never voluntarily put money into the pot with a hand that doesn’t have an Ace in it, under any circumstances. Usually, I need A-2. That’s the ideal, A-2 with a couple of other low cards. I’ll also play A-3, provided the Ace is suited.

When you start loosening your hand requirements, that’s when you get into trouble. Say I had a hand like A-4-7-9 with the Ace suited. That hand is very much on the fence. I know that a lot of people play that hand, but it’s actually a hand that’s easy to get into trouble with. If I fold that hand and then I see a flop come out that would have been good for me, I don’t get upset about it. That’s because against other hands that my opponents might be playing, my A-4-7-9 could be very vulnerable.

What you should really be looking for is a hand where all of your cards work together. Here’s a classic example of a horrible Omaha Hi/Lo hand where your cards do not work together well: K-10-3-4. Some people see that hand and say, "That hand has a little high potential and a little low potential." Indeed it does have a little potential – very little. Those are two bad high cards and two bad low cards.

Any time that your four cards aren’t working together in some way, it’s a good indication that you shouldn’t be playing the hand in Omaha Hi/Lo. When people who are used to playing Hold ’em look at an Omaha Hi/Lo hand, they see all of these combinations and say, "I had a pair" or "I had a flush draw" or "I had a low draw." But you need those things in combination.

If all of your cards work together, you’re playing 16 hands, whereas if your opponent’s cards are split, he’s playing about four hands. Needless to say, if all of your cards work together, that gives you a big edge in Omaha Hi/Lo.

Chip Jett