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Heads-Up vs Multi-Way Hands in Omaha Hi/Lo
Andy Bloch
Oct 3, 2006

Earlier this year, I cashed in the $2,000 Omaha Hi/Lo event at the World Series of Poker. I enjoyed the tournament; it was great to spend some time playing a game other than hold 'em. One thing that surprised me about the tournament, however, was that the quality of play was quite poor. Some players didn't even know the very basics, like starting hand values. I was amazed that so many people would put $2,000 into a tournament where they didn't understand even the most rudimentary elements of the game's strategy.

For this article, I want to discuss how the quality of your Omaha Hi/Lo hand relates to the number of people in a pot. If you're playing a multi-way pot, you need a very strong hand going one way or the other. The nuts or a draw to the nuts is preferable. Absent that, in multi-way pots, you want to have strong draws in both directions.

In heads-up play, however, you can continue with far weaker hands if your opponent is going to need to play all four of his cards in order to scoop the pot. An example should clarify what I mean.

Let's say you have 2-3-4-7 in the big blind and call a late-position raise. The flop comes K-Q-7 and you both check. The turn, a 3, gives you two pair and a low draw. You check again and your opponent bets. You'd absolutely want to call. Your two pair may very well be good and, if it's not, there's a chance your low draw will get there. Should the river bring an 8, you'd definitely want to call a bet and showdown the hand.

In this situation, in order to scoop the pot, your opponent would need to have something like a better two pair and A-2 or A-4. All four of his cards would need to be involved in the hand. This is unlikely enough that you should call his bet.

If you had the same hand, but were playing a four-way pot, you probably wouldn't want to call any bets. Say you make your same two-pair and low draw on the turn but, this time, after you check there's a bet and two calls. It's likely that you're not going to get either part of the pot as someone probably has a stronger high while someone else holds a better low draw.

This is only one important aspect of Omaha Hi/Lo. If you spend some time polishing your game, you can make some good money in cash games and get great value in tournaments since so many players are just starting to learn the game.

What's more, you might also find that you enjoy taking a break from hold 'em once in awhile.

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