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May 6th, 2010
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Poker Lesson: Aiming High in Omaha Hi/Lo
Author: Esther Rossi
Everyone knows that in Omaha Hi/Lo, starting with low cards is your best bet. You want to play hands with two-way potential, hands that can scoop the pot. In any hi/lo game, scooping is the dream.
However, in certain situations, it’s advisable to play a high-only hand. I’m going to give you a specific example from a HORSE tournament where the circumstances were just right for me to not only play a high-only hand, but to raise with it pre-flop.
My hand was Ad-10d-Jc-Qc, and I was seated in the cutoff. We were playing at the 100/200 level in Omaha Hi/Lo, meaning the blinds were 50 and 100. The player in first position limped in, along with the next three players. So, each of the first four players to act had limped in. Here I was, double suited with big cards, and I was armed with a reputation as a solid player who typically raises with strong starting hands that have excellent low potential. If I’m raising in this spot, my opponents should all typically assume I have a hand that includes A-2. And that’s one of the reasons to play high-only hands occasionally, for the element of surprise.
Another reason is that with all of those limpers, chances were that many of the low cards were gone from the deck, since the majority of Omaha Hi/Lo players will only get involved with hands that contain low cards. The likelihood of three low cards hitting the board was greatly reduced. And that’s precisely why I raised the pot to 200. My opponents automatically put me on the A-2, and all of the limpers made the call, helping to confirm my suspicion that they all held baby cards.
The flop was just what I was hoping for: A-Q-J with two diamonds. So I had two pair (or three pair, if you wanted to look at it that way) with a royal flush draw. It was checked all the way around to me; I made a bet of 100 and got four callers.
The turn card was a deuce. This was potentially an excellent card for me because it meant that if someone else held A-2, they’d just made an inferior two pair and would have a hard time folding. Sure enough, the first player to act bet out, everybody called, and it came around to me. My only concern was whether someone had K-10, but I just couldn’t put anyone on K-10 the way the hand had been played to that point. So I raised, pretty confident that the player who led out had A-2, and everyone else had babies and was hoping to make the wheel or grab the low. That first player thought and thought, studied and studied, and finally just called, confirming for me that he didn’t have K-10. The rest of the players called as well.
The river was a beautiful card, another queen, giving me queens full of aces. The first player to act checked, the next player checked, the next player bet, and the next player raised! There was no straight-flush out there – the only hand that could beat me was pocket aces. The way the hand went down, it seemed unlikely that anyone had pocket aces, so I put in another raise. As it turned out, everyone folded, and I took down a massive pot of 4,950 chips.
The lesson to be learned here is that you want to keep your opponents on their toes. You don’t want to play your hands the same way every time; you must use the element of surprise to get the maximum equity on your money. The more people that play a hand in Omaha Hi/Lo, the less likely it is that the board will contain low cards. If you have a strong high hand with big, suited cards, then you want to play that hand because of its potential to scoop the entire pot.
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