If Omaha is not action packed enough for you, then maybe Omaha Hilo is more your kind of game. With all the action of Omaha, plus a whole new low element, there's a myriad of hand combinations available. New players should make sure they go over the rules of the low hand and get that clear in their minds before they play at anything over nominal stakes. But it's quite simple once you've got it, and the excitement of Omaha Hilo will definitely repay the time taken to learn! Learning omaha hi first will definitely help new players.
Similar to Omaha, with so many stronger hands common place, position becomes a lot less important in Omaha Hilo than it is in Texas hold 'em. Players tend to slow play less in Omaha Hilo (since it is much easier to have a big hand outdrawn) and there's middle middle and late positions still hold some advantage in terms of being the best place to bluff from, but with so many hands and draws available position bids to take second place to actual card strength.
As a general rule in Omaha Hilo, a nut or nearly nut low is better in early position, whereas a high hand is better in late position, but in reality it makes little difference in lower limit games.
Hand selection is even more important in Omaha Hilo than Omaha, for a very clear reason. Half the pot is given to the winning low hand, which as with the high hand tends to be the nuts or close to it, especially in multi-way pots. However although any two cards can win the high hand with the nuts (any full house or quads), only two cards from A, 2, 3, 4, 5 can make the nut low. Therefore some starting hands can not make a nut low no matter what the board comes down. It stands to reason there before that hands that make a nut low are much more powerful.
There are three ways to win a hand of Omaha Hilo - by making the other players fold, by having the best high hand with no low hands out, or by winning both the high half, and the low half of the pot, known as scooping the pot. This third form is by far the most lucrative, with more chips on average in the pot from other players. The five cards mentioned above, A, 2, 3, 4, 5, form the wheel, which is the strongest made hand, giving you the nut low and a chance of winning the high half with a straight. The more of these cards your starting hand contains, and the lower they are, the more chance you have of making the wheel, and the stronger your hand is. Hands with A2 and A23 are particularly good.
As with Omaha, with a couple of exceptions, hands with three of a kind in them should be folded at all times. Following on from this, four of a kind as your hole cards should never be played.
As a guide, the approximate best starting hands in Omaha Hilo are:
1. AA-2-x 2. AA-3-x 3. A-2-3-x 4. A-2-4-x 5. A-2-xx 6. A-3-4-x 7. AAxx 8. AKKx
These hands are then made stronger or weaker by whatever the x, unknown cards, are. Eight or under, and the lower the better, otherwise the higher the better. So AA24 is better than AA26, whereas AA39 is lighter than AA3Q. Four hole cards gives six different two card combinations (abcd gives ab, ac, ad, bc, bd, and cd), so the better these six combinations are, and the less repetitions there are, the better your hand is.
Hands with no low cards can also be playable; however these need a predominately high board, or a particularly good flop, to be useful, so should be played reservedly, preferably in pots with more players, so as to maximize value if you do hit a nut high hand.
Having fitted cards in Omaha Hilo is good, preferably "Double suited" - where you have two different pairs of qualified cards, eg AhAd5h3d, referred to as "Aces double suited". Having one or two qualified aces is powerful, as if you hit a flush it will be the nut flush.
AA23 double suited is the best Hilo starting hand, but on a high flop without an ace, or any flush draws, they can be worthless, playing as just AA.
High pairs in general are either hit or miss, being strong if they hit top trips, and can often scoop a high-only hand, but weak if they miss. Medium pairs are not very good, as if they are top trips probably a low will be present anyway, preventing you from scooping the pot if someone holds the low. Low pairs can be good combined with A2 or A3, giving a shot at the nut low, while holding trips as well, a great chance to scoop the pot!
As with high only Omaha, once the flop comes down, everything can change. With so many hand combinations out there, and now the added complexity of drawing for a low, there are even more draws, hands, and action!
The simplest way to spot the nut low is to check which are the two lowest cards, including ace as low, that are not on the board already. For instance on a AKK38, the two lowest cards not on the board are 2 and 4, so these will be used to form the nut low for that board, A2348. If there are not three different low cards already on the board then there is not a low hand possible.
Drawing to the low is common, where two low cards are already on the flop, and a player holds two other low cards, they are said to be drawing to the low. If the two low cards they hold are the two lowest that are not on the board already, then they have the nut low draw. With only those two low cards in his hand, the player has four other low numbers to hit, giving him 16 outs to hit the nut low hand.
As for the high half of the hand, the more people that are in the pot, the better hand you need to stay in the pot in the face of a raise. In a heads up pot your over-pair to the board, or two pair, may be in front, and have a good chance of staying there. In a multi-way pot however, two pair, even top two pair probably will not be ahead, and even if it is there's not a great chance of it staying there. Betting two pair or trips on the flop is a good idea, to find out if any of your opponents have anything, and also to try and discourage them from drawing to a better hand. The same is usually true of hands where you flop the nuts, although slow playing and check raising may make you more chips.
The trick to Hilo is working out wherever your opponents have a made high hand, a draw to the high hand, or are going for the low side of the pot with a draw or a made low.
One of the dangers of Hilo is split and quartered pots. Split pots occur when one player has the best low hand, and another player the best high hand, and they split the pot between them.
This can often be the case when drawing to a nut low, with no real high hand, where in a showdown the nut low can only win back half the pot, which in a heads up pot yields no gain at all. This makes drawing to the low less profitable than it might seem, even with the nut low. There are however a couple of things that can be done to combat this. By betting with the nut low draw, and building a pot, you can make the pot large enough so that a Pot bet on the river may scare away other players, and without someone else has the nut low, its a no risk bet once you 've made your nut low.
If someone else does have the nut low however, then you run the risk of being quartered - in essence winning only a quarter of the pot. This occurs mainly when two players have the nut low, and split half the low half of the pot, with either one of them, or another player, taking the high half. This means you could have a nut low on the river, and get back less then you invest, holding the nuts! To avoid this, try and work out what other players have, and do not overvalue the nut low with no high. Charging blindly in with the nuts does not always pay dividends!
Playing for one half of the pot, be it high or low, is always risky, as your expected profit is not what it would be if you were playing for the whole pot, regardless of your outs and odds of hitting your hand.
With this in mind, better Omaha Hilo players will always try and have draws or hands for both halves of any big pots that they get involved in, hoping to scoop the entire pot for a massive profit.
Another common pitfall is counterfeited lows. These occur when you hold for instance A-2-xx, where xx are both above 8, and the board is 3 low cards with no A or 2, such as 468K, giving you the nut low. However if an A or a 2 fall on the river, then you no longer have the nut low; a 468KA board requires 2 3 for a nut low, and slightly a 468K2 board requires A 3.
You can avoid this problem by having back-up low cards, protecting your low. In the above example with a 468K board, holding A23 in your hand would mean you had the nut low whatever card came on the river. This is what makes hands like AA23, and A234 so powerful.
Above all, enjoy the action of the game, but do not get carried away with it, look for reasons to fold rather than trying to find reasons to call. With more huge hands appearing, variance on omaha hilo can be tricky, with wild swings and fluctuations.
Pay closer attention to your bankroll and do not step up limits too quickly. Small tournaments are a great way to learn the game in an enjoyable way, without risking too much money. Hilo is a trickier game than high only Omaha, but with all the action involved, it can be much more enjoyable, and much more profitable!