McHaffie: MCU lesson 082 / Omaha Hi/Lo Split

Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published in Poker Player newspaper in 2006.

This is part of a series by Diane McHaffie. She wasn’t a poker player when she began writing this series. These entries chronicle the lessons given to her personally by Mike Caro. Included in her remarkable  poker-learning odyssey are additional comments, tips, and observations from Mike Caro.

Diane McHaffie index.

Diane McHaffie is Director of Operations at Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy. She has traveled the world coordinating events and seminars in the interest of honest poker. You can write her online at

Diane McHaffie

Lessons from MCU

— With bonus content by Mike Caro (pending) —

Lesson 82: Omaha Hi/Lo Split, 8 or better

One of the things I noticed while observing the 2006 WSOP was how horribly exasperating tournaments can be. Many of the well-known poker players aren’t making it in the money at all. I’ve heard many of them describe having powerful cards and then tragically getting drawn out on. They think they have the best of it, then their hopes get dashed, lady luck goes into hiding, and their opponent comes away the victor. However, they’ll also tell you that those bad beats are just part of poker and they expect to win more than their fair share in the long run. Tournaments are like that. You can’t expect to win often, but the trick is to win more often than your opponents.

Diluting the field

Another thing that I observed about these tournaments was the fact that the competition seemed easier when there were more players entered. I would expect that, but I didn’t think the difference would be so great. I asked Mike about this and he replied, “Of course! First, there are only a finite number of excellent players and most tend to play regardless. The larger the field grows, the fewer the number of great players there are compared to the number of inferior players, diluting the field of average talent. Also with bigger fields, many unsophisticated players tend to qualify on the internet or in real-world satellites and this also reduces the average talent. Furthermore, seldom-entering, weaker players tend to be attracted to the bigger lottery-like prize pools when thousands of players are already signed up to compete. And finally the bigger fields often tend to have smaller buy-ins, which are affordable to under-funded, weaker players.”

Omaha Hi/Lo Split, 8 or better

I watched Mike play Omaha Hi/Lo Split, 8 or better, where he finished 14th, winning just over $12,000. I wasn’t familiar with the game and asked him to explain it to me. You should be aware that it is very different than hold ’em. You’re dealt four cards face down instead of two. The betting procedure is just like in hold ’em but on the showdown you need to use exactly two cards out of your four and exactly three cards on the board to make the best high hand and the best low hand. The two cards that you use can be the same or different for high and low. In order to win the low half of the pot, your hand must be at least 8-7-6-5-4 (the worst qualifying hand). Unless somebody has a low hand that good, the high hand takes the whole pot.

Mike told me that a key to winning for beginners is: “Aces. Beyond having one or two aces, the best thing to have to back it up is deuce. This gives you a shot at having an unbeatable low hand, such as when K-J-8-6-3 appears on the board, giving you 8-6-3-2-A, which can only be tied. Most hands with ace and a deuce are profitable, but what a lot of players don’t adhere to quite enough is the concept that you will make much more profit if one other card is eight or lower. The reason for this is because you’re hoping to win both high and low. Ace-deuce will often be the best possible low hand when three other cards from three to eight end up on the board, but since you also want to win high, you want to pair the aces to possibly have the best high hand. But when the board gives you a pair of aces, you no longer have two cards to play for low unless you have a third low card for back up.”

Among skilled Omaha players this concept of having a third low card to go with an ace-deuce is well known, but overlooked by inexperiencd players. Now we both know about it. — DM

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