March 30, 2022

Which Hand is better?

Which Hand is better?The best all-around hand in Omaha high-low is A-2-A-3 double-suited. The best hands in Omaha high are A-K-A-K double-suited or A-J-A-10 double-suited (which one is best depends on the specific game). Note that neither of those two great high hands are great in Omaha high-low.

In most Omaha high-low games, a very good low hand is better than a very good high hand. In loose Omaha high-low games (my definition of loose Omaha high-low is a table at which there is an average of five or more players seeing the flop — “Cappelletti’s Rule”), good low hands get playable flops much more frequently than good high hands. In loose Omaha high-low games, most of the money you win with good high hands comes from the pots in which there is no low. That is, when the high hand scoops the whole pot.

Tight-aggressive Omaha high-low, usually played at higher limits (roughly $20-$40 and higher, although there are some very loose $20-$40 games), is a totally different game from loose Omaha high-low. In tight-aggressive Omaha high-low, there is usually a raise or two before the flop and seldom more than three-way action. In tight-aggressive Omaha high-low, pocket aces are a very good holding if you can raise from an early position to narrow the action. Heads up (for example, if only the big blind calls), aces will often win high and sometimes the whole pot.

In tight-aggressive Omaha high-low, a great low hand, such as A-2-3-5, should attempt to draw in as many players as possible. Therefore, a great low hand should not raise before the flop from an early position, since raising tends to narrow the Unique Casino action. If someone else raises and you find yourself in only two- or three-way action, you should not reraise, since, without good high potential, you are not a favorite.

In the big blind in a tight-aggressive Omaha high-low game recently in Atlantic City, I picked up A-10-A-7 double-suited. There was an early-position raise before the flop and everyone folded around to me (this was not unexpected, since most of the aces were accounted for). I felt I should reraise since I rated to be the favorite unless the raiser also had pocket aces. But he reraised, so I just called.

He held an A-2-4-7 (with the ace suited). Unfortunately, he made a low on the river, so we ended up splitting the pot. But I was roughly a 3-2 favorite before the flop, and salvaging a low on the last card saved him about $400.

Note that he made two bad mistakes with his hand. First, from an early position, he should have just called before the flop. If he could get five-way action (rare in that game), his hand could expect to win, on average, about 30 percent of the money in the pot, whereas my hand could expect to win about 20 percent or less (depending on the aggressiveness of the game).

Note also that when heads up, his great low hand is barely a favorite against a random hand, and he rates to lose money to many of the hands that would choose to call. Thus, his second mistake was to reraise me before the flop with a hand that rated to lose (unless he was thinking about setting up a bluff). But he should realize that a hand that reraises is unlikely to fold for a bet after the flop, and might well be waiting to raise a double bet after the turn.

Question for the student: If great one-way high hands are generally not so great in Omaha high-low and great low hands are also not so great in shorthanded tight-aggressive Omaha high-low, just what type of hands are great in tight-aggressive Omaha high-low?

Clearly, pocket aces and some low cards are the best. An ace with a king and another high card is also an excellent hand if the fourth card is reasonably low. Generally, if you have an ace and any two high cards and a low card (which sometimes makes an “emergency low”), it is usually correct to raise before the flop to narrow the action. You certainly do not object to going heads up against an acey-deucey.

Here’s a thought problem: Since the hold’em “problem” I provided several issues back seemed to be very popular, try this Omaha version. In Omaha high, which of the two following hands wins more frequently heads up against a random hand: A-10-A-7 double-suited or A-J-A-8 double-suited? And why? The answer will appear in the next issue.

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