Choosing Starting Hands in Poker Omaha High-Low

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Picking good poker starting hands in Poker Omaha high-low is even more difficult than picking hands in Omaha high, but once again Ed Hutchison spent the time to develop a hand scoring system that you can use to determine whether a four-card hand is playable in Omaha high-low.

The first step is to figure out whether you can play the hand for high only. You can play a hand with no chance of a low (remember, there need to be three cards ranked Eight or lower on the board for a low to be possible) if your all four cards are ranked Ten or higher, does not contain three of a kind or quads, and meets one of these criteria:

✦ The hand contains two pairs.

✦ The hand contains one pair and two suited cards.

✦ The hand contains two sets of suited cards.

If one of your hole cards is below a Ten, you can’t play the hand for high only. Instead, you need to evaluate whether your hand has a reasonable chance at winning the low part of the pot. The second step in the process is to score the lowest two cards in your hand. The table below lists the values for the relevant card combinations.

Point Assignments for the Lowest TwoCard Combination in an Omaha High-Low Hand

Lowest Card Value
A-2 20
A-3 17
A-4 13
A-5 10
2-3 15
2-4 12
3-4 11
4-5 8
Other 0

Now, look at the other two cards in your hand (your kickers) and add points as shown in the table below. Add no points for a card that was already counted in the first step. If your kickers are paired, only add points once for that rank. (You’ll count points for pairs in the next step).

Point Assignments for Kickers in an Omaha High-Low Hand

Kicker Value
3 9
4 6
5 4
J, Q, K 2
6, 10 1

If your hand contains a pair, you should add points as described in table below

Point Assignments for Pairs in an Omaha High-Low Hand

Pair Rank Value
A 8
K 6
Q 5
J 2
2 3
3, 4, 10 1

But you’re not done with the pairs step! If you have three of a kind, subtract half the points you added for the pair. For example, if you hold A♥-2♥-2♠-2, you would add 1.5 points instead of 3.

Finally, you need to account for the value of possible flushes you can make. The next table lists the values you should assign for the higher of your flush cards.

Point Assignments for Flush Possibilities in an Omaha High-Low Hand

Higher Flush Card Value
A 4
K 3
Q, J 2
10, 9, 8 1

Holding three cards of the same suit decreases the likelihood you can make a flush, so subtract half of the points you added if you have three cards of the same suit. If you hold four cards of the same suit, award no points for flush possibilities. It’s just too tough to make a flush when there are only nine other cards to help you do it.

The Hutchison system for Omaha high-low generates values from 0 to 45. Ed recommends playing any hand that scores a 20 or higher and to consider raising with any hand that scores 30 or higher.

As an example, try scoring the hand A♠-K-Q♦-2. Here’s how it breaks down:

✦ All four cards are not a T or above, so you can’t consider playing the hand for high only.

✦ The hand contains an A2 combination, which is worth 20 points.

✦ There are K and Q kickers, which are worth 4 points total (2 points each).

✦ There are no pairs in the hand, so you assign 0 points for that step.

✦ The hand has an Ace-high flush combination for 4 points and a King-high flush combination for 3 points, for a total of 7 points.

The Hutchison system score for A♠-K-Q♦-2 is 31 points, so you should strongly consider raising.

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