Good Starting Hands in Omaha Hi/Lo
If the game of Texas Hold’em with its 169 unique starting hands is considered the “Cadillac of Poker,” what do we make of Omaha Hi/Lo?
After all, with 16,432 possible unique starters available in Omaha Hi/Lo, the four-card split-pot variant should rightfully be viewed as poker’s supercharged sports car.
The average player – advanced mathematicians aside – probably wouldn’t suspect that simply doubling the starting hand count from two cards to four would create nearly 10 times the number of starters.
It does though, which turns Omaha Hi/Lo into a Rorschach test of sorts. With so many possible four-card starting hands, every player can see strength where it doesn’t exist, or cast aside capable hands without really knowing why.
Thankfully, those advanced mathematicians we mentioned earlier love nothing more than poring through the data to solve problems like this. By doing so, a precise order of Omaha Hi/Lo starting hand strength has been developed, one which ranks them all from 1st (A-A-3-2 double suited) through 16,432nd (2-2-2-2).
But before we present that invaluable list, let’s review the elements that define a strong Omaha Hi/Lo starting hand in the first place.
As a split-pot game, Omaha Hi/Lo is set up to award one-half of every pot to the player holding the best “high” hand, while the other half is claimed by the owner of the best “low” hand. Because those low hands are bound by the “Eight or Better” qualifier, however, many community card boards don’t allow for any low hands at all.
Even so, expert Omaha Hi/Lo players recognize that the best starting hands provide the potential to make both high and low winners. Making the Broadway straight with your A-K is always fun – until half of your hard-earned winnings are shipped to someone tabling unconnected baby cards. Avoiding this fate, and claiming both the high and low halves of the pots on the same hand, is known as “scooping” in this game – and scoop-producing starting hands are prized above all others.
One of the game’s strongest final hands, then, is the A-2-3-4-5 “wheel” straight. This will usually suffice to earn the high half of the pot, while cinching the low half as the nuts.
We already revealed the best possible starting hand in Omaha Hi/Lo – A-A-2-3 double suited – and if you think about how those cards can work together, its prominent placement makes perfect sense.
First, you hold pocket aces and have the strongest possible preflop pair. Poker players know all about pocket aces, and while “American Airlines” doesn’t soar quite as high in Omaha Hi/Lo, they can still drag their fair share of pots.
What makes A-A-2-3 double suited the best hand for these rules isn’t the aces though, it’s that ragged 2-3 combination. You’ll need at least two low cards in hand to have any hope of winning the low half of the pot, and this hand gifts you with three (A, 2, 3). Remember, the rules allow aces to be flexible, so you can play them as high cards to beat a pair of kings, while simultaneously adding them to a low hand.
Finally, the double suited aspect of the hand is also crucial. That’s because having two A-X combinations in suited cards allows you to land the nut flush two different ways. In fact, most of the top-tier Omaha Hi/Lo starters are of the double suited variety.
Now that you know what makes a strong Omaha Hi/Lo starting hand, take a look below to review the top-30 premium holdings:
*Cards with either “x” or “y” attached designate suited-ness, while a “-” designates unsuited
1) Ax Ay 3x 2y
2) Ax Ay 4x 2y
3) Ax A- 3x 2-
4) Ax A- 3- 2x
5) Ax Ay 5x 2y
6) Ax Ay 4x 3y
7) Ax Ay 2x 2y
8) Ax A- 3x 2x
9) Ax Ky 3x 2y
10) Ax Ky 3y 2x
11) Ax 4y 3y 2x
12) Ax 4y 3x 2y
13) Ax 4x 3y 2y
14) Ax A- 4x 2-
15) Ax A- 4- 2x
16) Ax Qy 3x 2y
17) Ax 4x 3- 2-
18) Ax Qy 3y 2x
19) Ax 4- 3x 2-
20) Ax 4- 3- 2x
21) Ax Ay 5x 3y
22) Ax Ay 6x 2y
23) Ax A- 4x 2x
24) Ax Ay 10x 2y
25) Ax Ay Kx 2y
26) Ax Jy 3y 2x
27) Ax Jy 3x 2y
28) Ax Ay Qx 2y
29) Ax Ay Jx 2y
30) Ax 4x 3x 2-