How to Play Omaha Hi Lo

Omaha Hi-Lo is a 'split pot' game played with a single deck of 52 cards where each player makes a separate five-card high hand and five-card low hand. The high hand is made according to regular hand rankings (which can be found here), with a royal flush the very best hand possible.

To qualify for low hand, a player must be able to play an 8-7-6-5-4 or lower - this is why the game is also known as Omaha Eight-or-Better. The lower the low hand the better (so 7-5-4-2-A - or a 7-high) would beat 8-6-5-3-2 (an 8-high low hand). Aces can be played either high or low for the high hand, but are always considered low (i.e., worse than a 2) for the low-hand.

The action begins with one player being given the dealer button, with the two players to the left of the dealer button putting in the small blind and big blind. These are forced bets which ensure there's money in every pot. The blinds and the dealer button rotate clockwise after every hand.

Each player is then dealt four cards ('hole cards') which belong only to that poker player. Five community cards are then dealt face-up: three cards firstly, this is called the flop. After the betting on the flop is completed. another card called the 'turn' is dealt. There's another round of betting before the final card (the 'river') is dealt. There's a final round of betting before players show down their hands and find out who has won.

Each player must play any two of his four hole cards to make his high hand, and any two of his four hole cards to make his low hand. You can use the same card in each of your high and low hands. For example, a player holding As along with 2c-Ts-Kc would use the As and Ts to make a flush in the high hand as well as be used with the 2c to make a low hand. If there is no qualifying low hand, the high hand wins (or scoops) the whole pot.

For anyone to qualify for a low hand there must be at least three cards of differing ranks 8 or below on the board. i.e, a board of K-8-J-7-5 makes a low hand possible , while a board of K-8-J-8-5, however, cannot make any qualifying low.  Hands which contain pairs, such as 8-7-5-2-2 are not low hands - all five cards must be of unique rank. Statistically, around 60% of the time a low hand is possible. When figuring out the low-hand, the players should also remember that straights and flushes do not count against them - the cards are considered solely in numerical terms when making the low-hand.

If players tie for one half of the pot, that half is split equally amongst players with the joint winning hands. Most commonly, two players may share the low pot (if both have A-2 on a board with three low cards, for instance), and would therefore receive a quarter of the total pot. This is called "getting quartered."

Here is an example of a split low-pot.

Board: 3-5-8-T-K

Player 1: A-2-T-J - uses A-2 from their hand to make A-2-3-5-8 (85,321)

Player 2: A-2-Q-Q - uses A-2 from their hand to make the same low; A-2-3-5-8.In this case the low-half of the pot would be divided between the two players, while Player 2 would win the high hand with Q-Q from their hand to make a pair of queens and their best hand (QQKT8 vs AKJT8 for Player 1's Ace-high).

When deciding which low hand beats another, the simplest way is to read the low hand as a number - the lower the number, the better the hand. 5-4-3-2-A is the best (54,321), while 8-7-6-5-4 (87,654) would be the worst low hand possible. The lowest number that any player can make is the best possible low hand in play. Should you be unsure of how well your hand ranks, please consult the full list of qualifying hands shown below.

Likewise if more than one player has the same high hand, the high half of the pot is divided equally amongst all winning players. Should two players have the same hand (i.e., both have a pair of twos), the hands are separated by who has the highest side cards ('kickers'). For instance 2-2-A-4-3 would beat 2-2-K-J-5 - a pair of twos with an ace kicker vs. a pair of twos with a king kicker.  The following hands are placed in descending order of strength:

  • A-2-3-4-5
  • A-2-3-4-6
  • A-2-3-5-6
  • A-2-4-5-6
  • A-3-4-5-6
  • 2-3-4-5-6
  • A-2-3-4-7
  • A-2-3-5-7
  • A-2-4-5-7
  • A-3-4-5-7
  • 2-3-4-5-7
  • A-2-3-6-7
  • A-2-4-6-7
  • A-3-4-6-7
  • 2-3-4-6-7
  • A-2-5-6-7
  • A-3-5-6-7
  • 2-3-5-6-7
  • A-4-5-6-7
  • 2-4-5-6-7
  • 3-4-5-6-7
  • A-2-3-4-8
  • A-2-3-5-8
  • A-2-4-5-8
  • A-3-4-5-8
  • 2-3-4-5-8
  • A-2-3-6-8
  • A-2-4-6-8
  • A-3-4-6-8
  • 2-3-4-6-8
  • A-2-5-6-8
  • A-3-5-6-8
  • 2-3-5-6-8
  • A-4-5-6-8
  • 2-4-5-6-8
  • 3-4-5-6-8
  • A-2-3-7-8
  • A-2-4-7-8
  • A-3-4-7-8
  • 2-3-4-7-8
  • A-2-5-7-8
  • A-3-5-7-8
  • 2-3-5-7-8
  • A-4-5-7-8
  • 2-4-5-7-8
  • 3-4-5-7-8
  • A-2-6-7-8
  • A-3-6-7-8
  • 2-3-6-7-8
  • A-4-6-7-8
  • 2-4-6-7-8
  • 3-4-6-7-8
  • A-5-6-7-8
  • 2-5-6-7-8
  • 3-5-6-7-8
  • 4-5-6-7-8

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