- Poker

Poker Strategy Tips: Starting Hands in Hi/Lo Split Games

There is a major difference in hands you should play if you play in a hi/lo split game as opposed to a standard high-only game, like Hold’em. The statements made in this tip are specifically for Hi/Lo split games and do not necessarily apply to other games. You can get some training in playing the game this way at PokerQQ which is an excellent platform to start your gaming journey.

The important thing to remember is that in split pot games like Omaha 8 or Stud Eight or Better, your objective is to scoop pots. You need to play hands that give you the opportunity to lock one half and freeroll for the other half or hands that have strong potential to scoop the pot. What this means in a very general sense, but not concrete, is that low cards are actually better than high cards. Aces are substantially more valuable in hi/lo games than in high only. The other wheel cards (2, 3, 4, and 5) are good cards. High cards like T, J, Q, and K go down in value. They are OK at times, but can be dangerous. For the most part, the middle cards like 6, 7, 8, and 9 are junk.

Let’s look at some examples of good starting Omaha 8 hands. AA23 (double suited) is about the best you ask for. Premium hands include hands like AA24, AAK2, A234, or AK23. Strong hands like A345, A245, AAJT, AKT3, or KK23 are certainly worth playing. The key things to remember are that you are trying to scoop, you want all your cards to work together, you want the nuts or as close to it as possible, and the river card frequently determines the winners. Therefore you need to be choosing hands with lots of possibilities for nut hands. 6789 is appealing because all the cards work together and offer you lots of straight possibilities, but in a hi-lo game you are likely to lose in both directions because you have little potential for a nut hand. Even when you do have a winner, you won’t be confident enough to play it well. As a basic rule of thumb avoid any hand with middle cards in it.

Here are some examples for Eight or Better. In this game, the nuts aren’t important. Even premium starters aren’t that critical. The key to choosing starting hands is to play when you feel you are in an advantageous situation compared to the other players. This is frequently determined by the information you gather from the other player’s up cards. If you hold a pair, you will generally want to throw it away unless you feel it is likely the best pair out. For example, if you are dealt 3JJ, and there is a king and a queen up for the next two players to act, throw the hand away. Pairs are weak in a high low-split game anyway. Remember, you want to scoop the pot. 3JJ doesn’t offer much potential for that. On the other hand, if your jack is the highest up card, the hand is worth playing.

This is even more true if the jacks are in the hole (both down) because your hand is also disguised. Again, you are typically looking for low cards. Three unpaired cards eight or lower are almost required to play, unless you have a great high hand like AA4 (which can still go both ways) or trips. Straight and flush draws are very sketchy in hi/lo split games unless they also include low draws (like 678 suited). Obviously the lower your three cards are the better, because they can beat other lows, but really they just need to be better than other players, even if they aren’t that great. Three wheel cards (A24, 234, etc) should virtually always be played. A hand like 358 is OK depending on how many other low cards are visible and being played. Thus, if there are lots of low cards out and/or people with low cards showing have bet or called before you, you probably want to wait for a better opportunity. However, with the same hand against all high cards, you are in great shape!

There’s a lot more that can be said on this topic. Hopefully I can address more in the future.