Omaha Hi-Lo Point Count Systems For Starting Hand Selection

Doctor of Psychology and acclaimed Omaha Hi-Lo player Dr Ed Hutchinson first came up with a ‘Point Count’ system for starting hand selection back in 1997. The idea is to give a statistically derived value for both high and low possibilities in Omaha hi-lo starting hands – based on their expected profitability in below average games (i.e. not full of experts).

Here we outline Hutchinson’s Point Count System for Omaha Hi-Lo Starting hands and discuss its pros and cons for online Omaha Hi-Lo games – both fixed limit (which the system was designed for) and the newly popular pot-limit Omaha hi-lo games. : If you are new to the game you might not know that there is a software tool designed to help with exactly this area of play… we explain how Omaha Indicator can bring big rewards at the bottom of this article.

In the interests of credit where credit is due you can find an overview of the points count system on Dr Hutchinson’s website via this link: Dr Hutchinson’s Point Count System.

The Point Count Method For Omaha Hi-Lo Starting Hands

Firstly the point count method identifies whether your hand qualifies as a ‘high only’ hand, the criteria for this are naturally very strict – with 4 cards 10 or above required plus some other features such as a pair + 2 suited cards, 2 pair or double-suited unpaired cards.

If your hand is not ‘high-only’ then 4 steps are carried out which result in a number being assigned to your hand. These are summarized below:

Omaha-8 Point Counting System Step #1:

Take the two lowest cards in your hand and assign points based on the chart.

A-2 = 20 points
A-3 = 17 points
A-4 = 13 points
A-5 = 10 points
2-3 = 15 points
2-4 = 12 points
3-4 = 11 points
4-5 = 8 points

Omaha-8 Point Counting System Step #2:

The next step involves assessing only the remaining 2 cards which are not your lowest, cards which are the same as those already used in step 1 should not be assigned any points in step 2 (so, if you have A-3-3-X then do not assign points for the 3 at this stage).

Any 3 = 9 points
Any 4 = 6 points
Any 5 = 4 points
Any Jack, Queen or King = 2 points
Any 6 or 10 = 1 point

Omaha-8 Point Counting System Step #3:

Now extra points are awarded for any pairs – if you also have a 3rd card matching the pair then only assign half of the points noted.
Pair of Aces = 8 Points
Pair of Kings = 6 Points
Pair of Queens = 5 points
Pair of Jacks = 2 points
Pair of Tens, Fours or Threes = 1 point
Pair of Twos = 3 points

Omaha-8 Point Counting System Step #4:

Finally we take the suitedness of the cards into account, the caveat here is that if you contain 3 cards of one suit then you can only assign half of the score given, 4 cards of the same suit mean that no points at all are assigned here. If your hand is double suited then assign points for both suits.

Suits are given points based on the highest suited card:

Ace + = 4 points
King + = 3 points
Queen or Jack + = 2 points
Eight, Nine or 10 + = 1 point

Finally we total up the scores and decide whether to play based on the simple rule:

20 Points or more (or high only) = Play This Hand
30 Points or more = Consider Raising With This Hand

The Point Count Method For Omaha Hi-Lo Starting Hands – Is It Any Good?

One aspect of Dr Hutchinson’s Omaha Hi-Lo points count system which immediately stood out for us is the strictness of the criteria for high-only hands. A common error for those players new to hi-lo is to play too many high hands in addition to the lows. While Hutchinson’s criteria of all cards above 10 are very strict, they do highlight the danger of playing too many high-hands. We suggest to loosen the high-only criteria for experienced players from later position only.

Hutchinson’s system is a little too complex for ease of use at the tables, especially with the fast pace of today’s online games. What is does very well is to show that, while the low-only portion is vital for good starting hand selection, it is the accompanying cards and the amount they assist which will often make the difference between a playable and an unplayable hand.
With A-2 hands being considered playable with no further help, there is a danger that newer players could overvalue those ‘bare A-2’ hands such as A-2-9-Q no suits, which can easily be counterfeited or lead to getting quartered. We would thus prefer some ‘low / junk’ reduction in points in an ideal world. Of course this depends on each player’s ability to release a hand after the flop where the situation warrants this.

Finally we would suggest that pot-limit Omaha hi-lo games require slightly stricter pre-flop criteria than those ones Ed Hutchinson recommends. With the pre-flop bets small compared to the amount to be won, the temptation is to play more hands in pot-limit. However, the kind of hands which can call pot sized bets on later streets simply must have scoop potential in the pot-limit game due to exponential bet sizes. In the fixed limit game you can often call turn and river bets for only part of the pot.

To summarize, a great system for those new to Omaha Hi-Lo and we strongly suggest saving some hand histories and comparing the scores that the starting hands achieve. The loose and passive online Omaha games can be easily beaten by those with the discipline to stick to the best starting hands – and Dr Hutchinson’s system is a great way of assessing these.

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