PLO8 – Introduction To Playing ‘High-Only’ Hands – Part #1

Statistically, a low is possible in Omaha 8-or better 70% of the time you reach the river, that is to say there will be 3 (or more) different cards ranked 8 or below out there. Of course someone may fold the non-nut low to a large bet, or duplicate the low cards on the board with the cards from their hand. However the math stands, 30% of the time no-low will be possible, a high-only hand will scoop the pot.

This article will look at playing high-only hands in Omaha hi-lo Strategy, specifically in the pot-limit version of the game – though many of the principles also apply to the fixed limit and no-limit versions too. We start by looking at the circumstances pre-flop in which it is profitable to play a high-only hand. Next the flop action and position are considered and finally the betting on the turn and river when a low becomes possible.

High-Only Hands in PLO8 – Considerations Before The Flop

The nature of the high-only hand that you hold, the betting and your position at the table all combine to help you make a good decision on whether to enter the pot.

  1. Your high-only hand should be both coordinated and very high to make it playable. Middle hands are the worst possible in PLO8, for example 8-9-10-10 double suited may look good before the flop but is more likely to make you a second best straight or flush than the nuts. Those times this type of hand does hit the flop you will split the pot with a low anyway – seriously affecting the hands value. This can be summed up in one short sentence: ‘Never Play Middle Cards In PLO8!’
  2. Hands with both high and low potential are of course ideal, this does not mean that A-J-J-5 with 4 suits is a profitable hand. Here there are very few flops that you will be happy to see since you will so rarely be drawing to the nuts in either direction.
  3. High pairs can be safely folded from early position, your K-K-J-9 needs to be sure of seeing the flop cheaply to be profitable. Unless your table is very passive (little raising before the flop) then it is usually safer to muck these hands from the first few positions.
  4. Hands with a pair of aces are strong due to card-removal, but usually need some back-up to scoop. Many players get carried away with A-A-x-x in PLO8, holding 2 aces means your opponents are less likely to hold nut draws. However a bare over-pair to the community card board is very unlikely to scoop. Aces with backup in the form of 1 or 2 other ‘Wheel Cards’ (cards 5 or below), some suitedness or two other high-cards are much stronger than ‘bare aces’ before the flop and should be played accordingly.
  5. The button, cut-off seat and (to a lesser extent) blinds are the best place to play high only hands. Here you can muck to a raise ahead or see a flop cheaply in a limped pot and maybe catch a monster. Never call re-raise with a high-only hand, your objective is to see a cheap flop and get out fast if you miss – not to go to war pre-flop!

How To Play The Flop

The flop is the critical decision point on whether to continue with a high-only hand, here we look at the considerations of the ‘flop texture’ and your position at the table.
It should be obvious that many flops will require that you fold your high only hand to even the slightest betting action. 3 low cards or 2 low cards where 1 is an ace should be immediate signals to give up on the hand if you did not also connect strongly.

There are times when you will hit the flop and low cards will also appear, for example you hit a high set or the nut flush draw on a J-2-4 board. Here you are in a slightly more complex situation. Betting may thin the field to a single opponent, in which case you are likely to share the pot. Giving a free card is bad as you may give multiple opponents free cards to beat you.

Single low-card flops without an ace are the best result when you hit your high-hand. Betting should both build the pot and thin the field.

Your position on the flop is important both in relative and absolute terms. Being last to act is not the same as closing the betting. For example, with a fairly good high hand on a 2-low flop you might call a small bet if you close the betting (hoping for a favorable turn card), however if the player who bet acts immediately before you with 3 or 4 live players still in the pot you would fold the same holding without a second thought.

Playing The Turn And The River

Reaching the turn and river betting rounds with a high-only hand depends two factors. Either you have a hand and hope to win all or part of the pot, or there has been little or no betting on previous rounds and thus the pot is small. Here we look at the significant factors in your turn and river decisions.

The first thing to note is if a low draw gets there on either the turn or river betting rounds you should usually assume that at least one opponent has hit it. Depending on the size of the pot you may continue with you high only hand, however any odds and outs considerations should assume you are now playing for half of the pot.

Sometimes you will hit the nut high and find 2 or more opponents against you, if this is the case then you are getting a great return on your bets and should aim to bet the maximum which will keep your opponents active against you.

Make a note of any player who is willing to call bets on the turn with a draw to only half of the pot (usually a low). These players will go broke fast and you want as much of their money to come your way as possible.

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