Scooping PLO Hi-Lo Pots – The Why And The How!

You will come across many references to the importance of ‘scooping’ in Omaha Hi-Lo, this article takes things one step further by explaining exactly why this is a critical strategy for the split-pot Omaha poker games – and then showing you the best way to go about scooping your opponents.

Scooping refers to taking both the high and the low sides of the pot at showdown in PLO8 games. The best way to look at the importance of this is to turn things around, and ask what kind of profits you can expect from taking only half of the pot at a time?

Firstly, take a heads-up pot, here your profit for winning either the high or low sides is the ‘dead money’ from other players who have folded at various points throughout the hand, this is often a small proportion – say 10% to 20% of the total pot size. After rake you are lucky to get the full 5% to 10%, and importantly you had to risk you stack to get this.

Obviously, multi-way pots make winning half worthwhile… but not by as much as you think! What we need to account for is the risk of being ‘quartered’ for the low pot on some occasions when playing multi-way. For example winning half of a pot which 3 players each contributed $10 will give you a profit of $5 each time. Now, being quartered just 20% of the time makes a big difference – 4 times out of 5 you win $5 for a profit of $20. Yet 1 time you lose $7.50 meaning your average profit for all the hands is just $2.50… best not to even think of a 10% chance of losing both sides of the pot.

The key point is that profits from winning half the pot will be small, in order to make a good profit in Omaha Hi-Lo you need to scoop the occasional pot!

Well, that was the why… now onto the how! This section is divided into 2, before the flop and after the flop – those critical decision points in this entertaining game.

The single most important decision you will make in Omaha 8 or better is whether or not to enter a pot in the first place. Being selective with Omaha hi-lo starting hands is important – but more important still is choosing those starting hands with potential to scoop the whole pot. The single most common reason for losing money in this game is seeing a flop with those ‘speculative’ hands because it is cheap to do so… discipline in choosing those hands with both nut high and nut low potential is key.

High only hands can of course scoop a pot where there is no qualifying low hand. This will happen approximately 30% of the time – meaning high hands do have a role to play in this game. The problem that most inexperienced players face here is that adding the high hands to your starting requirements simply means you are playing far too many hands overall… stick to the real monsters when going high-only (in particular from later position) and be prepared to release your hand quickly should there be low hands possible on the flop (unless you flop the stone cold nuts as a high hand!).

After the flop scooping involves being aware of the type of hands your opponents are playing and ensuring that any draws you play are to the nuts. Suited aces with other low cards are considered premium hands in Omaha 8-or better because they are likely to be drawing to both sides of the pot when they hit. You will be very unlikely to do any scooping when drawing to 2 non-nut hands – and may in fact end up losing both sides of the pot. If you flop the nut high and have a draw to a low then play this very aggressively (particularly if there are no re-draws to stronger high hands).

If you flop the nut low you need to be cautious that one or more opponents do not have the same cards (particularly when you hold A-2-X-X). If you have high potential such as the nut flush and / or backup in the form of another baby card then aggression will show a profit over time.

Of course, scooping a pot is much easier when you are facing bad opponents who are likely to draw to second (or even third) best hands. If you are not yet sure where to find the PLO8 fish (and avoid the sharks!!) then check out our guide to the Best Site For Omaha 8b Hi-Lo Poker!