Hi/Lo is a variation of Omaha. Hi-Lo means that the highest hand collects half the pot and the lowest hand collects the other half of the pot. It is possible for one player to have both the best high hand and the best low hand. If this occurs, this player will “scoop” or collect the entire pot.
How the High Hand is Determined
In Hi/Lo poker, you determine the highest hand through the method used to determine the winning hand in a normal game of poker. Therefore, if in Hi-Lo, one player has a straight and the other has a full house, the player with the full house will win half of the pot given to the highest hand.
How the Low Hand is Determined
The low hand is exactly that: the lowest possible five-card hand. An important thing to remember is that straights and flushes do not work against you when making a low hand. That is, a straight is not regarded as a “straight” when determining the low hand. The same applies for flushes. As such, A-2-3-4-5 is a straight (high hand), but it is also the best low hand you can possibly make because it is the lowest 5-card combination. An ace is considered the lowest of all low cards.
Virtually all Hi-Lo games are called “Hi-Lo 8 or better” or “Hi-Lo 8 qualifier.” These two terms mean the same thing: to make a low hand, you must have five unpaired cards that are all below 9. If not, your low does not qualify for half of the pot that is awarded to the best low hand. For example, 8-7-5-3-2 is a low hand because there are five-cards that are eight or lower. However, 10-5-4-3-2 is not a low hand because one of the cards is above eight. As a result, it does not qualify as a low hand.
Occasionally, no one at the showdown will have a qualifying low hand. When this happens, the high hand wins the whole pot because there is no low hand.
Also, an important thing to keep in mind is that you must have 5 UNPAIRED cards below 9 to qualify for a low hand. For example, 5-5-4-3-A does not qualify as a low hand. Even though all cards are below 9, there is a pair of fives and you cannot have pairs in your low hand if you want to qualify for half the pot awarded to the best low hand.
To determine the best low hand, we will teach you the following trick: make a sequential five figure number using your low cards and starting from the highest of your five low cards. The lowest five figure number wins the pot. Let us illustrate this by example:
Player A has the low hand 7-5-3-2-A; and
Player B has the low hand: 7-5-4-3-2.
Who has the best low hand?
Well it is simply a matter of converting these hands to five figure numbers starting with the highest card. As such, 7-5-3-2-A can be expressed as 75,321. Player B´s hand can then be expressed as 75,432. Since 75,321 is lower than 75,432, Player A has the best low hand and will win half the pot.
It is difficult to obtain a perfect understanding of Hi-Lo without playing it. The best way is to practice with play money online. See who wins the low hand and why. After considerable practice and observation, you will understand the dynamics of the low hand.
This variation of Omaha needs some elaboration. In Omaha, you are dealt four hole cards, but you can only use two of them in combination with three community cards to make the best five-card hand.
In Omaha Hi-Lo, you can similarly use any two hole cards in combination with three community cards to make the best five-card high hand. Then you can use any two hole cards in combination with three community cards to make the best five-card low hand.
For example, if you have K-Q-3-2 and the community cards at K-Q-7-6-4, then your best high hand is two pair: kings and queens with a seven kicker. However, your best low hand is 7-6-4-3-2. In other words, you are permitted to use any two hole cards with any three community cards for the high hand and then use two different hole cards with different community cards to make the low hand.
There are no real restrictions to what combination of hole cards you use to make you low hand, just as long as you use a combination of two hole cards with three community cards. For example, if your hand is A-9-9-J and the community cards are 2-3-5-6-10, you cannot form the low hand A-2-3-5-6 because you must use two hole cards with three community cards. Therefore, the “two-hole-card” rule from Omaha Hi applies to Omaha Hi/Lo.
Here is a test for you, the answer is below. Try to work it out before looking at the answer. Your hole cards are A-2-5-K. The community cards are A-2-3-5-J. What is your high hand and what is your low hand?
Your high hand is two pair: aces and fives with a Jack kicker. However, you do not have a low hand that qualifies. If you look carefully, you will notice that you cannot form any UNPAIRED 5-card combination using two of your hole cards with three community cards. If you are still confused, we recommend that you participate in play money Hi-Lo games and learn through “free” practice.