The Importance of Scooping the Pot in Omaha High-Low

By Randy Ray in Poker
| October 3, 2020 12:40 am PST
Scooping the Pot in Omaha

Many people playing Omaha poker are playing high-low, which means that the highest possible hand splits the pot with the lowest possible hand.

If you want to win at Omaha high-low, you must understand how important it is to scoop the pot as often as possible.

And it’s more important than most poker players think, especially if they’re new to the game.

Here’s the scoop on scooping the pot in Omaha.

How Do You Scoop the Pot in Omaha High-Low?

To scoop the pot in an Omaha high-low game, you must have BOTH the highest hand and the lowest hand.

Since you have four hole cards, you can make two hands in Omaha, which is what distinguishes it from Texas Hold’em. In fact, you never see Texas Hold’em played in a high-low format.

You should focus on playing hands in Omaha high-low that have both high potential and low potential.

What does this mean?

It means that aces become twice as important in Omaha high-low as they are in other games because they’re both the highest possible card and the lowest possible card.

This also increases the value of connected cards and lower-ranked cards. Suited cards become slightly more valuable, too, while pairs – especially middle-ranked pairs – become much less valuable.

For example, a hand consisting of AA23 is the best possible starting hand in Omaha high-low. You have a good shot at getting an A2345, which is the best possible low hand.

You also have a lot of potential for getting other straights, and the pair of aces gives you the possibility of getting a good-sized full house, 3 of a kind, or 4 of a kind.

Why Players Underestimate the Value of Scooping a Pot

Most poker players look at scooping a $200 pot as being exactly twice as good as winning half that pot ($100).

What they should be thinking about, though, is profit.

If you had five players invest $40 each into that $200 pot (including yourself), your profit amount changes dramatically when you scoop versus just chopping the pot.

If you scoop the pot, you win $200 less the $40 you’ve invested, or $160, which is four times what you have in the pot. On the other hand, if you just split the pot, you only have a profit of $100, which is only 2.5 times what you have invested in the pot.

When you have fewer players in a pot, the profit differences become even more dramatic. Assume you have ten players in that $200 pot; instead – they each have $20 invested.

If you win half the pot, you have a profit of $80, which is great.

But if you scoop the pot, you have a profit of $160, which is great, but it’s only twice as great.

Of course, any of these situations is better than being quartered.

Getting Quartered in Omaha High-Low?

One of the situations to avoid in Omaha high-low is getting quartered.

This is when the low end of the pot gets won by two players at the same time. This is one of the reasons an aggressive approach is often the correct approach. You don’t want to let Omaha players hang around and draw to the low hand.

Here’s an example.

You have four players in a $200 pot, and each of them has $50 invested.

The high hand wins $100, but the low hand is a tie, which means that you only break-even – you only win the $50 you had invested back.

That’s better than losing, but it’s still a drag.

The Goal Is Always to Scoop the Pot

If you want to win at Omaha high-low poker in the long run, your goal must be to scoop the pot as often as possible. You won’t succeed at this goal on every hand – sometimes you’ll get the low half, sometimes you’ll get quartered, and sometimes you’ll flat-out lose.

But scooping the pot occasionally is going to make up for those other situations, but only if you keep focused on that as your goal.

It’s not enough to just understand this idea.

You must also play correctly.

This means understanding starting hand play in Omaha high-low. And starting hands in high-low are always hands where the cards work well with each other and have the potential to school.

You want suited cards. You want aces. You want low cards (wheel cards). And you want big cards (jacks or higher).

The reason AA23 is so powerful, especially if it’s double-suited, is because of the many potential winning combinations that could happen.

If the flop comes 345, for example, the A2 in your hand gives you the nut low (or the wheel).

If you have three cards of either of the two suits you’re double-suited in, you have the nut flush.

And with a hand like that, even if you win, you’re going to get to scoop the pot, because no one’s going be likely to have a lower hand. You have the A2, the A3, and the 23, all of which are important hands in terms of making your low hand.

More Good Starting Hands in Omaha High-Low

Let’s look at some other examples of good Omaha high-low starting hands.

A2KK is an excellent starting hand, especially if you’re suited or double-suited. If there’s a low, you’ve got the nuts. You also have the opportunity to hit a big 3 of a kind or full house, as well as the potential to hit a nut flush. You also have straight possibilities.

A245 is also a great starting hand, and is, again, better if it’s suited or double-suited. If you’re hoping to make a wheel or the nut low, you have most of the cards you need to pull that off right there in your hand already.

A23Q and A2KQ are excellent starting hands, too, and it’s easy to see why. You just have so many possible ways to put those together with the flop, turn, and the river that it’s not even funny.

What you want to be careful of is starting hands with lots of middle-ranked cards. They call such hands “middle poison.” The problem with cards like that is they’re so unlikely to scoop or even win the high or low by itself.

If you have a lot of big cards, those can be okay, too, like KKQQ. The reason that’s so strong is that it plays so strongly when there’s no qualifying low. For example, if you get a 654 on the flop, it’s easy to fold this hand – especially in a pot with a lot of players.

Those big cards play a LOT better when you have at least one ace, though.

The Most Important Thing to Remember

Texas Hold’em players make a lot of mistakes in Omaha high-low because they forget the most important rule:

You always use two cards from your hand and three cards from the board.

In Texas Hold’em, you can use ANY combination of cards from the board and hole cards.

For example, if you have two cards in your hand of the same suit in Texas Hold’em, that’s great because your probability of getting a flush is higher than if you just have one.

But in Omaha high-low, if you have four cards all of the same suit, you still have a shot at a flush, but not as good a shot as you would have if you had two cards of one suit and two cards of another.

This is the biggest leak in most new Omaha high-low players’ games – forgetting how important it is to use the right number of cards from your hole cards and the board.

You’ll lose money you shouldn’t lose if you don’t remember this.

The 2nd Most Important Thing to Remember

Hand selection is more important in Omaha high-low than it is in Texas Hold’em. In fact, in Texas Hold’em, it’s more important to be a good player on the flop and after.

But if you can master pre-flop play in Omaha high-low, you can be a winning player even if your skills post-flop are a little weaker.

Why is this?

Because in Omaha, more than in other games, if you start with better cards, you’re a lot more likely to finish with a strong hand.

You can find multiple strategies for the starting hand selection system in Omaha high-low. I’ve seen some systems which assign cards point-values based on how desirable they are. I’ve also seen lists in a certain order that you’re supposed to memorize.

Putting any effort at all into your starting hand selection will pay a big dividend in your Omaha high-low career.

Summary

What does scooping mean in Omaha high-low poker?

It simply means winning both the high hand pot and the low hand pot at the same time.

It also means winning more money in the long run – it is, in fact, the difference between winning and losing Omaha high-low players.

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