Choosing Starting Hands in Omaha High-Low

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T♣T♠7♥7♠ receives 1.5 points for the Ten-high flush draw in spades, 6 points for the pair of Tens, 4 points for the pair of Sevens, and 2 points for the straight possibilities, but –2 points because there is a gap of more than one rank be- tween the pairs, for a total of 11.5 points.

9♥8♦7♠6♣ receives no points for flush draws or pairs, but it does receive 9 points for the Six-low hand with four cards of different ranks, for a total of 9 points.

5♥5♠4♥4♠ receives 1 point for the Five-high flush draw in hearts, 1 point for the Five-high flush draw in spades, 4 points for the pair of Fives, 4 points for the pair of Fours, and 2 points for the straight possibilities, for a total of 12 points.

Choosing Starting Hands in Omaha High-Low

Picking good starting hands in Omaha high-low is even more difficult than picking hands in Omaha high, but once again Ed Hutchison spent the time to develop a hand scoring system (available online at http://ehutchison.homestead.com/omahasystem.html and used by his kind permission) that you can use to determine whether a four-card hand is playable in Omaha high-low.

The first step is to figure out whether you can play the hand for high only. You can play a hand with no chance of a low (remember, there need to be three cards ranked Eight or lower on the board for a low to be possible) if your all four cards are ranked Ten or higher, does not contain three of a kind or quads, and meets one of these criteria:

✦ The hand contains two pairs.
✦ The hand contains one pair and two suited cards. ✦ The hand contains two sets of suited cards.

If one of your hole cards is below a Ten, you can’t play the hand for high only. Instead, you need to evaluate whether your hand has a reasonable chance at winning the low part of the pot. The second step in the process is to score the lowest two cards in your hand. Table 8.7 lists the values for the relevant card combinations.

Next, look at the other two cards in your hand (your kickers) and add points as shown in Table 8.8. Add no points for a card that was already counted in the first step. If your kickers are paired, only add points once for that rank. (You’ll count points for pairs in the next step.)

If your hand contains a pair, you should add points as described in Table 8.9.

But you’re not done with the pairs step! If you have three of a kind, subtract half the points you added for the pair. For example, if you hold A♥2♥2♠2♣, you would add 1.5 points instead of 3.

Finally, you need to account for the value of possible flushes you can make. Table 8.10 lists the values you should assign for the higher of your flush cards.

Holding three cards of the same suit decreases the likelihood you can make a flush, so subtract half of the points you added if you have three cards of the same suit. If you hold four cards of the same suit, award no points for flush possibilities. It’s just too tough to make a flush when there are only nine other cards to help you do it.

The Hutchison system for Omaha high-low generates values from 0 to 45. Ed recom- mends playing any hand that scores a 20 or higher and to consider raising with any hand that scores 30 or higher.

As an example, try scoring the hand A♠K♦Q♦2♠. Here’s how it breaks down:

✦  All four cards are not a T or above, so you can’t consider playing the hand for high only.

✦  The hand contains an A2 combination, which is worth 20 points.

✦  There are K and Q kickers, which are worth 4 points total (2 points each).

✦  There are no pairs in the hand, so you assign 0 points for that step.

✦  The hand has an Ace-high flush combination for 4 points and a King-high flush combination for 3 points, for a total of 7 points.

The Hutchison system score for A♠K♦Q♦2♠ is 31 points, so you should strongly con- sider raising.

Testing the Hutchison Omaha High-Low System

As with his Omaha high scoring system, Hutchison notes that the high-low scoring system’s results closely approximate a hand’s winning chances against nine opponents if no one folds. Figure 8.6 shows the results of a 100,000 hand simulation using Wilson Software’s Turbo Omaha High-Low program.


Figure 8.6 The Hutchison Omaha high-low system scores this hand differently than the win rate.

You’ve probably noticed that there’s a discrepancy between the Hutchison system’s score of 31 and the hand’s actual winning percentage of 21.67 percent. Let’s try another hand, such as A♠J♥J♦3♠, to see if there’s a pattern. Figure 8.7 shows the simulation results.

The Hutchison system assigns this hand a score of 25, as shown by the following criteria: ✦ The two lowest cards are A 3, for a total of 17 points.
✦ There is a Jack kicker, which nets 2 points.
✦ There is a pair of Jacks, which nets 2 points.

✦ There is an Ace-high flush draw, which nets 4 points.

As before, the simulated winning percentage of 17.96 percent differs from the system point total. Not to worry, though, because there is a consistent relationship between the Hutchison scores and the winning percentages. As it turns out, a hand’s winning percent- age is approximately 70 percent of the Hutchison point total, so when Ed says you should call in Omaha high-low with hands of 20 points or more, he’s actually saying you should call when you have a 14 percent or higher chance of winning. That recommendation is very much in line with his argument: You should call when you have a 15 percent or higher chance of winning in Omaha high.


Figure 8.7 The Hutchison Omaha high-low system also scores this hand differently than the win rate

Scoring Practice for Omaha High-Low Hands

Here are five Omaha high-low hands for you to score using the Hutchison system. You’ll find the answers below the final hand.

A♠A♦2♠3♦

A♠K♠J♦J♥

2♣3♥4♦5♦

A♥J♦T♣4♥

8♣8♦9♣9♦

You should assign the following points to the sample hands:

A♠A♦2♠3♦ has a lowest two-card combination of A2 for 20 points, a Three kicker, which gets 9 points, a pair of Aces nets 8 points, and two Ace-high flush draws for 4 points apiece (8 total), for a total of 45 points. That’s the maximum score possible, which means that you’re a big favorite before the flop. If you get this hand, raise until they make you stop.

A♠K♠J♦J♥ is playable as a high-only hand. All of the cards are a Ten or higher, and the hand contains a pair plus a flush draw.

2♣3♥4♦5♦ has a lowest two-card combination of 23 for 15 points, a Four kicker for 6 points, a Five kicker for 4 points, and no points for a pair or a flush draw (there is one, but it isn’t high enough to score points), for a total of 25 points.

A♥J♦T♣4♥ has a lowest two-card combination of A4 for 13 points, a Jack kicker for 2 points, no points for a pair, and 4 points for an Ace-high flush draw, for a total of 19 points.

8♣8♦9♠9♥ has no low possibility, no cards that gain points as kickers, no pairs that earn points, and no flush draws, for a total of 0 points. If you get this hand, throw it away as quickly as you can.

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