Almost all of my previous CLPTT articles have been about live no limit cash and because I am writing this during the WSOP figured that I would include some split pot mixed game strategy here.
One of the more complicated aspects of Omaha hi low is reading a qualifying low when there are four or more cards under eight on the board. Since O8 is a form of Omaha just like in PLO you must use exactly two cards from your hand and three from the board.
The key to understanding the strength of the low hand is to realize that you are trying to have the lowest high card in your hand. So in Razz terms a 34 low beats and A5 because the 4 is lower than the 5. Simple but important.
Ok, so now on to O8. Let us say for example that we have A2JJ on a flop of 853. We have the nut low-A2358. Now the turn comes and ace. Our low was become “counterfeit” but do we still have a qualifying low? Of course we do. We have what is called a “live” deuce. Live lows refer to one card unmatched cards that you hold in your hand while the other card pairs the board. There must be four or more unpaired cards on the board below an 8 in order to have a live low. Here our low continues to be A2358. However, now that the ace has come anyone holding two unpaired cards below an eight has a better low than us. 24 would be the nut low for a wheel, 26 would be the second nut low and 46 would be the third nut low. Remember, the low’s strength are based upon the highest card in your hand.
In the above example a live deuce is a very poor low as it is an eight low. However sometimes live low cards can be as strong as the second nut. A common situation when this occurs is when a board comes out with four cards lower than a six. Let us say that the board is 6423K. Obviously the nut low is a wheel with A5. What is the second nut low? The second best low here would be a live ace which means you could have A2, A3, A4 or A6. What about A7, is that a live ace? No because instead of playing A2346 as a low you would play A2347. This is usually where the most confusion comes in with live low cards. People think that if they have two cards that do not pair the board there low is automatically better than someone’s one card “live low”. As you can see here this is not the case. Confused yet?
Let us take a look at some other board examples. Say the board runs out 6743K. Here the nut low is A2, the second but low is A5 and the the third but low is 25. The fourth would be a live ace, and the fifth would be a live deuce. If we had QQ62 in our hand would that beat a player who held A8KJ? Yes—as the player with A8 does not have a live ace he has an A8 for low which is not as good as our 23467 low. What about a live ace versus a 25? Well the 25 has a 23456 versus our A3467 low. The six is lower than the seven so we have a better low. We also by the way, have a six high straight.
A good rule if thumb is that on eight high and seven high boards (meaning the highest low card) live lows are not strong hands but on six high boards they are. Let us take a look at another example. Say the board is A236K. What is the first and second nut low here? A wheel is always the nut low when there are three or more wheel cards on board so here the nut low is 45. And the second nut low is a live 4. So anyone who holds A4, 24, 34, or 64 holds the second best low hand. This is very useful knowledge when the river is checked to you. Two pair and a live four is an easy value bet, especially with aces up as it is very unlikely that someone is checking 45 to you. You can also bet fold the river in these spots as someone that raises almost always has a wheel.
There is also an even more complex situation that can occur with reading the board for low and that is when all five cards come out below an eight unpaired. Say for example the board reads A2347. Anyone that holds a 5 in their hand with an A, 2, 3 or 4 has a wheel. What is the second nut low here? Well if the nut low is A2345, the second nut low would be A2346, right? And how do we form A2346 on this board? Is it with a live 6? Well let us take a look. If we hold A6, 26, 36 or 46, our low would be A2346 using two in our hand and three from the board. What about if we held KK56? In that case our low would be 56 not a live 6 and our complete hand would be A2356 for low and 34567 for high. We would have the third nut low (we don’t beat a wheel or a live 6) but have the nut high. A great hand would be any wheel card plus 56 as then we would have a wheel for low and a seven high straight which in this hand would be nut nut. The fourth nut low here would be what we call “playing the board for low” which means that our low matches exactly what is on the board, which in this case is A2347. We accomplish this by basically having two or more pair on this board without a 5 or 6 in our hand. Say for example we hold A23K. Can we play two in our hand and three on the board for low? Yes. What is our low? It is A2347.
Please don’t let these concepts overwhelm you. With a little practice you will be reading low boards like an all star. And especially at the lower levels it will make you way ahead of your other opponents. You also should notice that having backup low is a big part of forming a good Omaha 8 hand. AK23 is a lot stronger than AK29 on a K56 board as now if an ace, deuce or 3 appears you still have the nut low and two pair.