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Raising Pre-Flop in Omaha High-Low

Raising Preflop in Omaha High-Low
by Chad Holloway of

Omaha high-low has become one of the most popular games in poker. The game is a favorite among action-junkies because it often allows for a split pot between both the high and low hands, giving players more to play for. As such, interest in the game's strategies has significantly increased as of late.

Like so many other forms of poker, hand selection in Omaha high-low is crucial to finding success.

There is a hierarchy of starting hands in Omaha high-low that can be found in numerous poker books and on the internet; however, a topic that is usually not covered, yet closely related, is what starting hands are worth raising preflop? In Championship Omaha, Tom McEvoy answers this question by suggesting that you should not raise preflop:

"Hal Kant gave me a piece of advice for Omaha high-low," Tom says. "He suggested that when you have four premium low cards in your hand, such as A-2-4-5, you should not bring it in for a raise because you want as many players as possible to come into the pot with you. They won't be expecting you to have that strong a hand in an unraised pot."

This is contrary to most poker strategy in other games that tell you to protect your quality hands by thinning the field with a large raise. Unfortunately, this is not possible in Omaha high-low. T.J. Cloutier, co-author of Championship Omaha, explains:

"In Omaha high-low, you're going to get played with most of the time because it's a limit-structure game, which means there will usually be a lot of players in every pot. When you raise before the flop, you're tipping the strength of your hand . . . The purpose of raising in Omaha high-low is to build the pot, not to limit the field. It's difficult to eliminate anybody because if someone is going to play the hand, he'll call at least one raise."

With that said, raising preflop in Omaha high-low is not necessarily a bad idea. If you have the discipline to raise with a quality hand but abandon it after a missed flop, then a preflop raise is not wrong since it will certainly pay dividends on those occasions when you do flop a hand. Even Cloutier raises a lot of the time: "I'm not saying that you never raise before the flop in Omaha high-low: in fact, I probably raise more before the flop in Omaha high-low (than in PLO). . . In Omaha high-low, if you don't flop to your hand, you can get away from it anyway, so it's cheap."

The key to raising preflop in Omaha high-low is to do so with a strong starting hand that has scooping potential (i.e. A-A-2-3, A-A-2-4, A-2-4-5, etc). No hand in Omaha high-low is worth a preflop raise unless it has a chance at both the high and low. This means hands such as A-A-K-K, A-K-Q-J, and K-K-J-10 are limp-in hands at best. Just remember, you are better off not raising preflop in Omaha high-low if you are unfamiliar with quality starting hands or want to disguise the strength of your hand; however, if you know the strength and potential of your hand and wish to build a big pot, feel free to make that preflop raise, as long as you can get away after the flop on the occasions that you miss!

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