Friday, July 14, 2006

Hi-Lo in Stud vs. Omaha

I've been thinking a lot this week about how much fun I had playing HORSE with the bloggers last Friday night at the MGM in Las Vegas. As you know I've even played $1-$2 hi-lo on stars, party or full tilt every night this week since my return the the online realm. Last night btw makes three out of four winning sessions for me at 1-2 stud hilo. I really love that game. Which got me wondering....

Why is it that I love playing stud hilo so much, but really can't stand playing Omaha hilo? One would think, if I enjoy hilo split games, then why wouldn't I enjoy Omaha hilo the same way I like stud hilo? Well, I've been thinking about it all week, and I have the answer.

In Stud, I enjoy a good hilo game because, among other things, I feel like there is a lot of opportunity to play at least through a card or two, in stark contrast to proper holdem play, say, where I tend to fold roughly 80% of my hands preflop. Sure, sure, I can get dealt something like 9JK in stud hilo and I will happily fold that hand regardless of how many bets it is to call and see 4th street. But in general, you can certainly play a hand with three low cards, and I am willing as well to see at least 4th street most of the time when I have a big pocket pair among my three starting cards. Say, for example, if I have KK4 to start in stud hilo, I will most likely be willing to at least take one more card with that hand, unless if multiple Aces are out and raising it up preflop or something like that. I will also play a hand like A29 if I think I have the proper amount of deception running at the time, and there are several other drawing-type of hands as well that I'm willing to at least call one bet with on third street. This creates a much higher level of involvement and interest than proper play at most of the other common forms of poker out there, and that in itself helps make stud hilo such a fun variation for me. I like many other more advanced aspects of hilo as well, as detailed earlier this week in the blog, but the number of playable starting hands is a major factor for a guy who is otherwise used to playing a lot of Holdem.

Since being able to go high or low in stud creates so many more options for playable starting hands, one might reason that the same would be true in Omaha games: that Omaha high allows you to start with x starting hands, so Omaha hilo should let you start with some number of starting hands that is clearly higher than x. In reality, however, Omaha's nature as a nuts type of game (meaning that it often takes the nuts or very close to it to win, especially on the low side), actually requires you to be even more selective with starting hands in Omaha hilo than you have to be in straight Omaha high. Let me give an example. If we're playing Omaha high, and I look down to find a hand like JJ88, I will be likely to stick around to see a flop. Why? Because if either an 8 or a Jack comes on the board, I am likely (obviously not definitely, with all the straights and flushes that win in Omaha, but likely nonetheless) to be in a very good position to take down a nice-sized pot. However, in Omaha hilo, playing with JJ88 preflop is a really, really bad idea. Now, you're playing for the longshot that one of the four remaining Jacks or 8s will hit the board (really, on the flop since you will likely be bet out of the pot on the flop by the straight or flush draws, or top pair players, if you don't hit your set on the flop), but the problem with hilo is that your longshot that another Jack or 8 hits the flop will still only get you half the pot even when it does hit. So suddenly, your JJ88 goes from a decent shot at winning a nice-sized pot, becomes a decent shot to win only half of a pot, and thus hands with two middle pairs like this tend to be throwaways for the most part. In fact, in Omaha hilo, I generally won't play any hand that doesn't have at least a suited Ace, along with another low card (there are exceptions of course, but still).

For example, in Omaha hilo I will play a hand like Ac2c3dQd, or probably AcAh9h4s, but I'm probably not going to play 7c8c9d10h, and I wouldn't want to pay to see a flop with a holding like TdTcJcAs either, both hands I would surely likely to see a cheap flop with in straight Omaha high. In fact, if you play Omaha hilo according to proper strategy, most high-only hands become largely unplayable preflop unless it is a very strong hand, and hopefully it contains at least one or two potential low cards as well. Playing for only half the pot is just so unprofitable unless three or four or more players are sticking through to the river, that you basically have to know that you have good odds of winning the high end in order to stick around with a bunch of high cards preflop. So, while stud hilo creates many more options for starting hands to play with, in Omaha the hilo aspect actually ends up limiting the amount of starting hands you can play, even below that which you would play in straight Omaha high. That's one of the big reasons I like hilo so much in stud games, but am really uninterested in Omaha hilo as a general rule. I'll still play Omaha 08 in HORSE or other mixed games, but in the end, if I want to sit around and fold fold fold all day, I can just play Holdem for that.

OK so tonight I am hoping to play some online, though it's unclear just now if that will happen or not. If so, come and find me on the stud hilo $1-$2 tables on pokerstars, as I'd love some company while I tool around winning $40 and $50 at a time from the fish who play there. You think online holdem players are fish? I don't know what it is -- maybe there are always a bunch of holdem players who think they can make it happen in the other poker variations as well, I don't know -- but for the most part I find in the vast majority of cases these people really don't even know the most basic strategy points, let alone the nuances and finer points of non-holdem games. I'd love to get some guys together to play limit stud hilo if anyone is interested. I could also probably be talked tonight into playing some holdem cash, but that would be lower limit than the $1-$2 I play in stud hilo since the holdem would be no-limit, and since I seem to like getting stacked regularly whenever I play cash nlh online.


Blogger Iakaris aka I.A.K. said...

I'm gonna pass on Stud until I get closer to where I want with NLHE. Still, I like reading about Stud because it has an intellectual appeal that HE sometimes lacks.

And as for low limit cash games, Hoy, these days there is almost always a 25 NL game after any of the tourneys (WWdN and Mookie in particular). If you're looking for the chance to stack me, that's as good a place as any!

11:33 PM  
Blogger smokkee said...


after i'm finished with my WSOP Quest (debacle), i'm going to consider other ways to build the bankroll. a buddy of mine who has mostly played 1/2 & 2/4 NL cash has moved to 5/10 Limit and says he's killing it. i may look into that. i don't think i want to "invest" in learning another game tho. it took me over a year to play NL better than the avg schmoe.

btw, i'll be updating my WSOP ME post with results throughout the weekend. about 1o min into last night's $216 Qualifier i ran my KK into another guy's monster (6-6). a link to the hand is posted at my blog.

11:38 PM  
Blogger Wes said...

I am by far no expert in stud 8, but generally, you have to fold A LOT on 3rd street to be profitable (or so some bloggers that I have talked to that are good at that silly game have told me). A29, unless all one suit without any other of your suit showing in the other people's hands, is garbage and should always be discarded.

On Omaha 8, I always liked Felicia's advice. Play looser preflop (than hold 'em standards), but tighter postflop. AAJT is a good example of this. It is a very good hand to play in a multi-way pot (or a heads up pot) because you figure the other players have a bunch of low cards in their hands so you will scoop a lot of the pots in which you make broadway.

1:18 AM  
Blogger SugarlandStump said...

I never like O8/B much either until I picked up Omaha High/Low Split by Cappelletti. I don't know how much you like reading but that is an excellent book.


2:37 AM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

Thanks for the comments, Wes. It's funny, I don't think A29 is such an unplayable hand in stud hilo, at least not the way I play it, if the 9 is your up card. People will not put you on a low hand, and that deception alone is worth at least seeing 4th street if not 5th street as well. Plus with the Ace in there, the low and high possibilities are decent enough that I don't mind seeing 4th street in most hilo games.

And as far as Omaha 8, I don't know about Felicia's advice there. I'm quite sure Felicia is more experienced at the game than I am, but I have had the best luck by just folding almost any hand that does not contain an Ace, at least one other low card, and at least one other card that can work for a high hand (i.e., a pair, or anything suited to your Ace that could make a flush, etc.). This results in me usually folding at least 4 out of 5 hands I am dealt in Omaha 8. I think I'll go back and review Felicia's posts on starting hand requirements if I can find them.

2:52 AM  
Blogger Johnny Mac said...

there's been some good stud/8 discussion at (and its offshot they have a forum specifically for the topic (but you might have to be registered to see it)
with specific starting hand topics at:

The basic starters are:
QQ or better
3 to a low
3 to a high flush
3 to any flush if only 1 out is counterfitted.

We will now add:
Any pairs with an A kicker if 4 of the outs are open.
Any pairs if all 5 outs are open.
Both of the above you need an instant hit, if not get off the hand to any bet.
These above hands are on the aggressive side, BUT with a solid table image and the understanding you need to improve or get off you can get away with these hands.
Remember straights are still UNPLAYABLE, it is much easier to fold AKQ or 789 than 223. "

good read if you can get to it and want to learn more about the game.

3:08 AM  
Blogger Donkeypuncher said...

So at the MGM, I asked someone who you were. His response, "Dude, that's Hoyazo. You met him like fifteen minutes ago."

So there was some drunken error. Likely mine, or the person I asked.

Drunken blogger idiots!

4:19 AM  
Blogger Wes said...

Hoyazo, the only situation where a 9 is a playable hand is if you have 999. If you are showing a 9 or a T in stud 8 and playing it, you are a bad player at stud 8 and are just running well.

8:37 AM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

Wes, I guess my starting hand rules just aren't as set in stone as yours. I would guess that may be true with Holdem as well.

10:30 AM  
Blogger Eric a.k.a. Bone Daddy said...

Hey, thanks for the comment on my hammer hand. I know it was a stupid play, but I had faith in the hammer and took a big risk for more fun than anything. I never chase an oesd for that price, but my faith in the Hammer made me do it.

Foxwoods has the schedule posted for the November World Poker Finals. Here is the link.

I haven't picked a date yet, but was thinking about the $600 limit event on 11/3 or the no limit, $1200 event on Saturday 11/4. What looks good?

also, there should be a big Borgata tourny in September, which should be posted in a week or 2. I'm in on htat too,

10:15 PM  
Blogger Eric a.k.a. Bone Daddy said...

more foxwoods info.

The tourniment starts 10/28, but i'm not playing around halloween, that is my anniversary.

The main event (10K starts 11/12, but before that, they have the pro tour invitational, starting on 11/7 (Invitation Only). Sandwiched in between is a $600 hilo stud on 11/8. Good bet that pros play that event. I've never played hi lo stud, but I'm up for it if you are.

7:20 AM  
Blogger Felicia :) said...

I don't remember starting hand advice, but I don't remember much else these days, either, grrr.

Anyway, yes, for the low limit games, loose and passive, playing a lot of flops is good strategy advice. And no, I didn't come up with this, no way in hell am I that bright. It was Zee who preached this advice.

As far as what H has to say about not being able to stand O8, that is pretty normal, imo. There is a reason I call low-limit O8 "retarded poker."

It's like the Special Olympics of poker. "Even if you win a medal, you're still retarded."

5:25 AM  

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