HORSE is a five game mix combining two flop games, Hold’em and Omaha 8, and three stud games, Razz, Stud, Stud 8. This second installment is about Omaha Eights or better. It is the first split pot game in the rotation. As with all split pot games, your should remember one thing:
Play for the scoop.
In loose games, O8 can produce huge pots, scooping just one big pot in a night can easily decide if you will have a winning or a losing session. This is one of the more mathematical games in the rotation. Bluffing is rarely a viable strategy in this game, so keeping tough opening standards will often be enough to put you in a good spot against more experienced but less selective players.
In general, you are looking for starting hands that have four cards that work together not just “two Hold’em hands.” Because playing for the scoop is so important, hand selection is extremely biased towards hands with Aces, Deuces, and Treys. In much the same way, middle cards are to be avoided. The reason for this is that straights made with Sevens, Eights and Nines from your hand will often contain low cards and it will be hard to scoop the pot. Taking only half the pot is a nice consolation, but not the goal. If the straight is made with bigger cards on the board like Nine, Ten and Jack then the straight is very likely to be the lower end of the straight such that you might make your straight and lose to the higher straight.
In the above spot, we hold the lock straight, but we can not realistically take the low against most any opponent. The opponent shown is always getting the low, and sometimes he will get the high. This is known as getting freerolled. Usually, we just chop the pot against this hand, but on some particularly sad days a straight flush, flush, or boat comes in and we lose it all. Beware of getting freerolled.
High only hands, those starting hands that can not win the low, will often split the pot. A low is possible on about 60% of all full boards. Since lows are possible that often, a hand that enters the pot with no low potential needs to be very strong indeed.
In addition to having hands that can win the low, it is important to have counterfeit protection. For instance, you might hold the nut low on the flop in the illustration below:
The hand had no counterfeit protection, this means that now someone with 2-4, 2-5, 2-7, 4-5, 4-7, 5-7 has two live cards and so beats you. Live cards in this sense are those in your hand that do not pair the board. Anyone with two lows that do not pair the board will have at least a Seven low and beat us. Anyone with a Deuce and a low that pairs the board will chop the low with us.
As you can see, this hand went from taking half the pot to one that will, at best, usually chop the low. A single Ace will beat us for the high, so barring a miracle King on the River this hand is unlikely to take the high, and usually will lose or chop the low. You can see how counterfeiting can really destroy your hand. Having a third low card would protect against the counterfeit and increase the chances of having a straight when lows come in.
Just like low card straights are strong highs that also can take the low, flushes can do the same. Having a suited Ace or King will often give your hand both high and low potential. Remember that you use exactly two of your hole cards, so three to a flush in your hand actually weakens it.
At the other end of the game, showdown, there is another big concern: quartering. Because A2, A3, and 23 are such common starting hand requirements it is often the case that two people will show up with them at showdown. This means two people might hold the same hand and split the low side of the pot. Just like counterfeiting is a danger that can destroy your hand, so can quartering. Their are two forms of quartering. The first is three way splits where high takes half and the lows chop. The second is where one person gets the high and splits the low.
If you know you will be getting only half the pot in a multi-way pot, a good rule to follow is that you should bet, raise, or call in such a way that it encourages people that will not get part of the pot to put money in. That might be raising and re-raising with a player, or it might mean calling instead of raising to tempt the donors in for a single bet instead of two.