Playing Multi Way Pots in Hi/Lo
written by: John
When many new players choose to play Omaha or 7-card Stud, they immediately gravitate to the Hi/Lo games as opposed to just playing the Hi variations. The reason for this is because Hi/Lo games tend to have more action in them since there are two different hands that can win the pot; either the best 5-card hi hand or the best 5-card low hand that consist of cards that are all 8 or lower. This of course tempts players into playing too many hands, which can be troublesome by itself let alone the fact that they will be playing most of these hands in multi way pots.
Since multi way pots are a common occurrence in Hi/Lo games, it is important for players to understand what 'quartered' pots are, ideal starting hands for Hi/Lo games as well as understanding the importance behind knowing how to read board texture.
Multi Way Pots in Hi/Lo Games
One of the biggest things that you will hear on the internet in terms of Hi/Lo strategy is to try to avoid being 'quartered' in a pot. When a player is 'quartered,' they generally have the same low or hi as another player and if the pot splits, they split that half amongst themselves. So for an example, let's say there were 3 players in a hand, player A, player B and player C, and each of them contributed $400 into a $1,200 pot. Player A shows the best 5-card hi hand winning the hi pot for half the total pot, or $600, and player B and C show the exact same hand to win the lo pot which they must split, giving them each $300. As you can see, being quartered tends to be a negative equity play because although you do win some money, it is generally less than what you invested throughout the hand.
Now, before I go on to say that yes, you should avoid being quartered, it is important to point out that it isn't going to happen nearly as often as you think as long as you are playing solid starting hands and in most cases it isn't even as big of a loss as many players make it out to be. Using our example above, player B or C just as easily could have lost the hand being out $400 which is a much bigger loss than the $100 they actually did lose.
So in short, yes, you should try to avoid being quartered but if are avoiding trashy hands and are playing only the nuts or close to it, being quartered just will not happen enough for you to worry about it.
It is important to treat starting hands in Hi/Lo games as if you will be playing them in a multi way pot, because in most cases you will be. This will mean sticking to hands that will give you the most outs in drawing to the nuts.
Generally, hands that limit your potential will be pairs, double paired unsuited or anything that is gapped and/or unsuited. It is very important to start with hands that do not cap the amounts of outs that you can have so you have multiple ways of winning the pot. Very good examples of starting hands in Omaha and Stud Hi/Lo would be A-A-2-3 double suited in Omaha and A-2-3 suited in Stud simply because there is a possibility for a high hand with the pair of aces as well as a nut flush draw and a wheel draw. The same idea applies to the Stud hand of A-2-3 since this will give a player an opportunity to play for a high hand since they are going drawing to a pair of aces or a wheel and drawing to the nut low hand.
Another important thing to consider when choosing starting hands is that in many cases you are going to want to start with a low hand. The reason behind this is because a low hand can also qualify for a high hand as well with a straight or flush but high cards can only qualify for a hi hand. This isn't to say that you are not going to be playing high cards, just that there are more possibilities when playing the low hands. As a rule of thumb when playing hi hands, be sure to only play them in position and be prepared to dump them if the flop looks very lo draw heavy.
Lastly, it is important to point out that in Hi/Lo games, it is a good idea to avoid playing hands that have medium straight or flush draws in them. For example, it may seem like a good idea to play 9-9-8-7 double suited, but in most cases your hi hand will not be high enough and your lo hand will not be lo enough. So it is just a good idea to avoid these altogether.
It is important to consider the board texture anyway but even more so when in a multi way pot. This is because a hand such as a pair or even two pair can hold up if you are heads up with someone, but can likely be behind if there are more than 1 other opponent in the hand with you.
For example, if you had A-K-9-8 and you flopped 8h-10s-Ad, you would then have two pair. This type of hand would be 'ok' against one other opponent but against several opponents, this can turn into disaster quickly since there is a low draw, a couple straight draws and possibly backdoor draws.
As we mentioned above, it really is important to understand how to read board texture and to look at your hand to see how it compares. Quite simply, the more players that are in the pot the better the hand you will want to have.
How to Play in Multi Way Pots
To avoid losing a lot of money in multi way pots, it really comes down to having an understanding of what hands can beat you and where your hand stands in comparison. This is made much easier when a player understands that in most cases they will be involved in multi way pots and chooses their hands pre-flop accordingly.