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Omaha Eight-Or-Better: Drawing To The Nut Low

by Kevin Haney |  Published: May 31, 2023


Scooping is your main objective in Omaha Eight-or-Better (O8), and early on in the hand we should always consider folding whenever it seems unlikely the entire pot can be won. However, if we have a one-way draw to the nuts we can sometimes continue on if the pot is big enough, especially when closing the action.

Suppose an early position player raises in a $20-$40 cash game, a reasonably loose opponent calls, we flat the button with ADiamond Suit 2Spade Suit 10Club Suit 7Spade Suit, and both blinds fold.

ADiamond Suit 2Spade Suit 10Club Suit 7Spade Suit is a good, but not great holding. It has an A-2 and some possibilities on the high side. Calling is the standard play, while three-betting would be slightly overplaying the holding.

The flop comes down JHeart Suit 8Heart Suit 5Heart Suit, which really isn’t to our liking. Early position bets, the middle position player calls, and it’s up to us holding nothing but the nut low draw, that may or may not be shared with another player.

Some players will always soldier on with the nut low draw, even in the face of a raise. Let’s break down the math and try to see if playing on with only one-way potential can be profitable.

Let’s first assume an ideal situation where we hold the only A-2, the early position bettor holds AHeart Suit KHeart Suit QSpade Suit 8Spade Suit for the flopped nut flush, and the caller is incorrectly continuing with AClub Suit 3Diamond Suit 4Diamond Suit 9Spade Suit for just a draw to the second-best low. (That’s quite a bad play, but you will see it at the lower limits.) The player in the middle could also hold an inferior flush, a set, or two pair, in addition to a non-nut low draw.

Assuming the first player keeps betting, and the middle player goes the distance and calls every street including the river when the low comes in; we will win half of a $450 pot around 51% of the time. Since we put in $100 along the way, our net return would be $125 ($450*50% – $100).

There’s an 11% chance that an ace or deuce shows up on the turn, in which case we will fold and lose the $20 put in to call the flop bet. Our net loss will be $60 if we are forced to fold on the river because we either missed our low draw twice, or we got there on the turn but were then counterfeited on the river. There’s an approximate 38% chance that one of these two events will occur causing us to lose the $60 maximum.
The weighted average of our expectation is calculated as follows:

Fold Turn 11% -20 -2.2
Fold River 38% -60 -23.1
Make Nut Low 51% 125 63.4

In the case where no other opponent shares the nut low with us our expectation is approximately $38.20, slightly less than one big bet. That’s not a bad result as one big bet is a decent hourly earn in any poker game, but we must also consider the times when we may end up with a quarter of the pot or less.

The following chart re-runs the numbers assuming the middle player instead also holds the nut low draw with AClub Suit 2Diamond Suit 4Diamond Suit 9Spade Suit:

Fold Turn 8% -20 -1.6
Fold River 36% -60 -21.7
Make Nut Low 56% 12.5 7.0

This changes all of the probabilities, and even though we are more likely to make our draw, our net gain when getting quartered is only $12.50 ($450*25 – $100) as opposed to $125 when winning half. In total, we will lose approximately $16.40 when one other player shares the nut low draw.

In the long run, we will almost certainly end up losing more than $16.40 chasing in this spot because sometimes the middle player will decide to raise the river with the nut low and a decent but second-best flush. Or they might even raise with a lesser high hand (but one that may beat the early position aggressor), in the hopes that it may knock us off a small flush. Then of course it’s also within the realm of possibility that all three players hold an A-2.

The obvious important question to ask is how often do we expect to hold the only nut low draw? This is of course impossible to pin-point exactly, as it’s mostly a function of our opponents and their playing styles.

If we hold the only A-2 half of the time our expectation is a simple arithmetic average of $10.90, assuming that the other nut low draw does not raise the river and cost us both money. If we have the only nut low draw 33% of the time, our expectation is only $1.82. This barely beats folding and is thus the approximate break-even percentage.

So, what’s the final verdict? Once again, it depends on your opponents but calling down probably ekes out a sliver of profit in the long run, but it comes with higher variance.

And if it’s a tournament, the chips you win are worth less than the ones you lose, so in that circumstance it’s likely that chasing becomes a negative proposition.

It’s a completely different matter if instead the flop came as either JHeart Suit 8Spade Suit 5Heart Suit or QHeart Suit 8Spade Suit 7Club Suit since we would often have some amount of high equity to go along with the nut low draw. As is the case in any split-pot game, any chance of scooping, albeit even somewhat small probabilities, go a long way towards turning what may be a break-even call-down, into one with a discernible positive expectation. ♠

Kevin Haney is a former actuary but left the corporate job to focus on his passions for poker and fitness. The certified personal trainer owned a gym in New Jersey, but has since moved to Las Vegas. He started playing the game back in 2003, and particularly enjoys taking new players interested in mixed games under his wing and quickly making them proficient in all variants. Learn more or just say hello with an email to