Big O Poker Game – Master the Rules and Strategy
Last Updated: June 25, 2023
The game of poker has evolved quite a bit since the day of the Poker Boom, with Texas Hold’em definitely no longer being the only game being spread around.
Pot Limit Omaha (PLO) became quite popular across the world over the last decade, but players quickly got bored of that, too, starting to add the fifth and even the sixth hole card to the mix.
The poker game of Big O evolved from Pot Limit Omaha 5 and Pot Limit Omaha Hi/Lo, mixing the rules of the two games to create a brand-new and highly-entertaining poker game.
If you are new to the Big O poker game and are looking to learn the rules, or are looking for some strategy for the game, keep on reading, as I will explain the very basic mechanics of the game as well as some advanced Big O poker strategy.
What Is Big O Poker?
The full name of the poker game in question is actually 5 Card Pot Limit Omaha Hi/Lo 8 or Better, which is definitely way too long for anyone to want to use.
For that reason, players quickly came up with a much shorter name of Big O, which sounds a million times better and offers a quick way to talk about the game.
As the full name suggests, Big O is actually a Hi/Lo version of 5 Card Omaha, meaning all players are dealt five hole cards, and the pot is split into half between the best high and the best low hand.
The 8 or Better rule applies in Big O, meaning only cards 8 and lower count towards the low, and at least three such cards must be on the board in order for low to be possible.
Now that you have learned what Big O poker is, it’s time to get into the rules of Big O poker and learn how to play this game.
Big O Poker Rules – How to Play Big O
Big O, much like 5 Card Omaha, is a fairly new game in the mix, which means it is not yet solved, and different players will have vastly different approaches to it.
With five hole cards per player, the variance in Big O can be massive, and it can seem like the worst hand keeps on winning time and time again.
However, this is definitely not true, and playing a good Big O strategy will reward you even more than playing good Texas Hold’em, as players will make even bigger mistakes at the Big O tables.
If you know how to play Pot Limit Omaha and 5 Card Omaha already, you will quickly adapt to Big O as well, although experience with PLO 8 will come in even handier.
The basic Big O rules that you need to remember include the following:
- Five hole cards are dealt to each player
- Five community players dealt for everyone to use
- Exactly two hole cards must be used at showdown
- All betting is limited to the size of the pot
- Half of the pot is awarded to the best Hi hand
- Half of the pot is awarded to the best Lo hand
- Full pot awarded to the best Hi hand if no Lo is available
Of course, Big O is a lot more complex than just these few rules, but if you already know how to play Omaha poker, then the Hi/Lo rule will be the one that's most confusing, which is why I am going to explain it in even more detail.
What Is a Lo Hand and What is 8 or Better?
I have explained that one-half of the pot in Big O can be won by having the best Lo hand, but the big question is what is a Lo hand, and how do you qualify?
In layman's terms, a Lo hand is the “worst” hand out there, meaning the hand is made up of the lowest possible unpaired cards.
The best Lo you can have in Big O is A2345, which also counts as straight for the Hi part of the hand, a very strong hand in Big O poker.
However, all cards up to 8 count for the Lo half of the pot, while cards above 8 do not count and cannot make a Lo.
You will need to have at least two cards below an 8 in your starting hand to be able to qualify for Lo, and you will need three Lo cards on the board that don’t pair with your cards in order to make a full Lo hand.
The 8 or Better rule in Big O simply means that only cards up to 8 qualify for the Lo and that there will be no Lo if such a five-card hand is not possible or is not made.
Finally, remember that you can use different cards from your hand to make the Hi and the Lo hand, just as long as exactly two hole cards are used for the Hi and two for the Lo.
Big O Hand Example – Making the Hi and Lo Hands
In order to fully understand how Big O works, you probably need to see a hand example, which is why I will provide you with one right now.
Our hand starts at blinds of $1 and $2, with us sitting in the big blind. The action folds over to the cutoff, who raises to $7, which is called by the small blind and us in the big blind holding:
As you can see, our hand has quite a bit of potential for Big O. Our A237 combo works very well for the Lo, while the nut spades and the three low cards have the potential to make flushes and straights.
With $21 in the pot, we see a flop of:
On this board, we have a real monster, despite not even having a single pair just yet. Any A, 2, 3, 6, 7, or 8 will give us the nut Lo, while any spade will turn our hand into the nut flush for the Hi, and the low cards can make us the wheel that’s good for both.
Without going too deep into whether we should lead, check-call, or check-raise in this spot, take a moment to think about all the potential cards that can improve our hand on the turn or the river.
When you consider these, you will quickly realize that this kind of hand is definitely preferable in Big O poker than having a two-pair hand without re-draws, or even a set without re-draws, for that matter.
Playing Out the Hand
Let us imagine we decided to check, and the original raiser decided to check back, taking us to the turn, which is the 3s, now making the board:
At this point, we have the Lo with our A2 and the nut flush for the Hi with our spades, which means it’s definitely time to put some money into the pot.
Leading for full pot on this turn seems very reasonable, and we can hope to get called by other lows that can get a quarter of the pot at best, worse flushes or sets hoping to somehow win the high, etc.
We decide to bet $21 into the pot, the original raiser folds and the small blind makes the call.
The river card rolls off a K♦, which really doesn’t change anything.
The board is now:
We still have the nut flush and the nut Lo, which means it’s time to bet big and hope to get called by worse flushes, same or worse Lo’s, etc.
The results of this imaginary poker hand are not important, as much as it’s important for you to understand the basic Big O rules and the fact we are using two different cards to make our Hi and our Lo in this Big O hand.
Moving forward, you will have to always be mindful of all the different draws you are working with and all the cards that can improve one or both parts of your hand on later streets.
Big O Strategy Tips & Tricks
Now that I have covered all the most important Big O poker rules and explained how to think about hands in this game let's take a look at some basic Big O strategy.
I am going to cover a few Big O tips that will change the way you play the game and ensure that you are playing a profitable game against most players at the Big O tables.
Remember that most players don’t really know what they are doing when playing Big O and that you will easily build big edges by playing a sound basic strategy.
Without further ado, here are the best Big O strategy tips to keep in mind the next time you play:
Position is Gold in Big O Poker
Position is important in all forms of poker, but all Omaha games make position even more critical. In Big O, you really want to have position more than anything else.
Playing the button and cutoff as often as you are able to and making sure you build big pots in position with solid cards are the most important Big O strategic adjustments.
Since you will be drawing more often than not in Big O, being in position is super important, as it allows you to dictate the game flow and control the size of the pot.
By being in position, you will get extra information about your opponent’s hands, be able to bluff more, and generally have more control over the situation.
If I could only give you one piece of advice to use at all times, it would probably be to fold every small blind and play every button, and this alone would make you a winner in many Big O poker lineups.
Obviously, you can play a much more complex strategy than that, so your edge will be even greater and your winning opportunities bigger.
Select Your Hands Carefully
All forms of Omaha poker revolve heavily around holding the nuts, but Big O poker makes this element even more critical.
Holding the second nut Lo or the second nut flush at showdown is a losing proposition more often than it is not, which is why starting hand selection is very important.
A hand like AA obviously still has solid potential if it can make a set or full house but loses a lot of its value if it is not well connected with your other hole cards.
To get involved in a hand of Big O, I highly recommend having at least one suited ace in your hand, as well as at least one low card like a 2 or 3.
Playing hands like K♠K♦Q♠8♦7♦ in Big O is a losing proposition, as these hands will rarely scoop the pot and will often end up costing you money or only winning you half the pot at best.
Apply Pressure with Equity
While bluffing too much in the game of Big O will leave you exposed to being exploited quite a bit, doing so at the right time will print money for you.
Whenever you hold hands with a lot of poker equity, especially in position, you can start betting big and often get positive results.
By betting big with your nut flush draws combined with strong Lo draws, you will often get players to fold made hands that had you beat for the Hi, or call with the same Lo draws that can only win a portion of the pot at best.
What’s even more, continued aggression on later streets will often win you the pot even if you miss your draws, allowing you to win chips you would never have won otherwise.
Slow Play Your Best Hands
While slow playing is not always the best idea in Omaha games, it can be quite a strong play in Big O, especially when you have a hand that’s good for both the Hi and the Lo.
For instance, imagine you are holding the top set and the nut Lo on the turn, and there is a bet and a call in front of you. If you were to raise at this point, you would often end up getting players to fold hands that have very little equity against your hand.
On the other hand, by just calling, you may convince at least one of the two opponents that you only have a Lo, are just drawing to the Hi, or are otherwise not as strong as you are.
On rivers that are blank or improve your Hi into a full house, you may end up getting paid when your opponents bluff or decide to check/call you with an inferior hand.
Slow playing your monsters in Big O allows you to also call in position with other hands and keep your opponents guessing as to whether you are holding the nuts, a drawing hand, or just a Lo.
Fold Your Weak Draws
It can be very tempting to draw to second nut flushes or straights or convince yourself that your A3 Lo draw will be good if it gets there.
However, these kinds of draws will get you in trouble more often than they will win you anything in Big O, which is why you should fold them in the vast majority of cases.
Of course, there is still some value in calling a small bet or taking that free cards with draws that are not the absolute best, but make sure not to put too much money in drawing to the second nuts.
Instead, wait for all the times you will actually have the nut draws and apply pressure with your high equity and nut potential.
Final Words on Big O Rules and Strategy
Big O poker is easily one of the most entertaining poker games available these days, and it’s one that will allow you to play quite a few hands and have a ton of fun.
The most important thing to keep when playing Big O is discipline, as playing too much out of position or playing too loose will lead to some painful experiences.
Take note of the Big O poker strategy I have laid out in this article, play with discipline and patience, and you will be rewarded time and time again as your opponents make mistakes and misplay their hands across the board.
You can enjoy Big O both live and online these days, giving you plenty of opportunities to practice, move up the stakes, and become a true master of Big O poker.