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7 Card Stud Hi/Lo
POKER STRATEGY

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In Stud Hi/Lo, half the pot is awarded to the best Hi hand and half the pot is awarded to the best Lo hand. To qualify for a low hand, one must have five unpaired cards Eight or Better (eight or lower). The dream hand in Stud Hi/Lo is A2345. This is known as the "wheel". You have the nut low meaning you'll definitely win half the pot and you also have a straight for a high hand which gives you a good chance of scooping the entire pot.

Beginners should note that low hands are counted from high card down. Many players with A2348 (eight low) think they have a very strong low when in reality they would lose to someone holding A4567 (seven low).

Starting Hands

Starting hand selection is very important in this game. Generally speaking, the worst cards to be dealt in this game are Nines, Tens and to a bit of a lesser extent, Jacks. These cards are caught in "no man's land". They don't qualify for a low and they aren't very strong for a high hand. Even if you pair a Nine, it's entirely likely someone will make a higher pair to win the high half of the pot. Aces are the best cards to be dealt in this game since they qualify as a low card and can also make top pair. A very good starting hand is [[cards Ad 5d]] down and [[cards 3c]] up. You have a concealed Ace, three to a wheel, three to a strong low, and even two to an Ace-high flush which is worth a little something as well.


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Three to a Low

Suppose you're dealt three to a low. Many novice players fall into the trap of always playing this hand, but there are some circumstances where you should fold three to a low. Ask yourself these three questions to determine if you should play your three to a low:

•How low is my low?
•How many players remain in the pot?
•How many of my "outs" are gone?

Let's say you're dealt [[cards 8d 6c]] down and [[cards 4s]] up. This is a pretty weak three to a low. First of all, you're drawing to an eight low which is the worst qualifying low hand. If anyone else successfully makes a low hand, theirs is probably going to be better than yours. If you are one of the first players to act and hold this hand, I would fold unless everyone else at the table (or almost everyone) is showing a high card face-up (Nine or higher). If that is the case, you can assume you're probably the only player drawing to a low and might even be compelled to raise or re-raise in light of this to help lure more money into the pot between a few players who are all competing for the high side. However, if a few of the remaining players are showing low cards, especially other low cards than the ones you have (such as an Ace, Two, Three, or Five), you should probably just fold. This is because a.) they might be drawing to a better low than you and b.) some of your outs to completing a low hand are already gone.

Made low hands are very powerful in Stud Hi/Lo, especially when you know you're the only player who will have a qualifying low at the showdown. For example, suppose you have [[cards Ac 7h]] down and [[cards 5s 6s 3s 9d]] face-up. Even though all you have is Ace-high for a high-hand, you appear very threatening. It could be very easy for a player to believe that you have a flush or straight to go with your low. Even though you and I know all you've got is Ace-high, you should still bet and raise with total confidence when holding this hand. You already know that in a worse case scenario you're going to get half the pot, so you might as well bet really aggressively and hope you're able to scare an opponent with a bare high hand (like, say, a pair of Kings) into folding under pressure thereby awarding you the entire pot.

When you have a made low hand and are in a pot against two other players who are clearly battling for the high side of the pot, raise, raise, and raise some more. Make them each put in as much as you can since you know half of everything they put in is yours. Conversely, avoid getting caught in situations where you're one of these other two players who is being punished dearly by an aggressive player with a made low unless you're very certain that you'll be the one winning the high pot.

The High Side

Read our 7 Card Stud article to get a bit of a better idea on how to battle for high side of the pot. A pair of Aces is a great hand to be dealt as you've got a very strong high hand that could potentially backdoor its way into scooping if you're lucky enough to run out a bunch of low cards. Anytime you're dealt an Ace face-up, you become a force to be reckoned with. Opponents will be unsure which side of the pot you're playing for, high or low. Hopefully you'll make a wheel and show them that the answer was "both".

As a general rule, it's nice to be the only player drawing to the high half of the pot. A situation where you have a strong high hand in a pot where two or three other players are all trying to make a low hand is very nice. Anytime you're the lone contestant for half the pot and two (or more) others are contesting for the other half, try to jam as much money into the pot as possible since you're likely to get half of everything they put in.

What you do not want to do in Stud Hi/Lo is make thin calls hoping to make a hand that might win the high side of the pot. Suppose you're dealt [[cards Kd Jc]] down and [[cards Qs]] up. You call after someone completes. That's usually fine. But on fourth street you're dealt the [[cards 5d]] and someone bets. You should not call while thinking, "well, maybe if I catch a King, Queen or Jack I'll win the high pot." That type of thinking is a recipe for losing money hand over fist. All you're doing is drawing to a high hand that you're not even sure will be the best high hand. Doesn't sound very wise, does it?

This should help you get off on the right foot in Stud Hi/Lo, but do be sure to read our 7 Card Stud strategy since I covered some topics like tracking outs, position and bluffing that are very important to understand in Stud Hi/Lo as well.

Next Article: 2-7 Triple Draw
 


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