Stud Hi Lo

Stud Hi/Lo was the original Hi/Lo Split game of the modern poker era, and in fact is sometimes even abbreviated as just “Hi/Lo” for this reason. Originally, it was played without a qualifier, so that every pot had a high and a low winner, and often times players would be required to declare which side of the pot they were attempting to win before a showdown. Today, however, in most brick and mortar card rooms as well as online, the game is played almost exclusively with an eight qualifier for a low, and with no need to declare which side of the pot you are contesting: you can simply turn your cards over and the dealer (or computer) will determine for you which side of the pot (if any) you are entitled to win. Some long-time Stud Hi/Lo Eight or Better (Stud 8) players will tell you that more so than any other form of poker, Stud 8 provides consistent results and low variance. The veracity of this claim is open to debate, but it is definitely true that this game tends to reward very solid, disciplined, and straight foward play, and that players who play too many hands and go too far with them are going to quickly lose a lot of chips to those who stick to more premium holdings.

Sticking to the following tips will be sure to maximize your chances for profit during your Stud Hi/Lo play:

  • Which Hands to Play

Starting hand selection is a very, very important part of this game. It’s not enough to have three cards to a low or a hand that would be a decent starting hand in Stud High; you have to have a really strong hand in one direction, or ideally, a hand with multi-way potential. Obviously, the best hands to start with are three suited small cards because you then have a shot to make a low, as well as a straight or a flush for the high. If you are going for a low and are not suited, then you would typically want three cards to a five low in a full game, and if you’re only going for a high then you should be starting with at least a pair of aces or three cards to a royal flush. You will often see players play any three cards eight or lower (or any high pair) but those who get involved with starting hands like 3-6-8 (not suited), K-K-T, or 7-8-9 are going to wind up making the second best hand quite often and will be punished accordingly. Stud 8 is not a game that rewards a lot of creativity with starting hand selection, especially for beginners; if you stick to quality openers, then you’ll make a lot more solid hands by the river, and find yourself in a lot fewer bad situations.

  • Stealing on Third Street

Compared to Stud High and Razz, there is not a lot of stealing of the antes in Stud 8 on third street. Because there are so many possibilities in this game (and because low-limit games often play quite loose) it can be difficult to know which up cards make good candidates to try and steal against, and it can be hard to clearly represent a strong hand yourself. The main exception is when you have an ace showing, which is definitely the best card in the game since it can go high or low, and only middling cards are left to act because it’s hard (but not impossible since you can always be rolled up) to have much of a hand with a 9, T, or J showing.

  • Recognizing a Board Lock

A “board lock” is a situation in which, given the board of your opponents, it is impossible for you to lose whichever side of the pot you are contesting. These situations do not come up every hand, but when they do you should usually try to put in every last bet and raise since the worst you could do is win half the pot. The most common situation to find a board lock is when you have a low made, and none of your remaining opponents have at least two low cards by sixth street. In this situation, it is now impossible to lose the low, and you can raise with impunity, and hopefully have the high hand reraising to carve up the hapless third player’s chips. Although more rare, board locks can also occur for high hands, most commonly when one person has a flush and everyone else has a Badugi board (all different suits) with no pairs, or if you have a full house and no one else has even a pair showing (it is technically possible for someone to have four of a kind on this situation on seventh street, but this is extremely unlikely).

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