For those players who stive to be a “jack of all trades,” it is required to learn how to play one of the most respected poker games; Stud High/Low. Also sometimes called Stud Eight or Better or Stud High/Low Split, it represents the “E” in mixed games like H.O.R.S.E. and H.O.S.E and can be found in many live casinos and online card rooms.
A player’s goal in Stud High/Low is to make either the best “high” hand (the highest ranking traditional poker hand) and/or the best “low” hand (if one qualifies) by using any five of the total seven cards they are dealt. Assuming that you already understand how traditional poker hands are ranked (please read the poker hand rankings page if you do not), let’s discuss what constitutes a low hand.
First, it must be noted that in order for your five card hand to qualify for a low, they must all be of different rankings (no pairs) and all must be no higher than an eight. Stud low hands follow the ace-to-five lowball rankings, which means that straights and flushes do not count against your hand. Aces can be used as high and low cards in Stud, which makes them very valuable. Remembering the rules just mentioned (straights and flushes do not count against a low and aces can be low), the best possible Stud low hand is A-2-3-4-5, which is also known as a “wheel.” A wheel is an extremely valuable hand in Stud High/Low, as it qualifies for both a low and a high (because it is a straight).
If a player’s hand does not qualify for a low, then they are only eligible to compete for the high. If there is a high hand and a low hand, the pot will be split (or “chopped”) appropriately, but if no players qualify for a low, the entire pot will go to the best high hand. Players should always look to make hands that qualify for both the high and the low, because then their chance of winning the entire pot (called “scooping” the pot) is much greater.
Stud is played almost exclusively as a limit game, meaning that the betting and raising amounts are predetermined and must be made in those increments. The bets are “small” ($10 in a $10/$20 game) for the first two betting rounds and double to “big bets” ($20 in a $10/$20 game) for the last three betting rounds.
Game play begins when each player posts their ante, which is a small amount required to be dealt into the hand. Then, starting with the player seated on the dealer’s left side, each player is dealt two face down two cards (“hole cards”) and one face up card (“up cards” or “door cards”). This is called Third Street. The player who is showing the lowest ranking up card is forced to post a small amount (determined by the game’s stakes) called a “bring in.” The player to their left now has a choice to either “complete” the bet by raising to a full small bet ($10 in a $10/$20 game) or fold their hand. Play continues around the table, with each player having the option to complete, fold, raise (if the bet has been completed), or call a complete bet or raise.
When the Third Street action is over, each player is dealt another face up card. Fourth street betting action begins with the player showing the best two card poker hand and continues clockwise. Players may bet or raise in “small bet” increments.
Fifth Street is also dealt face up. Now, players have two hole cards and three up cards. Again, the player exposing the best poker hand (three cards now) will be first to act. A round of betting ensues, this time with “big bets” (which will continue for the duration of the hand).
Play continues in the same manner for Sixth Street, which is the fourth and final up card dealt. After another round of betting, Seventh Street is dealt face down and the deal is complete. There is one more round of betting before the Showdown, in which players compare their holding and the pot is pushed to the appropriate winner or winners.