[Basics of Play] [Combinations] [Starting Hands-Low] [Starting Hands-Hi]
[Bet Strategy] [Where to Raise]
Basics of Play for Stud 8
I very highly recommend that before playing stud hi/low, that a player is well versed with the strategies and bet rules of how to play stud-hi. Stud hi/low is also called Stud 8/b, meaning "8 or better". The dealing rules from stud-hi apply to stud hi/low. The only betting rule that is different is that a fourth street pair does not allow for a double-bet.
The strategy for stud 8/b becomes much more complicated because the plays are most often multi-way with very heavy action. Reading the section on stud-hi strategy will help you to understand some basics on what to look for at a table. And since playing low also includes potentially playing for high, the strategies from there apply and become adjusted here.
Highest hands win the pot, as they do in stud-hi. However, to play low, a low hand has to qualify. A hand of any five cards equal to or lower than the number 8 qualify a low hand. If a player qualifies for a low, the pot is split between the low hand and the highest hand.
The object of the game is to scoop the pot (take the entire pot winnings), having the best high hand as well as the best low hand.
Five cards in a hand with numbers equal to or less than 8. The lower the series of 5 cards are, the better the low hand is. 76532 qualifies as a low. Between 76532 low vs. a low of 87652, the card with the lowest low cards wins the low side of the pot. 76532 would win this pot because the 7 is lower than the 8.
If a low of 76532 played vs. 7642A The next kicker cards are used to determine which low is the lowest low to win the low side of the pot. In this case both hands have 7 and 6 in them. The next kicker card determines the winner. 764xx is the winning low against 765xx.
The best low to have is 5432A. This hand also qualifies for a straight which is considered a high hand as well.
Pots are not split between lows unless they are the same exact low.
If your hand of 76543 which also qualifies for a high and a low, there may be a hand out there that still qualifies for a better low, allowing a pot split. 76543 vs. 7542A would be an example of a hand where the hi and the low split the pot.
Many times a low will not qualify as a winning hand in stud hi-low and the highest hand will take the entire pot. This means that no player by the show-down has made a low hand.
Starting Hand Combinations and Bet Strategy
The most profitable way to play hi-low at a full table is to begin with combinations that play for low contention. Any pairs, trips, flush draws or straights that you may turn along the way are a bonus for scooping.
For hi/low games, you will be looking at the door cards for the following things to determine what kind of hand is best to play:
Starting hand strategy for loose hi-low games runs fairly vague. Any combination of cards can turn into a great hand in a multi-way pot. Naturally a starting hand with more outs available is preferable. One thing to look for at a table when determining which side you want to play (hi or low) is if there are any players at the table taking stabs at playing for high with door-cards of 9 or higher when low cards at the table have called. Especially look for callers playing 9, 10, J, Q, and K. You want to get a feel for what type of hand you will be competing with if you decide to play high and there are other callers with high cards. A special section for playing at tight and/or short-handed tables is available here to use along with the strategies and suggestions listed below.
A table showing all door cards 9 or higher is the perfect opportunity for a scoop if the cards in your hand allow for playing a game of stud-hi. Pay attention to each hand that is dealt at the table. The game in this case changes from stud hi-low to stud-hi. Many times this is not taken into consideration at the table because the players are interested in hi-low combinations only, and will fold down if they do not have a combination for both. Keep in mind that each round, the game strategy changes based on the door cards. At a table where all high cards are showing the only opportunity is to play for high, and the end result will most likely be a scoop of the entire pot.
Starting Hands For Low Play (non-paired)
What you are looking around the table for specifically with your three-to-a-low starting hand is how many door cards on the table are also the number 8 or less. A rule of thumb when determining whether you have odds on making your low is; if there are more than 4 cards numbered 8 or less at the table including the door card in your hand, odds for drawing a low are slim. This is because most likely anyone calling also has 3 three low cards in their hand, and players with a high probably have low cards in their hand as well. With the amount of low cards already dealt around the table, fold the hand unless your combination allows outs for a strong high against the players who are playing high.
Starting hands should consist of a combination of cards which allow several types of outs to catch the best hand. The first rule of thumb when playing tight at a hi-low stakes table is:
All three of the cards in your starting hand should be the number 8 or less, with no pairs, preferably with matching suits and/or connectors for straight and flush possibilities. The lower the card numbers are, the better. Having an ace in your hand is a big plus. An ace gives you outs to also play high and possibly take control of raising at the table. Paired combinations will be discussed in later strategies.
Best starting low hands are three cards numbered from 2 through 5. This allows outs for both inside and outside straight draws which would possibly win both the high and low end, scooping the pot. Having at least two of the cards in the same suit also provides outs to a flush if the flush is still live at the table. For example:
The hand on the left has suited connectors. Middle hand is rainbowed, on the bottom is a connected three-flush. The best hand to start with, of course, is the hand on the right which has the most outs. With the hand on the right, even if there is no low possible at the table because the low is dead, you may still draw to a flush. If there is no flush possible, you have outs to a straight, and by some miracle, even if the odds for a low are slim, you may end up with one accidentally while drawing for the flush or the straight.
Starting Hands for Low Play (paired)
This type of starting hand is recommended only if the table is short-handed, or the table that you are at is tight, where half of the table or more is folding their starting hands.
Paired starting hands should consist of a combination of cards where you can achieve a late low with outs to a backdoor high. Sounds backwards doesn't it? Your goal here is really to make the low with this strategy, and taking the high is a bonus. A pair of kings is a trap hand, and often ends up being counterfeited with pairs of aces and better, since there are so many aces and possible straights that come into play.
It takes strong discipline to drop high pocket pairs. However, doing so will save you money and frustration. So, I will reiterate; paired starting hands should consist of a combination of cards where you can achieve a late low with outs to a backdoor high. This means pairs of 8 or lower, (excluding pocket or split aces) and they should really only be played if the door cards at the table allow odds for hitting a low, your pair is not dead to making trips, and, there are no over-cards calling to play strictly for high such as J, K, Q, or A. Keep in mind that stud 8/b is nearly an entirely different game altogether and it's strategy vs. stud-hi is different.
Pocket Pair examples:
Remember when you are playing these types of hands, the cards that you need to make your second pair or trips should be live. Except for aces, pocket pairs for low play should really only be played at a table that is short handed.
Three-card straights and three-card flushes all with numbers 8 or lower are also excellent starting hands for low play.
This type of starting hand is recommended only if the table is short-handed, or the odds for a low to qualify are very, very slim. In the case that completing a qualifying low appears to be dead at the table, high combinations can be played, expecting a full scoop of the pot.
Starting hands for high play against a table of low draws should consist of cards that leave outs to high straights, flushes, and filling up to a full house. These hands should also be kept as discreet as possible so that other competitors for high don't know if you are playing for high or playing for low. Having an ace in your combination is highly preferable. Your door card should not reveal that you are playing for high unless the odds for making a low at the table are very, very slim. For example:
As I mentioned earlier, playing a pair of kings is usually a big mistake with all of the aces in play in hi-low and should usually be folded usually right away. (see Deadly Cowboys) Aces will usually counterfeit the kings by the showdown. Seemingly the hand above is a nice hand. It has a low card in it that is suited with one of the kings if a miracle backdoor low were to happen. However, if this hand were to be played (and it shouldn't unless the odds for making a low at the table are dead), it should more preferably look like this:
With the 4c being the door card, the rest of the table has no idea whether you are playing for high or for low until about fifth street, depending on the next cards that turn for you.
A fifth street example for the discreet pocket pair hand which will keep the players guessing is:
A hand like this is very strong as long as there are no threats of paired aces, trips or flushes showing at the table, as well ace aces that turn up that may have paired. The strength of this hand is that the fifth street turn of the 6d is a scare card. Meaning that anyone in contention for the high sees that you have either a possible low, a straight or a scoop. It is also a scare card for players drawing lows because your hand appears to have cards that would make one of the best lows or have outs to the best low of A2345.
Other fifth street examples of this hand that may cause some serious confusion for other players is:
Catching a high card early in the hand may confuse them into thinking that you caught a bad card and that you are continuing play hoping to catch one last low card to qualify a low hand. Naturally, on sixth street if you have not caught a second pair to couple with your kings, you are in danger of losing to a hand that has caught bad cards that appears to be playing for a low. For example:
This hand appears to be playing for a low with no obvious threat of a flush or trips. Keep in mind that straights are always a threat in stud hi-low and are often well hidden, if not, rivered. However, the hand is actually being called with the player playing for high with:
The player initially called this hand because it qualified to achieve a low with outs to a back door high. This hand now has two pair on sixth street vs. the hand with pair of kings. Because this type of hand is only usually played at a short handed table, the kings are favored to pair also making a backdoor low even with the other hand showing two low pair on fifth street. However, at the same time, at a short-handed table, the low two-pair also has odds on a backdoor low and has odds on rivering a full house. Odds for the pair of kings to make a full house are slim this late in the hand, yet still possible. (Anything can happen in poker!)
Being that both hands are showing lows at a short-handed table, the action at the table dwindles because of the confusion over who is playing what. Most likely there will be no raising under the assumption that both hands have a low and it is a matter of who's is better. If both players know that they are playing for high, still the action is very little because there are no obvious tells on what kind of high each player is playing for.
This is why playing with high pairs at a hi-low table is not recommended unless the high pair contains pocket or split aces. The action is sparse and it is often a waste of time and effort for a small pot unless a scoop is imminent.
For three card flushes:
Your combinations for playing three-card flushes should include as many outs as possible to a high and/or a low in case your cards do not catch. For example:
If the hand on the left does not catch the flush, it has outs to at least a very high pair which can double up (making two pair), and it also has possibilities to a very good low. If the hand on the right does not catch a flush, it also has outs to a double open-ended straight, and a very good low.
With a three-card flush in your hand it is advisable as well that your door card is a card that is equal to or lower than the number 8, however, if a possible flush in your suit is fully live and you have other outs, calling one bet to see the fourth street card regardless of what your door card shows is still a good play. For example:
Both of the hands above are showing door cards that reveal you are playing for high. The other players may put you on several different combinations, which they will never know for sure as long as you are aggressively either betting, calling or raising the hand. At minimum they will put you on a pair of jacks or a higher pocket pair with the jack as your kicker. They may also put you on having two low cards for a late low with one of the cards being an ace.
Be very aware that when you have revealed to the table that you are playing for high, that when a fifth or sixth street low is made and you are still in the hand, the expense will go up with the low hand raising to make you and your other high-play competitor pay for the split.
My rule for door card aces: (adjusted from the stud-hi section for hi-low)
When beginning to establish myself at a table, (and certainly a disputable strategy), is; do not play a door card ace unless you can raise with it. If other players are seeing you fold your ace, later on when you do raise your ace with nothing in your hand you will most likely take the pot without seeing the river or showing down. It allows room for bluffing. Playing raise-or-fold with your door-card ace will save frustration and stress in later rounds. It will also confuse the players as to how you are playing your ace. A low? Pair? Flush? Straight?
This is a rainbowed starting hand, meaning that odds to make a flush begins dead. There are also no odds on this hand to make a straight. If there are other door card aces at the table, the ace is most likely dead or already paired in someone else's hand. Raising the ace here would be detrimental and most likely seen as a blatant bluff. If there are no other aces facing up at the table you can take your chances with raising, hoping that someone doesn't have a nice flush-draw, straight-draw, or pocket pair combo in their hand. It may be worth a cheap call if you hope to turn other aces or nines, but really, early at the table, I personally wouldn't bother with this hand because it lacks many outs for bettering the hand.
Aces to raise with in hi-low are hidden pocket pairs with the ace as your door card, pocket and split aces, three-card flushes, and three-card outside straights.
At a hi-low table, depending on the types of players at your table, it can be to your advantage to slow-play pocket or split aces to keep the action going with other players competing for the high. It also prevents them from knowing that you have a strong hand and what direction you are playing the hand. (High or low). Calling with pocket or split aces is also a way to get in the hand cheaply as the later streets begin to reveal straights and flushes. Remember that in hi-low, aces are often dead and your pair of aces may be outdone by low-card trips that get caught on fifth and sixth street. For example:
The low pair that just turned in this hand could very well be a hidden three-of-a kind and even possibly a fifth street full house.
As usual, when a fourth street pair shows on the board, fold your hand unless you have one more draw card to a low. Even still, it is best to just fold the hand while the pot is small since continuing on a low draw will cost at least one more bet and the pot will most likely be split anyway and both players push. (no loss or gain, just time spent betting and calling for little reason). It could also be the case that the player with a fourth street pair may not only have trips, they may also have a very excellent chance at sweeping the pot with a potential low with three more draw cards. Be disciplined, save money and fold.
Controlling the bets and raises at the table is an especially key element.
Playing for high in a high-low game runs very expensive. Once a low hand is made especially on fifth street, the low player will (and rightfully should) raise any bets made on the table to make the players who are still drawing for lows, really have to pay for it. It also makes it very expensive for the hands competing for the best high, increasing the payout even if the pot is split.
On the other hand, playing a very strong starting high hand allows continuous raising to get the low draws to really pay for seeing if they will catch their lows without missing their cards. A high hand that is not in betting position should raise with their high unless there is the threat of trips, straights, and flushes that you have no outs for.
Raising with a made low is a must if you are not in first position and there is no danger of a possible A2345 hand on the table. A fifth street 'made' low should always raise, except when your low is made with an 8 as one of your active cards and there is another made low on the table with a number 7 showing in their hand and you are in danger of not having the lowest low. For example:
Player 1 in this hand has been in first betting position since fourth street. There is really no way to tell if this player has trips, turned a full house, or is playing two pair if they have continued betting without hesitation.
Player 2 in this hand has an obvious low. This player would be raising the initial bet of Player 1. However...
Player 3 in this hand has an obvious low and possibly a straight since fifth street. The rounds of betting would very possibly look like this on the river with a possible straight, full house, and low on the board between these three players. Assume that player 1 does have a full house. Player 2 is has been betting on a low, and player 3 is betting on a competing low and also competing for a high to scoop.
In the above table, Player 1 is betting his pair. Player 2 is calling on a low draw, Player 3 is calling either because they have a pair higher than the 8s, or is also betting on a low draw. Next:
Player 1 has turned an ace in betting position and bets. Player two has a made low and raises with the low to get an idea of whether or not player 3 has made a straight. Player 3 simply calls. Player 2 now does not know if player 1 is playing high or low or both. If indeed Player three has made their straight which he thinks would scoop the pot, simply calling keeps the other two players in the hand to get them stuck in the hand calling until the end which will be a large pay-off if he scoops. Next:
Above, Player 1 who is still in betting position is raised by Player 2 who believes that Player 3 has not yet made their low or is still guessing as to what the hand consists of. Player 3 again simply calls and now it is up to player 1 to decide to either re-raise, since all players are still in, or simply call. Player 1 re-raises player 2 identifying to player 3 that his high hand is most likely better than a their straight if they have made their straight. Player 3 simply calls, again not revealing to player 2 what their hand is made with to call a re-raise. At this point player 2 should have folded to the straight draw in Player 3's hand. However the pot at this point is very big, and player 2 has a large investment in the hand already so his expense must be played to the showdown. Next:
Player 1 who is still in betting position is called by Player 2. Player 3 knows from the re-raise made on the sixth street that the hand that player 1 is playing is very strong. Player 3 now raises. This is a signal to player 1 that they have a sure-best low and possibly the best high if they Player 1 has not filled up with a full house by now. Player 1 and Player 3 will team up to get as much action as they can out of player 2 so that the pay-off for the possible split on the pot will be maximized, or player 3 will scoop the pot.
Since player 2 is in this far he is at the mercy of the re-raising with the hopes that his low will qualify for the payout. Player 1 and player 3 re-raise to the cap, forcing player 2 to call the bets.
Assuming that Player 3 had their low straight all along, the best play was to simply call raises made by Players 1 and 2 until sixth street to keep player 2 in the hand. Re-raising too early would have revealed to both players that player 3 had the straight early and Player 2 would be likely to fold. The pot would be split between player 1 and player 3 with little profit resulting from diminished action.
Remember when raising in a three-way-action pot that you are not raising out the player with the sure losing hand. If you raise too much too soon they will fold and the potential profit is diminished.
Fairly assume that any hand you go into at a Stud 8/b table is going to be split. Maximum profitability for the time and energy involved in this game should not be taken lightly. Too many split pots is equivalent to no profit except to the card room that is taking the rake each hand. Not to mention all of the ante money that is spent waiting to catch a hand that ends up winning. Using the following strategy assumes that you know when to fold a hand regardless of how much of an investment has been made on your part.
As a general rule of thumb, if you have a playable starting hand, complete the bet if it has not been done already, and do not give the bring-in a free card. This is all-to-often seen at the tables encouraging split pots that would probably not have been split if the bring-in were to be raised out. If you are the high draw calling to play the hand, by not completing the bet it encourages being counterfeited on later streets.
I do encourage an opening three-bet rule at a stud 8 table to maximize profit. This is a standard for professional play and is not often seen at the tables online as most players are shy on draws and do not bring a bankroll to the table large enough to handle the variances that occur with this type of play. More information regarding this type of strategy is also located in the Advanced Strategy section of the site, and should also be used when playing tournaments.
If you hold three cards to a low, with the bring-in in front of you:
Basically, three-bet any hands that have an ace in front of you, and simply call when there is an Ace behind you.
The reasoning for this is to lock out any other players who do not have a competitive scooping hand while allowing you to freeroll your bets once you have made a low. An Ace calling in late position is often noted as being in contention for a scoop, which is why you will simply call. Early position door-card aces that make complete bets or call complete bets are usually in contention for taking the high end of the pot which is often counterfeited by the late callers with three-card straights and three-card flushes.
33% of the time hands are won with no low. This is why it is important to maximize the amount of profit early on assuming that the pot will be split. By raising you are cutting out starting hand combinations that not only shut out other low draws, it increases the percentage of you turning your low draw into the high hand that will scoop the pot when your cards pair.
What this also does is allows other players to fold down when they see that you have an 'obvious low, and they are basically 'giving' you the pot not knowing if you are also threatening to scoop if the hand continues to the river.
While the pots may be won little pots at a time, the dollars do add up, especially if they are not being split. This is, of course, to your benefit.
On fourth street:
On fifth street:
Fifth street in Stud 8/b is a critical street for players to determine whether to stay in the hand or fold. If you have a made low you do not want to necessarily raise out the players who will be feeding money into the pot. You also do not want to give cards cheaply so that you will possibly be out-drawn if you decide to stay in. It is also the street where a pair or two pair often becomes counterfeited by better draws such as trips, straights, and flushes.
If you have a low in a multi-way pot:
If you have the high in a multi-way pot:
Always raise in accordance to position in the case you have live outs to: