The game of Stud Hi/Lo is a variation on traditional seven card stud, with the most significant difference arriving at the showdown. Unlike traditional seven card stud, the pot in Stud Hi/Lo is split evenly between the player holding the lowest qualifying hand, and the player holding the highest hand. Because of the seven card potential, and the ability to build hands from five cards out of the seven, it is possible that the players holding both the high and low hand are the same individual.
The Basis of Stud Hi/Lo
The initial game of Stud Hi/Lo starts with a small ante from every player at the table. Afterwards, the dealer will distribute two hole (pocket) cards face down and another card face up. The game begins in the seated location of the player holding the highest face up cards. That player will be forced to provide the “bring in”, or a mandatory forced bet. Moving in a clockwise rotation, every player has the ability to call the “bring in” bet, complete the bet by raising it to the lower pre-established limit, or fold their cards. Stud Hi/Lo has a betting limit of three re-raises in every round.
Once the initial betting round is complete, the dealer distributes another card face up, which will be followed by another round of betting, starting with the player that has the best hand of shown face cards. A third card will be dealt to every player by the dealer, followed by another round of betting, before the fourth card is dealt.
When the last card is dealt face down, all players remaining in the game will have a final chance to bet, raise/re-raise the bet, or fold their cards. Every active player still holding their poker hands will participate in the showdown, where all seven cards are displayed to determine the winner. Before the showdown reveal, all remaining, active players will have been dealt cards of two down, four up, and the final one face down.
The Uniqueness of Stud Hi/Lo
The rules for Seven Card Stud Hi/Lo are usually identical to traditional seven card stud, with only a few unique variations that include:
· A Split Pot – Unlike traditional seven card stud, the rules in Stud Hi/Lo do not provide the entire winning pot to the highest hand. Instead, the Stud Hi/Lo pot will be split between the best qualifying low hand, and the high-hand. During the showdown, if there is not a qualifying low hand, then only the player holding a high hand will win the entire pot.
· Low Hand Ranking – Identical to Omaha Hi/Lo, the low hand rankings in Stud Hi/Lo allows the aces to be played as both a low and high card. In order to guarantee the player has a low hand, they must be holding a 4-5-6-7-8 or lower. Any flush or straight will not count when determining exactly which player is holding the lowest hand at the table.
· Determining a Tie – In the unusual event that two or more players are holding identical low/high hands, the pot will be split equally among the winners.
Because there is a significant twist over playing regular seven card stud, the poker variation Stud Hi/Lo game requires a little different strategy to attain the pot consistently. This exciting game allows players to keep on top of their skill level and win chips in either direction. The following effective strategies include:
· Scooping – Because Stud Hi/Lo provides players the opportunity to split the pot, it becomes essential to learn how to scoop the entire pot to take all the winnings. Winning only half the pot consistently puts players at risk of losing the money quickly. Winners that consistently defeat their opponents by splitting the pot struggle to gain headway by needing to win one hand at a time. Successful winners will reluctantly take half of the pot. However, they choose instead to build their effective strategies on scooping the entire amount within the pot.
· Hand Selection – Like any poker game that shares community cards, winning at Stud Hi/Lo requires a certain amount of luck. Because the first four cards in play will usually determine how the player develops their strategy, hand selection of cards is extremely important. Starting from a strong position with quality hand selection is the quickest way to ensure the potential of winning. When players hold an obviously bad hand, it always makes more sense to fold and wait for a stronger one. In the world of poker playing, coming in second is never a good option. It is best to remain strong with quality hand selection to maximize the results of a well-played Stud Hi/Lo game.
· Paired Door Cards – Any opposing player holding a pair in their starting hand, combined with the first up (door) card, is highly likely to be holding a dangerous, and possibly winning, set of trips, particularly if the pair is high cards.
· Increasing High Pair Values – High pairs tend to significantly increase in value over a traditional low draw hand, when the competition is down to two or less participants. When the high hand is competing against a low draw, the player holding the high hand almost always has the edge for taking the pot.
· Misleading Up Cards – As an effective strategy, especially when battling low hands, it is important to always stay aware of how each card reveal can mislead opponents. Typically, any confused or misled opponent will bet into the player’s hand when they are getting misleading cues from all the up cards.
· Playing with Strong Hands – When players hold a strong hand, it is important to bet accordingly. Experience demonstrates that many players holding bad hands are waiting for anyone to raise the bet so that they can fold their cards. Playing with strong hands tends to keep only the players in the game that have a strong hand themselves.
· Watching Cards in Play – Like any poker game that uses community cards, Stud Hi/Lo offers continual valuable information to every player. By watching cards in play, every player can maximize their strategies. Keeping an eye on the board allows players to see which cards are dead, and which ones are possibly still alive.
· Reading Opponents – Having a firm understanding of the competition is essential to winning. It is vital to concentrate a significant portion of the player’s efforts to finding out which opponents tend to fold more hands, or play more hands. Some opponents have a continual propensity to try to bluff others, or display specific mannerisms that are easy to pick up on. These “tells” will indicate that they are most likely holding a winning, strong hand, or nervously holding a weak one. When playing Stud Hi/Lo, it is essential to read the competition. Doing so will help develop a successful winner.
· Finding Reasons to Fold – It is important to develop strategies around finding reasons to fold a starting hand, along with hands that tend to develop later in the round. This can be accomplished by analyzing dead cards or any denomination needed to draw into a winning hand. Only when the player can no longer find any reasons to fold should they proceed confidently, and bet aggressively.
The High/Low Split
One of the main differences between Stud Hi/Lo and other poker games is that this version of seven card stud allows the players to simply display their cards at the end of every hand. Once all the cards have been revealed, the pot can be split between the Stud Hi/Lo players holding the lowest and highest hands.
The Betting Structure
Usually played as a fixed-limit format, Stud Hi/Lo players bet or raise in specific monetary increments. A fixed-limit Stud Hi/Lo game usually consist of a bet and raise throughout the first two betting rounds at a low limit, followed by higher betting limits for the remaining rounds. As an example, when the limits are set for a $3/$6 game, every player can bet or raise using increments of $3.00 through the Third Street and Fourth Street rounds of betting. During the betting rounds of Fifth Street, Sixth Street and Seventh Street, every player can bet $6.00. Other parts of the betting structure include:
· The Ante – At the beginning of every hand, all players must enter a small ante, as a forced bet. The ante size will be determined on the rules of the game, but are approximately 10% of the limit of the upper betting rounds. In the above example, a $3 low limit, with a $6 high limit bet would have an ante of $0.60, or 10% of the $6.00 high limit bet.
· Third Street – When the dealer distributes the first three cards to every player, the process is referred to as Third Street. One card will be dealt face up, followed by two cards dealt facedown. The player in the game that displays the highest card is required to place the first “Bring in” bet, as a forced bet to the game. This mandatory bet is always equal to half of the lower betting limit size. Once the Bring in is added to the pot, the Stud Hi/Lo play continues in a clockwise rotation, following the Bring in player.
· Fourth Street – After the completion of Third Street, every player receives an additional face up card. Once the player displaying the lowest hand of the two exposed, face up cards has been determined, they can make a bet, check, or fold their cards. Continuing in a clockwise rotation around the Stud Hi/Lo table, all players can make their bets in the lower limit betting increments.
· Fifth Street – As soon as round of Fourth Street is complete, the dealer will deal another face down card to each player. For this round, and all subsequent rounds, players can only place upper betting limit increments.
· Sixth Street – Following the Fifth Street round, an additional card will be dealt to each remaining player, face up. An additional round of betting will commence, beginning with the player displaying the lowest hand based on their face up cards.
· Seventh Street – A final card is dealt face down, before the last round of upper limit betting commences. The player displaying the lowest showing hand will begin the betting process. When concluded, all remaining players left holding their cards (those that have not folded) will automatically be involved in the showdown.
· The Showdown – This unique portion of playing Stud Hi/Lo is very different from the traditional seven card stud. Unlike seven card stud, in Stud Hi/Lo the winnings do not necessarily all go to the player holding the highest hand. The player with the highest hand will automatically win one half of the pot. However, any player that has a qualifying low hand will win the other half of the pot. A qualifying low hand will contain cards 8 and lower.
Betting Options for Players
During Stud Hi/Lo, every player has the ability to check, bet, call, raise or fold. The type of action each player should perform is usually determined by the previous opponents’ decisions. Each action is unique, and is defined as follows:
· A Check – After the dealer has dealt each player their cards for that specific round, every player has the option to check their hand before the first bet. A check is nothing more than a pass to the next player, without the need to add any additional money to the pot.
· A Bet – In Stud Hi/Lo, every player can bet the limit. On Third Street, and Fourth Street, players can make a bet restricted by the amount of the low limit. In subsequent rounds (Fifth Street, Sixth Street, and Seventh Street) players can bet only the high limit.
· A Call – In Stud Hi/Lo, like all poker games, a call is placing an amount of money that is equal to a raised bet by a previous player. Calling the bet adds no more money than the amount required to stay in the game by equalizing the placed bets of all remaining players.
· A Raise – Like all seven card stud poker games, raising a bet in Stud Hi/Lo can only be done in low limit or high limit increments. Every player still active in the game will have the ability to raise the bet to increase the amount of money in the pot, before the showdown.
· Folding the Cards – Every player always has the ability to fold their cards, or toss them to the table, to remove themselves from playing that specific hand. The player will be eliminated from any future betting in that specific hand, and will forfeit all of the money they have previously placed in the pot, including the ante and/or the “Bring In.”
Additional Situations and Rules
With the slight variations of Stud Hi/Lo in comparison to traditional Seven Card Stud, there are additional situations and rules that apply to the game. They include:
· Dealing with Ties – Because of the uniqueness of the Bring In when playing Seven Card Stud/Stud Hi/Lo, there are times when a tie occurs that needs to be broken, to determine exactly which player will pay the “bring in” money. In Stud Hi/Lo, all ties concerning the Bring In will be broken according to suit. The rank of the suit is determined by alphabetical order, with Clubs being the lowest, followed by Diamonds, then Hearts, and the highest rank of Spades.
· An Unusual Third Street Ante – There are times when a player holding the lowest card during Third Street is in a position of being “all-in” for the ante, making it impossible for them to place the Bring In, mandatory forced bet. In this situation, the mandatory Bring In will move in clockwise rotation to the next player, while disregarding that player’s exposed card value.
· Running Out Of Cards – Like all poker games, Stud Hi/Lo is always played with a 52-card deck. However, when there are eight players at the table, there is always a possibility of running out of cards before the last round (Seventh Street) can be ultimately dealt. For these rare situations, every remaining player forgoes receiving their own individual final card, and instead shares a common community card that is dealt face up and placed in full view on the table.
As one of the least understood poker variations, Stud Hi/Lo, or seven card stud – eight or better, is a highly complex game full of exciting intricate twists. For the master player, it can be quite a profitable game. Knowledgeable players that comprehend the game’s nuances usually have a substantial edge over their opponents that do not understand its subtleties.
As a fundamentally diverse game compared to traditional seven card stud, the game of Stud Hi/Lo requires only a few adjustments from traditional poker playing. Often times, newbies to the game continue to play as though it is a high-only poker game, and not high/low. Successful players quickly develop their own intricate strategies filled with a variety of potential tactical options that quickly arise from splitting pots. It is a fun and exciting game that is becoming more popular every day.