Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Key Concepts in High-Low Poker: Part II

This is a continuation of a post in October on concepts for high-low poker. If you have only played variants of poker in which the high-hand wins the entire pot, and are trying to learn some of the split-pot games, here are some key concepts for high-low play that apply to Seven-Card Stud High-Low Eight-or Better Poker (Stud-Eight), as well as Omaha High-Low Eight-or-Better.

Split-pots generate action:
Many players complain about split-pot games, because it is possible for a powerful (monster) hand, such as quads, to split a heads-up pot resulting in a slight loss after the rake is subtracted. It seems unfair that you can hit a hand as rare as quads, and have to share the winnings. But, while winning the hand isn't a problem when you hit a monster, getting action on that hand often is a problem.

Consider holding pocket Aces in Hold'em or Omaha and flopping quads. Pairs on the board are scary enough, and since no one else has Aces you are unlikely to generate much action. Even someone with a full boat might be cautious. The same problem exists in Seven-Card Stud. It is possible to hold quads, or a boat, without showing a pair, but unlikely. If you have an exposed pair of Aces your action will dry up.

But, in split-pot games, action is possible in these circumstances because potential lows might try to draw. Sometimes they will hit the low, and you will have to share. But a certain fraction of the time, the low will not qualify, and you keep it all. Just remember, in each case you are receiving action that might not have occurred in a high-only game. If more than one low-draw joins the fray, you are assured of winning money, and can raise without risk of losing or driving out paying customers.

It might be frustrating to share large pots with a nut-high, but remember the pot might not have had any value had competition for a low-pot not been possible.

Starting card requirements should be tighter:
Split-pot games have different starting card requirements than high-only games, because the goal is to scoop. Starting hands must have the potential to win the high-pot or low-pot, and ideally both. Because high-low games offer so many different kinds of drawing opportunities, many players think that starting hand requirements can be looser than for high-only games, such as Seven-Card Stud or Hold'em. Actually, the reverse is true. Starting hand requirements need to be much tighter, because coordinated starting cards that have the potential to attack both sides of the pot are rare holdings. In Hold'em, each player receives just two cards, and that makes just about any pair, or any two high-cards a potential winner. But, in Stud-Eight, three starting cards are less likely to coordinate than two. Starting hand requirements are discussed at great length at StudHighLow.com. However, there are some general principles.

-- Aces, either singly or paired, are the most valuable starting cards because of their potential to complete both a high-hand, and a low-hand.

-- Connected low-cards, suited low-cards, and connected-suited low-cards have the greatest potential to scoop large multi-way pots.

-- Mid-range cards, especially 9s, 10s, Js, play poorly, and should be avoided. However, even 8s, Qs, and Ks can lead to problems.

Strong starting hands in Stud-Eight also need to be "live," meaning that the cards needed to improve must not exposed in other hands. An A, 2, 3, all in Clubs is a great looking starting hand in Stud-Eight, unless you are looking out at a board with the 5, 6, 9 in Clubs, and two of the remaining Aces. It is frequent to receive starting cards that look great, but need to be mucked, because too many of the cards needed to improve are exposed in other hands.

Fold equity is reduced:
There are two ways to win a pot in poker-have the best cards at showdown, or induce the other players to fold before a showdown happens. The act of betting is intended to put more money in the pot to win when you have the best cards. But, betting also forces opponents to make decisions, and folding is one alternative when confronted with a bet. The chance that a bet will win the pot uncontested is known as "fold equity." Bets in high-low games have much less fold equity than bets in high-only games, especially late in the hand if the pot is large. Players that failed to improve for the high-pot, might still have many outs available for the low-pot, so it is not in their long-term interests to fold to hands that will clearly win the high-pot. The reduced fold equity means that aggression, and bluffing, must be combined with cards that work together to attack both sides of the pot. Aggression will not win by itself, because players call much more frequently in high-low games.

Most fold equity in Stud-Eight is available early in the hand, when players with marginal cards will fold to bets and raises, because they do not want to be sucked too deeply into a hand with limited opportunities. However, players, who stay until Sixth Street, are usually in it until the end. Part of the problem, is that by Sixth Street, many pots become so large, that drawing to half the pot becomes mathematically correct. This is especially true for players who missed their high chances, but still have ten or more outs for a low-hand. Contesting a small pot on Third Street, with a hand that can only compete for the low-pot makes no sense mathematically. But, a large multi-way pot on Sixth Street is a different case, particularly if a draw to a low-hand is still live. My own experience, playing Stud-Eight, is that fold equity on Sixth Street is close to zero. Opponents willing to call a large bet on Fifth Street, almost never fold to a Sixth Street bet. An opponent willing to fold on Seventh Street is slightly more common, because of missed low-draws, but it is still an uncommon event. The fact is that you will show down more hands in Stud-Eight compared to most other variations of poker.

For big money invest in low-straights and low-flushes: In high-only games, when you think of monster hands, what come to mind are full houses and quads. Ironically, in high-low games filling up can often be detrimental to your financial outcome. For example, in Stud-Eight, if you hold A, A, 3, 3, 4, 6 going to the river, a final card of 2 might scoop the pot with Aces-up for a high-hand, and a 6-high for a low-hand. But, if an A, or 3, hits the full house disqualifies your hand from competing for the low-pot. Because two-pair, and trips are vulnerable hands in games with many competitors going to the river, the hands that have the best change of holding up for the high-pot, and winning the low-pot are the small straights, and Ace-high flushes with a complement of small cards. A hand such as 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, is simultaneously a 6-high low-hand, and a 6-high straight. The hand A, 2, 4, 5, 7, all is Spades is simultaneously a 7-high low-hand, and an Ace-high flush. In both of these examples, the hand is simultaneously a powerful low-hand and a powerful high-hand. In the case of the straight, it beats anyone holding two pair or trips, and in the case of the flush it beats anyone holding a straight.

Low-straights and low-flushes are also rare hands that can never be completely exposed, because five cards are required. That means if the pot is large, any player with two pair, or trips, will have to call you down at the end to make sure that your hand is not just a low-hand. Draws to these hands also offer excellent freeroll opportunities. Suppose after Fifth Street, you have A-Hearts, 2-Hearts, 4-Hearts, 5-Hearts, 6-clubs. Your hand is a 6-high low-hand, that might have a lock on the low-pot. At the same time you have two cards to come, and any Heart gives you an Ace-high flush, a 3-Diamonds, 3-Spades, or 3-Clubs, gives you a 5-high straight, and a 3-Hearts gives you a 5-high straight flush. The draws to all of these possibilities are risk-free.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Catching Bad versus Catching Good on Fourth Street

Fourth Street is a point in the hand when it is easy to get out before becoming too committed to the pot. Many players who catch a bad card on Fourth Street will make quick exits, and many times, a raise will hasten the exit of marginal hands. Before betting or raising into multi-way pots, it is important to think ahead about how potential raises will effect the action.

Consider these scenarios:

High-pair with no low:

You (J, K) K, 10
Alice (X, X) 2, 3
Bob (X, X) 4, 8

You have a big pair with no hope of a low-hand, against two players who have each caught low cards. However, neither Alice nor Bob has a low-hand yet, and your pair would stand a better chance of scooping in heads-up play. You should lead with a bet. If Alice has four little cards, she will raise to force Bob, her other low-hand competitor, off the hand. Then you can re-raise Alice, to make her pay to draw out on you for the low-pot. If you instead check to the lows in this hand, Alice will bet, Bob will call, and you won’t have much better to do but call and hope for the best. A check-raise after Alice bets and Bob calls, will probably not force anyone off the hand. Bob will stay at that point, even if Alice raises, because he is into the hand too deep.

A low-draw:

You (4, 5) 6, A
Alice (X, X) K, 9
Bob (X, X) Q, 10

You have caught a decent card, although, it does not connect with your initial three and that lessens the chance of scooping with a low straight. The Ace does act first on this board. It would be tempting to bet, but then Alice might raise Bob off the hand. If that happened, you would be drawing for just one-half the pot, heads-up against Alice. It would be better to check to Alice, let her bet and Bob call. Then you could call and keep both players in. Most likely, Alice and Bob each have a big pair and no chance for a low-hand. If you pickup a low hand later on, then you can drive the action make it difficult for both Bob and Alice.

Small pair:

You (4, 5) 4, J
Alice (X, X) K, Q
Bob (X, X) 6, 5

In this situation, you should check-fold your hand no matter how Alice or Bob play. Your hand is unlikely to make low, which means that all you really have is a pair of 4s for high against a probable pair of Kings. You will be playing catch up for one-half the pot, a terrible situation to be in. But, I’ve seen many players continue in the hand until the end with any kind of pair, a pattern that is sure to lose money over the long-run.

Second-best low:

Alice (X, X) K, Q
You (A, 3) 4, 8
Bob (X, X) 6, 5

If Alice leads with a bet in this situation, you should fold because of your position. You never want to be in the middle between the best high-hand and best low-hand because it will cost you four bets to see every card. If you call Alice, Bob will raise and Alice will re-raise. If you cold-call that two-bet raise, Bob will cap it. Your best hope after that is that Bob catches bad on 5th street and does not complete the low-hand, but you catch good and do. But, even if that happens—for example Bob gets a Jack while you get a 7—you are still in a tough spot because you have the worse possible low-hand—an 8-7—while Bob has a draw to a better low. If you both catch good cards—for example both you and Bob get 7s—you are in a terrible position on Fifth Street because you are not sure where your low-hand ranks and you have almost no chance of scooping. It is best to get out cheaply on Fourth Street before being faced with all these difficult and expensive decisions.

Potential monster with a brick:

Alice (X, X) Q, 7
You (3d, 4d) 5d, Ks
Bob (X, X) 6, 5

Alice leads with a bet and you are faced with a situation similar to the previous one, in which a call could lead to capped action. The difference is that you’ve caught a bad card for one of the best three-card starting hands. Your hand could develop into a monster, which means that you do not want to be raised out of it. At the same time, the bad card means that you do not want to put a lot of money in the pot. One possible solution is for you to make the raise. That might cause both Alice and Bob to pause. They would have to consider the possibility that you have wired Kings and just completed trips. If Bob raised, Alice might leave the hand and you might even have the highest hand at that point. If Bob called and Alice called, you would make it to Fifth Street for the cost of two small bets, instead of four, and could decide what to do from there. You might even get free cards on Fifth Street if Alice and Bob don’t improve.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Overplaying the Eight

One of the most common mistakes I see in Seven-Card Stud High-Low, is overplaying 8-high low-hands. Many players raise the moment they make any kind of low-hand, even if it's on the river, and cold-call raises with a draw to any kind of low-hand, even if its an 8-high.

The problem is that the 8 is actually one of the deadliest cards you can hold, because an 8-high is the worse possible low-hand. Remember, that a low of 8, 4, 3, 2, A, loses the low-pot to 7, 6, 5, 4, 2, because low-hands are ranked by the highest card, not the lowest.

I once saw a player river an 8-high low-hand and fire an immediate raise. He was promptly called and scooped by an opponent with a 7-high low-hand and an exposed pair of 3s for high. The raiser could not beat the board for high, and yet raised on the basis a weak low-hand.

A river raise will hardly ever move a bettor off a hand in Seven-Card Stud High-Low. In fact, you will show more hands at the end then just about any other form of poker. Most players who bet until the end have something going for at least one-half of the pot. Remember, it is a fixed-limit game with pots that can grow very large by the end. With only one bet to call at the end, players with any kind of chance for any half of the pot usually pay to see the raiser's holdings. Many players with a small pair such as 3s, will call if they can beat the board for high, even if they miss a low-hand. The call often works because if multiple players are competing for low-hands only, it is not uncommon for a small pair, or even A-K, to take the high-pot at the end.

Because hands with an 8 qualify for low, many players automatically play them aggressively and often set themselves up for disaster. In one hand, I bet out a 7-5 low-hand on Fifth Street and was promptly raised by an opponent with an 8, 7, 5, showing on the board. Knowing it would be difficult for her to better my low-hand, I re-raised and ended up scooping the entire pot when at the end, I completed a 7-high straight.

In another hand my opponent was luckier. I had completed a 9-high straight on Fifth Street, and my opponent, who had an 8, 6, 10 exposed, cold-called my two-bet raise to draw to an 8-high low. On Sixth Street I picked up the 4 to make it 6 sequential cards, while my opponent hit a King and kept calling. He saved half the pot on the end when I caught a Queen that failed to improve my 8-7 low-hand and he picked up a 2 to complete an 8-6 low-hand. He got his money back, but calling all those raises in order to draw to second-worse low-hand that you can have, (the 8-high straight I held is the worse) will not win over the long-run.

The pitfalls of 8s, means that many of the so-called "Razz hands," such as starting cards of 8, 2, 3, or 8, 7, 3, or even 8, 2, A, should not be played. These hands are playable in Razz because the lowest hand takes the entire pot with no qualifier necessary. But, in Seven-Card Stud High-Low these cards are competing for one-half the pot, and are often second best for that half of the pot. If you play low starting cards, the cards should have some possibility of "connecting," that is complete a low straight, and rank better than an 8-high for the low-hand.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Probabilities for Simultaneous High and Low-Draws: Weighted Outs

The big-money hands in Seven-Card Stud High-Low are the low straights and low flushes. These hands often scoop and better yet, usually get paid. Any player with at least two-pair will pay if the pot is large, because it is not possible to know for certain that the hand qualifies for low, let alone know that it is a straight or flush.

However, if you start with connected or suited cards, and then pick up a helpful card on Fourth Street, you still do not have a winning hand. Here is a summary of the outs available to complete the low-hand, high-hand, or both for some common Fifth Street-draws. For these tabulations I will introduce the concept of "weighted outs". In many cases the total number of outs to make a high-hand, low-hand, or both, are the same. But some circumstances are more favorable than others, because the numbers of outs that can make both a high-hand and a low-hand are greater than the number that make high-hand only or low-hand only.

To reflect this discrepancy, I define a "weighted out" as equal to 1 if the out completes a high-hand and a low-hand, and one-half (0.5) if the out completes a high-hand or a low-hand. Totaling "weighted outs" is a better measure of your actual equity in the pot. For example, if you have seen 16 cards after Fourth Street, there are 36 unseen cards. If your total weighted outs are 12, you have 33% equity in the pot. Some of the outs might result in winning only half the pot, and some the entire pot, but on average you can expect to pick up 33% of the money on the table if the scenario is repeated many times.

Here are the tabulations:

Open-ended straight-flush with low-draw

Example: 3, 4, 5, 6 all in Spades

Improve to:
Weighted Outs

Four-flush with inside straight and low-draw

Example: A, 3, 4, 5 all in Hearts

Improve to:
Weighted Outs









Four-flush with low-draw

Example: A, 3, 5, 6 in Hearts

Improve to:
Weighted Outs

Open-ended straight with low-draw

Example: 3, 4, 5, 6 rainbow

Improve to:
Weighted Outs

Inside straight with low-draw

Example: 3, 4, 6, 7 rainbow
Improve to:
Weighted Outs



All of these tabulations count the maximum number of outs possible, which only occurs when the draw is completely live. It is rare that a Fifth Street draw, in which 10 to 15 cards are already exposed, would be completely live. That is why counting weighted outs on the later streets is so important. Consider the most favorable draw-an open-ended straight-flush with low-draw. If the 6 outs to a low-hand are missing, the weighted outs drop by 3 to a total of 12.5. But, if the 6 outs for the straight are missing, the total weighted outs drops by 6 to 9.5.

The tabulations above are still valid on later streets. In all likelihood there would be fewer unseen cards on later streets, but more missing outs. As is usually the case in Seven-Card Stud High-Low, pot equity can change drastically from street-to-street as cards are exposed.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Cold-Calling a Blocking-Raise with a Low-Draw: Scenario 2

Last week, I analyzed a tactic in Seven-Card Stud High-Low Poker I call a "blocking-raise," in which a player with a made low-hand on Fifth or Sixth Street, raises a bet from a high-hand to force out a player on a draw to a better low. The issue is whether it is correct for the player on a draw to cold-call the raise. Analysis showed that if a scoop is possible for the player on a draw, cold-calling does gain equity. The amount of equity depends on the number of outs that are still live. But what happens if no scoop is possible?

Consider a second scenario:

After Fifth Street you are in a three-way pot with the following (hole cards are in parenthesis):

You (A, 2) 6, 7, J
Bob (x, x) 3, 4, 8
Alice (x, x) K, 9, J

Action: Alice leads with a $2 bet; Bob raises to $4. It is your turn to act.

Again for computational purposes we will assume a $1-2 game with eight players dealt into the hand.

Total seen cards = 16 (Eleven that you are looking at, plus five mucked door cards).
Total unseen cards = 36.

A scoop is less likely in this case because you cannot complete a straight. Your only hope to scoop is to pair the Ace and hope it holds up against the high-hand. If your hand is completely live, your outs to make low-hand are as follows:

Outs to make a 7-high low=10 (three 3s, plus three 4s, plus four 5s)
Outs to make an 8-high low = 3 (three 8s)

Again we can divide the number of outs by 36 to arrive at Sixth Street probabilities. Your chances on Sixth Street of having a:

7-high low = 28%
8-high low = 8.3%

Again we can approximate your equity in the pot by making the following assumptions:

A 7-high will win the low-pot.
An 8-high will win the low-pot about half of the time.

Then if (P) represents the pot-size, and (E) represents the equity in the pot, then under these assumptions:

E = (0.28)P/2 + (0.083)P/4 = (0.16)P

Because you are on a draw for only one-half the pot, your equity is only one-sixth of its value. To break-even on this play you need a pot-size of about $24. Unless there was a great deal of prior action on the early streets in the hand, it is unlikely that the pot is that large. It is also unlikely that your low-draw is completely live if Bob already has a low-hand. In this scenario, without a possibility of a scoop, it is best to fold to the raise.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Cold-Calling a Blocking-Raise with a Low-Draw: Scenario 1

A tactic, that Seven-Card Stud High-Low (Stud-Eight) players frequently encounter, is what I call a “blocking-raise.” This is a raise intended to force out a player on a low-draw. Usually, a player who has just made a low-hand, and wants to force out a player drawing to a better low, executes this kind of raise. Blocking-raises occur most often on Fifth or Sixth Streets, when a player has completed a weak low—such as an 8-high—and wants to force out a player showing two undercards, but no other low-cards. Any player, with only two exposed low-cards, cannot have a low-hand until the river. In this post, I will analyze a scenario to determine if cold-calling a blocking-raise is a correct response. As is usually the case in high-low poker, whether or not a scoop is possible, has large effect on the expected value for a play.

For these computations, I will assume a $1-2 game with eight players dealt into the hand. Hole cards are in parentheses.

After Fifth Street you are in a three-way pot with the following:

You (2, 3) 4, 5, J
Bob (x, x) 3, 4, 8
Alice (x, x) K, 9, J

Action: Alice leads with a $2 bet; Bob raises to $4. It is your turn to act.
Total seen cards = 16 (Eleven that you are looking at, plus five mucked door cards).
Total unseen cards = 36.

If your hand is completely live, your outs are as follows:

Outs to make a straight=8 (four As plus four 6s)
Outs to make a better low = 4 (four 7s)
Outs to make comparable low = 3 (three 8s)

That means we can divide the number of outs by 36 to arrive at Sixth Street probabilities. Your chances on Sixth Street of having a:

Straight = 22%
7-high low = 11%
8-high low = 8.3%

We can approximate your equity in the pot by making the following assumptions:

A straight will scoop.
A 7-high will win the low-pot.
An 8-high will win the low-pot about half of the time.

Then if (P) represents the pot-size, and (E) represents the equity in the pot, then under these assumptions:

E = (0.22)P + (0.11)P/2 + (0.083)P/4 = (0.296)P

You expect about 30% equity in the total pot after the action is completed. If you cold-call the $4-raise and Alice closes the action with a call, the total pot-size needs to be at least $13 for your equity to equal the $4 call. We know that the antes and Fifth Street action alone is equal to $13. If there was any prior action on Third and Fourth Streets, the pot is larger than $13. Cold-calling the raise is a profitable response. Not only is the current pot-size large enough, but also the implied pot-size from action on Sixth and Seventh Streets is greater still. And you get a second chance to make the hand if you miss on Sixth Street. Depending on the exposed Sixth Street cards, a cold-call might still be favorable.

However, it is rare that your hand is completely live. The kinds of missing outs make a big difference in your pot-equity. If the 7s and 8s are dead, but the straight draw is live, your pot-equity falls to 22%. That means you need to take down an $18 pot to make a $4 investment worth it. But, if your straight-draw has missing outs, your pot-equity is considerably reduced. Suppose you only have four outs left for your straight, but the 7s and 8s are live. Now your pot-equity is 18.5%. You need a pot in excess of $21 to break-even. That could be a stretch. You might only get that kind of action if the high-hand can beat a low straight, in which case you have only half the equity that you thought you did.

Also keep in mind, that if Alice jams you, that is not close the action by calling, she might be unafraid of a low straight because she can already beat one. The kind of player Alice is has a big effect on your equity. Some players with high-hands are timid in response to a possible low-hand because they are afraid of being freerolled. These players will call the low-hand down, unless they can beat a low straight, in which case they will raise. Other players are more afraid of giving free cards than being freerolled, and will jam anyone raising with a low-cards, even if all they have is one or two pair. In that case your scoop possibility is still live.

Next week we’ll look at a scenario in which scooping is not a possibility.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Key Concepts for High-Low Poker, Part I

If you have only played high-only variants of poker, and are trying to learn some of high-low games, here are some key concepts you need to know. These concepts apply to both Omaha High-Low and Seven-Card Stud High-Low Eight-or-Better (referred to as "Stud-Eight" in the post).

Scooping: Routinely playing for high-hand only, or low-hand only, leads to trouble. Splitting the pot should be a saving out, not the reason for playing the hand. As a general rule, you do not want to be on a draw for half the pot. The goal should be to have a hand that is on track to win the entire pot. Ideally, opponents drawing against your hand should only win half the pot when their hands hit.

For example in Stud-Eight, many players routinely play uncoordinated low cards with the intention of winning low-only. But consider going the river with A, A, 5, 5, K against an opponent with 2, 3, 5, 7, J. The King on Sixth Street caused you to miss a chance at low, but you have a lock on high. Your opponent is hoping to pick up either an A, 4, 6, or 8 to hit low. Depending on the number cards exposed, that could be as many as 14 outs. But your opponent will only get half the pot if he or she hits, you get the entire pot if he or she misses. Repeat this scenario enough times and you will accrue much more money.

The value of Aces: Compared to high-only poker, Aces have even greater value in high-low games, although not for the usual reasons. Understanding the role of Aces is critical to success. In Hold'em a pair of "bare" Aces is a powerhouse, because it can often win on its own without improvement. In high-low games, bare Aces rarely win without improvement. Many players transitioning from high-only games over value pairs of Aces, and loose money by overplaying them. But Aces are the most important cards in high-low games because they are simultaneously the lowest and highest card in your hand. Having an Ace is the equivalent of having an extra card.

In Omaha High-Low, a starting hand such as A, 2, 3, J, can be part of a nut-low such as A, 2, 3, 4, 5 or a nut-straight A, K, Q, J, 10, depending on the board. In Stud-Eight, an Ace can be part of an Ace-high flush such as A, 3, 4, 5, 6 all in Spades, and these same cards also qualify for a 6-high low. Correct strategy that emphasizes playing coordinated cards that can scoop, relies on the dual capabilities of Aces.

Qualifying for Low: Most high-low forms of poker require that the low hand "qualify." In Stud-Eight and Omaha High-Low, the qualification is that a low-hand must contain five cards with none higher than an eight. If no hand qualifies for low, the high-hand takes the entire pot. It is sometimes possible to know that no hand qualifies for low. In Omaha High-Low, players must use two of their cards to form hands. Low hands are impossible if three cards appear on the board higher than an 8, and in that case, competition is only for the high hand. In Stud-Eight, any player with three exposed cards higher than an 8, cannot have a qualifying low. If all players have three exposed cards higher than an 8, the game reverts to ordinary Seven-Card Stud. But even if a low is possible, that does not guarantee that someone has a qualifying low. Judging when an opponent has a low is an important skill to develop.

Driving players out is not always correct: In high-only poker when you have the best hand, you want to make it expensive for the others to stay and draw out on you. Betting and raising are the usual actions. That is usually the case in high-low games, but not always. If you have a nut-low and are up against a high-hand that you cannot beat or move off the pot, the only way to profit is to keep others in the game. If the other players will cold-call raises, then by all means raise. But, if raising will drive them away, calling is the best play.

Freerolling: This term refers to situations where you can make risk-free bets that will payoff if your hand improves. Freerolls occur in all variants of poker, but the number of freeroll opportunities is much greater in Stud-Eight.

Consider the following situation in Pot-Limit Omaha. You hold A-Spades, Q-Hearts, J-Diamonds, 10-Spades. Your opponent holds A-Diamonds, 3- Diamonds, J-Hearts, 10-Spades. The flop is 9-Spades, 8-Spades, 7-Hearts. Both of you flopped the nuts. But your opponent's hand cannot improve. Yours can improve to the nut-flush, if any Spade hits later on, or a Queen-high straight, if a 10 hits. If a Queen hits you both have Queen-high straights but if it's the Queen of Spades you have made the nut-flush. Your opponent's nut-flush possibility in Diamonds is dead. That means if you raise all-in against each other, the worse that can happen to you is a split-pot where you recover your investment. But, you get two additional cards that might improve your hand so that you can take the entire pot. Your opponent risks his entire stack for half the pot. You risk nothing for a significant chance of taking the entire pot.

Freerolls occur more frequently in Stud-Eight. In high-only Seven-Card Stud, it is difficult to know if you have the nuts. After all, in Seven-Card Stud it is possible for an opponent to have a full house or quads without showing an open pair on the board. But in Stud-Eight it is possible to know if you have the nut-low. That often puts the player with a made nut-low in the drivers seat, with a re-draw to a possible high. Consider having A, 4, 5, 6, 7 against K, 4, 10, 10, K. If this were high-only Seven-Card Stud the player with the open-ended straight would have to call bets from the player with the two-pair in hopes of improving. But, in Stud-Eight the situation is reversed. The player with the two-pair can never make a low-hand and the player with the made low-hand knows that. With the low already made, that player can bet and raise with no risk, because half the pot is assured. If the straight hits and the two-pair do not improve, the entire pot goes to the straight.

The situation in Stud-Eight can get more interesting with multi-way pots. Consider having A, 2, 5, 6, 8 against two opponents with, A, A, J, 10, 10 and Q, 9, 9, Q, 9. Your opponents with well-hidden high hands, might start a raising war that you can encourage with additional re-raises, at no risk to yourself. You know that you get half the pot no matter which high-hand holds up. Put in all the raises you can, because the hand is guaranteed to make you money.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Reasons to Limp-in on Third Street

In the previous post, I concluded that you gain an edge from attacking players who limp-in on Third Street with three low-cards, and fold immediately if hit with a high-card on Fourth Street. That raises the question: Are there situations where it is correct to limp-in on Third Street? As a general rule, open-limping is a weak play. If you intend to play the hand, and have the first opportunity to complete the bet, you should complete and force the players acting later to define their hands. It is also risky to allow the bring-in a free card. However, there are situations when limping has advantages. The situations I will analyze are when you act after multiple limpers, and you (1) hold a live-pair other than Aces (2) hold the lowest hand.

These situations occur frequently in low-limit Seven-Card Stud High-Low (Stud-Eight) games, when it is common for several players to limp-in holding just about anything. These players are hoping for a cheap card on Fourth Street that will somehow improve their mediocre starting cards. As a general rule, completing the bet after these players have limped-in, will not drive them out. Even though they would have folded, if a bet were placed before they had a chance to act, they now feel committed to the hand, and will call, if you bet.

(1) Pairs other than Aces. In Stud-Eight, pairs can present problems because they are a poor start for a low-hand, and in many cases, a poor start for high-hand. Mid-pairs, such as 9s and 10s are almost unplayable against a large field. The hand is unlikely to make low, and stands a good chance of being dominated by for high. A low-pair with a low-kicker, has a better chance of making a low-hand, but a greater chance of being dominated for high-hand. However, rolled-trips are powerful holdings, and in cases when the trips are low, an extremely deceptive holding. Rolled low-trips often look like the best low-hand, when in reality it might be the best high-hand.

Consider a $1-2 Stud-Eight game with a $0.20 ante and a $0.25 bring-in. Eight hands are dealt, and three players limp after the bring-in. You hold a low-pair with a low-kicker and your cards are completely live. Therefore, when it is your turn, the pot has $2.60. If by limping, you end the action, the pot is offering 10 to 1 on your $0.25 payment. What are the odds of making trips? You have seen 10 cards--the three in your hand, plus the other seven door cards. Only two of the remaining 42 unseen cards make trips, so the odds against trips are 20 to 1. However, the implied pots odds are much greater than the current 10 to 1 the pot is paying. If you make trips, a strong possibility exists for you to scoop what could be a $20 to $30 pot. You will have to contribute a minimum of $7 to reach a showdown, but with trips after Fourth Street, you are a heavy favorite.

However, if you complete the bet, instead of limping, your initial pot odds are greatly reduced. If you complete, and the other three players call, you have contributed $1, while the others contributed $4.85. The pot is now paying about 5 to 1, while the possibility of making trips on Fourth Street remains 20 to 1. You need much greater implied pot odds to have an edge compared to the case of limping. And remember, rolled-trips is not a lock, the hand will be outdrawn at times.

This analysis assumes that you will fold on Fourth Street, if your hand does not improve to trips. Against a large field this will often be the case. Limping, followed by a quick fold in the case of no improvement, is a viable strategy in circumstances when aggression will not drive players out. You will almost always need to have strong cards against a large field of limpers, because, in most cases, at least one person will improve, and stay until the end.

(2) Holding the lowest hand. Low-cards, that are unsuited and unconnected, are generally weak starting cards in Stud-Eight. These cards usually compete for just one half of the pot, so the pot odds are greatly reduced in comparison to a hand that can scoop. However, if you are the lowest hand on the board, against a number of players who have limped-in with high cards, it can be worth limping to pick up a cheap Fourth Street card. In this case you are looking to pick up a low-draw, not to make a low-pair. If your low-draw is completely live, there are 20 unknown cards that can help  (the 9 other low cards will pair your hand). In an eight-handed game with seven other door cards, 42 cards remain unseen. You are looking at "coin-flip" chances of picking up a low-draw on Fourth Street--20 out of 42, or 47.6%. However, a low-draw is not yet a qualified low, so you will be investing money on the later streets before you know if the hand has any value. But on later streets, a low-hand against multiple highs, can be a profitable holding because it can freeroll and jam the high hands.

However, limping with low-cards, after multiple players with low cards have also limped, is a questionable play. Even if your hand is the lowest of the lows on Third Street, the numbers of outs that you have to make a "viable" low-draw on Fourth Street is greatly reduced. By "viable," I mean a card that will allow your hand to remain the lowest on the board. Being second-best low is a dangerous position in Stud-Eight. Suppose you limp-in with a 6-high, such as 2, 3, 6. There are only 12 cards that can maintain a 6-high low-draw after Fourth Street (As, 4s, 5s). Even if none of those cards are on the board, chances are that some of the limpers with low door cards, have some of your outs for hole cards. The realistic chances of having a 6-high low-draw after Fourth Street are only about 25%.

In summary, I think there are some situations where late limping is a viable strategy. But, those situations are ones when a questionable holding after Third Street, has a small chance to improve to a powerful holding on Fourth Street. Because the improvement chance is small, the Fourth Street Card should be seen cheaply.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Attacking Third Street Limpers

Of the board games, Seven-Card Stud High-Low (Stud-Eight) attracts the most Third Street limpers. By "limpers," I refer to players who call the bring-in bet, rather than raise to the complete bet allowed by the limit. I am not referring to callers of a completed bet.

Limping is rarely seen in Razz because there is no reason not to show aggression with an exposed low-card. The hole-cards are almost immaterial in the early part of a Razz hand. In Stud-high, limping is seen, but it is generally regarded as a weak play. Even if a starting hand is marginal, aggression should be used early on to force the other players to define their hands.

But, in Stud-Eight, there are certain types of hands in which it is advantageous to entice a large number of competitors, rather than drive opponents out. The ideal situation is a low hand versus two or more high hands. In that situation, the low-hand can jam the others while being assured of half the pot.

As a result, it is common to see many players with three low-cards limping, in the hope that they can pick up a fourth low-card cheaply, and see if the hand develops into the only viable low. Many of these players will make a quick exit if their fourth cards are high.

Of course in poker, any player showing a predictable pattern should be a target. The question is what is the best way to get an edge? Should you attack or limp-in yourself? Here is a mathematical analysis of a typical scenario.


  •  $1-2 Stud-Eight game with a $0.20 ante and $0.25 bring-in. (These limit values are computationally convenient because they scale easily to higher and lower limit games.)
  • You act near the end, and after one player, who has limped-in.
  •  That player has demonstrated a pattern of limping with three low-cards, and only continuing in the event of making a low-pair or low-draw on Fourth Street.
  • The bring-in folds in response to a completion.

Scenario 1: Full table with eight players making antes.

Suppose you attack the limper with a complete bet while holding three low-cards; the bring-in folds and the limper calls. The pot size is the $1.60 in antes, plus the $0.25 bring-in, plus the $2 in bets, for a total of $3.85. You have bet $1 for a chance to win the $2.85 on the table uncontested if your opponent's next card is high. The pot is paying 2.85 to 1. What is your chance of succeeding?

The deck contains 32 low cards and 20 high cards. The minimum number of low cards in play is 7. There are three low-cards in your hand, three for the limper, and the bring-in must have had one low-card exposed to be the bring-in. (If not you or the limper would be the bring-in, because you each have three low-cards.)Your worse case scenario is that the five hands that mucked on Third Street, all had door-cards that were high. That means, that if we total the known and unknown cards, there are 25 low-cards that are unknown, and15 high-cards that are unknown. The chances that an unknown card will be high are 15 out of 40, or 37.5%. That means, the odds against this play succeeding are 1.67 to 1. Because the pot pays 2.85 to 1, the play has a positive expectation. It cost $8 to make this play 8 times, but it brings back $3.85 three times out of eight, for a total of $11.55. We expect to receive back about $1.44 for every $1 invested. The expected value (E. V.) of the bet is $0.44.The edge increases if more low cards are exposed in the five mucked hands.
No. Low-Cards Mucked
Fraction High-Cards Remaining (%)
Odds Against High-Card
E. V.
That means that in the ideal situation of five mucked low-cards, the locations of 12 of the 32 low-cards are known. Because no high-cards are visible, we are getting coin-flip chances on an outcome that pays 2.85 to 1. That is a significant edge.

Scenario 2: Three-player game.

Interestingly, the edge does not go away if the game becomes shorthanded, even though the sum of the antes at stake is smaller. For example, a three-player game would have $1 less in antes in the pot. You would now be wagering $1 to win $1.85. The pot is now paying 1.8 to 1. We still know about the 7 low-cards, but have no information on the high cards. There are now 45 unknown cards. The chances of the play succeeding are 20/45 or 44.4% or 1.25 to 1 odds. In other words, 4 out of 9 times the limper will be hit with a high-card and fold immediately to a Fourth Street bet. You spend $9 making this Third Street-play 9 times, but it wins back 4 times on average, an amount of $2.85, or $11.44 total. You expect to receive back $1.27 for every $1 invested-an E. V. of $0.27.

Of course these calculations assume an idealized situation, in which the bring-in folds, and the limper is completely predictable. Often the bring-in will defend in these situations because he or she has observed the same pattern from the limper. Also, the limper might have a wider range of hands than three low cards. Split or wired-pairs might be included and a quick exit on Fourth Street not planned if he or she has a pair.

But those are all reasons to show aggression and not limp as well. Completing the bet forces the bring-in and the limper to define their hands. If they don't back down on Fourth Street, you will know something is up, and can proceed more cautiously.

In summary, if you see a player exhibiting this pattern, attacking on Third Street will give you an edge. Conversely, if you exhibit the pattern, alert players can gain an edge against your play.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Possible and the Impossible in Seven-Card Stud High-Low Poker

Every variation of poker has conditions on the kinds of hands possible, given the exposed cards (the board) and rules of the game. For example, in Hold'em full houses and quads are possible only if the board is paired. Knowledge of the possible is vital throughout the hand, when deciding to place or call bets. Here is a summary of what is possible and impossible in Seven-Card Stud High-Low.

High Hands

It is possible for a player to have a full house or quads without an exposed pair. The three hidden cards can combine with any one or two of the four exposed cards to make these kinds of hands.

If just two of the four exposed cards have matching suits, a flush is possible.

It is impossible for a player to have a flush when all four exposed cards are in different suits.

It is always possible for a player to have a straight, because the four exposed cards can never be arranged in such a way, that the three hidden cards couldn't fill a gap.

It is impossible for two players to have trips of the same rank. As a result, kickers never play when trips are compared. (The same is true for quads.)

It is possible for two players to have two-pair of identical ranks. In that case, the kickers decide the hand.

Exposed Hands

The following kinds of hands require all five cards and can never be completely exposed on the board:

Full houses
Flushes (including straight-flushes)
Qualified lows (low hands that meet the eight-or-better condition)

The following kinds of hands require less than five cards and can be exposed on the board:


Low Hands

It is impossible for a player with three exposed high cards to have a qualified low.

It is impossible to have a qualified low and a full house or quads

It is impossible to have a qualified low with an exposed low-pair and two high cards. For example, a player with 5, 5, J, K, cannot make low.

For the same reason, it is impossible to have a qualified low with an exposed two-pair, when one of the pairs is high. For example, a player with J, J, 8, 8, cannot make low.

A player with an exposed high-pair and two low cards can have a qualified low-hand. However, the low-hand cannot be better than the highest exposed low card. For example, 9, 9, 7, 3 cannot be better than a 7-high low-hand.

A player with an exposed two-pair, with both pairs low, can have qualified low-hand, but it cannot be better than the rank of the highest pair. For example, 3, 3, 8, 8, cannot make a low-hand better than an 8-high.

It is always possible for a player with two exposed wheel cards to make a wheel. For example, a player with J, J, 2, 5, could have an A, 3, 4 hidden.

Similarly it is impossible to have a low hand better than the two lowest exposed low-cards. For example a player with 8, 7, 6, J exposed, can have at best a 7-6-high low.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Boats and Quads in Stud-Eight

A complaint I've heard from poker players about high-low poker, is that it frustrates them to win little or nothing with a rare monster hand because of the split-pot rule. Competing heads-up with quads against a low hand, generates rake for the house, but no income for the players. This frustrating feature of high-low poker can be especially aggravating in Seven-Card Stud High-Low (Stud-Eight) because holding a full house (boat) or four-of-a-kind (quads) disqualifies the hand from claiming the low pot. In contrast, Omaha High-Low allows the possibility of holding a qualified low and a full house or quads at the same time. Ironically, in Stud-Eight, filling up can actually reduce the monetary value of a hand. If you hold trip 4s with an Ace, 2, 3, 6, you can win the low half of the pot with a 6-high. However, trip 4s with an Ace, 2, 3, 3, means no low hand is possible. If the trip 4s alone are good enough for high, filling up at the end might lose half the pot to another player who qualifies for low.

However, there is a flip side to the split-pot rule. The possibility of a low hand will generate action in many instances that would not have happened otherwise. You can start with rolled-trips in Stud-Eight and have it hold up for high without improvement. However, no one starts with a qualified low. A player competing for the low pot will be on a draw until at least fifth street and sometimes all the way to the river. Many of these draws will not materialize, but the player contributes to the pot on every street. When the draw succeeds a player with quads or a boat feels extremely frustrated. But, had the draw not been possible, no action would have occurred.

In one session of Stud-Eight, I had a sudden run of good cards. In a period covering just ten hands, I received a full house three times. In each case I had just one opponent calling me down. Twice the pot was split netting me nothing, and once I got to scoop. It sounds like little reward for such a great run of cards. But, consider what would have happened in a Seven-Card Stud high-only game. Absolutely no action would have occurred at all. No one holding 2, 3, 4, 7 after fourth street is going to call someone with an exposed pair in a high-only game. In fact, the hands would never have gone on long enough for me to fill up, so I wouldn't even be recalling such a great run of cards.

In multi-way pots with more than one opponent competing for low, if you're lucky enough to be receive a boat or quads early on, you can be hyper-aggressive without driving away action. A decision on whether to slow-play, that players in high-only games must make, is unnecessary. Raising and re-raising can build an enormous pot, of which you might only get half, but again, without the low possibilities your total action might be much less than half of the large pot generated by the competing lows.

You do need to be cautious with big hands when the possibility of being second best arises. It is much more costly to be second best in Stud-Eight than in other limit forms of poker, because simply calling another player down is often not an option. For example, in one hand I played, I started with rolled-trip 6s, followed by a Jack on Fourth Street and a second Jack on Fifth Street. I was confidently betting and raising with my boat against two other players. One player had a Queen for a door card and picked up a pair of 7s on Fourth and Fifth Streets. He respected my raises leading me to believe he had two-pair, Queens and 7s. The other player had three exposed low cards, including the fourth 6, was re-raising, and appeared to have no intention of leaving the hand. Clearly he had a made low hand.

But, on Sixth Street, a second Queen appeared in my opponent's hand, giving him Queens and 7s on the board, that he immediately bet out. The other player raised and now I had to make a decision. It is not possible for my hand to improve to beat his most likely holding, Queens-full. Even though the pot is large, I cannot call him down to be sure. It will cost me eight big-bets to make showdown because if I cold-call the two bets at the moment, he will re-raise and the low will cap it. That same four-bet action will occur again before showdown. I mucked my boat rather than risk getting caught in between a better high and a made low.

My assessment turned out to be correct. But, had it not been correct I would have only lost half of the pot, rather than the entire pot. In a high-only game, holding a boat with the entire pot at stake, and only two-large bets needed because no low hand would be raising, I would have simply called him down.

A full house or better plays differently in Seven-Card Stud High-Low than in high-only Seven-Card Stud. Yes, it is frustrating to split large pots when you have such a powerful hand, but you will get action that you otherwise might not have had. You need to stay alert to the reasons for that action and keep out of the middle between a possibly better high hand and made low hand.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Terminology for Seven-Card Stud High-Low

Seven-Card Stud High-Low Eight or Better Poker is one of the most complex, intricate and least understood variations of poker. For those reasons it is a profitable game to master. This Blog will be an ongoing discussion of the strategies and tactics of this game that I will refer to simply as “Stud-Eight.” This short form makes the most sense to me because it is the “E” from the word eight that is used in acronyms for mixed-game poker formats to represent this high-low variation of Seven-Card Stud. Mixed-game poker competitions have become more popular recently. The $50,000 HORSE championship at the World Series of Poker is eclipsing the no-limit Texas Hold’em event in prestige. In the HORSE acronym: H=Hold’em, O=Omaha High-Low Eight or Better, R=Razz, S=Seven-Card Stud, and E=Seven-Card Stud High-Low Eight or Better.My first post is a brief overview of the terminology I will use in writing about Stud-Eight. A more extensive glossary of terms can be found at StudHighLow.com.

Poker, like all other activities, has a technical jargon that allows its participants to concisely communicate situations, actions and ideas. As with any jargon, it is gibberish to the uninitiated even though the words often have simple meanings. Poker vocabulary is extensive and cryptic at times. However, because it simplifies the writing I will make frequent use of some terms that describe key ideas in Stud games and High-Low games in particular. The terms explained below are used throughout the site.

The seven-card games of Seven-Card Stud (high-only wins) Stud-Eight (high and low split the pot), and Razz (low-only wins) all begin with each player being dealt three cards—two down and one exposed. The exposed card is referred to as the “door card” and determines the player forced to make the “bring-in” bet. In Seven-Card Stud and Stud-Eight the low door card has the bring-in while in Razz it is the high card that must bring-in.

In the rare event that all three cards are of the same rank, the three-of-a-kind or “trips” are said to be “rolled.” A more common event is for the first three cards to include two of the same rank or a “pair.” If the pair includes the door card it is a “split-pair.” If the two down cards or “hole cards” are paired it is a “wired-pair.”

Consider having three cards that include a pair. If you randomly turn one over, two out of three times you will split the pair and the other one-third of the time you will be left with a wired-pair. That means a pair is two times more likely to be split than wired. As a result, when a player bets to represent a pair, the opponents will usually assume that it is the door card that is paired.

On later streets a player can obtain an “exposed pair” and if the exposed pair includes the door card opponents will consider trips as a possible holding. Wired pairs are a less likely and more valuable holding because no one will know the rank and it is possible to make trips without an exposed pair.

Starting cards with sequential ranks such as 3, 4, 5, are said to be “connected.” It is better to hold connected cards because these are much more likely to complete a straight than cards that have “gaps.” If you have 3, 5, 6, you must pick up a 4 to have an open-ended straight-draw. But with 3, 4, 5 you have eight cards available, known as “outs” to improve to an open-ended straight draw that will then give you eight additional outs to complete the straight. Sequential cards can also improve to pairs or even trips later on. For 3, 4, 5 you also have nine outs to improve to pair which would then give you a draw to trips or two pair. All total with sequential cards you have 17 outs to improve to a draw for a powerful high.

Starting cards with large gaps have fewer outs available for improvement. Any three starting cards can make a straight, but a hand such as 2, 8, K needs to pick up a 9, 10, J, Q and nothing else for the remaining four cards to straighten.

The number outs needed to improve a hand depends on the exposed cards in other hands known as the “board.” This is a major difference of Stud games compared to flop games such as Hold’em and Omaha where the cards on the board belong to all players. In Stud games cards on the board in other hands will never be part of your hand. That means in counting outs you have to subtract off the exposed cards that would help your hand but are “dead.” An accurate subtraction often requires memory of exposed cards in previously folded (“mucked”) hands. If none of the outs necessary for your hand to improve are exposed your hand is said to be “live.” The longer your hand remains live the better because as more cards are exposed the fewer cards that remain in the deck are more likely to include the cards you need.

A hand that cannot be beat by any of the other players is referred to as the “nuts.” In split pot games it is possible to have a nut-low and a nut-high. Because of the manner in which cards are exposed it is much easier to know if you have a nut-low. Any player with three exposed high cards cannot have a qualifying low. It is much more difficult to know if you have nut-high because your opponent’s three unexposed cards could all be of the same rank, or suit, or be sequential and complete a powerful high with one or more of the four exposed cards.

In Stud-Eight the cards ranked A, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 7, 8 are referred to as the “low cards” and 9, 10, J, K, Q, A are the “high cards” . The low versus high distinction is a result of the rules that requires a low hand to “qualify” for the low pot by having no card in it higher than an eight. Notice that the Ace is a special card because it is simultaneously the best low card and the best high card. That dual role makes Aces in split-pot games even more valuable than in high-only games because it is equivalent to having an extra eighth card in your hand. The low cards also have added value because they can simultaneously be part of high and low hands. The high cards present problems because they can only work “one-way.”

The dual nature of the low cards is best seen in the hand A, 2, 3, 4, 5 known as the “bicycle” usually shortened to “wheel.” This is the best possible low hand or “nut-low” and it is guaranteed a share of the low pot because the best another player competing for low could do is have another wheel to split the low pot. At the same time the hand competes for the high pot as a five-high straight. The five-lowest cards are referred to as “wheel cards.” The ideal hand in Stud-Eight would be a “steel wheel” which is A, 2, 3, 4, 5 all in the same suit. This hand is both the nut-low and a 5-high straight flush that would defeat any full house or quads for the high pot.

A hand that is viable for just one-half of the pot is a “one-way hand.” A starting hand of K, K, J is a one-way hand for high because it is impossible for it to ever qualify for low. A hand such as 2, 5, 7 is usually played as a one-way hand for low although it is possible that such a hand could “back in” to a high hand with the right additional cards. The ideal in split pot games is to compete simultaneously for both halves of the pot. Winning the high pot and the low pot is known as a “scoop.” The big money in Stud-Eight comes from scooping. It is usually best to play hands that have a reasonable chance of scooping.

A “kicker” is a card that is not part of a grouping. If you have 9, 9, 7 you have a pair of nines with a seven kicker. In Hold’em kickers are important cards because the use of community cards mean that players often share the same pair and in those cases it is the kicker that decides the winner. In Seven-Card Stud, kickers are less important because two players with the same pair is a rare event. Also some groupings possible in Hold’em, such as shared trips or quads, are impossible in Seven-Card Stud.

However, in Stud-Eight kickers are important cards because they determine the likelihood of scooping. A hand of A, A, 2 (pair of Aces with a 2 kicker) is much more likely to make low than A, A, 9 (pair of Aces with a 9 kicker) and the Aces are a powerful start for high. Even if the kicker won’t make low it can threaten low and put pressure on the other players.

You will not win at poker unless you place bets. Checking and calling is needed in some circumstances but if that is all you do you will lose. Part of the reason for this is that bets have a “fold equity.” When you bet, the other players are forced to make decisions. Folding could be an outcome of that decision and if everyone folds, you win.

Jamming refers to the act of betting or raising with the intention of re-raising if the action returns to you. If you raise each time you have the opportunity you are “jamming” your opponents. Stud-Eight has more jamming than any other form of poker because in many cases it can be done free of risk. If you have a made low and are up against one or more players with three exposed high cards there is no reason not to jam the others if given the opportunity. The most common jamming situation is a made low and a monster high such as a full house or quads jamming a third player with a strong but second-best holding. A person with a straight or flush in these situations can be cleaned out if not careful. This is an important difference between Stud-Eight and Stud-high. If you hold a flush in Stud-high you might check and call down some one you suspect has a full house. In Stud-Eight you are better off getting out of the hand in that situation. Remember that even if your hand holds up you will only win half of the pot. The pot odds are not in your favor.

Freerolling refers to the ability to make risk-free bets while drawing for the entire pot. This concept is explained on the page “Unique Features of Stud-Eight.” It is not unique to Stud-Eight because you will find freeroll possibilities in other poker variants. Consider a Hold’em hand with two players in which one holds 6s, 7s, and the other 6d, 7d. The flop is 3s, 4s, 5c. Both players hold the nut-straight but only player can improve to a flush on the later streets. If the players go “all-in” against each other the player with the 6s, 7s is on a freeroll. She cannot lose because the worse that can happen is that she will split the pot. But, if a third Spade hits she wins the entire pot.

Freeroll situations are rare in Hold’em, more common in Omaha, but routine in Stud-Eight. A player with the best qualifying low after 5 or 6 cards and a lock on half the pot, often has opportunities to back into a high hand and claim the other half. Any small pair could improve to trips, a four-flush could become a flush, or an inside straight-draw could hit. There is nothing a high hand can do to “protect” his holdings.

Bricks are cards that do not improve a hand in anyway. A beautiful looking start such as 2-Diamond, 3-Diamond, 4-Diamond, 5-Diamond, that is followed by J-Club, 9-Club, K-Spade, has been hit with bricks and needs to be mucked (folded) at the end.