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.

No comments:

Post a Comment