Seven-card stud, eight-or-better high/low split, which I’ll call
7-Stud/8 for simplicity’s sake, is a game that’s rapidly
growing in popularity, particularly in Southern California. It’s
also become a popular tournament event in recent years.
In the $20 - $40 game I’ll be describing, each player antes three
dollars, and the low card must bring it in with a forced, first bet
of five dollars — although the low card may, if he wishes, open
for $20. The game is also played with an “action button.”
When a player scoops a pot that’s $150 or larger, he must post
a blind raise of twenty dollars, in addition to his ante, at the start
of the next hand. It is not a kill-pot; the stakes are not doubled.
It is simply a blind raise, albeit one with some interesting implications.
The “action raise” is also the first raise permitted. Suppose
the low card brings it in for five dollars. Players seated between the
forced bring-in and the action button must either call the five dollar
bring-in or fold. They cannot raise. Of course, anyone seated between
the bring-in and the action button who called for five dollars will
also call the raise when the action gets back around to them.
With the action button in play big pots often result. If there’s
an ace showing that’s scheduled to act after the forced raise,
there is a good chance of a reraise, making it $40 to go on third street.
Anyone who called for five dollars usually calls the reraise too, since
the presence of an ace behind the action button presumably would have
alerted the five-dollar caller that it might cost $40 to see the next
card — instead of the fifteen additional dollars required to call
the action button’s forced raise. As a result, five-dollar callers
in this situation are likely to have good hands.
After that first, forced raise, the action button has no effect on
the play, and the highest board acts first on succeeding rounds. Like
other forms of high-low split poker, 7-stud/8’s conventional wisdom
is to play for low with hands that have two-way possibilities. While
that wisdom is true much of the time, it is not always the case, and
we’ll point out exceptions to this rule as we go along.
With that in mind, you should have an idea about what some of the better
starting hands might be. If you hope to start with two-way hands, you
can’t do much better than 3-4-5. Not only do you have three low
cards, but you’ve got straight potential on both sides, and any
ace, deuce, six or seven on the next card will significantly improve
your hand. If you’re fortunate enough to start with 3h-4h-5h you
have a hand that can improve to a flush as well as a straight or a low.
Even if you catch a card like Jh, you’ve improved. Now you have
four to a flush, and although the jack does nothing for your possibilities
of making a low hand, you’re not dead either. That fourth heart
keeps you in the hunt, and if the next card is, for example, the 7c,
you’ve got a draw to a low along with your flush draw —
and two chances to get there.
Suppose you catch the Ah on sixth street. What could be better? You’ve
made an ace high heart flush and a seven-five for low. Now you can raise
with impunity. If you’ve got two or three opponents who look like
they’re going low, you will probably take the high side, and may
scoop it all. If your opponents all appear to be going high, you will
win the low end and still stand a good chance of scooping. While you
don’t have the absolute nuts in either direction, you ought to
feel very confident with a hand like this. In fact, with two or more
opponents your half of the pot should be quite healthy, particularly
if you’ve been able to continue raising your opponents —
all of whom are contesting the other end of the pot. If you are able
to scoop, you’ll be stacking chips for the next two hands. When
you’ve got a lock on one end of the pot and are freerolling toward
the other, you can really some money whenever you’re lucky enough
Big hands, however, are not always big money makers, and that’s
often frustrating. You might be dealt wired kings, catch the fourth
king on the next card against one opponent who is obviously drawing
for low. You can bet and raise to the hilt, yet when all the shouting’s
done, you’ll each come away splitting only the antes and the forced
bring-in if he makes a low hand. In a full game, you’ll chop $24
in antes, minus the $3 drop, plus a $5 bring in. That’s a profit
of $13 — not much of a return on four-of-a-kind, endlessly raised,
When you make a two-way hand that figures to have a lock on at least
one side, you can — and should — jam the pot at every opportunity.
You‘ll scoop if you get lucky, and whenever there are multiple
opponents, each dollar you bet generates a profit even when you split
The flip side of this is also true. You must avoid situations where
you are the one being sliced and diced. You can’t avoid this entirely.
Sometimes you will find yourself against two or three opponents, all
of whom are going high while you are going low. There’s no guarantee
you’ll make that low, however, and you may wind up calling all
the way to the river only to fold your hand. I can’t tell you
how many times I’ve started with four cards to a six or seven
low, only to catch three bricks in succession and have to throw my hand
away on the river. That’s a quality draw with no competition for
that end of the pot, but when you bust all the way to the river, there’s
nothing you can do about it.
On the other hand, you can avoid situations where your draw to one
side of the pot is not the best one. If you play this game for awhile,
you’ll see players drawing to an eight low against opponents who
are drawing to a low that’s obviously better. When both players
make their hand, the eight suffers for his indiscretion.
But 7-stud/8 is filled with twists and turns, and that’s what
makes it such an exciting game. It’s the made hand versus the
big draw; it’s going into the river with a two-way draw; it’s
starting out low and finishing high; it’s freerolling to a scoop;
and it’s the frustrations of making big hands that chop the antes
when your opponent takes the other half of the pot.
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