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Texas Holdem Poker


by: Lou Krieger

Previously, we took our first look at seven-card stud eight-or-better high-low split (which we’ve abbreviated as 7-stud/8), discussed the game structure and examined some of the more desirable starting hands.

What makes a desirable starting hand? Generally they are hands with two-way possibilities that allow you to scoop a big pot when you get lucky with them. The example we discussed last time, 3h-4h-5h is a perfect starting hand. It begins with three cards to a wheel — the very best possible low — yet it can easily become a high hand too, by making either a straight or a flush. If you get extremely lucky, you might even make a straight flush. Most starting hands are not in that league. Not by a long shot. Still, there are many others that are very playable.

Ace Hands:
An ace showing on third street is guaranteed to give pause to your opponents. Aces are like two cards in one, since they’re simultaneously the highest and the lowest card in the deck. When you’re showing an ace your opponent has no idea whether you are going high or low. If your hole cards are 6-5, you’re working on a very good low. On the other hand, if you have another ace in the hole, you have the highest hand at that point unless one of your opponents was dealt three wired cards — and that’s very unlikely.

If you continue to catch low cards, your opponent will assume you are drawing to a low hand. If you catch a high card and continue to contest the pot, your opponent won’t know whether you have only a pair of aces, paired one of your hole cards and now have two pair, or simply caught a brick and are chasing the field for the low side.

Suppose you start with 6-5/A, catch a trey on fourth street, and then pair your ace on fifth street. Now your opponent must take a very hard look at his own hand. He sees that you’ve paired aces, and has to consider the possibility that you’re holding three of them. He also has to think about four to a good low along with a pair of aces as a valid possibility. If you’re holding this kind of hand against a lone opponent, you stand an excellent chance of scooping the pot. Aces are not only the most potent cards in this game; they are also the most powerful scare cards you can hold.

Another excellent starting hand is two aces with a low card, and it’s even better whenever the low card is a deuce through five (a wheel card), and suited to one of your aces. In this case it does not matter too much whether you have an ace or deuce showing, although if you show a deuce, catch a few low cards and then connect with a third ace, your opponents will never suspect that you are going high. Now if you pair your board, your opponents will think you’ve blanked on your low draw, when in reality you’ve made a full house.

The profit potential is huge whenever your opponents think you are going in one direction, and you’re actually headed in the other. Suppose two other players; one going high and the other obviously holding a low hand, contested this pot. The player going high will think you have a low hand too, and will continue to raise the pot, since he believes he will get half of it while leaving the two of you to fight over the low end. And you will keep reraising, knowing that your aces-full is the best high hand. You will win half of a very large pot, and if your other opponent fails to make his low, you’ll scoop a monster.

You’ll find that most of your opponents will play an ace with any two low cards, even if they are very rough. How playable is a hand like 8-7-A? The answer is that old reliable: “It depends.” And what it depends on is the quality of your opponents’ draws. If you have an eight on board with an ace and a seven in the hole, and your opponents are all showing high cards other than an ace, it is obvious that you are the only one going low, and if you make your hand you will probably take half the pot. But if other low cards are showing you are faced with an entirely different problem. No longer are you concerned only with making a low; the issue now is making the best low. It doesn’t do any good to draw against two other opponents going low when they are each drawing to a better hand.

One of the problems with Razz-type low hands is that they cannot easily make a high hand unless you are fortunate enough to make two pair with an eight low, or a flush with your low. But you cannot make a straight, and that substantially reduces your chances to scoop. It doesn’t necessarily render your hand unplayable, but it does limit you to playing for one end of the pot only. When you set off down that road, you should make sure you are the only one headed in that direction.

Any ace showing on third street is a potential killer when you hold a Razz-type low. Not only does it look to be a better low than yours, it is also a better high. That ace has surrounded you, and regardless of the direction you are heading, it’s probably uphill. If you are up against a lone opponent showing an ace, he can scoop or split the pot. Your Razz-type low, on the other hand, will either split the pot or be scooped. Confrontations like this can cost an enormous amount of money that needn’t be lost. You’re better off folding one-way hands unless the pot odds and board cards justify continuing with them.

Since the ace is both a low and a high card, holding one is like having an extra card;. It’s almost like playing eight cards against your opponent’s seven. But as strong as an ace is, not every ace hand is playable. A hand like 9-8-A is utterly worthless. You probably won’t win no matter which way you go, and you most assuredly are not ahead right now. You’ll find more than enough hands to play in 7-stud/8, so do yourself a favor: Even when your ace is smiling out at the world, toss it away whenever your hole cards are dogs.

7 Card Stud Articles by Lou Krieger

This is where you can find all articles relating to 7 Card Stud.

Introduction to 7 Card Stud - Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4 / Part 5 / Part 6 / Part 7

An Ace and an Action Button - 7 Card Stud is often played with an Action Button learn more.

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