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DRIVING & BRAKING IN 7-STUD/8


by: Lou Krieger

The objective in 7-stud/8, or any hi-low split game for that matter, is to scoop the pot. After all, if you have a one-way low hand and are heads-up against a single opponent with an obvious high, you’re only going to split the antes, along with whatever dead money may already be in the pot, regardless of how much betting and raising takes place. While you will show a profit anytime you’ve captured one side of a multi-way pot, big payoffs come from scooping, not chopping.

Sometimes you’ll scoop by making a two-way hand — a wheel, or any low straight stands a terrific chance of scooping, as does the relatively rare and wonderfully nicknamed “flushy-low.” Even two pair with a low is frequently enough to scoop a fairly big pot. Most of the time, however, you’ll be playing a one-way hand, and when you are, the only way to scoop is to eliminate opponents who are heading in the other direction.

This brings up some interesting strategic concepts, depending on whether you are holding a high hand or a low one, and whether it is early or late in the hand. If you’re dealt a big pair early, you have a hand; but if you start with three low cards, all you have is a draw — and as good as it looks, there’s always a chance that it might never get there. If three of your next four cards are nines or higher — bananas, in 7-stud/8 parlance — you will have missed your low unless you were fortunate enough to back into a miraculous high hand.

But if you make the only low hand by fifth or sixth street, and have a chance to improve to a high hand too, you have half the pot won against opponents who hold high-only hands, and you can bet or raise with complete safety. If you get lucky and make a straight, or any other good high hand to complement your low, you stand a good chance of scooping the pot. What’s more, the high side play is a complete freeroll as long as you hold the best possible low hand.

Are you beginning to see the strategic elements fall into place? If you have a high hand, you need to bet and raise early and often to make it as expensive as possible for any low draw to play against you. After all, you want to avoid splitting the pot. You’d also like to avoid the indignity of an opponent’s low draw swinging high and scooping the entire pot right out from under your nose.

The only way to ensure a scoop is for the low draw to release his hand. But he’s not going to release that draw of his own accord; you must induce him to do so. Apart from a board that looks like a vastly superior low to the one he’s holding, the only way to accomplish this is to bet at him, or raise when he bets. Remember, before fifth street, it’s impossible for your opponent to have a low hand. He may have a terrific draw, but it’s still a draw, not a made hand — and even a single high pair is the better hand at that juncture.

From a practical standpoint, you‘ll find it nearly impossible to force an opponent to release a low draw unless he catches a banana of fourth or fifth street. If he does, and you come out betting, he has to consider that the odds against his completing a low hand have just escalated, and drawing for half a pot might start looking like the losing proposition it usually is.

Sometimes you won’t always be so lucky. You can bet and if your opponent calls and keeps catching babies, he’s probably going to complete his low hand. If you bet and he raises on fifth or sixth street with a low board showing, you can be certain he’s made a low hand and is either freerolling for a high hand, or worse yet, already has a better high hand than yours, and a low one too.

Once you suspect your opponent of making a low hand, you need to stop driving and apply the brakes. If you have a high hand that has no low possibilities, you are shooting for half the pot at best. At worst, you will get scooped. Since that’s the case, what earthly reason could you have for investing another cent in the pot. The best you can do is break even — which will happen most of the time — but occasionally you’ll lose the entire pot. If I’ve got a made low and you have a high hand and are foolish enough to bet, I’m going to raise every chance I get. I have nothing to lose. I have a lock on half the pot and some chance of scooping. There’s no way to avoid feeling somewhat foolish when you bet and the best you can do is break even. And you’ll feel very foolish on those occasions when your opponent backs his made low into a good high, raises your river bet, and says “... flushy low” when you turn over your two pair or set!

There’s more to 7-stud/8 than this, but if you’re a new player, keep these points firmly in mind: When you have a high hand, drive it until fifth street, or until it appears your opponent has made a low. Then apply the brakes. If you have a low hand, draw inexpensively — unless, of course, you are the sole low draw against two or three high hands. If that’s the case, you might want to fire a raise or two into the pot if you start with three low cards and catch another baby on fourth street. After all, some of those hands contesting the high side will probably fold later in the hand, and you want to get as much money from them while you have the opportunity. After all, 7-stud/8 is a game that requires a certain amount of gambling, and situations like these — where the pot odds look like they will exceed the odds against making your hand — are prime gambling opportunities.

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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