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
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
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.
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