How to Play:

Seven-Card Stud High-Low Eight or Better

(Stud-Eight) Poker

The object of poker is to accumulate money. As in any variation of poker, money is obtained by winning the pot—all the bets made during the course of a hand. The difference in high-low variations of poker is that the pot is divided into two halves—the high pot and the low pot. It is possible for a player to win one or both of the halves.

There are three ways to win both pots:

• Be the last remaining player. During the play of a hand, players will fold and forfeit their interest in the pot. The last remaining player wins both pots.

• Have the highest-ranked hand when no other player has a qualifying low hand. If more than one player remains after the last round of betting, there is a showdown. All remaining players show the contents of their hands. In high-low variations of poker with qualifiers, such as Stud-Eight, a hand may not win the low pot if it contains any card ranked higher than an 8. In the event that no hand qualifies for low, the player with the highest-ranked hand wins both pots.

• Have both the highest ranked hand and the lowest qualifying hand. In Stud-Eight, players have up to seven cards to use. It is possible to construct a five-card combination ranked the highest and a different five-card combination that qualifies and ranks lowest. Sometimes the same five-card combination will rank high and low at the same time. In these instances the player wins both the high and low pots based on the ranking of his or her high and low hands.

In many instances the high and low pots will be awarded to two or more different players. These are the scenarios:

• Two or more players have the same highest-ranked hands at showdown and no low qualifies. The high and low pots are combined and divided equally among the winning players. This is identical to what happens in high-only poker when two or more players have the same winning hand.

• One player has the best high hand and another player has the best qualifying low hand. The high and low pots are awarded separately to the respective players.

• One player has the highest-ranked hand and two or more players have the same best qualifying low hand. The player with the highest hand wins the entire high pot. The low pot is divided equally among the players with the best low hand. Sometimes the player that wins the entire high pot might also win part of the low pot.

• Two or more players have the same highest-ranked hand and one player has the best qualifying low hand. This is the complement of the previous situation. The players with the same high hands divide the high pot. The low pot is awarded to the player with the best low hand. Sometimes the player that wins the entire low pot might also win part of the high pot.

It is also possible and it does happen that two ore more players divide the high pot and two or more players divide the low pot. Again it is possible for one or more players to have a share in each pot. Accounting in high-low poker can get complicated at times—more so in Omaha High-Low because of community cards than in Stud-Eight where each player has separate cards. Understanding how pots can be divided and possibly subdivided is critical to correct decision making.

High Hands in Stud-Eight

The same five-card combinations used in high-only poker also apply in high-low games. Those combinations in order of rank from highest to lowest are summarized below.

Descriptions and Examples for High Hands in Seven-Card Stud High-Low Poker
Hand Description Example
Straight-flush Five sequential cards of the same suit 3Diamond 4Diamond 5Diamond6Diamond7Diamond
Four-of-a-Kind (Quads) Four cards of the same rank 9Club 9Diamond 9Heart 9SpadeJClub
Full House (boat) Three cards of one rank, two cards of a different rank AClub ADiamond ASpade 3Diamond3Club
Flush Five cards of the same suit AClub QClub 9Club 5Club2Club
Straight Five sequential cards with different suits 5Heart 6Spade 7Club8Diamond 9Spade
Three-of-a-Kind (Trips) Three cards of the same rank with two other un-paired cards 6Spade 6Heart 6Diamond 8Diamond 10Spade
Two Pair Two cards of one rank, two cards of a different rank, one unmatched card 5Club 5Diamond 7Heart 7Spade KSpade
Pair Two cards of the same rank with three unmatched cards KClub KDiamond 7Heart 5Diamond 2 Diamond

In the event none of these combinations is present the hand with the highest-ranked card wins. If two hands have the same highest ranked card, the second highest-ranked cards are compared and so forth. The lowest high-ranked card indicates the lowest hand.

Aces are special cards in high-low games because an Ace is simultaneously the highest-ranked high card and lowest-ranked low card. This leads to the definition of a qualifying low hand.

Low Hands in Stud-Eight

In Stud-Eight a low hand must “qualify” to win the low pot. In contrast, the game of Razz awards the entire pot to the lowest hand with no conditions attached. To qualify for low a a hand must contain five cards with none paired and none ranked higher than an 8. For example: 8, 5 4, 2, A and 7, 6, 4, 3, 2 are qualifying low hands. A hand such as 9, 4, 3, 2, A does not qualify for low. When comparing low hands, the high cards are compared first. Therefore 8, 4, 3, 2, A would loose to 7, 6, 4, 3, 2. When high cards match the second highest cards are compared and so on until there is a discrepancy. For example 8, 7, 4, 3, 2 would loose to 8, 6, 4, 3, 2 and 8, 6, 4, 3, A would beat 8, 6, 4, 3, 2. If all cards in two or more qualifying low hands match, the players split the low pot.

Straights and flushes do not disqualify a hand from low. As a result the best possible low hand is 5, 4, 3, 2, A, a hand that could also compete for the high pot as a 5-high straight. A hand such as A, 2, 4, 5, 7 all in spades could compete as an Ace-high flush for the high pot and 7-high low for the low pot. Players of high-only poker dream of the “royal flush” (Ace-high straight flush) as the ultimate best hand. In high-low games the dream hand is the “steel wheel” which is an A, 2, 3, 4, 5 all in the same suit. Simultaneously it serves as the best possible low hand and a 5-high straight flush.

Betting in Stud-Eight

Stud-Eight is dealt exactly like Seven-Card Stud. Each hand has five rounds of betting. At the start of a hand, each player antes an amount equal to about one-fifth of a small bet. That means in $2-4 Stud-Eight each ante is $0.40. Then three cards are dealt to each player with the first two down and the third up. The player with the lowest exposed card must bet about one-fourth of a small bet—$0.50 in a $2-4 game—known as the “bring-in.” The bring-in can also “complete” the bet to the lower limit ($2 in a $2-4 game). The bring-in is a forced bet while completing is an optional action.

If the bring-in chooses not to complete, the options for player to the left of the bring-in are to fold, call the bring-in (limp), or “complete” the bet. Action moves to the left with each player in turn faced with the same options. If no one calls the bring-in the entire pot, consisting of all the antes and the bring-in bet, is awarded to the player who made the forced bring-in bet. If one or more player call the bring-in but no one completes, the bring-in cannot act again until the next round of betting.

If any player completes, the options for the players acting afterwards are to fold, call the complete bet, or raise in an increment equal to the small bet ($2 in a $2-4 game). Action returns to the bring-in who can choose to fold, make up the difference between the bring-in and complete bet ($1.50 in a $2-4 game) or raise. Players who called the bring-in must act with the same set of choices.

When the first round of betting is complete, a fourth card (Fourth Street) is dealt face-up to all the players who chose to remain in the hand. The player with the highest-ranked exposed cards is first to act. That player can check, or bet an amount equal to one small bet (($2 in a $2-4 game). Players again act in turn starting to the left of player acting first. If first player chooses to check, the next player has the same choice to check or bet and so on. Once any player bets the choices are to fold, call or raise.

Fourth Street betting in Stud-Eight differs from Seven-Card Stud in one important respect. In Seven-Card Stud, if any player has an exposed pair all players have an additional betting option. Players can make small bets ($2) or big bets ($4) on Fourth Street and may raise in small-bet or big-bet increments. In Stud-Eight the additional betting option for exposed pairs on fourth-street does not exist.

After Fourth Street betting is complete, a fifth card (Fifth Street) is dealt face-up to all the remaining players. Action proceeds in the same manner as on Fourth-Street with the player holding the highest-ranked exposed cards acting first. However, on Fifth Street all bets and raises must be in increments of the big-bet (($4 in a $2-4 game).

The player acting first on Fifth Street might be different than the player acting first on fourth street because the additional card can change the relative ranking of the exposed cards. The changing of position as cards are exposed is a feature of all Stud games. In contrast, relative position in flop games like Omaha or Hold’em is fixed throughout the hand.

When Fifth Street action is complete a sixth card—Sixth Street—is dealt face-up to the remaining players. A fourth round of betting at the level of the big-bet proceeds, again starting with the player with the highest ranked exposed cards.

The seventh and last (river) card is dealt face down. That means the relative position of the players on Sixth Street remains in place for the final round of betting. The last betting round is at the level of the big-bet. In contrast to limit Hold’em and Omaha that have two betting rounds at the level of the big bet, all stud games have three big bet rounds.

When the last round of betting—Seventh Street—is complete, there is a showdown if more than one player remains. If no low hand qualifies, the high hand wins the entire pot. If there are qualifying low hands, the best high hand and best low hand split the pot. It is possible for a player to win the entire pot by having the best low and the best high.