Unique Features of:

Seven-Card Stud High-Low Eight or Better

(Stud-Eight) Poker

The rules of Stud-Eight allow for some unique betting scenarios that are not found in Seven-Card Stud. Some of these scenarios occur in other forms of poker, especially Omaha High-Low, but are more common in Stud-Eight. Here are three important consequences of the Stud-Eight rules to know.

Nut lows and nut highs. In contrast to flop games, it is much more difficult for a player in a Stud game to know when he or she has a high hand that cannot be beat (nut-high hand). That is because in Stud games it is possible for a player to have a full house or quads without an exposed pair on the board—a scenario that is impossible in a flop game. Completely ruling out flushes is also difficult because all four of a player’s exposed cards must be of different suits to make a flush impossible. In Stud, to be absolutely certain that you have the nut-high you need quads with a rank higher than any of your opponent’s exposed cards and know that a straight flush is not possible—conditions that are extremely rare to say the least. In some situations, you can also rule out on the basis of cards exposed in other hands, particular flushes, full house and quad combinations. Reading the board for high hands is much more complicated in Stud games than it is in flop games and requires comparing multiple hands, including memorization of the content of previously folded hands.

However, in Stud-Eight, knowledge of the best possible low (nut-low) occurs frequently. Suppose after Fifth Street you have a qualifying low and all of your opponents each have three exposed cards higher than an 8. It is not possible for anyone else to make low, thus guaranteeing you half of the pot. In some instances it might still be possible for opponents to make a qualifying low but impossible to beat your low hand. Imagine after Fifth Street you have a 6-high low and an opponent is showing 8, K, J. With two cards to come the best low your opponent can make is an 8-high. Your 6-high will not be beaten for low. While it possible for the holder of a low to know it’s the nut-low, it is impossible for opponents to know for certain if anyone at the table even has qualifying low. That is because all five cards are necessary for a low hand and only four are exposed. In contrast it is possible for a person with quads to have all four cards exposed rendering the fifth card irrelevant.

The rules of Stud-Eight make low hands especially powerful holdings. The holder of a low hand can know for certain if it’s the nut low while opponents cannot know for certain if that player even has a qualifying low. Players with the best high hand often find themselves with uncomfortable decisions to make. Checking to a player showing exposed low cards risks giving a free card that could make low if that player has not made low already. But, betting and raising risks committing money to the pot that at best will return, at worse will be lost if the player with a made low improves to a better high.

Freerolling: Stud-Eight provides more opportunities to freeroll than any other variation of poker. “Freerolling” refers to the ability to make bets and raises that cannot lose but have the potential to win. For example, consider having Ac, 2c, 3c, 5c, 6d against an opponent showing 8d, 9h, 10s on the board. The best low your opponent can make is an 8-high, so your hand is the nut-low. Half the pot is guaranteed to be yours no matter what high hand your opponent has. In the mean time your hand has many ways to improve to a strong high—any club gives you an Ace-high flush and any 4 a six-high straight. At worse any money you put into the pot comes back to you; at best you have the possibility of taking everything. If the game was Seven-Card Stud, there is a risk to betting and raising because your four-flush might not complete. But, in Stud-Eight you can bet and raise as much as the rules allow without risk.

Freerolling can be especially profitable in multi-way pots when the other players have strong high hands that they are committed to at all cost. Two or more players, who can each beat a low straight with a higher straight, flush, or full house, might be willing to bet, raise, and re-raise against each other. A player with a nut-low can egg-on the action and pickoff half of the money going into the pot with absolutely no risk. Sometimes players with two-pair or trips are willing to raise and re-raise. In these cases the player the nut-low can freeroll for the entire pot if a low straight is possible.

Freerolls are golden opportunities in Stud-Eight. If it appears that the possibility to freeroll could arise, it sometimes justifies staying in a hand longer because the implied pot odds are so great. (See the next Chapter for an explanation of implied pot odds). It is also important to recognize when your opponent is freerolling against you. That situation could justify folding a promising hand sooner.

Importance of exposed low cards: The ability to freeroll with low hands makes even the threat of a made nut-low especially powerful. It is common after Fifth Street for players to check to anyone exposing three low cards because betting into a made low is a dangerous play. It is also common for players with three exposed low cards to raise even if a low has not been made. Aggressive raising with low cards can thin the field and make it more probable for hand that missed low but made two small pair to win high. Sometimes powerful high hands, such as rolled trip 4s look like a low hand if low cards hit on later streets. Players with high hands might raise in an attempt to drive out a hand they read as a low when in fact they are raising into a better high hand.

In contrast, a player with exposed high cards has more limited options because there is less uncertainty about that player’s intentions. A player with a K, Q, J exposed, will never compete for low. That greatly reduces the range of hands opponents will put that player on. That player cannot disguise high hands as low hands or easily freeroll. Without exposed low cards it is difficult to be credibly aggressive unless your hand is a true monster. Even though exposed high hands act first in Stud-Eight, often the exposed low hands call the shots.

The results of these betting scenarios that the Stud-Eight rules allow are dramatic confrontations on the later streets as high hands seek to protect their claims on the entire pot while low hands look for opportunities to maximize the low half or possibly freeroll for the high half. The many possible combinations of hidden and exposed cards that often span multiple hands present a challenging problem in determining opponents’ intentions.