7 Card Stud Hi/Lo: Introduction

Introduction to Seven Card Stud Hi/Lo 8 or Better

The first time i came in contact with Seven Card Stud Hi/Lo was during the 1997 World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. They offered a satellite to a WSOP event and since I used to play a lot of Seven Card Stud in Europe at that time, I was of course curious about the particularities of this game. I was absolutely fascinated right from the beginning, but after a few more hands I had to realize that an intense study of the basics was necessary in order to become competitive.

Stud Hi/Lo has always been very popular in the South. It was the game of bookies and gamblers on horse race tracks and it guaranteed a lot of action besides the races.

Stud 8 or Better was booming especially in the last two years, when H.O.R.S.E. became more and more popular with the younger generation, since it is one of the five games that H.O.R.S.E. consists of. But there is still not much live action in Stud Hi/Lo. A regular game, where two to three tables run simultaneously, can actually only be found during the WSOP. There they usually offer $50/$100 and $75/$150 limit games. If we want to play Stud Hi/Lo at another point in time and we don't know a respective home game, the internet offers excellent possibilities. Almost all big online poker rooms offer Stud 8 or Better and a lot of different opportunities to learn and practice the game at the micro limits.

Seven Card Stud Hi/Lo is a very fast game with numerous bets and raises in each round. In general, play at the micro limits is extremely loose, the medium limits are relatively tight, while play at the higher limits is often pretty aggressive. In no other type of poker there are so many check-raises.
Although approx. 40 percent of the pots are split between the high and the low hand, your aim should always be to win the whole pot, thus to scoop. Since scooping is the special added value of the game – as it is above all also possible when we have e.g. made a low hand, but in reality have the nut flush. In such a case we speak of disguised hands, which can produce a lot of action, especially in the later rounds of betting. For that reason alone it is very important to practice your skills when it comes to assessing the open cards of the opponent in connection with the development of the bets in the single betting rounds. 

In most types of poker we are either heads-up or sometimes playing against two opponents in the later rounds of betting. In Seven Card Stud Hi/Lo there is a lot of multiway action even on 6th and 7th Street. The reason is that a player often has made an obvious low hand, while the three other players left in the hand fight for the high half of the pot. In such situations you will often experience that the potential best high hand will bet and will immediately be raised by the low hand and the other players holding high hands will call and stay in the hand as well due to the favourable pot odds. When it comes to calculating pot odds, it is often forgotten that especially in this scenario you will mostly only play for the high half of the pot.

Especially beginners often think that you can play much more hands in Hi/Lo games, because there are two ways to win a portion of the pot. Exactly the opposite is true. Many weak players will make the mistake to stay in the hand with the second or third best hand - in both directions, high and low. By avoiding such situations you will quickly have a considerable edge. Another medium and long term advantage is to know when to fold on 4th and 5th Street, when other players call down to 7th Street. In the further course of this education section I will try to describe situations where it is advisable to build a pot as big as possible. In addition there are several situations, where we can steal half of the pot from an opponnent who actually has a better hand by a well-timed bluff.

Seven Card Stud Hi/Lo 8 or Better is in my opinion the most complex and sophisticated type of poker. Before familiarizing yourself with the game you should have acquired the basics and the experience of thousands of played hands in Seven Card Stud Hi. Another important factor is to know the rules by heart. Even players who have already played a few hours of Stud Hi/Lo sometimes still make several decisive, sometimes also expensive mistakes. For this reason I'm going to explicitly explain the rules by means of descriptive examples in the next chapter.