Cookies on the PokerWorks Website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies on the PokerWorks website. However, if you would like to, you can change your cookie settings at any time.

Continue using cookies

Poker News | PokerWorks Op-Ed

Grinding Online - Low Limit Hi/Lo Stud

Share this
Back in my college days, long before the Internet was a gleam in Al Gore’s eye, the game of choice at our all-night poker games was 7 Card hi/lo stud.  The game was played where the final rounds of betting included a declaring phase, where you would hold one, two, or three chips in your hand, indicating your desire to go after the low hand, the high hand, or both ways, fondly known as “the pig.”  Any low hand qualified, as long as it was the lowest hand at the table, and, if you were trying to win the entire pot, you had to win both hands, or else you won nothing at all.  Players would agonize over which way to declare, looking for the elusive “lock,” where they were the only player going that direction, often times with just a busted draw.

Although that form of the game still exists today, the much more popular version is that played in online games, 7 Card Stud 8 or better, where the cards speak at the showdown and a low must be 8 or lower to qualify for that half of the pot.  The game can be found online at stakes as low as .04-.08, and, depending on the site, can have betting limits in the hundreds of dollars, or even higher as part of HORSE rotations.

Perhaps the best resource for a player wanting to learn how to play this game well is Todd Brunson’s chapter on the game in Super System 2.  Brunson’s writing is concise, clear and systematic, instructing you in which cards to play initially, and how to proceed through the full hand.  If your entire exposure to poker is Texas holdem, and you have never played stud hi/lo before, this chapter is essential reading before sitting down at the table.

The true beauty of this game, as well as the high-only version of seven stud and their evil cousin Razz (seven card stud low), is how many cards you get to see.  The ability to pay attention to which cards are no longer available, both to you and your opponents, is crucial to being able to figure out if you are ahead or behind in a hand, as well as your chances of improving to a winner.  You don’t have to be as good as Matt Damon’s character in Rounders, during the scene where he analyzes all the cards at the judge’s home game, but you can definitely strive toward that level of proficiency.

As with most online games, the lower limit hi/lo games are often marked by looser play, with more players seeing fourth and subsequent streets, and players frequently chasing hands much further than at higher stakes tables.  As in any online game, it is essential to take notes on your opponents, but I have found that there are specific things that I look for in this game that help me understand how someone plays.  These are:

•    How do they play an ace in the “door” (the first up card)? - Some players will automatically call, or even raise with any ace, regardless of their two hole cards.  Some will only raise when they have another ace in the hole.  Some will only raise with two other low cards underneath.  Others will deceptively call when they have another ace below.  I try to quickly find out which of these styles someone is using, or whether or not they are varying their play, so that I know how to play hands such as hidden pairs lower than aces against them.

•    Do they play a low-only hand? -  Many players at low levels will play starting hands that have any three cards lower than an 8.  However, hands such as 8-3-2 unsuited, 7-4-2 unsuited and the like, where there are only remote straight possibilities for high, are at a huge disadvantage to almost any random hand, since not only do they have to hit two more low cards to make a hand at all, but also they are a huge underdog in trying to get the high half of the pot, which may turn out to be the entire pot.  Therefore, they are almost always playing to win just half of the pot, which is, in the long run, a losing proposition.

•    How do they play split high pairs? -  The high-only starting hands carry their own dangers, in that a low hand against them may back into a straight, flush, two pair, a set or a boat and take the whole pot away.  Watching how players treat their high door cards other than aces, and how far they will go with just a single high pair against a dangerous board, tells me a lot about how far to push with concealed high hands, as well as low boards that haven’t yet made a hand.

•    How aggressively do they pursue unmade hands? - In low-level games, you will find players who will play any three cards, and then continue betting and/or raising them, regardless of whether they have made a hand or not.  I hope it is obvious that, within reason, these are players you are hoping to go up against with your good, and even occasionally marginal, hands.

Armed with this information about your opponents, and fortified with the knowledge of the game from Brunson’s chapter, you are ready to navigate the waters of low-level hi/lo stud online.  

As in any game, you can increase or decrease your variance by choosing to play more or fewer hands.  Playing opposite to the tendencies of the table is, as always, recommended, i.e. play tighter at a loose table and looser at a tight one.   

There has been more than one discussion about the best way to treat strong three card holdings, i.e. whether or not to raise on third street.  One school of thought is that raising will isolate one or two players, which makes the likelihood of someone catching up to you much lower.  This is certainly the case in higher stakes games, however, the other side of the coin is that the lower limit tables tend to have more players who will see fourth street regardless of whether or not the pot has been raised, and all your raise will do is give players who are chasing you the pot odds to keep calling all the way down the line.  

My own suggestion is to use the raise very judiciously, when no one has shown an interest in the hand and there are only one or two players left to act, to avoid the scenario of simply sweetening the pot.   On later streets, once you have made a hand and the stakes have doubled, you can force the chasers to pay to draw to their hands, and raise weaker hands with impunity. Of course, you should always keep in mind the number one rule of play in any poker game, which is not to become too predictable in your betting.  

While bluffing is less common in hi/lo than in a game like no limit hold’em, it still needs to be a part of your repertoire, especially if you are sitting on a very dangerous looking board.  While you will mostly bet out your strong hands, you will need to slow play them at times to avoid being too easy to read.

For those who enjoy seeing a lot of cards, and working through poker problems with much more information than in a game like hold’em, stud hi/lo can’t be beat.  It is my favorite game, and I’m sure that if you give it a try it will rapidly become one of your favorites, too.

See you at the tables!

News Flash

The IRS Scores Big at 2015 WSOP ME Final Table

The IRS managed to snag 34.13 percent from the payouts of the 2015 November Nine, totaling $8,467,091.

Read more

Quick Room Review

Bonus Room review

Subscribe to the Nightly Turbo

Be the first to know all the latest poker news, tournament results, gossip and learn all about the best online poker deals straight from your inbox.

RSS Feed