Reasons to Play:

Seven-Card Stud High-Low Eight or Better

(Stud-Eight) Poker

Seven-Card Stud High-Low Eight or Better is one of the most complex, intricate and least understood variations of poker. For those reasons it is a profitable game to master. Players with knowledge of the game’s subtleties and nuances will have a significant edge over much of the competition. The game is fundamentally different from Seven-Card Stud played for high hand only, but many players fail to understand the differences and do not make adjustments.

The formal name Seven-Card Stud High-Low Eight or Better is long and awkward. Seven-Card Stud High-Low and Stud High-Low are common short forms. For brevity I will refer to the game simply as “Stud-Eight” and the more familiar high-only game as Seven-Card Stud. The game is dealt like Seven-Card Stud and it has the same number of betting rounds. To a casual observer it would appear indistinguishable from Seven-Card Stud until the showdown. The twist is at showdown the high hand splits the pot with best “qualifying” low hand. To qualify the low hand cannot have a card higher than an eight. If no low hand qualifies the high hand wins the entire pot. It is also possible for the same player to win both halves of the pot by holding the best qualifying low hand and the best high hand.

The “eight or better” rule for a low hand to qualify for half of the pot is the same as for another popular high-low poker variation—Omaha High-Low Eight or Better or for brevity, Omaha High-Low. That rule means that the two games share some strategic concepts. Omaha High-Low is a much more popular game and more widely spread both online and in brick-and-mortar cardrooms. However Omaha High-Low is a “flop” game like Hold’em, in which the players share community cards. Stud-Eight is a “board” game where cards are not shared and in fact, are exclusive. All cards belonging to one player can never be used by any of the other players. As a result Stud-Eight has some profound strategic differences compared to its Omaha High-Low cousin.

Poker players seeking to expand their skills beyond Hold’em should learn and master both high-low forms of poker—Stud-Eight and Omaha High-Low. The HORSE tournament format is now becoming the gold standard for poker expertise and winning the $50,000 HORSE tournament at the World Series of Poker is eclipsing the no-limit Hold’em Championship in prestige. The HORSE format includes these two high-low poker variants represented by the O and E in the HORSE acronym—O = Omaha High-Low, E = Stud-Eight. The remaining three letters represent three other poker variants—H=Hold’em, R=Razz, and S=Seven Card Stud.

Compared to Hold’em, and even Omaha High-Low, relatively little is written about Stud-Eight. This writing is meant to provide an understanding of the important facts, concepts, strategies, and tactics needed to profit from the play of Stud-Eight. As you read there are three points of comparison between Stud-Eight and other forms of poker to keep in mind.

More emphasis on cards: The idea in Stud-Eight is to form two hands—the best high and a qualifying low. Ideally you want to “scoop” which means win both the high and low pots. To have both the best high hand and the best low hand requires cards that coordinate and work together. That means successful play requires careful hand selection and computation of the outs needed to make the high, the low and to scoop. Because in the course of a hand as many as twenty or more cards might be exposed, the results of those computations continually fluctuate. You will devote a great deal of mental energy to keeping track of cards and analyzing numerous card combinations.

Psychological factors are less important: In a game such as Hold’em, reading and deceiving your opponents are critical skills for success. But in Stud-Eight a player with scary looking high cards cannot bluff someone with a low hand or a draw to a low hand out of a pot. As a result Stud-Eight poker can be a better choice for online play where direct contact with opponents is absent. Hold’em players who are successful in the brick-and-mortar world because of their abilities to read people can find online play a difficult adjustment because of the lack of direct interaction with opponents. Reading players is a necessary skill in all forms of poker, including Stud-Eight, but its relative importance is less for Stud-Eight than for high-only games like Hold’em.

Greater action: Because Stud-Eight hands have the potential for two winners, there are more reasons for players to stay and contribute to the pot. Although the pot is often split, its total size can become large and in cases where the pot is not split significant gains are possible with relatively small risk. In recent years as the poker economy has mildly contracted, high-only games such as Hold’em have become much tighter—especially online. High-low games have seen an upsurge in popularity from players looking for more action.

Stud-Eight is a profitable game to learn because players at Stud-Eight tables make more fundamental errors than at Seven-Card Stud tables. The adjustments needed to play high-low are much greater than many players realize. Many players sit at a Stud-Eight table and still play as if they are in a high-only game. If you play high-low games correctly you will have an advantage over players who act as if they are still playing high-only poker.

The information in this guide is necessary for a winning edge in this fascinating variation of poker. The intricate strategic and tactical possibilities that arise from split-pots allow knowledgeable players the chance for greater profits in comparison to other poker variants.