Starting Hand Categories for:

Seven-Card Stud and Seven-Card Stud High-Low Eight or Better (Stud-Eight) Poker

The following terminology is useful for discussing starting hands in Seven-Card Stud High-Low poker. The table below defines 12 types of starting hands along with a description and an example of each.

Descriptions and Examples for 12 Types of Three-Card Starting Hands in Seven-Card Stud High-Low Poker
Starting Hand Description Example
Low connected-suited Three sequential cards of the same suit with no card higher than an 8 3Diamond 4Diamond 5Diamond
Trips Three cards of the same rank 9Club 9Diamond 9Heart
Aces with a low kicker Two Aces with a third card no higher than an 8 AClub ADiamond 2Spade
Aces with a high kicker Two Aces with a third card higher than an 8 AClub ADiamond 9Spade
Ace with two wheel cards An Ace with two unconnected cards no higher than a 5 AClub 4Diamond 5Spade
Low suited Three cards of the same suit with no card higher than an 8 ASpade 5Spade 6Spade
Low connected Three sequential cards with no card higher than an 8 5Club 6Diamond 7Heart
High pair Two cards ranked 9 or higher with a third unmatched card KClub KDiamond 7Heart
Low pair with a low kicker Two cards ranked 8 or lower with an unmatched card ranked 8 or lower 5Club 5Diamond 7Heart
Flush with high cards Three cards of the same suit with one or more ranked higher than an 8 QHeart 6Heart 7Heart
Low pair with a high kicker Two cards ranked 8 or lower with an unmatched card ranked 9 or higher 5Heart 5Diamond KSpade
Low cards Three cards not connected, suited or paired with no card higher than an 8 7Club 6Club 2Heart

The twelve types of starting hands can be sorted into five broad categories that describe how they play. The categories of hands are: premium, big-possibility, one-way, situational and trap. The reasons for sorting the hands this way and the probabilities for each group are given.

Premium Starting Hands

The premium hands can often scoop pots without improvement. All total these starting cards are just 1% of all hands dealt. They should be played aggressively.

Trips. [Number of hands = 13, Number of combinations =52, Frequency = 0.24%, Odds = 424:1] Any rank is a powerful holding, however, low cards have the advantage of still allowing a low hand to form. Rolled trip Kings will never qualify for low. Another advantage of low rolled trips is that they are a powerful high hand that often looks like a low. In those cases the hand will generate lots of action from a player who believes incorrectly that he or she has a better high.

Aces with a low kicker. [Number of hands = 14, Number of combinations =168, Frequency = 0.76 %, Odds = 131:1] The lower the kicker the better this hand plays. Often the Aces will hold up for high unimproved or pick up a second pair to make Aces up to best two smaller pair. At the same time the hand can back into low to either scoop or save half the pot if the Aces do not hold up for high.

Probabilities and odds for premium starting hands in Seven-Card Stud High-Low
Starting Hand No. Possible No. Combinations Probability (%) Odds
Trips 13 52 0.24 424:1
Aces with a low kicker 14 168 0.76 131:1
Totals 27 220 1.00 99:1

Big-possibility Starting Hands

The hands in this group win the monster pots in Stud-Eight. However these hands need to improve because they are worth nothing on their own. The hands in this group can be played aggressively early on. These are rare holdings but don’t fall in love with them. If there is no improvement and a lot of action on later streets the hand should be mucked.

Low connected-suited. [Number of hands = 6, Number of combinations =24, Frequency = 0.11%, Odds = 920:1] This is one of the most powerful hands in Stud-Eight because it can scoop the entire pot in so many different ways while generating lots of action from players betting on both halves of the pot.

Low suited. [Number of hands = 50, Number of combinations =200, Frequency = 0.90%, Odds = 110:1] If an Ace is included the hand has added value. This is a good hand for jamming other players. Sometimes the hand will complete a flush for high, sometimes miss the flush but hold up for low and occasionally make high and low. Either way you can bet aggressively if this hand improves to a high or low on Fifth Street and make the others pay for your draw to the other half of the pot.

Low connected. [Number of hands = 24, Number of combinations =360, Frequency = 1.36%, Odds = 60:1] Does not have the flush possibility but low straights often scoop. A good hand for freerolling if two low cards are picked up that don’t connect. A player with a made low and an inside straight draw can jam two high hands and be assured of winning half the pot, while at the same time retaining an outside chance of a scoop.

Probabilities and odds for big-possibility starting hands in Seven-Card Stud High-Low
Starting Hand No. Possible No. Combinations Probability (%) Odds
Low connected-suited 6 24 0.11 920:1
Low suited 50 200 0.90 110:1
Low connected 24 360 1.63 131:1
Totals 80 584 2.64 37:1

One-way Starting Hands

These starting cards typically compete for one half of the pot and are good for cases where everyone is competing for the same half of the pot. There are hands in Stud-Eight where all the players are competing for either the high half or low half of the pot. In those circumstances playing a “one-way” hand that figures to be best against the competition but can also back into the other half of the pot is a viable strategy.

Aces with a high kicker. [Number of hands = 10, Number of combinations =120, Frequency = 0.54%, Odds = 183:1] This hand usually competes for high only and it is best played against other players vying for high when it can scoop. It does poorly against multiple low draws because in that situation its only potential is for half the pot and the low draws can freeroll on later streets placing a made hand as strong as Aces-up in an uncomfortable position. This hand is most powerful when the Aces are wired because it will generate action from smaller pairs thinking that they have the best high.

Ace with two other wheel cards. [Number of hands = 20, Number of combinations =300, Frequency = 1.36%, Odds = 73:1] This hand usually competes for low only but it does have high possibilities. How well it plays often depends on where the Ace is. In most cases you want the Ace exposed so that you can threaten people with a potential pair of Aces or a potential low. That way if you pick up bricks you might win uncontested if your opponents also pick up bricks. If your opponents are weak on Fifth Street, betting an exposed A, 2, J has more fold equity than an exposed 2, 3, J.

Probabilities and odds for one-way starting hands in Seven-Card Stud High-Low
Starting Hand No. Possible No. Combinations Probability (%) Odds
Aces with a high kicker 10 120 0.54 183:1
Ace with two wheel cards 20 300 1.36 73:1
Totals 30 420 1.90 52:1

Situational Starting Hands

Many Stud-Eight players automatically play the hands in this group. However, the viability of these hands depends highly on the situation. You should be very careful about when and how you play these hands.

High pairs 99, 10-10, JJ, QQ and KK. [Number of hands = 120, Number of combinations =1440, Frequency = 6.54%, Odds = 14:1] How well you play pairs will determine much of your profit in Stud-Eight. Automatically playing any pair as many players do will lead to disaster. As a general rule 99 and 10-10 should not be played. Paired face cards are only playable if they are the high hand on the board. You do not want to hold JJ in between a player with KK and another player with a low. The most likely outcome is that your two opponents will be dividing up your money.

Low pairs with a low kicker. [Number of hands = 98, Number of combinations =1176, Frequency = 5.32%, Odds = 18:1] These are starting hands that many Stud-Eight players will automatically play. However, as attractive these hands look, they come with a lot of problems. It is a poor start for a low hand because it has only two cards that count towards low and a poor start for a high hand because the pair is ranked so low. In other words, it is a mediocre holding to compete for either half of the pot, which means that often it will come away with nothing. Of the hands in this category, a low pair with a live Ace kicker is the most valuable because it has an outside chance of making Aces up. These hands are good for stealing antes and good for defending bring-ins against a steal. They play best heads-up against weak low draws. However, against players you know have strong holdings or against a large field these hands should not be played.

Three suited cards, one or more not low. [Number of hands = 230, Number of combinations = 920, Frequency = 4.16%, Odds = 23:1] If the suit is completely live and it is up against other high hands these starting cards have some possibilities. If the cards are connected and suited the holding is more valuable and the hand is almost playable against low draws. However, for unconnected cards, completing a flush is rare and in situations where a flush only claims half the pot you rarely have the pot odds necessary to play. As a general rule three-flushes with high cards play much worse in Stud-Eight than in Seven-Card Stud and should usually be avoided.

Probabilities and odds for situational starting hands in Seven-Card Stud High-Low
Starting Hand No. Possible No. Combinations Probability (%) Odds
High pair 120 1440 6.52 14:1
Low pair with a low kicker 98 1176 5.32 18:1
Suited with high cards 230 920 4.16 23:1
Totals 448 3536 17.38 5:1

Trap Starting Hands

These are attractive looking hands that play poorly and should usually be mucked. Playing hands like these for half the pot is rarely worth the investment.

Low pair with a high kicker. Hands such as 3, 3, J or 5, 5, K, have little value and in most cases should be mucked. The exceptions would be stealing antes or defending against a steal.

Three low cards (unconnected and unsuited). [Number of hands = 180, Number of combinations =2700, Frequency = 12.22%, Odds = 7.2:1] The “Razz” hands should be saved for Razz. These kinds of hands are only good for half the pot and in most cases the best you can hope for is to get your money back minus the rake. Many Stud-Eight players automatically call with these hands and stay to the end if they pick up a low draw on Fourth Street. The problem is that often if they hit low it is second best low. Just as you want to avoid playing the second best high hand, it is even more important to avoid playing the second best low hand. The high hand scoops if no one qualifies for low but a busted low is worth nothing.

Probabilities and odds for trap starting hands in Seven-Card Stud High-Low
Starting Hand No. Possible No. Combinations Probability (%) Odds
Low pair with a high kicker 70 840 3.80 25:1
Low cards 180 2700 12.22 7.2:1
Totals 250 3540 16.02 5.2:1

Final note: Three connected cards, one or more not low such as 8, 9, 10 or 9, 10, J play poorly in Stud-Eight and should be mucked.