Just learning Stud/8 poker? Low’s the way to go

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Psssst….

Hey you. Yeah, you. Looking for a scheme to pay off those holiday credit card bills? Well, put down the Carlton Sheets real estate DVDs. Quit digging through the attic for gold to sell to the pawn shop. And don’t send another dollar to Lou Pearlman.

No, here’s what you do.

Learn to play stud/8. Practice, practice, practice. Then invite your home game buddies over and call it every chance you get.

In no time, “you, too, can have all of this!” How? Because stud/8 is a deliciously tantalizing game for newbies, yet is one with a decidedly strong advantage for skilled players. And that, my friends, is a recipe for riches.

Stud/8 plays exactly like stud but two pots are awarded — one to the highest hand, and one to the lowest qualifying hand. Players are dealt two cards down, one card up. Lowest upcard acts first in the first round; highest hand acts first on every other round. After five rounds of betting, turn the cards over and award the pots. (For a longer description of stud, check out last month’s Holdout column in the Ante Up archives at anteupmagazine.com).

OK, let’s start padding your bank account:

Qualify, qualify, qualify: While stud hi/lo can be played without a qualifier, it rarely is anymore. If you’re playing stud/8, then a low hand must have five unpaired cards 8 or lower to qualify. If no one has a qualifying low hand, then the entire pot goes to the high hand. And if you’re an Omaha/8 player, here’s one very important tip: A-2 isn’t anywhere near as powerful as it is in Omaha. Because of the community board in that game, you’re guaranteed to have the lowest hand on a board with three unpaired cards 8 or lower. Not so in stud/8, where everyone has their own hand. Count from the highest card down, or you’ll lose plenty of cash.

Scoop, scoop, scoop: If you remember no other tip, remember this one: In all split-pot games, the monumental goal is to scoop. If your hand can’t scoop, look for a reason (or several) to get out.

Low, low, low: When you’re starting out, you’ll be wise to look for low hands that can develop into high hands. Many a low hand has backed into a flush or a straight to scoop, but not any old three low cards to start can do this. And remember, you won’t have a qualifying low until at least fifth street, so you’re going to have to put some bets in on faith early on. Keeping the faith is easier to do when you have a shot at the high, too.
Deceive, deceive, deceive: Just like in Omaha/8, aces are high and low, so a wheel is a powerful two-way hand. When you have an ace as your upcard, you have a green light to confuse your opponents. It might take them a round or two to figure out if you’re going low, or if you’re going high. And by the time they do, you just might be going both ways.

Squeeze, squeeze, squeeze: No-limit hold’em players know how powerful a “squeeze” play can be. In hold’em, you raise after there’s been a raise and call in front of you. The theory is the initial raiser, afraid of what the caller will do, will fold, and the caller likely doesn’t have a strong enough hand to call either, so you pick up the pot. You can do a squeeze of sorts in stud/8, too. Consider raising (or reraising) on the come to drive out weak made hands. Particularly on the early streets, this is a cheap way to get heads-up or to get into a freeroll situation, where you have the only low possible and are drawing to a scoop.

— Email Scott Long at scott@anteupmagazine.com.