How To Play Stud Eights or Better

StrategySeven Card Stud Eights or Better is also commonly referred to as 7 Card Stud Hi/Lo. The game is essentially the same game as 7 Card Stud Poker, but the one difference is that the pot is ultimately split between the top high and bottom low hands at the end of the 7-round hand. While on the surface, this one alteration may seem simple enough, it actually complicates the way the game is played and the mindset that the player must invoke.

The game of 7 Card Stud Eights or Better starts out with a three-card deal. Two cards face down and one card face up. The card showing is called the “door card.” This card decides who will act first. The lowest card showing bets first. This bet is called the “bring in” and gets the action started. It is a small portion of the larger bet that will ultimately be required of all players who want to stay in the hand. The player in the bring in position will have to eventually call, completing the whole bet to stay in the game, or raise. This round is called 3rd street.

Fourth, 5th, and 6th street follow. All of these rounds begin with a burn card (a card dealt out of the game from the top of the deck) and follow with one card dealt face up to each player who is still in the hand. All three of these rounds involve one betting cycle around the table following each deal. Unlike the 3rd street action, which begins with the lowest showing card, these three rounds start the betting with the highest combination of showing cards. Obviously, the highest showing hands would be Aces showing (A/A, A/A/A, or A/A/A/A on a really rare day.

On the next and final round, dubbed 7th street, the final and seventh card is dealt face up (unlike the previous four rounds in which the cards were dealt face down). All players still in the hand must make their final bets or fold and the showdown follows. This is where 7 Card Stud Eights or Better is ultimately different from regular 7 Card Stud Poker. Instead of the highest hand being the one and only winner, there can be two potential winning hands—the high hand and the low hand, thus 7 Card Stud “Hi/Lo.” The name of the game, “Eights or Better,” comes from the fact that cards with values less than “8” are the only cards that will be advantageous to a winning low hand. In fact, a low hand is only valid if it includes five unpaired cards all with face values less than “8,” including a low Ace (which also counts as a high card in 7 Card Stud Eight or Better).

The rules that determine the winner(s) of a 7 Card Stud Eights or Better game are generally the same as the winning hand rules in an Omaha Hi/Lo game. The pot is split between the highest and lowest five-card poker hands after the final action and showdown take place. The best five-card low combination is A/2/3/4/5 (by the way, in poker terminology, this hand is called the “wheel” or the “steel wheel” when all cards are suited; a.k.a. a straight flush). This hand will most likely result in a “scooped pot” for the player holding it, which means he wins both the low and high ends of the pot. The example above is low-ranking hand and a high-ranking hand (a very good high hand, actually). In the event that there is no eligible low hand, the high hand takes the entire pot.

To play 7 Card Stud Eights or Better, you must have a strong hold on the rankings of poker hands in both low and high terms. This game is a challenge and a thrill that takes concentration, patience, and practice.

History of 7 Card Stud Eights or Better

Seven Card Stud Eights or Better is a poker game with many different names for the same game. It is sometimes called “Seven Eight Poker,” “Stud Eight,” “High-Low Split Stud,” or “7 Card Stud Hi/Lo.”  A good place to start practicing Eights or Better strategy is by learning to quickly observe and analyze your opponents’ cards showing on the table, even the ones that get folded. Because the initial action moves fast, you’ll have to be paying attention.

This tactic takes practice, but once you get it down, it will become second nature to you and happen automatically as hands are dealt. Making a mental note of these cards will prevent you from waiting for cards that will never come because they have already been dealt.
Eights or Better newcomers should stay away from the high hand, unless a hand has a pair of Aces or three-of-a-kind. Beware in particularly of starting hands with a big pair. Hands of this nature are dangerous and risky. Once your play improves, you can then include Kings and Queens in your game. You will be better off as a beginner by learning to play good low hands and mastering how to qualify for the low hand.

Once you have practiced making the high and the low hands and are getting good, you’ll need to adopt an attitude towards every hand that you are in it to win it. Go for the entire pot instead of half the pot with just a high hand or low hand. Make it your goal to “scoop the pot.” Remember, winning a split pot does not necessarily mean it will be a significant addition to your chip stack.

Often poker players who are new to 7 Card Stud Eights or Better make the mistake of thinking any three cards are playable—they are not. Hands like 4/6/8 and 5/6/8, for example, are low, but they aren’t necessarily quality hands. What you should play are three-card hands with values of six and less or an Ace accompanied by three cards of 7 and less. Also, two suited cards in any sequence is a good hand to play. Hands with 8s are just too risky and don’t have the potential to qualify. Also, don’t make the mistake of jumping into a hand just because you have a flush or straight draw. This is a mistake in 7 Card Stud and Stud Eight. Before going into the pot with one of these hands, consider how many cards are 8 or less, and then look at your opponents’ showing cards. If it appears that you might be in for only half the pot with poor drawing odds, fold the hand and wait for a better one.

Another key thing to always keep in mind and constantly remind yourself of is that 7 Card Stud Eights or Better is not 7 Card Stud. You should not play the same hands that you do in regular 7 Card Stud Poker. Many hands that may be good in 7 Card Stud will only result in a half-pot win with a high hand. Good hands in Stud Eight are those that can win both ways. Hands with a small three-card run like 2/3/4 or three suited low cards are the best types of hands you can have in Eights or Better. These are the hands that win full pots.

Stud 8 takes time to master, but once you learn the game, you will enjoy the complex structure of Eights or Better. Then you can further your understanding of the game by studying more intricate strategies.

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