7 Card Stud Hi/Lo Poker is a variant of 7 Card Stud in which the pot is equally divided between the player(s) with the best “Hi” hand, and the player(s) with the best qualifying “Lo” hand – a qualifying “Lo” hand being comprised of five individually ranked cards with a value of Eight or lower. Aces can be “Hi” or “Lo” in 7 Card Stud Hi/Lo Poker and, for the purposes of the “Lo” hand, straights and flushes are not counted.
Often incorrectly considered to be a game for beginners, there is a great amount of skill involved when playing 7 Card Stud Hi/Lo Poker – at least if you want to make it a profitable experience. Bluffing is not such a great part of the game, but observing which cards have been in play – and the implications of another player folding them – can make the difference between success and failure when playing 7 Card Stud Hi/Lo Poker.
How to Play 7 Card Stud Hi/Lo Poker
If you have not migrated to 7 Card Stud Hi/Lo Poker from the “Hi” version of the game, it is important to be aware that that there is a big difference between this variant of poker and games such as Texas Hold´em and Omaha Poker. In 7 Card Stud Hi/Lo Poker there are no community cards. Each player receives seven individual cards in each hand – the first two “face down”, the next four exposed, and the final card “face down”. “Face down” cards can only be seen by the player whose hand they belong to.
The object of the game is to make the best five-card hand of poker or the lowest qualifying five-card hand of poker from the seven that have been dealt. In some circumstances it is possible to win both the “Hi” and the “Lo” pot with different combinations of cards from the same hand as the example below demonstrates:
Player A: A♦3♣ / 4♣Q♦6♦2♦ / K♦
Player B: J♥J♦ / A♥3♥5♠6♠ / 8♦
In the above example, Player A wins the “Hi” pot for his Ace-high Flush and the “Lo” pot for the best five “Lo” cards.
Starting Each Hand
Each hand of 7 Card Stud Hi /Lo Poker begins with three cards being dealt to each player – the first two “face down” and the third one exposed for all to see. The player with the lowest value exposed card has the option of paying a “bring-in” or making a “Small Bet”. In a game of $0.50/$1.00 7 Card Stud Hi/Lo Poker, the “bring in” would usually be $0.15, and the “Small Bet” $0.50.
7 Card Stud Hi/Lo Poker is most commonly played at Fixed Limit rather than Pot limit or No Limit so, after the first player has made their bet, the action continues around the table clockwise with each player having the option to call any betting action that has preceded them, raise the pot by the amount of the “Small Bet” or fold their cards.
The first round of betting concludes when each player has had the opportunity to bet, call, raise or fold their cards. In fixed limit games of 7 Card Stud Poker, there is usually a maximum of four bets/raises allowed before the betting is concluded. Once betting has finished, and all bets have been called, a fourth card is dealt face up to each player still active in the hand. This is known as fourth street.
When the fourth street has been dealt, the player with the best two exposed cards starts a second round of betting. For the purposes of determining who has the best exposed cards at the start of the second round of betting, Aces are considered to be high. If two hands are identical in value – for example A♠K♠ and A♥K♥ – there is a hierarchy of suits to determine who goes first, with Spades being the highest in the hierarchy, then diamonds, then hearts, then clubs.
In the event that any player is displaying a pair, players have the option of betting the “Big Bet”. In a game of $0.50/$1.00 7 Card Stud Hi/Lo Poker, the “Big Bet” would be $1.00. If this option is taken, the remainder of the betting round is conducted in units of $1.00 until all bets have been matched. Otherwise all bets remained in multiples of $0.50 – until the next round of betting.
Once the fourth street round of betting has finished, each active player still in the hand is dealt a fifth card exposed. Another round of betting starts with the player who has the highest value exposed cards, but at “Big Bet” betting limits – irrespective of whether or not a pair was showing during the fourth street round of betting.
As usual, the betting continues in a clockwise direction. Each player having the option to “check” (if no bets have yet been made), “bet”, “call”, “raise”, or “fold”. The betting is capped at four raises and, once all bets have been matched (“called”) the round of betting is concluded. If, during any round of betting, just one player bets and every other player folds their cards, the player making the bet collects the pot.
Sixth and Seventh Streets
The final two cards to be dealt are known as sixth and seventh streets. During the two rounds of betting that follow each card (the final card is always dealt “face down”), betting is conducted at the “Big Bet” limit. In our example of $0.50/$1.00, this would mean in units of $1.00. Once the final card has been dealt, and the final round of betting has been concluded, the remaining active players have a “showdown”.
This begins with the last player to make a bet revealing their cards. Going in a clockwise direction, other players can either reveal their cards or return them to the pack unseen if their hand is a loser. The player(s) with the best five-card hand of poker according to standard hand rankings and the player(s) with the best “Lo” hand share the pot. There is no suit hierarchy to determine between two identically ranked hands and, if there is no qualifying “Lo” hand, the player(s) with the best “Hi” hand take the entire pot.
7 Card Stud Hi/Lo Poker is often described as “technically demanding”. This is not just because of having to observe the betting actions of the players around you and act according to your position, but also because you have to keep an eye on the cards that are being dealt that may be folded later in the hand. Knowing what these cards were will influence your chances of winning the hand(s) – and those of your opponents!
Patience – Patience is a very important virtue in 7 Card Stud Hi/Lo Poker. It takes much longer to play each hand than Texas Hold´em or Omaha Poker because there are five rounds of betting (rather than four) and more players tend to be involved in each hand because there are two pots to play for. Fold your hand on third street, and you might be waiting a long time for the next hand to begin.
Observation – As well as observing the exposed cards to keep a note about which cards might affect your winning chances later in the hand, you should also consider why they were folded. For example a player showing J♦10♦ is unlikely to have any “face down” cards that would help him or her complete a straight or diamond flush. The likelihood is that they have two low value cards that might reduce the odds of you making a “Lo” hand.
Keenness – The keenness of a player to bet when it is their turn to act can give a lot away about the strength of their hand. In 7 Card Stud Hi/Lo Poker it is sometimes difficult to tell whether they have a good “Hi” hand, a good “Lo” hand or both. Watch out for this in other player´s betting actions, and try to avoid doing it yourself!
Endgame – When a hand of 7 Card Stud Hi/Lo Poker gets to sixth and seventh street there are normally only two or three players involved in the hand. If you have a strong hand by the end of fifth street, you have the opportunity to bet your opponents out of the hand by implying on sixth street that you will bet to the max of seventh street. This is a good way of collecting both pots and enhancing your winnings.
Risk – Knowing how much money you may have to risk before getting to showdown in each hand of 7 Card Stud Hi/Lo Poker is also an important consideration. In our example above, we used the stake unit of $0.50/$1.00. If the betting in each round went to the maximum four raises, and there was a pair exposed on fourth street that was played at “Big bet” units, you could be contributing as much as $18.00 to the pot in each hand. Protect your poker bankroll by choosing an appropriate stake level at which to play 7 Card Stud Hi/Lo Poker.