A variation of Seven Card Stud that is commonly played in both casinos and in tournaments is Seven Card Stud 8 or Better. Stud 8 or Better is a split pot game where the high hand can win half of the pot and a qualifying low hand can win the other half of the pot. While the rules are similar to Stud, there are some differences. In this article, we will discuss how to play Stud 8 or Better.
Before we go into how to play the game, let’s discuss what a low hand is. In Stud 8 or Better, a qualifying low is a hand containing five unique cards eight or below. In Stud 8, aces swing, which means that they play both high and low. Also, straights and flushes do not disqualify your low hand. Now, let’s take a look at how to play the game.
Stud based games are typically played eight-handed. Just like in regular Stud, each player posts an ante before cards are dealt. Unlike Holdem, a button is not used to determine a dealer in Stud. Cards are dealt clockwise around the table, starting with seat one and finishing with seat eight. Each player receives three cards to start, with two being dealt face down and the third dealt face up.
The player showing the lowest rank card then must make a forced bet known as the bring-in. This bet is usually double the size of the ante. In the event multiple players have the same rank of card, the player with the lowest suit must open. The player may also make a full bet, known as a completion. For example, in a game of $5-$10 Stud 8 with a $1 ante, the bring-in bet will be $2 and the completion $5. In the event the player with the bring-in fails to complete the bet, that option passes to the next player to act.
After action is completed on third street, a second card is dealt face up. As in Stud high, the player with the highest hand showing will make the opening bet. Action then proceeds around the table. One key difference to point out between Stud high and Stud 8 involves open pairs on fourth street. In Stud high, you may make a double bet with an open pair on fourth street. In Stud 8 or Better, this is not allowed.
Once all betting is completed on fourth street, the next card is dealt face up. On fifth street, the bets double. Once action is finished on fifth, the last upcard is dealt. Another difference between Stud and Stud 8 is more of a casino technicality. In Stud, possible straights and flushes are typically pointed out by the dealer on sixth street. In Stud 8 or Better, this is not allowed. Be aware also that the person that opened the betting on sixth street will also open the betting on the river.
When action is finished on sixth street, the river card is dealt face down to each player. One final round of betting is occurred and then hands are shown. The player with the highest five card hand wins half of the pot. Then, if a player has a qualifying low hand, they will receive the other half of the pot. In the event that a player has both the best high and the best low hand, that play will scoop the pot. A scoop will also occur if there are no qualifying low hands.
When reading a low hand at the river, remember that the hand has to have five unique cards. If you have three cards in your hand over 8, a low is not possible. Also, remember that a low straight or a low flush plays both ways. If you hold A-4-5-6-7 of spades, you have an ace high flush with a seven-low. Scoop hands are really what you are looking for in this game.
If you are a Stud high player that is getting into Stud 8 for the first time, you will need to be careful not to overvalue certain hands that you would normally play in Stud. Three high straight cards are garbage in Stud 8. So are high pairs other than aces. If you must play high pairs, you almost have to have a hand that is being played heads-up. Three big flush cards are also hands that are asking for trouble. If you are in late position facing the bring-in, you can take a flyer, but otherwise, you will want to stay away a good chunk of the time.
Much like in Stud, you want to play close attention to the cards that are in other players hands. This is very important in determining what outs are available to improve your hand, and what outs have been folded that hurt your opponent’s hands. A common mistake I see made in Stud 8 is someone playing a low-hand that has a lot of dead outs. The same applies for someone playing with a high hand against a low hand where lots of outs are still live.
The primary object of Stud 8 or Better is to scoop pots. Playing hands that will only win one half of the pot is not a wise decision unless you are in a big pot. In those cases, you want a one way hand that is drawing to the nuts. Otherwise, you are in danger of playing for second best.
As you learn how to play Stud 8 or Better, you will find that many players do not have a firm grasp to play the game. Even if they do, many do not have the patience to play optimum poker. The above rules are just the tip of the iceberg about what you need to learn to play the game properly. Check out other strategy material regarding Stud 8 to learn what hands you should be playing and how to take advantage of your opponents weaknesses. Doing so will give you the advantage at the table and allow you to scoop more pots.