Games You Can Play – P7: High-Low Split Games

In the games described earlier in this
chapter, the goal is to create the best possible five-card hand. Poker players are, by turns, both optimistic and pessimistic, so somewhere along the line some would-be clever individual thought it would be neat to play games where you went for the lowest hand possible, with straights and flushes not counting against you. After that, a would-be even cleverer person no doubt thought it would be neater to create games where players could go for the lowest and the highest possible hands, with the pot split evenly between the two winners. Thus high-low split poker was born.

Qualifying and Evaluating Low Hands

Unlike games played for low only, which allow any hand to be considered a low hand, high-low split games require that a low hand consist of five unpaired cards where every card is an Eight or lower. Thus 8432A qualifies as a low hand, but 9432A does not. You also need to know that low hands are counted from the highest card down, not from the lowest card up. For example, if one player has 86543 and another player has 8732A, the player with the Six as the second highest card beats the player with the Seven as the sec- ond highest card.

♠♥♣♦ Note

You can play low-only games online if you like. Razz is seven-card Stud played for low, and triple-draw Lowball is five-card Draw played for low. There are two variations of Lowball: A-5 Lowball (also called California Lowball) and 2-7 (Deuce to Seven or Kansas City Lowball). In California Lowball, straights and flushes don’t count against you and the Ace is considered a low card, so the best hand is A2345. In 2-7 Lowball, the Ace is considered a high card and straights and flushes count against you, so the best hand is 23457 of mixed suits. These games aren’t that popular, and neither of us has played them, so we won’t cover them in this book.

To practice creating the lowest possible hand, consider the seven-card Stud hands in Fig- ures 4.13, 4.14, and 4.15 to determine if a low is possible, and, if so, what the best low hand is that you can make.

You can make a low hand from the cards in Figure 4.13. The lowest hand you can make is 7♥5♣4♦2♣A♣.

You cannot make a low hand from the cards in Figure 4.14. The lowest hand you can make is 9♥8♠4♦3♦A♠, which doesn’t qualify.

You can make a low hand from the cards in Figure 4.15. The lowest hand you can make is 8♠5♣ 4♠3♠2♣.

High-Low Split Games

There are three high-low split games you can play online: Omaha, seven-card Stud, and Crazy Pineapple. Each game’s betting rounds proceed exactly as if the game were being played for high only, but at the end of the hand, each player makes the best five-card high hand and lowest five-card hand they can based on the rules of the game.

✦  In Crazy Pineapple, you create your high and low hands using any combination of your two remaining hole cards and the five board cards.

✦  In Omaha, you create your high hand using exactly two of your hole cards and any three cards from the board; then you create your low hand using exactly two of your hole cards and any three cards from the board.

✦  In seven-card Stud, you create your high and low hands from the seven cards dealt to you (and a community card, if applicable).

Omaha High-Low Practice Hands

Work through the following three practice hands to form the highest and (if possible) lowest five-card Omaha hand from the board and the assigned hole cards. Once you’ve determined the best hands you can create using your hole cards, try to figure out the best possible hands you could cre- ate using any set of hole cards. The first hand appears in Figure 4.16.

The best possible hand you can create using exactly two your hole cards and three board cards is an Ace-high flush, A♠2♠4♠6♠T♠. It’s not the nuts, though, because the pair of Tens on the board makes full houses possible (quad Tens is not possible because you have one in your hand). 

With regard to possible low hands, there are three cards ranked Eight or below on the board, and you have two hole cards (the A♠2♠) you can use to create a five- card hand where every card is unpaired and ranked Eight or below. That hand, 8♣6♠4♠2♠A♠, is the lowest possible hand given the three board cards, so you have the nuts on the low side. 

The second practice hand appears in Figure 4.17. 

♠♥♣♦ Note

We gave you some seven-card Stud practice hands in the “Quali- fying and Evaluating Low Hands” section earlier in this chapter. The answers for the best possible low hand follow Figures 4.13, 4.14, and 4.15, but go through and determine the highest pos- sible hand you can make from the seven cards in each hand.

The best possible hand you can create using exactly two of your hole cards and three board cards is a full house, Q♣Q♦Q♠3♠7♣. There is no possible straight flush on board. Your full house has the highest possible trips, but you can lose to a player who has the Q♥ and the 7♦, the7♠, or the Queen and another Five.

Unfortunately, you can’t make a low hand using two of your hole cards and three board cards. Your 3♣ pairs the 3♠, and the 9♠ isn’t an Eight or lower, so you can’t make a five-card hand where every card is unpaired and ranked Eight or below.

The third practice hand appears in Figure 4.18.

You’ve got the absolute nuts on the high side of this hand: a Five-high straight flush in spades (A♠2♠3♠4♠5♠). No one can touch you on the low side, either, though that fact may not be obvious at first. Your A♣, 3♥, and 5♠ all pair cards on the board, but remember that the object is to make the best five-card hand using two

of your hole cards and three of the board cards. Your Five-high straight flush is also the best possible low hand. Figure 4.19 shows a similar situation, where all of your hole cards pair board cards, but you can still create the nut low hand.

To create the nut low hand, take the A♣2♠ from your hole cards and combine them with the 3♠4♠5♣, or take your A♣3♥ and combine them with the 2♦4♠5♣, and so on. Of course, anyone with two un- paired hole cards ranked Five or below will also have the nut low hand, but beginning players may think that their paired cards can’t be used to make a low and throw away their hands on the turn. How do we know beginners can make that mistake? Because Curt made that mistake when he started playing Omaha high-low.

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