Poker Beginners Guide: Low Hand Rankings (1)

Low hands in poker can often be confusing for newcomers to the game. Indeed, even experienced players make mistakes reading the low board from time to time. The two key things to remember are:

  • 1. Your lowest five cards count, but these cards must all be different ranks. (Paired cards only qualify as one low card, not two!)
  • 2. The first card to consider is the highest card of your five, then the next highest card and so on.

In Hi/Lo poker an Ace counts as a low card when you are calculating the low part of the board. In fact, the Ace is the best possible low card, then the Deuce, then the Trey. Thus the Ace is doubly important in Hi/Lo games – it is the best card for the low side of the pot as well as for the high end.

Flushes and straights are completely ignored for the purposes of the low pot. The best possible low hand on Omaha Hi/Lo (and Stud Hi/Lo) is 5-4-3-2-A, which is often known as the wheel (or bicycle). You will notice that the ‘wheel’ is also a Five-high straight on the high end of the board, which makes it a very powerful holding in Hi/Lo games.

In Hi/Lo games, there is always an Eight qualifier for the low. In other words, to qualify as a low hand, you must have five different cards ranked Eight or below. Thus 8-7-6-5-4 qualifies as a low hand in Hi/Lo games, whereas 9-4-3-2-A and 4-3-3-2-A do not. The 9-4-3-2-A hand contains only four qualifying low cards (the Nine is disqualified), and the 4-3-3-2-A hand only has four cards of different ranks (pairs are also not permitted).