A Calling Hand in Stud Hi-Lo by Howard Lederer

In split-pot games, beginners are often cautioned against playing hands that have them drawing to half the pot. But in Seven-Card Stud Hi/Lo, a situation sometimes arises where drawing with a modest chance at the whole pot and an even smaller chance at half the pot is clearly the correct play.

Say you’re playing eight-handed, $4/$8 Stud Hi/Lo, with a $1 ante and a $1 low card bring in. You’re dealt 2s-5d-5c and, with the low card showing, you bring it in for $1. It’s folded to a player showing a King, who completes to $4. Everyone else folds; you call and head to Fourth Street.

Both you and your opponent pick up a 7. He bets $4 and you call. On Fifth Street, you pick up a Jack and he gets a 4. You have [2s]-[5d]-5c-7h-Jc and your opponent shows [x]-[x]-Kd-7s-4c. At this point, you’re pretty convinced that your opponent has a pair of Kings. You look at your hand and see that you don’t have much, a low pair and three to a low. You might be tempted to fold if your opponent bets, but that would be a mistake.

The action so far has already created a significant pot. There’s $8 in antes, and another $16 from the betting on Third and Fourth Streets. You’ll need to call bets of $8 on Fifth and Sixth Street to try to make your hand, so it will cost you $16. If you manage to make two pair and it holds up, you’d win about $50. That’s a pretty good price.

The odds here are so compelling that even if you were playing Seven-Card Stud Hi only, you’d have to consider calling your opponent down. You’d have a 30 percent chance of cracking the Kings, which isn’t quite enough to justify calling against an over-pair. However, if there was a chance that your opponent was bluffing, then calling would be okay.

However, Stud-Hi/Lo gives you an additional way of getting money out of the pot. You’ll go runner-runner to a low often enough so that your pot equity increases to about 37 percent. Those odds are way too good to consider folding.

Stud-Hi/Lo is a complex game that presents players with decisions that they’re not going to encounter in Hold ’em or in any other high-only game. If you’re looking to improve your Stud-Hi/Lo game, play some hands online, and then try running some computer simulations to see if you’re making the best mathematical decisions.

Howard Lederer