Stud Hi/Lo: Traits of the Winning Player

“There are days when it takes all you’ve got just to keep up with the losers.” – Robert Orben

The most important trait of the winning stud eight player is selective aggression. Well, I guess that’s two traits, but if you can be aggressive and patient, you can win in stud hi/lo. Losing players will see far too many fourth streets. Their selective memories will remember the few hands where they win big pots but they forget the far more numerous hands where they should have folded.

By far, the most important skill for a stud eight player is the ability to fold hand after hand. In the next three lessons, we’ll look at third street. For now, just remember that your most common play is to fold. It can be very frustrating looking at two beautiful hole cards, say A2 , and get a brick (a high card that’s useless) as your up-card. The good players know that the cards even out over time. The bad players call with these poor hands.

I have gone almost an hour without voluntarily playing a hand. Luckily, I was in a good game with usually four players seeing fourth street. Over time, everyone gets the same cards. At least statistical theory implies that’s true.

Of course, stud eight can be frustrating in other ways. Let’s say that you start with a great hand, (A2)3 , and you improve on fourth street by picking up the 4. Unfortunately, on fifth street you get the 10, on sixth street the Q, and on seventh street you get the J. You’re up against two players, one who has trip-7’s showing, and another who has an obvious low. The trip-7’s bets, and you fold, of course. You can’t bluff the high hand out so you end up losing the hand. That’s the nature of stud eight and, trust me, it can be a very frustrating experience when your beautiful hand turns into mush.

Successful stud hi/lo players also read their opponents well. Let’s say you started with three low cards. On fourth street you pair up, while your one opponent, who had the bring in, catches good. On fifth street you brick, while your opponent again catches good. On sixth street your opponent bricks, and you still have just one pair. Your opponent bets. Does his scary board really mean he has something? Or is he just trying to scare you? Good players can analyze the betting pattern to indicate if he really has something. Good players also remember an opponent’s tendency to bluff. Of course, if you were paying attention to the football game you wouldn’t know any of this, and you would be guessing.

Math also comes into play. Pot odds have been covered before, but they’re just as important in stud eight. Good players remember that when they’re going for just half the pot, they must either have better odds or a bigger pot to chase. If you’re the only player going after low, but you have no chance for high (let’s assume that you’re up against two high players who appear to have no chance for low), and you think you have a 25% chance of making the low, what kind of pot odds do you need to call your opponents’ bet? We’ll look at pot odds in a later lesson, but for now remember that you can cut your odds in half when you’re going for only half the pot.

Good players also remember the cards that have been shown and thrown away. Let’s assume you start with a three-flush in hearts. If five hearts were out on third street, a good player will discount his chance of making the flush. Ideally, you should remember all the exposed cards. If you can’t do that, then remember the key cards: cards that match your opponents’ up cards, cards in your suit, and cards that would make your straight (or your opponents’ straight).

Characteristics of Stud Hi/Lo Games

You rarely find low limit stud eight games. It’s unfortunate, but where I live (Southern California) only rarely do I see a game at less than $20/$40 stakes. However, I’ve been told that you will, on occasion, find $6/$12 games in Arizona and on the East Coast (and you will definitely find low limit games online). Because of the split-pot nature of stud eight, the games do not require as large a bankroll as other games at the same limits.

In low limit games, multi-way (more than two players) fourth streets are the rule. However, when you play above $20/$40 you will see two and three-way fourth streets (if you see fourth street). Typically, there will be one player with an obvious low, one player with an obvious high, and one player that you aren’t sure of. Stud eight has a tendency to be a tight game.

If you’re lucky, you’ll find a game where four or more players are, on average, seeing fourth street. That’s a good game, because on average there shouldn’t be four players seeing fourth street-the cards just aren’t there for that. Remember, your goal is to scoop pots, not win the high or the low. There just aren’t that many hands you can play that allow you a chance to scoop a pot.

Stud eight games also feature a lot of ante stealing. Players with an ace as their up card will complete the action on third street. Much of the time their completion bet will win them the antes. Of course, sometimes they don’t have good down cards but the ace is the best card in stud hi/lo. In hi/lo hands where two low draws battle it out, an ace high can (and often does) win high.

Differences Between Stud Hi/Lo and Razz

Razz is stud played for low. A perfect hand is A2345 (there are no flushes or straights in razz). There are many differences between stud eight and razz:

  • The low card brings in action on third street in stud eight while the high card brings in action in razz
  • The high hand wins half the pot in stud eight
  • High starting hands are useless in razz
  • Razz is a game of boards. If an opponent has a scary board, folding is usually correct. Stud eight has many more factors in the play of hands.

Another game you see rarely in casinos (but frequently in home games) is stud hi/lo with no qualifier (in casinos, you may also hear this as “stud q”). The original SuperSystem has a section dealing with this game. Suffice to say, tight play is really rewarded in this game.

In the next lesson we’ll take the first of three looks at third street. By far, your most important decision in stud eight is whether or not to play the hand.


In this quiz we will look at a seven-card stud hi/lo hand and some of the basic principles behind the game. Check below quiz for answers.

  1. You are watching an eight-handed stud game and can see all of the players’ cards. Abe (seat 1) has (52)3, Bob (seat 2) has (108)K, Cal (seat 3) has (34)3, Dan (seat 4) has (4J)]Qd], Ed (seat 5) has (6A)3, Fern (seat 6) has (AK)Q, Gil (seat 7) has (106)6 and Hal (seat 8) has (27)10. The game is a loose $10/$20 game, and all 8 players have large chip stacks. Please answer the questions without looking ahead. Who has the bring-in? (a) Abe, (b) Bob, (c) Cal or (d) Ed.
  2. Dan folds to the bring-in, but Ed completes it. Which of these other players should not continue to fourth street? (a) Abe, (b) Bob, (c) Bob and Fern, or (d) Abe, Bob and Cal?
  3. Assume that Abe, Cal, Fern and Hal call Ed’s completion. Which player do you think is most unlikely to win the hand? (a) Abe, (b) Cal, (c) Hal or (d) Fern?
  4. Fourth street is now dealt. Abe: (52)35, Cal: (34)3J, Ed: (6A)34, Fern: (AK)Q2, and Hal: (27)108. Which of the five players currently has the best high hand? (a) Abe, (b) Cal, (c) Ed, (d) Fern or (e) Hal?
  5. Assume that Fern checks, Hal checks, Abe bets, and that only Fern folds. Their hands at fifth street become: Abe: (52)352, Ed: (6A)349, and Hal: (27)1085. Who has the best high hand? (a) Abe, (b) Cal, (c) Ed or (d) Hal?
  6. Who has the best low draw? (a) Abe, (b) Cal, (c) Ed, or (d) Hal?
  7. Only Abe and Hal call Ed’s bet. Sixth street brings: Abe: (52)352J, Ed: (6A)349J, and Hal: (27)1085K. Who has the best high hand? (a) Abe, (b) Ed, or (c) Hal?
  8. Who has the best low or low draw? (a) Abe, (b) Ed, or (c) Hal?
  9. Assume that Hal checks, Abe bets, and both of the other players call. Seventh street brings: Abe: (52)352J(6), Ed: (6A)349J(A), and Hal: (27)1085K(A). Who acts first? (a) Abe, (b) Ed, or (c) Hal?
  10. Who wins the pot? (a) Abe, (b) Ed, or (c) Hal, (d) split pot between Abe and Hal, or (e) split pot between Ed and Hal.





Answers: 1) C; The lowest card by suit has the forced bring-in. That’s Cal’s 3. 2) C; Bob has a poor stud hi/lo hand. Abe’s hand is excellent, as is Cal’s. Fern has an excellent stud high hand, but it’s not a good hi/lo hand. 3) D; Hal’s hand isn’t that good, but he does have both a low draw and a flush draw. Fern, though, only has a high draw. 4) A; Abe’s pair of fives is currently the best high hand. Fern will start the action with her Queen high (the best high hand that is showing acts first). 5) Abe’s two pair is high; Cal will begin the betting with the high hand showing. No one has a made low. 6) A; Ed has a draw to a six-low (lows are always read from their highest card), the best of the bunch. 7) A; Abe still has the best high with his two pair. 8) B; Ed still has the best low draw. 9) C; The high hand showing acts first on seventh street. Unless the first hand to act on sixth street folds on sixth street, the same hand will act first on sixth street and seventh street. 10) D; Abe has two pair (fives and deuces) for high and does not have a low. Ed has a pair of aces for high and does not have a low. Hal has ace-high for high and an 8752A low.