Stud Hi/Lo: Third Street (Part 3)

“Traps need fresh bait.” – Erle Stanley Gardner

In the previous two lessons we examined the good (and great) starting hands in stud high/low. In this lesson we examine the remaining starting hands: when you have the bring-in and the trash hands. The good news about stud high/low is that because low cards are (in general) more sought after, having the bring-in does not, by itself, mean that you’ve lost money.

When You Have the Bring-In

Unless you’re in an extremely passive game, I will never complete the betting when I have the bring-in. If there’s an ace-up or another good low hand out, the betting is likely going to be completed. If it turns out that I have an excellent hand, and don’t care to disguise it, I can then raise. However, if I have the only low-up card (and have the bring-in), I will look at my cards and almost always complete the bet (no matter if I have two bricks as my down cards).

One case that we will not examine in this lesson is when you make the bring-in and no one completes the betting. This does happen, by the way, and is a sing that you’re in a good game (especially if it’s happening frequently). We’ll look at this in the next lesson, which focuses on fourth street.

Let’s first take the easiest case of all. You bring-in the action with the 2 as your up-card, and the betting is completed when it comes back to you with two players calling the completion. You look down at two bricks (you have no flush draw nor do you have a pair). Fold. You can’t scoop (unless you get very lucky), so why should you waste your money?

The second easiest case is when you have a good hand. You should either call or raise, depending on whether (1) a raise would limit the field, (2) whether disguising your hand has value, and (3) whether you want to limit the field.

However, most of the time you will have one other low card and one brick when you have the bring-in. Assume you look down at K8 as your two other cards. I always ask, when I have the bring-in, do I have two ways of winning? Here, I have both a backdoor low draw and a backdoor flush draw. If I don’t have two methods of winning I fold. So this hand passes the first test. I consider a pair, by itself, a good enough hand to pass the first test.

I then examine the opponents’ up-cards to see what I’m likely facing. If, for example, I have a pair of deuces with a king, and I’m facing a queen that has called the completion, I’ll fold. Chasing in stud high/low is a good way to loosen your wallet unless you have the right pot odds. With a pair of deuces and a likely pair of queens out against me, I almost always don’t have the correct price and should fold.

Now, let’s say I hold a flush draw: K6. I have two reasonably good low cards, and I have a valid second way of winning (the flush). Of course, if everyone’s up-cards are clubs my flush potential is worthless. If I hold two wheel cards (ace – five) I’m more likely to call the completion. Additionally, the more players that call the completion, the more likely I am to call because the pot odds are better.

Finally, if it is completed and then raised, I must hold a real hand in order to go beyond third straight. Chasing two players is not good strategy.

Trash Hands

These are the simplest to play-just throw them away. Unless you’re stealing (with an ace-up, for example), there’s no reason to get involved when you’re way behind. If you follow this religiously, you will save money.

Winning the Antes

All stud games start as a battle for antes. Especially when you play in mid and high limit stud high/low games, stealing the antes is vital.

Stealing is making a completion bet with a hand that doesn’t justify it if all the cards were visible. You’re representing a good hand; thus, you must have a good up-card (i.e. an ace or another wheel card) in order to steal. The ideal up-card for an ante-steal is an ace, of course.

Ideally, you want to have at least one other good card when you ante-steal. In low-limit games, you’re likely to be called. Indeed, in low-limit games the efficacy of ante-stealing is reduced because you get called.

But even in low-limit games you will find times to ante-steal. For example, if I hold an ace and there’s only one other low up-card, I’ll always complete. If, however, one of the high up-cards completes in front of me I’ll fold-I’m not likely to be able to chase the other player out of the hand.

Trap Hands

You may have noticed that I haven’t recommended play a large number of hands. Indeed, successful stud high/low players are tight players (especially at the lower limits). Money flows from the impatient to the patient, and that’s something to remember when playing stud. Avoid playing trap hands and you will save money.

Three-straights and three-flushes with one low card are the biggest trap hands in stud high/low. Frankly, three-straights are vastly overrated in stud high; they’re even worse in stud high/low when you don’t have low cards to go with them because they can only very rarely scoop the pot. The same is true for three-flushes: they can’t scoop the pot (unless they’re all low cards, in which case the hand is anything but a trap hand).

Another trap hand is a two-low with a nine as the third card. For example, (96)5 is an example of this type of hand. When you play a hand like this you’re chasing. Additionally, the nine is the worst card in the deck for stud high/low.

A final trap hand is a not-so-high pair, such as tens or jacks. Remember, high pairs/hands can only scoop if no low hand is made (or you make a low to go with your high pair). Also, tens and jacks are vulnerable to higher pairs, such as queens, kings and aces.

In the next lesson we’ll look at the action on fourth street. This is where low hands want to see their opponents brick and is the final betting action at the lower limit.