The Top Five Starting Hands in Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo Eight or Better

A Seven Card Stud hand

Good starting hand requirements are important in all poker games, but Seven-Stud Hi-Lo Eight or Better probably places more emphasis on them than most. In the Full Tilt Poker Strategy Guide (an excellent read despite the company's rightfully tarnished reputation) Ted Forrest writes a chapter on all the non-standard plays you can make in holdem, and then has a chapter later in the book on Stud Eight stressing tight play and starting hand requirements.

If a player as creative as Ted says you need good requirements, than you darn well do.

For this article, I'm going to assume you know the basic play of the game, and skip right to the starting hands you can safely play.

Scooping

The first thing to remember about a split pot game, is that you never want to split a pot. Be a hog! The best hands all have a good potential of scooping. If you're playing for half the pot, it is only going to be because you have that half locked up and are freerolling against people trying for the other half.

Live Cards

Every hand on this list needs to be adjusted by whether or not your cards are live. If you've got the 457 and the other players upcards are three 6's, two 3's, and a couple of Aces, your very strong starting hand has lost most of its value.

The List

1. Rolled up trips

If there was no qualifier on the low, three of a kind would be unplayable in a split pot game.

But since there is no guarantee that a low will come and take half the pot, starting with three of a kind is a very powerful hand. I rank it ever so slightly over the low suited straight flush cards that come next in this list for a couple of reasons. First of all, it is not a drawing hand. Trips is already ahead of the average winning hand (assuming the showdown is less than a full table), so you don't necessarily need improvement to win.

And much like a set in holdem, it is a hard hand to read. In stud eight you're going to find that concealing your hand is difficult, but when you succeed it pays huge dividends. Low trips are especially good for this as people will assume you're going low and either pay you off with two pair or raise you when you catch what appears to be a bust card.

Rolled up trips play great short-handed as well as full ring since they turn into a full house around 40% of the time.

2. Low Suited Straight Flush cards

Another very powerful hand that despite being a drawing hand, still plays well short-handed due to the great number of outs for both the high and low. My preference is to play it multi-way, so I will often smooth call the bring-in and try to reraise into a multi-way pot and build a big pot. When this hand hits well, it can easily scoop, even against a full field.

3. A Pair of Aces with a Low Kicker

Though it will survive in a multi-way pot, this hand definitely does better in a heads up pot. It has the advantage of being a high hand so you can punish drawing hands early in the hand, as well as having good low potential so you can escape for low later if someone betters you for the high half.

It is also a high hand that can look low, which as noted above can get you a much bigger payoff.

4. Three low cards to a straight

Another drawing hand that can be remarkably strong. The hand plays better multiway and I will generally limp with it. But If all the key cards are live, raising and reraising is also a good option, especially if there are players with high cards showing willing to come along.

5. Two low cards and an ace

If your three cards don't stretch to a straight, you had better have an ace to make up for it. The ace gives your hand a little bit of high potential to go with your low draw, especially if you end up heads up against another low draw. In this situation, an ace for high can sometimes be the difference between splitting the pot and getting the whole thing. And as I mentioned before, getting the whole pot is still the objective, despite this being a split pot game.