One of the most demanding, and most fun, versions of professional-level poker is the split-pot game known as Seven Card Stud Hi-Low, whereby the best and worst five cards out of seven divide up the winnings. It is typically played with an “eight or better” qualifier. That means that a low hand must contain no card higher than an eight in order to be eligible to win the low portion of the pot. If no low hand qualifies, the high hand wins the entire pot.
The game begins with an “ante.” Each player must stake a nominal amount in order to receive cards—i.e., the cost of being able to play the hand. For example, in a €0.50/€1 game, the ante might be €0.05. Once all players have anted up, the dealer will distribute two cards face down to each player and then one card face up for all to see. This is called “Third Street.” Players may then look at their unexposed “hole cards” to determine the relative merits of their hands.
The player showing the lowest of all the exposed cards is forced to start the action as the “Bring In.” In the case of a tie, the card’s suit is the determinant, with spades being the highest followed by hearts, diamonds and clubs. The Bring In is required to make another nominal bet or else wager a full bet of the lower betting increment, such as €0.50 in a €0.50/€1 game. Action then follows clockwise around the table, as players call, raise or fold in turn until betting is complete for the round.
Next, each player remaining receives another exposed card. This is known as “Fourth Street.” Now the first player to act is the one whose exposed cards have the highest poker value, and the player may either check or bet the game’s lower increment. Again, action follows clockwise around the table, with calls, raises or folds taken in turn until the round of betting is complete.
Fifth Street then follows in the same manner as Fourth Street, with the exception that all bets and raises are now in big bet increments (€1 in a €0.50/€1 game). Thereafter comes Sixth Street, in the same way as Fifth Street, and then there is Seventh Street, also known as “The River.” Here once more there is a variation, as the seventh card is dealt face down, known only to the player to whom it is dealt.
The first player to act on the River is the one whose exposed cards have the highest poker value. A final betting round is concluded, and should more than one player remain, a Showdown is held to determine the winner(s). The last bettor or raiser must reveal his or her cards first. Or, if there was no betting in the final round, whoever sits in the earliest seat must show his or her cards first. All of the other hands are then exposed clockwise around the table.
Whichever player holds the best five-card poker hand wins the “Hi” (high) and half of the total amount in the pot. The player with the best five-card hand for “Low” wins the other half. Again, if no hand qualifies for the Low, the winning Hi hand takes the entire pot, which is referred to as a “Scoop.”
In Seven Card Stud Hi-Low 8 or Better, straights and flushes count for the Hi hand, but not for the Low. That means the winning Hi hand might also be the winning Low, such as a 6-5-3-2-A flush of hearts. Also, a player may use five different cards out of the seven to form the Hi hand and the Low hand. The best hand possible is 5-4-3-2-A, also known as “The Wheel.”
When two Low hands contain cards of the same value as their highest cards, the next highest card is used to break the tie. Hence, 8-5-4-3-2 beats 8-6-3-2-A but loses to 8-5-3-2-A. In the professional variation of the game, and the one most common in online poker rooms, the cards speak for themselves; players need not declare their hands Hi or Low.