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Seven Card Stud Eight-Or-Better Fundamentals With Randy Ohel

by Steve Schult |  Published: Oct 09, 2019


The World Series of Poker is the one time of the year where all of poker’s variants are on display at the highest level. Randy Ohel is a regular in the high-stakes mixed game scene, both in tournaments and in cash games.

Ohel has a WSOP bracelet from his victory in the $2,500 2-7 triple draw in 2012, and has cashed in several other variants, including runner-up finishes in the 2018 10,000 2-7 triple draw, the 2016 $10,000 seven card stud eight-or-better championship, and the 2014 $10,000 H.O.R.S.E. championship.

The Florida native and Las Vegas resident has more than $2 million in live tournament earnings, almost exclusively in mixed events. Ohel has delved into the coaching realm of poker and is currently taking on students who wish to learn non-hold’em games.

In an effort to provide readers with a solid fundamental strategy of mixed games, Card Player sat down with Ohel to break down a hand from the $10,000 seven card stud eight-or-better championship.

The Hand

Event WSOP $10K Stud Hi-Lo Limits 60,000-120,000 15,000 ante
Players Robert Campbell Mike Matusow Mike Wattel Yueqi ’Rich Zhu
Chip Count 3,820,000 960,000 1,000,000 1,725,000
Hand ASpade Suit6Spade Suit/2Spade Suit3Heart Suit10Heart Suit9Spade Suit/10Spade Suit 8Heart Suit3Spade Suit/8Diamond Suit5Spade Suit8Club SuitJSpade Suit/QHeart Suit X-X/3Diamond Suit4Spade SuitJHeart Suit-FOLD AHeart Suit6Diamond Suit/6Club Suit7Spade Suit5Club Suit8Spade Suit/JClub Suit

The Action

Four-handed at the final table, Robert Campbell was the bring-in and Mike Matusow completed to a full bet next to act. Mike Wattel called, Yueqi ‘Rich’ Zhu called and Campbell made it two bets. All three players called.

On fourth street, action checked to Campbell, who bet, and was called by all three players. On fifth, Matusow took the betting lead and led out. Wattel folded, Zhu raised, Campbell called two bet, as did Matusow. On sixth street, Matusow checked, Zhu bet, Campbell called and Matusow called. On the river, action checked to Campbell, who bet. Both Matusow and Zhu called.

Steve Schult: Robert Campbell is the bring-in with the 2Spade Suit. In stud hi-lo, how often, if ever, are we going to be completing as the bring-in? I’d imagine some low-card hands have more value in this game than in stud high.

Randy Ohel: The only time where you can consider doing that is in a tournament situation where you are very short on chips. Otherwise, just bring it in dark and if you want to raise when it comes back to you, you can do that. But there is no reason to split your range and sort of telegraph your strength when nobody has even acted yet.

SS: On the other end of that question, are fewer people going be stealing the bring-in? Is there less incentive to attempt to steal the bring-in since there are more playable hands with low cards?

RO: There’s definitely less stealing. When people open the pot, they are going to have more legitimate hands than in stud high or especially in razz. But you will see that the last low card will come after the bring-in with reasonable hands that aren’t premium. Or an ace might attack some people. An ace is like the biggest steal card and then the last low card.

Let’s say the bring-in is a 2 and you have a 5 with like an A-10 in the hole. And all that is behind you is the bring-in and a jack. That’s a good time to open the pot and try to steal the antes.

SS: Matusow completes, Wattel and Zhu call and then Campbell makes it two bets from the bring-in. How strong of a play is this? What kind of hands are going to be two-betting from the bring-in.

RO: It’s suited low cards, it’s rolled up (having trips on third street) hands, it’s aces. Sometimes people will do it with aces. A pretty clean wheel draw. It’s just really premium hands.

SS: What are strong hands in this game? Is something like 2Spade Suit 3Spade Suit 4Spade Suit just as good as buried aces? Are they close equity-wise?

RO: I’m not sure what they are equity-wise just heads-up against one another, but it depends on how many people are in the pot and what cards are out. They are both very premium hands that you are going to want to put more money in with. With the 2Spade Suit 3Spade Suit 4Spade Suit, you are going to want more opponents. With aces, you would want to be heads-up.

Because the 2Spade Suit 3Spade Suit 4Spade Suit is capable of making hands that can beat a bunch of people, whereas the aces want to just hold up with aces or make aces up and try and scoop someone.

SS: Are there any hands that look appealing to some newer players, but aren’t that strong in reality?

RO: The biggest trouble hands for new players are the razz hands. And by razz hands, I mean that they are reasonable in razz, but don’t have straight potential and don’t have an ace. A hand like 8-7-2 is like the prime example of that.

You maybe would steal the bring-in or defend the bring-in heads-up, but it’s definitely not a normally playable hand. The lower they get, the better they are. Like 7-3-2 is a lot better than 8-7-2, but it’s still not a great hand.

SS: None of these types of hands exist in this exact example, so I just want to touch on it, but how would you proceed with a one-way type of hand like split kings?

Ohel deep in the $10K stud at the 2017 WSOPRO: That’s definitely a hand that separates really good stud eight-or-better players from reasonably decent stud eight-or-better players, being able to put the bets in with that hand when you’re still good, and potentially get out when you need to.

Ideally, you’d like to apply early pressure on third street and get the pot heads-up and proceed with caution as your opponent proceeds to catch low cards. And then maybe if it’s three-ways, you need to look for creative ways to make someone face two bets and potentially squeeze someone out. There are certain creative lines you could take to maximize your hand that you have to be able to take in order to make those hands really good.

Another important point, with some exemptions, if you never play a big pair against an opponent who raised an ace, you’re on the right track.

SS: So if you have split kings or split queens and someone raises an ace, it’s not that big of a mistake to just fold on third?

RO: It’s not just that it’s not that big of a mistake, it’s usually the right play. The exceptions will be if the ace comes from a steal position, or if the opponent is a known really loose player, or if you think you can get a really good idea of what he has on later streets. Things like that.

Not only are you going to be really cautious with kings if an ace opens, but you are going to be really cautious with kings if there is an ace to act behind you. If you have split queens, and there are a king and an ace behind you, you just fold.

SS: I know in hold’em, you call three-bets pretty frequently. Does it seem like you’re folding a lot more in stud?

RO: In flop games, you never open the pot and fold to a three-bet. In stud games, you can open the pot and fold to a two-bet. It comes in all stud games. In hold’em, you’re buying 60 percent of the board. In stud, you’re buying one card.

SS: Campbell bets when checked to and is called by all three players. I had heard that in stud games, you are doing most of your folding on odd streets and most of your calling on even streets. Is this true, and can you elaborate on why?

Ohel at the 2018 WSOPRO: I had never quite realized that, but it’s very true. On fourth street, the pot is already rather big from all the bets that went in on third street. You know a lot of equity can change on fifth street and allow you to make good decisions from there. So more often than not, on fourth you’re looking to call.

But there are spots where good players see that they might get caught up in a whipsaw and get out for the first bet before something stupid happens. In stud high, let’s say you open with a steal showing the KDiamond Suit and you caught the 3Spade Suit and the guy called you with the 9Heart Suit catches the 10Heart Suit. Well, if you were stealing and don’t have anything, just be done now.

On sixth in stud high, you almost never fold unless your opponent catches a very scary card. And more often than not in stud eight-or-better, you are calling on sixth. But again, it’s because the pot is big and you know there is only one more bet that you are going to have to face. And you get your complete hand now and things like that. So more often than not, you are calling on sixth in stud eight-or-better. In razz, I’d say there is the most sixth-street folding.

SS: How often are you going to be peeling through bricks in stud eight-or-better on fourth street? Nobody seems to have a caught a brick in this case, but just in general.

RO: In this hand, assuming the reporters have all the positions right, if you are Mike Matusow and you caught a brick on fourth, you 100 percent fold because someone can raise behind you, and he only had an eight. If you’re Mike Wattel, you can fold with a brick because someone can punish you behind you. But if you’re Rich Zhu and you’re closing the action, getting literally 12:1 or 13:1 with the antes, you’re certainly calling.

You want to be priced in and closing the action. And you want to do it among your stronger type hands. I found in stud eight, beginning players call too much with bricks on fourth street, intermediate players fold too much on fourth street with bricks, and expert players find the right balance.

SS: On fifth, Matusow makes an open pair and leads out. Is this just usually trips? What is he really representing if we established earlier that split eights are not great?

RO: For Mike, this is either trips or a big pair in the hole. Or maybe eights and fives or something like that. But the hands that he is leading into, two people caught a brick and Rich Zhu caught 7-6-5, and Mike has at least two eights that he is blocking.

So when Matusow bets here, he is putting Mike Wattel in a really difficult spot, whether he paired or not. Because he knows that he could easily be facing three bets when it gets back to him. There is a reasonable chance that Rich Zhu will raise and Rob will be in a tough spot. Matusow could three-bet if Wattel is still in the pot. Certainly if Wattel caught a pair, it’s a super easy fold. Unless he has a premium like 2-5, he is in a really difficult spot.

Matusow is looking to take advantage of the fact that he has a good opportunity to get it heads-up here with Rich Zhu. He is also blocking part of Rich’s straight.

SS: Rich can raise any low hand here given the boards, right?

Ohel at the final table of the $10K HORSE at the 2018 WSOPRO: He’s going to raise any made low. Probably only made lows. He shouldn’t be raising two pair there or anything. The only other thing he could be raising is like a flush draw, low draw, and a pair. If he had 7Club Suit4Club Suit in the hole.

SS: When Campbell calls two bets cold when he hits a brick on fifth, does he just always have a premium low draw?

RO: The pot is quite big, so he doesn’t have to have a straight draw or a flush draw, but he usually does. Once Rob calls two cold, Matusow won’t three-bet that often. Sometimes Rob will have to face four bets. If Matusow has a full house, he would make it three-bets. Well, there is a good chance he could three-bet with three eights and let Rich four-bet. He is generally very conservative in these spots, so maybe not.

SS: What would be the merit to not making it three bets with three eights in this spot?

RO: That you would be getting freerolled by Rich.

SS: On sixth, Rich catches pretty good and makes it unlikely that Matusow has three eights. With Zhu’s board looking as strong as it is, is this one of the few spots that Mike could fold on sixth?

RO: It depends on what he has. He doesn’t just have eights. If he has trips, he definitely has to call. Really, I think if he has just about anything, he has to call. Rich technically has an open-ended straight on his board, but it’s technically just a gutshot because he never has a nine. So it’s really only a four. He’s seen one four dead that we’ve seen.

The pot is just humongous. Mike is going to end up showing this hand down.

SS: On seventh, both players check to Campbell. Campbell bets and gets called in both spots.

RO: The river is just totally standard. Notice when Matusow bet on fifth, by the way, he had three eights and a three for blockers against Rich Zhu’s possible straight. At that point, he had seen three eights and three threes. Zhu caught an eight on sixth, but it was very unlikely that he was up against a straight on fifth.