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Seven Card Stud Eight-or-Better: Sometimes Playable Hands

by Kevin Haney |  Published: Aug 25, 2021


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Last issue, we talked about Often Playable Hands in Seven Card Stud Eight-Or-Better (Stud 8). In this issue, we are going to discuss the marginal and steal holdings in Seven Card Stud Eight-or-Better (Stud 8). These are hands that are generally only playable in certain third street situations, such as when the board is particularly advantageous to our holding, we can get heads-up against a probable weak range, or as a potential ante steal. We refer to these as Sometimes Playable Hands.

Two-Gappers (No Ace): These low starters include the following holdings: 2-3-6, 2-4-6, 2-5-6, 3-4-7, 3-5-7, 3-6-7, 4-5-8, 4-6-8, and 4-7-8. While these aren’t bad Stud 8 hands, they do have significantly less value than the “Zero” or “One-Gappers” from last issue, as they can only hope to pick up a gutshot straight draw on fourth street.

Three to a six is usually playable and with the potential to build a six low we can virtually always call a single complete and join a multi-way pot. It’s a much trickier situation when there is a complete and a reraise in front of us, especially if some of the key cards that we need are exposed on board.

For example, if a five completes and an ace reraises, a hand such as 2-4-6 should probably hit the muck, although calling probably isn’t too bad if we have two live suits. Of course, if we hold a three flush, nothing should stop us from playing, but we are not talking about those premium hands in this issue.

The problem with an unsuited 2-4-6 is that it’s lacking in high potential and if we get a seven or an eight we will often be drawing to the second-best low. However, we should certainly continue if we brought in the action with (2Club Suit 6Spade Suit) 4Heart Suit and are facing two bets cold from an eight and a king, as our holding plays better against those particular up cards.

Three to a seven or an eight are marginal hands, especially when our highest card is exposed. While we wouldn’t often call early position completes with these holdings, we can frequently open-complete the action as long as there aren’t too many threatening cards behind us.

Low Pair With A Low Kicker (No Ace): A hand such as (5Club Suit 6Diamond Suit) 6Club Suit is a relatively decent starting hand as we have a pair and a few other possibilities that come with having a connected straight-flush kicker. This hand fares relatively well in many heads-up situations; for example (5Club Suit 6Diamond Suit) 6Club Suit has around 55% equity against (ASpade Suit 2Spade Suit) 4Heart Suit and approximately 44% equity versus a pair of kings.

With fully live pair outs we should often get aggressive on third street and it’s nice when we hit trips as a high pair will often continue in the hand hoping we started out with three low cards. While it’s also advantageous that our straight/flush outs are mostly live, the decision on whether or not to play (5Club Suit 6Diamond Suit) 6Club Suit on third street will often come down to whether or not any sixes are exposed.

These hands can be somewhat difficult to play in multi-way pots as we must improve early on and hope that our opponents do not, requiring a parlay of sorts to come home. That said, for a single complete we can still often enter a three-way pot against a probable high pair and a low hand due to the implied odds of making strong high hands. However, our hand needs to be live and if we don’t improve right away we should tend to make an early exit.

In contrast, mediocre holdings such as (4Club Suit 7Diamond Suit) 4Spade Suit should only be played when we either have a chance to win uncontested on third street or when defending the bring-in. With a smaller pair it’s more likely a low hand can win the high by pairing up, and overall this hand has far less potential. Getting involved too frequently with these hands on third street is a common leak, one that will often lead to getting stuck in the middle between two better holdings.

Flush Draws (With Two Or Three High Cards): In split pot games, drawing hands to potentially one half of the pot must be very live and have strong potential in order to play. For example, a premium draw such as (10Spade Suit QSpade Suit) KSpade Suit is going to find many more profitable situations than a mediocre holding of (5Heart Suit QHeart Suit) 9Heart Suit.

The (10Spade Suit QSpade Suit) KSpade Suit has more opportunities to improve one way or another and if your outs are relatively live this holding is strong enough to reraise an opponent, provided they are not showing an ace. With a drawing hand it may seem like we want to pull others into the pot, however, it is beneficial to knock out mediocre lows that may either steal half of the pot or create a situation later in the hand where you are forced to fold and relinquish your equity. In addition, since we would often reraise a pair of kings we should also do so with a three flush, otherwise observant players will know what we have.

If you have a chance to win the pot uncontested on third street, your flush outs can afford to be a little dead, especially if you have a king up-card as it will often cause pairs as good as queens or jacks to fold.

Jacks, Tens, and Nines: There’s quite a large difference between these middling pairs and higher pairs such as kings and queens. If we are in early position with nines and tens we should tend to fold as virtually every card left to act poses a threat. Even if we don’t get isolated by a better high hand, our hand doesn’t play well multi-way and when a low draw bricks, they will often catch an overcard to our pair.

We should certainly fold to a complete from a higher upcard because in Stud 8 they often hold the big pair they are representing. An ace will be playing a wider range of hands, but unless they are in a situation where they may be stealing with 100% of their range, we are an equity underdog and won’t know where we stand.

A pair of jacks versus an ace raising 100% of his hands has around 54% equity, which can be enough to play if only the bring-in is behind us. Still, the situation is not great because the bring-in could still enter the pot and an ace is always difficult to play against. That said, if folding is wrong, it can’t be a big mistake. However, if our kicker is an ace or if another ace already folded, our equity goes up to around 57% and we should definitely reraise.

Most of the time, medium pairs are only playable as an open complete when we are in middle or later position and there are not too many threatening cards behind us. However, if the nature of our holding is disguised e.g. (JClub Suit JHeart Suit) 3Club Suit, we can assume more risk in our opens.

Low Pair With A High Kicker (No Ace): A low pair with a high kicker is a marginal hand. However, if the kicker is higher than some potential pairs that we may run into, our hand is generally good enough to play. For example, if everyone has folded to us and our holding is (KHeart Suit 6Diamond Suit) 6Club Suit, we have a clear complete when there is only a queen, a jack, and a deuce left to act.

If we happen to run into a pair of queens or jacks and get re-raised, we are not in bad shape since we have an overcard kicker. Even though in Stud 8 our opponents more often have the hand they represent, the situation isn’t bad as the nature of our hand is mostly hidden and we have implied odds.

Once again, if we are lucky enough to pair our door-card, our opponent will often continue figuring that we likely have a couple of low cards in the hole. However, when he pairs his door, we won’t reciprocate and have an easy fold.

Razz Lows: These are defined as three low cards without an ace such as (2Club Suit 6Diamond Suit) 7Spade Suit that also lack the ability to pick up a straight draw on the next card. These rougher holdings also build a lot of second-best lows. We should not be calling legitimate completes with these hands; they are either pure stealing hands or for defending the bring-in against a wide range.

Steal Holdings: The following holdings should only be played when we expect to have a chance to steal the antes or possibly defending the bring-in against a late position open.

Ace Broadway Low: (AClub Suit QDiamond Suit) 6Diamond Suit
Wheel Broadway Wheel: (4Club Suit KClub Suit) 5Diamond Suit
Three High Cards: (JClub Suit QDiamond Suit) KDiamond Suit
Ace As Up-Card: (6Club Suit 9Club Suit) ASpade Suit

Given the power of the ace up-card in Stud 8, we should always consider a steal whenever we have reasonable cards in the hole as our opponents will tend to tighten up against it (in some cases by too much) and we are not likely to get reraised.

Marginal hands can be somewhat tricky to play in Stud 8, and the average player probably often gets involved when they shouldn’t which frequently leads to getting stuck in the middle with way the worst of it. With many of these holdings we should either make disciplined folds on third street, or get out relatively early when we have not improved and it appears that our opponent(s) more than likely did. ♠

Kevin Haney is a former actuary of MetLife but left the corporate job to focus on his passions for poker and fitness. He is co-owner of Elite Fitness Club in Oceanport, NJ and is a certified personal trainer. With regards to poker he got his start way back in 2003 and particularly enjoys taking new players interested in mixed games under his wing and quickly making them proficient in all variants. If interested in learning more, playing mixed games online, or just saying hello he can be reached at