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Stud Eight-or-Better: Big Pair Versus A Low Card

by Kevin Haney |  Published: Mar 23, 2022

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In tight-aggressive Seven Card Stud Eight-or-Better (Stud 8) games, a confrontation between a big pair and an opponent showing a low card is quite common and whoever appears to hold the advantage and thus the betting lead will often flip-flop throughout the hand. We are going to discuss big pairs other than aces because while aces certainly qualify as a big pair, different dynamics are in play when holding them as our opponent is not sure whether we are going high or low.

Suppose in a high ante six-handed game, one player completes from early position with a king up, another player with a low upcard calls, and everyone else folds. We are going to assume that the first player has at least one other king in the hole, however, all of the equities displayed below will also leave open the possibility that he is rolled up.

In practice, this player will have hands other than kings, however in stud 8 they will have the high pair they are representing more often than not. The low card frequently has three unpaired low cards, but sometimes has a low pair or a three flush.

Fourth Street – Low Hand Bricks

When the low hand does not help, the player holding a king has a clear bet as it has a large advantage over essentially the entirety of the low card’s range. It would be rare for the low card to slow play really big hands such as aces in the hole or rolled up fives on third street. Reraising inflates the pot as a clear favorite and it’s still possible to get in additional raises later when catching what appear to be blanks.

Therefore, the following types of hands in play for the low card are as follows:

Scoop equity is the frequency in which a player will scoop the other assuming both players go to showdown and one of the players wins the entire pot. While that doesn’t have a ton of meaning on its own, it’s another metric to examine as it helps indicate the value (or relative lack of) that a hand may hold regarding implied or reverse implied odds.

Even though only one bet went in on third street, the low hand is often getting around 3.5 to 1 translating to a target equity of approximately 22% and should continue with most of their holdings. Remaining in the hand is clear when holding a pair or three good low cards such as 3-4-5, A-3-6, or 3-5-6 that have the potential to beat a probable pair of kings.

2-3-6-J is a marginal call; however, it does have the ability to pick up a gut shot along with a low draw on fifth street. It’s of course helpful when all of the fours and fives are live, however, that should have been part of your decision making to call on third street in the first place.

Even though it may appear that 2-3-7-J has too much “hot/cold” equity to fold, we must also consider playability as this hand cannot pick up straight outs on the next street and must often fold. Actually, the 2-3-7 should have been folded on third street, and we only include it here to help demonstrate why that is the case.

While we should also probably fold (2Diamond Suit QClub Suit)5Diamond Suit JSpade Suit, the hand has the ability to pick up a four flush on fifth street (possibly even with backdoor straight and/or low possibilities) making it a slightly better call than 2-3-7-J due to its better scooping chances even though it has less equity. However, you should call if you also have at least one overcard to the probable pair.

Fourth Street – Low Hand Gets Unpaired Low Card

When the low hand picks up another low card, the king should virtually always check as a high pair is generally an underdog and even when it isn’t, the bet will often go in regardless. This would especially be the case if your opponent’s fourth street catch is connected to his door card.

A sampling of hands that the kings may be up against includes the following:

As you can see the kings are a big underdog to many hands and mostly 50/50 propositions against bare low draws or a small pair with backdoor low/straight potential. The only holding in which the big pair would be a big favorite against would be a three flush that bricked, however, that’s less likely when the king is showing a diamond.

When picking up a connecting low card, the player with the 5Diamond Suit should mostly bet the entirety of their range. Since the low card called the king’s completion on third street from outside the bring-in, his overall range is relatively strong, and checking would probably mark him for one of the weaker holdings.

While taking a free card is tempting with a small pair or a busted flush draw, one can be reducing potential fold equity on fifth and/or sixth when picking up additional low cards. However, if an opponent is the type that sees a pair of kings to the end regardless of most board runouts, checking is best with weaker holdings.

When there are many gaps in between the low cards, the high hand is up against a much weaker range. For example, if your opponent has (X-X)3Diamond Suit 8Spade Suit he can’t possibly have a straight draw which would generally comprise the strongest hands that he could have. With a four and an eight showing, only a gut-shot straight draw is possible. In addition, he is far less likely to hold two pair as most players are more apt to call on third street with (5-6) 5 as opposed to something like (8-3) 3.

Against a weaker board, the king should tend to lead especially if his opponent has shown that he will sometimes check behind. After all, it’s not obligatory that a bare low draw bet as there usually isn’t any equity advantage and keeping the pot small gives the option to fold on a fifth-street brick.

Against a very loose player or someone who defended the bring-in, it is mandatory that a pair of kings bets into a weak low board. For example, an opponent may have hands such as (JClub Suit 3Heart Suit) 3Diamond Suit 8Spade Suit and those types of holdings need to be charged. By the way, against a highly probable pair of kings someone shouldn’t be defending the bring-in with a small pair and bad kicker. Due to reverse implied odds, having the knowledge that a pot will be contested heads-up and getting a slightly better price on a third street call are not good enough reasons to continue.

Fourth Street – Low Hand Pairs Door Card

In stud 8 many players are less concerned when their opponent pairs their door card than they would be in stud high, but it’s still a troublesome situation. A big pair is only a tiny favorite over three low cards with a pair and is actually a small underdog if one of those cards is an ace.

However, if you are up against trips you may end up taking a multi-street trip to value town. As such your best course of action is heavily opponent dependent, but it’s never a horrible play to release on fifth street especially if the low hand appears to catch well again.

In the next issue we will continue the discussion of a confrontation between a big pair and a low card on fifth street and beyond. ♠

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 haneyk612@gmail.com.