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Stud 8 Basic Strategy

by Daniel Negreanu |  Published: Jul 21, '14


If you have never played the game, this blog should give you a basic guideline and understand of how to play. I'm not going to delve into deep strategy here, the blog would get annoyingly long, but I wanted to give you guys a quick idea how my favorite poker game works:

The Deal:
Each player is dealt two cards down and one face up. The lowest card by suit (lowest to highest: clubs, diamonds, hearts, spades) is forced to start the action with a bring in. Say you are playing $20-$40 limit, the bring in would have a choice to bring it in for $5 or complete the bet to $20. Tip #1 always bring it in for the minimum. Very few cases where it would ever be correct to do otherwise. May come up in a tourney at times, but don't do it in cash games at all.

Once betting is complete, all players still in the hand get another up card. The highest board is first (aces are high) and can check or bet $20. On fifth street the bet doubles to $40 and is now the betting limit for all further streets. On seventh street, or the river, everyone gets a card faced down.

Who wins:

Just like in regular poker, half the pot is awarded to the best poker hand, however, another half the pot is awarded to the low if someone qualifies for low. In order to qualify for low, you must have 5 cards 8 or lower, and pairs don't count. The best low possible is A2345 you can also play that same hand for high as a straight.
Cool thing about this game is that you don't have to use the same 5 cards for the high and the low. For example if your hand was:


Your high is a pair of kings
Your low is A2458

The best low in the hand is the player with the 5 lowest cards as defined by the highest card in their hand. Example:

beats A2348
for low

Starting Hands:

The type of hands that are ideal for this games are hands that have the potential to win both the high and the low, or "scoop" as it's commonly known. So for example, a hand like 3h 4h 5h is a great starting hand. Three parts to a wheel (A2345), a three flush, and a three straight. You don't need a hand that strong to start, but aside from getting rolled up trips, these are the qualities you are looking for in a good hand. In fact, in most situations you would rather have that hand over AA9, and you most certainly would rather have 345 of hearts over KK8.

Pairs: You don't want to play low pairs with a high kicker. There are spots where you can play 445 or 22A, but you don't want to play hands like K66. There are spots where you can, but for the most part avoid those hands. Higher pairs like Jacks or better can be played but you need to play them carefully. For example, if you have JJ8 and a player with a Queen raises, FOLD! If a player with a high card raises that means they almost always have what they are representing so your Jacks are no good and you don't want to play second best high pairs in Stud 8. Worst case scenario. In fact, you should probably even fold a hand like KK7 if an Ace raises. The ace likely either has a pair of aces or three low cards. You are a small favorite against three low ones, but a sizable underdog to aces.

Broadway straight draws: No. Don't do it! Fold hands like 9TJ or KQJ they suck. Again, I get that there are spots where there is value in these hands, but I wouldn't recommend playing them unless you are highly skilled at the game.

Three flushes: play virtually any 3 low cards that are suited or have an ace in them. Play most three card flushes with two low cards and one high card provided your suit is live, meaning there isn't more than one of your suit already dead. I'd avoid playing hands like KJ4 of spades.

Low cards: Best to have three low cards that are working together, or three low cards with an Ace in your hand. A hand like 457 has straight potential, while A57 can win with a low and the Ace playing for high. Avoid low draws like 248 unless you are the only player in the pot with a low card in the hand. The hand plays fine if your opponent has a King showing, but you don't want to get attached to this hand unless you improve immediately.

Playing 4th street:

Unlike in 7 card stud high, where if you call on 3rd street you should usually continue to 5th street, in Stud 8 or better you should be folding more often when things go badly. Either you catching bad, or your opponent catching too good. A few examples of when to fold:

You 4589
Opponent (xx) 4c Ac

You 237T
Opponent (xx) K Q

You JJ94
Opponent (xx) 3s As

You shouldn't always fold, but if you catch bad and your opponent catches good, you should. If you both catch bad, you can see 5th street more often. A few examples of catching bad and continuing:

You 4h 5h 6h 9s
Opponent (xx) 2c 8h

You As 4c 7s Ts
Opponent (xx) Qh 7d

You As 4c 6d Kc
Opponent (xx) 5 J
In this example you should actually BET!

In multi-way pots playing 4th street can get tricky and is where the fun begins! You may have decisions where you need to know if it's better to raise an opponent OUT of a pot, or leave him in. This happens on later streets as well, but is more common on 4th. Example:

You 2347
Player A (xx) 4J
Player B (xx) Q7

If player B bets, would you raise to get player A to fold his likely busted low draw, or call and let him have a cheap 5th street card? With dead money already in the pot, you should RAISE here and go heads up against the player who likely has queens. One good card and player A may have you in bad shape. Imagine he started with 345 and caught the Jack. If you just call, he will be getting a very good price to see one more card. If he catches an A, 2, 6, or a 7 you know will have a real battle for low. Get him out and go for the scoop!

If you are playing a high hand on 4th like KK9 how you play 4th street is all dependent upon what your opponent catches. If your opponents board is
Or virtually any two low cards, you should CHECK and call against some boards. If you have two pair or better, you can lean towards betting or even check raising against boards like 37. What if you have a monster?

You 2h 3h 4h 5h
Player A (xx) KJ
Player B (xx) 28

In this case if it's checked to you, you should bet, but if player A bet, you may consider slowplaying here and NOT raising on third street. This is one of those opportunities to be creative and mix up your play.

Ok so this is getting super long and I could write a 200 page book on the game, but I'll leave you with one more 5th street situation:

You A2467
Player A (xx) K4K
Player B (xx) 58Q

If player A bets, he often will, and you are next to act, you should NOT raise! You already have a 7 low and the best player B can be drawing to is an 8 low. More importantly, you are super unlikely to scoop player A who likely has trip Kings, so to maximize value it's better to leave player B in the pot.

Stud 8 is a game of inches, making the slightly better decisions in tight spots then your opponent. When to squeeze value with a raise, when to force a player out, when to get a hand heads up, when to lay down a hand against dangerous boards. It's a very skillful game and there is a lot more to it then I could write in a short blog. I recommend you try it out either at a casino or online at you may find that it becomes your favorite poker game too!

Daniel Negreanu is the 2004 CardPlayer Magazine and World Poker Tour Player of the Year. He presents his poker strategies in one-on-one virtual training at and writes a weekly syndicated newspaper column.
Read all of Daniel Negreanu's poker blog and poker articles at Full Contact Poker.

Any views or opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the ownership or management of
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