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Poker Strategy With Kevin Haney: Realizing Your Equity In Stud Eight-Or-Better

Haney Breaks Down The Most Profitable Situations In Stud Hi/Lo Eight-Or-Better


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In seven card stud Eight-Or-Better (Stud 8), whenever we are faced with a decision on third street an important consideration is how often we will expect to profitably realize our equity relative to our opponent’s probable range. Some hands can be taken further into the hand without improvement regardless how our opponent’s hand develops. Others need to evolve quickly while at the same time hoping that our opponent does not appear to improve greatly.

With very strong hands, such as a dealt three-of-a-kind or a pair of aces, we can confidently escalate the betting early on as we know that most often, we will be contesting the pot until the end. We also don’t mind putting in more money early on with strong drawing hands such as (3Spade Suit 4Spade Suit) 6Spade Suit because we will frequently improve in one way or another and when we do, we are usually in great shape.

Other holdings are not as clear cut, so let’s examine a few sample matchups and the realization issues associated with them:

“Razz” Hand Versus An Ace

A “Razz” hand is a rough low holding such as (2Heart Suit 6Spade Suit) 7Club Suit or (2Heart Suit 8Spade Suit) 6Club Suit that is a longshot to make a very strong high hand such as a straight or a flush. Slightly better versions such as (2Heart Suit 4Heart Suit) 7Club Suit or (5Heart Suit 3Spade Suit) 7Club Suit offer more high potential and can also make slightly better lows, however it’s important to not overrate them.

Consider a six-handed game where we bring-in the action with (6Heart Suit 8Spade Suit) 2Club Suit and an ASpade Suit to our immediate left completes. If we assume our opponent is loose aggressive, we can assign him a range of any pair, a three flush, three low cards, or even just K-Q or K-J in the hole. Some players may not open with just big cards in the hole and may instead play a hand like (2Heart Suit KHeart Suit) ASpade Suit, but this shouldn’t dramatically impact the point we will try to illustrate.

Against this range we have approximately 40 percent equity, and in a medium-to-high ante structure this appears to be too much equity to fold. After all, when defending the bring-in in this situation we are usually getting pot odds of around 3.5:1 to see fourth street.

However, as discussed last issue, “hot/cold” equity tells an incomplete story and there are other factors to consider. For example, the ASpade Suit has a scoop advantage of approximately 2:1 over our holding which is more relevant than raw equity this early in the hand and little in the way of dead money in the pot.

We must also estimate how often we expect to realize our equity relative to our opponent. For example, we can’t always continue on fourth street as we generally require any low card (which either pairs us or gives a low draw) and this will only happen around 58 percent of the time. And in reality, our actual continuing range is actually lower than this since we need to fold our pairs when villain hits another ace.

In contrast, with the above range our opponent should be able to virtually always continue on regardless of what happens on fourth street and this gives him a very big realization advantage. There are a few scenarios where villain may be able to find a fold, such as when he opened (KHeart Suit QHeart Suit) ASpade Suit, hits a nine (that is not a heart), and faces a lead when hero hits an ace or pairs his door-card but that’s about it.

Whenever our opponent holds an ace and we do not we are at a distinct disadvantage and need to play tight on the opening round. Bad razz lows such as (2Heart Suit 6Spade Suit) 7Club Suit or (2Heart Suit 8Spade Suit) 6Club Suit should be folded even when we are getting really good odds to defend. The ace is a powerful card in Stud 8 and must be respected even if we believe our opponent is too loose. This hand would be different if the ace was to our direct right and therefore probably playing very close to if not 100 percent of his holdings, but that is not the case here.

Low Pair With An Ace Versus A Probable Pair Of Kings

Suppose we complete the bet from early position with (AHeart Suit 5Diamond Suit) 5Club Suit and get re-raised by a KSpade Suit. In this situation the re-raiser often has a pair of kings but other holdings such as three flushes are also possible. However, in order to be very conservative, let’s assume villain’s range consists solely of kings, aces, or trip kings.

With live cards against this strong range we still have around 48-percent equity and with an ace kicker with some low potential we are almost always going to the river. As the hand progresses we can only find a fold when villain hits another king on board and we fail to pick up a low draw. Position works in our favor because we will only have to act first when we improve to a hand that likely took the lead. In addition, we hold the betting advantage on seventh street due to the implied odds of making hidden aces up or three fives.

Since we will often realize our equity and fare quite well in most matchups a small pair with an ace kicker is a highly playable holding in most third street situations.
The higher the pair the more often we should play. Having at least a pair of fives is preferable, because when we get involved with a low hand it reduces the probability of them beating us for high by pairing one of their low cards.

Ace With Two Low Cards Versus A Probable Pair Of Kings

For our last matchup we are going to examine how often a holding such as (3Diamond Suit 6Heart Suit) AClub Suit realizes its equity relative to a probable pair of kings. Against kings, hero’s (3Diamond Suit 6Heart Suit) AClub Suit has around 45-percent equity and can make life somewhat tough on our opponent, especially if we get to re-raise and isolate him on third street.

We should always re-raise the (3Diamond Suit 6Heart Suit) AClub Suit against a high pair on third to pressure our opponent, and we have a license to do so as this holding is going to effectively realize its equity. Over the course of the next two streets we only require one additional low card (either a pair or a low draw) in order to keep the heat on. A four-card low with an ace is a through ticket to seventh street, as is any small pair with an ace kicker although the latter hand should be folded if it appears the villain has made trip kings.

We are going to pick up a low, a low draw, or at least a pair on fourth and fifth street around 80-90 percent of the time thus our equity realization is quite high. If our opponent is on the loose side he will often get to showdown as well, although his hand may hit the muck if we develop a somewhat scary low board. Three low cards headed by an ace play quite well against a big pair and we should play it aggressively.

If we always just call the times we have three low cards, and re-raise only when we have aces, we would be too easy to read. Sometimes we can mix up our play and just call with both three low cards and a pair of aces, but our default play should be to re-raise both of these holdings.

When we are up against a high pair other than kings a re-raise is even clearer as we have more equity associated with possible over card outs. For example, if we are up against a pair of queens a king on fourth or fifth street will give us more outs.

When we re-raise with a hand like (3Diamond Suit 6Heart Suit) AClub Suit we are rooting for a high pair to fold, however, if they always choose to continue this means they will also do so when we have aces and that is to your overall benefit.

How often we will profitably realize our equity relative to our opponent is a critical consideration in Stud 8, as it is in all forms of poker. With rough low hands this means making some third street folds where other players would play. Getting aggressive with small pairs with an ace kicker or three low cards with an ace is fundamentally sound as these holdings realize equity and play well. In addition, doing so will make us tougher to read and play against in future hands. ♠

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. His new mixed-games website Counting Outs is a great starting resource for a plethora of games ranging from the traditional to the exotic. He can be reached at