Just as with most split games offered by online poker sites, the play in Stud Hi Lo can get quite hot and heavy. There is a lot of action involved, so players who like just quietly sitting and watching their online poker rooms waiting for something to happen will need some getting used to time for this game. While it is still not as popular as Hold’em or Omaha, real money Stud Hi Lo online poker has been gaining more and more acceptance all through 2023 in the USA.
Note that this guide for poker sites offering Stud Hi Lo will focus on the 7-Card Stud Hi Lo, Eights or Better variety. This is the most common split pot Stud game offered at the best online poker sites. There is good reason for this, since it is a game involving a lot of strategic thinking and solid poker skills. You will need to have a good general understanding of playing real cash online poker site games which includes knowing the various odds and how to calculate pot odds as needed. This online guide will help with some great strategy tips, a solid starting hand guide, information on playing through the later rounds, and making you aware of typical beginner's mistakes and how to avoid them.
At most online poker sites offering Stud Hi Lo, all players will post an ante rather than single two out to use blinds (a la Texas Hold’em). As far as the basic deal goes, you will be dealt two cards face down and then a card face up (called third street), after which the first betting round follows. The next card, fourth street is dealt face up and there is a betting round. The same procedure happens for the next two rounds, called fifth street and sixth street respectively. The last card, seventh street, is dealt face down and there follows a final betting round.
There are a few interesting differences to note here. For example, most of the top online poker rooms will not allow the player with the lowest door (face up) card on third street to fold. Instead, they are forced to make at least a small bet, called the bring in bet. Betting then continues in a clockwise fashion. From fourth street onward, the player with the highest combination on the board makes the first bet and play continues in a clockwise direction.
Also note that this is split pot game, meaning players at online poker sites will try to make two different hands, a high hand and a low hand. Each hand will consist of five cards. However, in the low hand there are several unique rules. For starters, all straights and flushes are ignored. Therefore, the lowest possible hand would be the A2345. Players must also qualify for a low hand at real cash online Stud Hi Lo poker site. In most cases, this means having a hand where the 8 (or lower) is the highest card. Since this is not easy to do, there are many times when no players have a qualifying low hand; in such situations, the high hand winner takes the entire pot.
Obviously, your main strategic advantage when playing at online poker rooms is to have both a high and a low hand, winning both halves of the pot. This calls for a lot of different advice and methods of play than in a normal, high only game like Texas Hold’em.
The most profitable and advisable strategy for playing Stud Hi Lo at online poker sites is to start with hand combination that are in contention for the low half of the pot. This way, if you do happen to pick up pairs, trips, flush or straight draws along the way they are added bonuses that will likely help you scoop (win both halves of the pot at the same time). This is also why a lot of the premium hands (see the starting hand guide section below) have low cards in them.
In most cases, it can pay pretty well to keep players in these online poker room pots, since you will be mostly only in contention for half. This helps to build the pot so you win more. The exception to this is when you are going for the high hand, consider raising in order to make low draws fold.
When you are going for a low hand, be careful. If you get to a point of having two strikes against you or just simply too many dead cards, fold. On the other hand, if you are convinced other players are fighting for the other half of the pot, raise; they won't be scared and will probably call.
Situational awareness is still key here, as it is in most other online poker rooms and online poker games. If you have put your opponent on a draw and you think they missed, raise if you are playing heads up. If there are others in the game, you need to really consider how such moves will affect them.
Knowing the odds is a big strategic advantage, especially against new players or those who might be coming to the online poker room as part of a special promotion or just looking to see what the games are all about. Learn how to calculate your outs, or cards and combinations of cards that will help to improve your hand on a draw. Also learn how to calculate pot odds.
As mentioned above, the best starting hands when playing Stud Hi Lo at online poker sites will contain low cards and have a great chance at both the high and the low hand. This is not to say that a high hand should be overlooked, either. Trips can be an excellent starting hand, with AAA all the way up to 888 probably better than higher trips, since these could be used for playing both ways.
The next classification of premium starting hands will also focus on aces. Having an AAX (with the X being an 8 or lower) is solid. So is an A plus two other cards with a rank of 5 or lower. Low suited connectors that are 8 or lower can be played in most situations (Ah-2h-5h, for example...could lead to a flush for the high hand and a 5 low, which would be the nut low hand). An AAX with a 9 or higher is also a decent starting hand, although you are probably looking at this turning into a high only hand very quickly in a lot of cases.
Other cards worthy of playing involve wheel cards, so named because the nut low hand of A2345 was often called the 'wheel' or bicycle. Play three unsuited wheel cards, with or without an ace. Also, three suited cards with an ace and another low card gives you both low and high potential. Finally, three cards that are eight or lower, in order to help you qualify for the low side of things.
When you reach fifth street in most Hi Lo Stud games offered at online poker sites, you really need to have a good understanding of your hand, especially in relation to the other players. Your strategy in this, and the later betting rounds depends on your position, the other opponent's hands, and who is going for which half of the pot. Obviously, the ideal situation would be when are the clear leader (and maybe even the only player in contention) for one half of the pot and have a hidden hand that gives you a great chance at winning the other half as well. This way, you can raise with impunity and the other players in this online poker room are going to think this is just because you are not competing against them.
A very typical and easy to make mistake when playing the Hi Lo games offered at many online poker sites is to make thin calls that might win the high side of the pot. If you miss a draw on fourth street and then another play bets, it is probably best to put down your hand, rather than trying to play on the HOPE of something to happen. Chasing in a Hi Lo game is a recipe for fast disaster.
When you are the only player at these poker rooms contesting for one half of the pot (and this is obvious), not playing aggressively enough is a huge mistake. This is especially true if two or more players are on the other side, going for the other half of the split. You need to be really jamming this, hoping to get as much real money into the poker sites' pot here as possible.
Refusing to fold if the fourth street card misses your hand is another common beginner mistake made at many online poker sites. Missing at this juncture is a problem because this is a critical time and your odds now drop dramatically for making your hand. While there are situations to continue playing on (like when it looks as if your other opponents also miss and you were in the lead going in), most of the time, the correct move is to fold.