Playing Tips and Strategies to Win at 7 Card Stud 8 or Better

By Randy Ray
Published on July 17, 2023
Tips and Strategies for 7 Card Stud

7 card stud 8 or better is also sometimes called 7 card stud high low (or hi-lo split). For most of this post, I’ll just call it “7 card stud 8.”

The deal and betting action in these games are based on the rules for 7 card stud.

The big difference is that at the showdown, the pot gets split between the highest hand and “the best low hand.”

These games tend to have big pots because a lot of players see more potential in their hands than they would in a game where only the high hand wins. Not all hands have a possible best low hand, though. I’ll get into more detail about what qualifies as a “low hand” later in this post.

The Basics of Playing 7 Card Stud Hi-Lo Split

7 card stud 8 plays just like 7 card stud until the showdown, although there’s usually more action. The big difference is that the pot gets split 50/50 between the highest poker hand and the best possible low hand. Not all hands have a qualifying low.

To have a low hand, you need 5 cards ranked 8 or lower in your hand. And you can’t include a pair as part of this low hand. So a hand with an 8-7-6-5-4 would qualify as a low hand, even though it’s also a straight. But 7-7-6-5-4 wouldn’t qualify as a low hand because of the pair.

If you’re not familiar with how 7 card stud is played, here’s the game in a nutshell.

Each player gets 7 cards. At the showdown, you use those cards to put together the best possible poker hand using the standard poker hand rankings.

You have antes as forced bets to drive the action, then you have several rounds of play with betting in between each round.

The goal of the smart 7 card stud 8 player is to “scoop” the pot. That’s a situation where you win both the high hand AND the low hand simultaneously.

You do this by creating 2 different hands from the 7 cards in your hand.

For example, you might have a flush (5 cards of the same suit, with an ace as your high card). That will win the high in most 7 card stud games. But you might also have a 6-5-4-3-A, which might be the qualifying low hand, too.

Aces are more important in high-low split games than any other card because they can count as both the highest card in your hand AND the lowest card in your hand.

There’s one final distinction that warrants a comment, too.

A qualifying low hand can’t have a pair in it, but it CAN be a flush or a straight. Those designations don’t interfere with the hand’s qualification as a low hand.

Betting and Dealing in 7 Card Stud 8

In broad strokes, here’s how the dealing and betting goes in 7 card stud 8.

Before any cards are dealt, everyone has to put an ante into the pot. This is a forced bet. Without the antes, there would be no action, because there’d be nothing at stake. You could just fold until you got a super-premium hand.

Once the antes are posted, everyone gets 3 cards to start with. The first 2 of these cards are dealt face-down, and the 3rd is dealt face-up. A round of betting follows. The lowest face-up card determines who has to bet, which is the “bring-in.”

After this round of betting, there’s another card dealt to each player, face-up. This is called 4th street. That’s followed, in turn, by a round of betting.

Starting on this street, and on every street afterward, the person with the best hand showing bets first. Betting proceeds clockwise around the table.

This repeats again for 5th street and 6th street.

The last card, the river, is dealt to everyone face-down.

The sizes of your bets are determined by the limits set in the game from the beginning. During the early rounds, the betting is half the size of the later rounds. For example, in a $2/$5 7 card stud 8 game, the bets must be in increments of $2 during the first 4 streets, then on 5th street, 6th street, and the river, bets must be made in increments of $5.

If you can, you want to scoop the pot—in other words, win both the high and the low.

At the showdown, the players who are still in action (who haven’t folded) expose their cards. You make the best 5-card hand you can. In home games, you’re typically required to declare whether you’re going high, low, or both.

If you declare you’re going both, and one of your hands loses, you’re not eligible to win half the pot.

In most home games, the declaration happens all at once. Players put 1, 2, or 3 coins in first (1 for low, 2 for high, and 3 for both). They all open their hands at the same time so that everyone declares at the same time.

Casino poker games don’t require you to declare. The rule for all poker games in a casino setting is that the “cards speak.” Even if you don’t declare the best possible 5-card hand, if you have it, you win.

Holding and Folding Are Different in This Version of Stud Poker

Most beginners at 7 card stud 8 blow it because they play too many hands. Since you can win half the pot with the high or half the pot with the low, they figure they have twice as many ways to win. So they play more hands.

Winning 7 card stud 8 players understand that the key to consistent profits is to player FEWER hands, not more hands. Your goal should be to only play hands that offer the potential to win both high AND low. Scooping the pot is where the profits are in hi-lo poker.

This also changes the value of starting hands in unusual ways. For example, in regular 7 card stud, a pair of kings or queens in the hole is a good starting hand.

But since low hands can win half the pot, more players with aces in the hole will play than usual. This means you’re more likely to get drawn out on for the high, even if your opponent was hoping to make a low hand.

The perfect starting hand in 7 card stud 8 is a hand which has the potential to win both high and low.

The low hand, by the way, wins based on the highest card in the hand. For example, a 7-5-4-3-2 beats an 8-5-4-3-2. Some people get confused about this. Steve Badger recommends thinking of the low hand as a 5-digit number. The lower number wins. 75,432 is obviously lower than 85,432.

Live Cards Versus Dead Cards

Live cards and dead cards are important in both 7 card stud and the high-low version of the game. A live card is a card that’s still available. If a card you need to improve has already been dealt to another player, that card is said to be “dead.”

One wrinkle to think about in high-low is the number of low cards on the board at the table. If a lot of the low cards have already been dealt to the other players, your odds of getting a low hand are lower.

That brings me to an important distinction to think about. In 7 card stud, some hands can win without improving. For example, if you’re dealt 3 of a kind from the beginning, you might win the high hand without improving.

But if you have 3 suited cards or 3 consecutive cards, you have a “drawing hand.”  That’s a hand that needs to improve to win.

All low hands are drawing hands because you need 5 cards ranked 8 or lower to qualify as a low hand.

This is why 7 card stud rewards players with a good memory who pay attention to what’s going on.

If the cards you need have already been dealt, you’ll often need to fold. If you’re not paying attention, you might think your chances of completing your draw are better than they actually are.

Starting Hand Standards

Your starting hand standards determine which hands you’ll play and which ones you’ll fold. Players who play any starting hand always lose money to players who have standards for their starting hands (at least in the long run).

In high-low games like 7 card stud 8, you’re hoping for cards that work together, preferably in both directions—high AND low.

What’s an example of a hand that works well in both direction?

Let’s suppose you’re dealt the ace, 2, and 3 of spades. You have lots of potential here for all kinds of high AND low hands. You could finish with a straight, a flush, and a qualifying low hand. You could also get a big pair if you get another ace.

Another great starting hand is 3-4-5, whether it’s suited or not. You have lots of potential for a straight on either side of that hand—an ace and a 2 will give you the nut low hand and a straight. A 6 or 7 will give you a straight qualifying low hand. If they’re suited, that’s an even better starting hand.

Remember that your goal is to scoop the pot, but even if you don’t scoop the pot, you’ll win half the pot more often if you’re looking for starting hands which have the potential to win the high or the low.

Any hand where you’re showing an ace is a potentially good starting hand because your opponents can see that you have a possible high and low hand.

Remember, they don’t know what’s in the hole. At a conservative table, you might be able to win the pot uncontested if you play this aggressively. You should have an idea about the other players’ tendencies if you play this hand.

An ace where you have 2 more connected cards 8 or lower is an excellent starting hand. If 2 of them (or all 3) are suited, then you have a premium starting hand for 7 card stud 8.

I love aces in 7 card stud 8 because they’re like getting 2 cards in 1.

One playable starting hand you should be cautious with is a hand that has a chance at hitting the low but is unlikely to turn into a high hand. For example, an 8-7-2 will rarely turn into anything better than a low hand. You’re unlikely to scoop the pot.

You can play this hand for the low, but you need to pay attention to your opponents. Any time you’re going for the low only, you want to be the only player going for that hand. Otherwise, you’re in trouble and should get away from the hand.

This works the other direction, too. You might have a hand which is unlikely to win the low. If all your opponents seem to be drawing to the low hand, you should probably try to win the high.

But if you’re competing for the high hand without the potential for the low hand, too, you’re better off folding.

If you get heads-up with an opponent, you have the opportunity to sometimes be going for the high hand while she’s going for the low hand. In this case, a high hand might not even have to be very high to play profitably. A high pair can often win high if you’re heads-up with someone drawing to a low hand.

Here’s what you want as your starting hand.

  • 3 low cards (8 or lower)
  • A high hand
  • A straight draw
  • A flush draw
  • Any combination of the above

Playing 4th Street Is Important

Once you’ve decided to play your starting cards, you face more decisions at 4th street, 5th street, and beyond. One of the most crucial cards to worry about is 4th street.

If you have 3 cards to a low hand and catch another low card that doesn’t pair your cards, you can feel good about continuing in the hand. But if you catch a high card here, it significantly reduces your likelihood of making the low hand.

In fact, if you have 2 low cards showing face-up, you can often scare off other players who were hoping for a low—especially if they got a high card on 4th street. Betting 4 cards to a low hand on 4th street is often a good move.

In fact, if you’re sure that you’re the only player contending for a low hand, you should raise constantly. You’re almost guaranteed half the pot if you have 4 to a low on 4th street. If you’ve made your low hand by 5th street, that becomes almost a certainty.

4th street is more important in 7 card stud 8 than in 7 card stud. In 7 card stud, you’ll often stay in on 4th street because it’s cheap. The bets don’t go up until 5th street.

But in 7 card stud 8, 4th street is a more critical decision point. The possibility that half the pot will go to someone else changes things dramatically.

5th Street and Later

Here’s an observation about 5th street, too.

In regular 7 card stud, you’re often pot committed if you’re still in the hand at this point. In high-low, though, that’s not necessarily as true. It’s often wise to fold even as late as 6th street if you don’t feel good about how your hand is developing.

All of this also involves keeping an eye on what the other players are showing. You have 32 low cards in the deck total, so you can subtract the number of low cards in your hand plus the number of low cards showing in your opponents’ hands to see how likely it is that you’ll get the cards you need to complete your low.

If 8 low cards are already out, that’s 25% of the possible low cards in the deck. That’s a dramatic change in the odds.

If you’ve stayed in a hand all the way to the river, it’s almost always a mistake to fold on the river. If you’re not confident about your hand, call with it—don’t fold.


7 card stud 8 is a great game. If you already know how to play 7 card stud, the transition is easy from a game-play standpoint. But it’s hard from a strategic standpoint because most players aren’t used to the change in starting hand values.

You also have to play 7 card stud 8 a lot tighter in the beginning than regular 7 card stud.

Finally, the big decision point in 7 card stud 8 is 4th street rather than 5th street. The possibility that you’ll only win half the pot changes everything.

Playing Tips and Strategies to Win at 7 Card Stud 8 or Better
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Playing Tips and Strategies to Win at 7 Card Stud 8 or Better
If you like 7 card stud but want to branch out, 7 card stud high low split is a great option. Here's a how-to guide with tips for winning.
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