Definitions

middle hand

Lowball (poker)

Some forms of poker, often called lowball, sometimes called low poker, reward poor poker hands (in the traditional sense). There are three common variations on this idea, differing in whether aces are treated as high cards or low cards, and whether or not straights and flushes are used. The methods are:

  • Ace-to-five low: The lowest possible hand is 5-4-3-2-A, called a wheel. Aces are low and straights and flushes are ignored. This is the most common method.
  • Ace-to-six low: Also called 6-4 low, since the lowest possible hand is 6-4-3-2-A. Aces are low and straights and flushes count as high hands.
  • Deuce-to-seven low: Also called 7-5 low, since the lowest possible hand is 7-5-4-3-2. Almost the direct inverse of traditional "high hand" poker. Aces are high and straights and flushes count as high hands. Since aces are high, A-5-4-3-2 is not a straight, but just ace-high no pair.
  • Deuce-to-six low: The other, mostly unused, possibility would be 6-5 low. Aces are high, straights and flushes are ignored.

Some examples of lowball games are:

  • California Lowball: Draw poker played with A-5 ranking, usually with limit betting, one joker in the deck.
  • Kansas City Lowball: Draw poker played with 2-7 ranking, usually played no-limit.
  • Razz: Seven-card Stud, A-5 ranking.
  • Triple Draw: Draw Poker with three drawing rounds, played limit (or occasionally pot-limit), with either A-5 or 2-7 ranking.
  • London Lowball: Seven-card stud with A-6 ranking and pot-limit betting.

Some games are played high-low split, where the player with the best traditional poker hand (called the "high hand") splits the pot with the best low hand. The low hand is decided by one of the methods above. Nearly every common split-pot game uses A-5 ranking, often with a qualifier for low, in which only an 8 low or better is eligible for a pot. Low hands tie more frequently than high hands, especially in community card games, so it is not uncommon for such a hand to win a small fraction of a poker pot. For example, if one player has the high hand on showdown, and two other players tie for the best low hand, the high hand wins half of the pot and each low hand wins only a quarter of the pot. Playing ace-to-five high-low greatly increases the chances of the "scoop"--winning both hands--because a low flush or straight may count for both high and low. See Rule variations (poker)

Chinese poker can be played with the middle hand played for low.

Low-poker ranking

Some games called lowball or low poker are played where players strive not for the highest ranking of the above combinations but for the lowest ranking hand. There are three methods of ranking low hands, called ace-to-five low, deuce-to-seven low, and ace-to-six low. The ace-to-five method is most common. A sub-variant within this category is high-low poker, in which the highest and lowest hands split the pot (with the highest hand taking any odd chips if the pot does not divide equally). Sometimes straights and/or flushes count in determining which hand is highest but not in determining which hand is lowest (being reckoned as a no-pair hand in the latter instance), so that a player with such a holding can win both ways and thus take the entire pot.

Ace-to-five

Ace-to-five low is the most common method for evaluating low hands in poker, nearly universal in U.S. casinos, especially in high-low split games.

As in all low hand games, pairs count against the player. That is, any hand with no pair defeats any hand with a pair; one pair hands defeat two pair or three of a kind, etc. No-pair hands are compared starting with the highest ranking card, just as in high poker, except that the high hand loses. In ace-to-five low, straights and flushes are ignored, and aces play as the lowest card.

For example, the hand 8-5-4-3-2 defeats 9-7-6-4-3, because eight-high is lower than nine-high. The hand 7-6-5-4-3 defeats both, because seven-high is lower still, even though it would be a straight if played for high. Aces are low, so 8-5-4-3-A defeats 8-5-4-3-2. Also, A-A-9-5-3 (a pair of aces) defeats 2-2-5-4-3 (a pair of deuces), but both of those would lose to any no-pair hand such as K-J-8-6-4. In the rare event that hands with pairs tie, kickers are used just as in high poker (but reversed): 3-3-6-4-2 defeats 3-3-6-5-A.

This is called ace-to-five low because the lowest (and therefore best) possible hand is 5-4-3-2-A, called a wheel. The next best possible hand is 6-4-3-2-A, followed by 6-5-3-2-A, 6-5-4-2-A, 6-5-4-3-A, 6-5-4-3-2, 7-4-3-2-A, 7-5-3-2-A, etc.

When speaking, low hands are referred to by their highest ranking card or cards. Any nine-high hand can be called "a nine", and is defeated by any "eight". Two cards are frequently used: the hand 8-6-5-4-2 can be called "an eight-six" and will defeat "an eight-seven" such as 8-7-5-4-A.

Another common notation is calling a particular low hand "smooth" or "rough." A smooth low hand is one where the remaining cards after the highest card are themselves very low; a rough low hand is one where the remaining cards are high. For instance, 8-7-6-3-A would be referred to as a "rough eight," but 8-4-3-2-A would be referred to as a "smooth eight."

High-low split games with ace-to-five low are usually played cards speak, that is, without a declaration. Frequently a qualifer is required for low (typically 8-high or 9-high). Some hands (particularly small straights and flushes) may be both the low hand and the high hand, and are particularly powerful (or particularly dangerous if they are mediocre both ways). Winning both halves of the pot in a split-pot game is called "scooping" or "hogging" the pot. The perfect hand in such a game is called a "steel wheel", 5-4-3-2-A of one suit, which plays both as perfect low and a straight flush high. Note that it is possible--though unlikely--to have this hand and still lose money. If the pot has three players, and one other player has a mixed-suit wheel, and a third has better straight flush, the higher straight flush wins the high half of the pot, and the two wheels split the low half, hence the steel wheel wins only a quarter of a three-way pot.

Ace-to-five lowball, a five-card draw variant, is often played with a joker added to the deck. The joker plays as the lowest card not already present in the hand (in other words, it is a wild card): 7-5-4-Joker-A, for example, the joker plays as a 2. This can cause some interesting effects for high-low split games. Let's say that Alice has 6-5-4-3-2 (called a "straight six")--a reasonably good hand for both high and low. Burt has Joker-6-5-4-3. By applying the rule for wild cards in straights, Burt's joker plays as a 7 for high, giving him a seven-high straight to defeat Alice's six-high straight. For low, the joker plays as an ace--the lowest card not in Burt's hand--and his hand also defeats Alice for low, because his low hand is 6-5-4-3-A, lower than her straight six by one notch. Jokers are very powerful in high-low split games.

Wheel

A wheel or bicycle is the poker hand 5-4-3-2-A, regardless of suit, which is a five-high straight, the lowest-ranking of the straights.

In ace-to-five low poker, where aces are allowed to play as low and straights and flushes do not count against a hand's "low" status, this is the best possible hand. In high/low split games, it is both the best possible low hand and a competitive high hand.

The origin of the name "Wheel" probably derives from the Bicycle playing cards issued by the United States Playing Card Company.

Ace-to-six

Ace-to-six low is not as commonly used as the ace-to-five low method, but it is common among home games in the eastern region of the United States, and also common in the United Kingdom (it is the traditional ranking of London lowball, a stud poker variant).

As in all lowball games, pairs and trips are bad: that is, any hand with no pair defeats any hand with a pair; one pair hands defeat two pair or trips, etc. No-pair hands are compared starting with the highest ranking card, just as in high poker, except that the high hand loses. In ace-to-six low, straights and flushes count for high (and are therefore bad), and aces play as the lowest card.

For example, the hand 8-5-4-3-2 defeats 9-7-6-4-3, because eight-high is lower than nine-high. The hand 7-6-5-4-2 defeats both, because seven-high is lower still. The hand 7-6-5-4-3 would lose, because it is a straight. Aces are low, so 8-5-4-3-A defeats 8-5-4-3-2. Also, A-A-9-5-3 (a pair of aces) defeats 2-2-5-4-3 (a pair of deuces), but both of those would lose to any no-pair hand such as K-J-8-6-4. In the rare event that hands with pairs tie, kickers are used just as in high poker (but reversed): 3-3-6-4-2 defeats 3-3-6-5-A.

It is called ace-to-six low because the best possible hand is 6-4-3-2-A, followed by 6-5-3-2-A, 6-5-4-2-A, 6-5-4-3-A, 7-4-3-2-A, 7-5-3-2-A, etc.

When speaking, low hands are referred to by their highest ranking card or cards. Any nine-high hand can be called "a nine", and is defeated by any "eight". Two cards are frequently used: the hand 8-6-5-4-2 can be called "an eight-six" and will defeat "an eight-seven" such as 8-7-5-4-A.

A wild card plays as whatever rank would make the lowest hand. Thus, in 6-5-Joker-2-A, the joker plays as a 3, while in Joker-5-4-3-2 it would play as a 7 (an ace or six would make a straight).

High-low split games with ace-to-six low are usually played with a declaration.

Deuce-to-seven

Deuce-to-seven low is often called Kansas City lowball or just "low poker". It is almost the direct opposite of standard poker: high hand loses. It is not as commonly used as the ace-to-five low method.

As in all lowball games, pairs and trips are bad: that is, any hand with no pair defeats any hand with a pair; one pair hands defeat two pair or trips, etc. No-pair hands are compared starting with the highest ranking card, just as in high poker, except that the high hand loses. In deuce-to-seven low, straights and flushes count for high (and are therefore bad). Aces are always high (and therefore bad).

For example, the hand 8-5-4-3-2 defeats 9-7-6-4-3, because eight-high is lower than nine-high. The hand 7-6-5-4-2 defeats both, because seven-high is lower still. The hand 7-6-5-4-3 would lose, because it is a straight. Aces are high, so Q-8-5-4-3 defeats A-8-5-4-3. In the rare event that hands with pairs tie, kickers are used just as in high poker (but reversed): 3-3-6-4-2 defeats 3-3-6-5-2.

Since the ace always plays high, A-5-4-3-2 is not considered a straight; is simply ace-high no pair (it would therefore lose to any king-high, but would defeat A-6-4-3-2).

The best possible hand is 7-5-4-3-2 (hence the name deuce-to-seven low), followed by 7-6-4-3-2, 7-6-5-3-2, 7-6-5-4-2, 8-5-4-3-2, 8-6-4-3-2, etc.

When speaking, low hands are referred to by their highest ranking card or cards. Any nine-high hand can be called "a nine", and is defeated by any "eight". Two cards are frequently used: the hand 8-6-5-4-2 can be called "an eight-six" and will defeat "an eight-seven" such as 8-7-5-4-2.

Another common notation is calling a particular low hand "smooth" or "rough." A smooth low hand is one where the remaining cards after the highest card are themselves very low; a rough low hand is one where the remaining cards are high. For instance, 8-7-6-4-2 would be referred to as a "rough eight," but 8-5-4-3-2 would be referred to as a "smooth eight."

Wild cards are rarely used in deuce-to-seven games, but if used they play as whatever rank would make the lowest hand. Thus, in 7-6-Joker-3-2, the joker plays as a 4, while in Joker-5-4-3-2 it would play as a 7 (a six would make a straight, and an ace would make ace-five high).

High-low split games with deuce-to-seven low are usually played with a declaration.

Search another word or see middle handon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2014 Dictionary.com, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature
FAVORITES
RECENT

;