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Stud 8 or Better Strategy – Playing Pairs

Stud 8 or Better Pair

A few weeks ago we brought you a series of articles on Seven Card Stud strategy. This week, we will begin a new series of strategy articles covering Stud 8 or Better, also known as Stud Hi-Lo Split.

Stud 8 or Better is a split-pot game where a player with the high hand wins half of the pot and the player with a qualifying low hand wins the other half. The object is to try and scoop (win both halves of the pot) as often as possible.

Today, we will start our series on Stud 8 strategy with starting hands. This week we will cover playing pair in the game. Playing pairs is not as cut and dry as in Stud Hi, so you need to know the best way to play them.

High Pairs

In Stud 8, high pairs are nines and above. Most regular Stud players will see a high pair and try and go to war with them. Their thinking is that a low hand may not complete. While logical, it is generally a long-term losing play.

High pairs should be played sparingly in this game and generally in a heads-up situation. If you have a pair of kings against a door card 6, you may try and see if they will brick on a later street. When you’re facing multiple hands, you want to either get out of the way or play cautiously past Third Street.

One alternative play is when you have a big buried pair, preferably with a low door card. If you happen to catch trips, you will have a well-disguised hand. However, you should still play this cautiously in multi-hand situations, especially if low hands improve on later streets.

Low Pairs

Low pairs should generally be avoided in Stud 8. The exception is when you have a low pair with a low card. In this case, you can take a card off if there isn’t a ton of action or if you’re heads-up.

For this hand, you either want to improve to trips, two pair, or a pair and low-draw by fifth. Otherwise, you want to get out of the way to a lot of action.

Pair of Aces

Aces deserve their own category in this game and is perhaps the one high pair you will look to play. There are two reasons behind this. First, you have the best starting pair and when you improve, you have a higher chance to lock up the high hand.

Next, when you have a pair of aces with a low card, you improve your odds of backing into a low hand. A pair of aces with a deuce is a solid starter because when you catch additional low cards, you can represent picking up a big potential scoop hand.

A door card ace can be powerful because if you complete, your opponent will not be sure if you have three low cards or a pair of aces. Weaker pairs will likely get out of the way and you may even push some weaker low draws out.

Avoid High Pairs As a Beginner

When you’re first learning this game, you want to avoid playing all high pairs with the exception of aces. This tight strategy will help you develop more of a scoop mindset while learning the game. As your game develops, you can look to incorporate other pair hands, but for now, focus on the fundamentals.

Stud 8 or Better is a game where tight, disciplined play can be a winning strategy. Since the game is largely played in Limit format, you don’t have to worry about getting bet off of a hand and a tighter strategy can help you win at the tables.

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