The best possible starting hand in Stud 8/b is (A-A) A. The next-best possible starting hand is either (K-K) K or (8-8) 8. The (8-8) 8 is a very deceptive starting hand, s ince the other players can't be sure if you're going high or low. I would prefer it over the (K-K) K hand for this reason: with (8-8) 8 you can represent that you're going for the low hand, and then force other l ow draws to fold if it looks as i f you've made your l ow. And of course three eights are not a bad bet for the high hand as well.
Some players believe that ( 5-5) 5 is a better starting hand than (8-8) 8, for a very logical reason: a hand that holds neither a five nor a ten can't make a straight, which means that a player who starts with three of t he fives has not only a s trong high hand but also a nice defense against what would otherwise be one of the most likely hands t o be out there against his trips ( because only one five remains for the low hands to fil a straight with). Also, when you start with a door-card five, it is easier for the other players t o fear your l ow hand, and they may be i nduced to fold t heir own l ow draws. But your opponents are l ikely to make low trips; and trip eights (the hand that I think is equal to trip fives) wiil beat trips sixes or s evens ( whereas trip fives won't)!
After all the rolled-up starting hands ( poker slang in Stud for s tarting with three of a kind), we move on to (A-A) x (preferably, t he x is anything between a two and an eight). With a pair of aces and a l ow card to start a hand, your prospects for s cooping the pot are good. You may scoop it with two pair of aces up, aces and a low, like ( A-A) 3-4-7-J-(6) for a 7-6-4-3-A low and a pair of aces for high; or with aces up and a low, like (A-A) 2-4-66 (3) for aces and sixes as a high and a 6-4-3-2-A for l ow); or even with j ust one pair of a ces. The next best s tarting hand i s (A-2) 3 suited. With this hand you can make a strong low hand, a flush, a straight, aces up, aces and a l ow, or j ust aces.
Next on our l ist of t op hands are (2-3) 4 suited and all the other low suited connectors hands, such as ( 3-4) 5 or (6-7) 8 or (5-6) 7, including (A-x) x suited, where the x in both cases i s a card below an eight. I would rather s tart with (A-x) x suited than the l ow suited connected cards mentioned above. B ut I think that it is pretty close between these two types of hands. In fact, to me, the power of having an ace in your s uited low cards outweighs the power of having them connected.
In any case, next on the list is (A-A) x (where x is a nine or higher). One pair of aces wins a l ot of pots i n Stud 8/b!
Next we have any three unsuited wheel cards (five or lower), one of t hem an ace, s uch as ( Then we have three unsuited wheel cards without an ace, s uch as ( 2-4) 5.
I would rather start with three flush cards that i nclude an ace and another wheel card (especially if the high card is on the board) than with three nonwheel non-ace s traight cards ( 6-7) 8. I'm talking about hands like (_V' or ( - ) over unsuited hands like ( 4-5) 6 or ( 5-6) 7 or ( 6-7) 8. An ace is almost like having an extra card i n this game, b ecause it's t he l owest l ow card and can also make the highest pair. Aces are powerful cards in Stud 8/b!
Next on the list are either three unsuited cards in a row (
) __ or three l ow cards e ight o r below with an ace among t hem, such as ( A-5) 6. With all of t hese t hree-in-a-row-low hands we're hoping t o make both a s traight and a l ow, and scoop the pot. With
the three-low-cards-with-an-ace-among-them hands we're hoping to make both a pair of aces and a low, and scoop the pot.
I would consider all the hands that we've talked about up to this point premium hands.
Now let's talk about some of the other starting hands in Stud 8/b on our l ist, i n order of powerful t o weak. I f pressed, I must say that I slightly prefer (6-7) 8 over (K-K) 6, although for purposes of deception I love the fact that the kings of the later are concealed (in the hole) in this case. With (K-K) 6 you're hoping t hat your pair of k ings or two pair of kings up scoops t he pot when no one makes a qualified low hand.
Next on our l ist is a pair of k ings, followed by three l ow cards all u nder a nine, with a one-card gap between two of them, s uch as (4-5) 7 or ( 4-6) 7 or ( 5-7) 8. Should these hands be rated above K-K on the l ist? We've already covered three wheel cards i n any order, and I would say t hat t he remaining combinations of three low cards under an eight with one gap shouldn't be l isted above a pair of kings in value ( because it's t oo hard to make a straight and win the high side of the pot with one of these hands). The l ast four hands that I have talked about on our list are all very close i n value.
Next, I s uppose that I l ike a pair of queens or three flush cards with two of t hem wheel cards.
Finally, we have s mall pairs with small kickers, such as ( 5-6) 5 or (3-3) A or ( 8-8) 2, and the like. These are very dangerous hands i n Stud 8/b. Yes, you can make a low hand with these kinds of hands, but beware—they can get you into a lot of trouble. You might find yourself up against two opponents, one who has a better l ow draw than you do and one who has a better high draw than you do. I do see some value in a pair of eights and another l ow card, e specially when you're up against a three-card-low hand. The three-card-low hand wiil need two perfect high cards t o beat your pair of e ights.
Now let's move on to talk about how you should play your three-card hand on the first r ound of betting.
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