Explanation of a Low Hand
Low hands have application to two different types of poker games.
Lowball Variants – “Worst” hand wins the pot.
Split Pot Variants – The pot is split between the best high hand and low hand.
While the rules for high hands are somewhat consistent (with notable exceptions including games such as 6-plus Hold’em), the rules for low hands vary based on the type of game being played.
Let’s see some examples.
Low hands in Razz
Razz is the lowball version of seven card stud. See the glossary entry under Razz for more information on how this type of poker game is played.
In Razz, Aces are low and straights/flushes are always ignored. The nuts in Razz is hence A,2,3,4,5.
Note that the strength of a low hand is determined by its highest card in all lowball variants. Sometimes the following situation may confuse players.
Hand 1: A,2,4,6,7
Hand 2: 2,3,4,5,6
It’s easy to think that Hand 1 is best here since it holds the Ace. However, we need to look at the highest card to determine the strength of a low. Hand 1 is “seven-low” while hand 2 is “six-low”. Hand 2 wins the pot.
Low hands in 2-7 Triple Draw
Triple Draw uses a hand-ranking format, which is the direct opposite of the high formats most players are used to. In other words, whichever would be the worst possible hand in Hold’em is the hand that wins here.
The worst 5-card hand in Hold’em is 2,3,4,5,7. Aces are always high in 2-7 stud. A “six low” is not possible because by definition it means that we have made a straight i.e. 2,3,4,5,6. Flushes also count against our hand. If we have 2,3,4,5,7 all of the same suit, our hand is essentially total garbage.
It should be relatively straight-forward to remember the lowball rankings here since the clue is in the name. It’s called 2-7 triple draw because the nuts is 2,3,4,5,7.
Low hands in Omaha Hi/Lo
The rules for low hands in Omaha are exactly the same as Razz. The nuts is A,2,3,4,5 (also known as “the wheel”) and straights and flushes do not count against our hand.
In Omaha Hi/Lo. it is even favourable if our low hand also makes a flush/straights since the same cards can be used to form our high hand.
One key difference in Omaha Hi/Lo is that there is a minimum criteria for what qualifies as a low hand. See the glossary entry under qualify for more information on this topic.
Example of Low Hand used in a sentence -> The best possible low hand is generally called ‘the nut low’ for short.
How to Use Low Hand as Part of Your Poker Strategy
The exact strategy for lowball games will depend on the type of format being played. A common strategy for all lowball variants is that it makes sense to enter any hands in the first betting round with a tight range. We will be entering the pot only with hands that have good low potential. We don’t want to play garbage in the hopes of catching lucky cards on the later streets.
Low hands can be confusing at first. One trick to help with initial hand-reading is to read the hand backwards as an actual number where the lowest number wins.
To return to our above example -
Hand 1: A,2,4,6,7
Hand 2: 2,3,4,5,6
Reading backwards, Hand 1 is 76,241 while Hand 2 is 65,432. When expressed as a number it is obvious that Hand 2 is the lowest and will win the pot.
While we have considered some of the main lowball variants, the list is not exhaustive. This is especially true in the case of Razz/Stud games which are notorious for having hundreds of different variations.
If unsure about the exact rules of a certain game, ask the dealer before play begins.