Don’t Lowball Me, Please

March 23, 2008

Lowball poker.
Rarely played as a standalone game on it’s own, the “bastard child” of poker games is usually thrown in as a way to claim half the pot if your high hand leaves much to be desired. Someone will call “seven-card stud high-low”….which usually means if you’re only playing with 4 people, odds are if you stay in the game you’ll probably just end up taking back more or less what you paid into the pot to begin with.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy playing lowball…to an extent. It’s a nice diversion from regular-score poker, and everyone always seems to think it’s much easier to pull a crappy hand than a good hand. Granted, they’re probably right, and the odds are certainly in your favor that you’ll end up with a stinker over a full house or a royal flush. However, there’s a part of me that just sees lowball poker as a cop-out.
And if I’m going to play a split game at all, I’d rather it be a game like spots, where there’s a little more entertainment to taking the pot with the non-high hand….and it leaves open the option of forcing you to win both in order to win any money at all – high hand and spots. With lowball, it’s much more difficult to win the high and the low…which actually brings me to my main point of debate with this game.
I run into this ALL the time, and while I firmly stand to one side of the rule, there always seems to be someone who’ll argue – passionately mind you – for the other side.
So what’s the debate?
Is Ace, 2, 3, 4, 5 the lowest hand you can get? I say yes, without question. But there’s always…ALWAYS….someone who will argue, usually to the point of my immense irritation, that it can’t be a low hand because it forms a straight. A similar example is if you have 2, 4, 5, 6, 8 or something like that, but they’re all of the same suit….is that a low hand? Or is it disqualified because it’s a flush?
Well, the first thing I’ll try to do is quote the line from Rounders where Matt Damon cleans up because he has “what is known as the wheel…it has enough kick to win me the high and the low.”
So, if the person I’m arguing with has seen Rounders, and by a miracle remembers the line, typically that’ll end the debate right there. But if he or she hasn’t, the debate goes on and on. I’ve wised up a little bit these days, and if we’re not playing at my house and a split pot or lowball game comes up, I make sure to ask what the house rule is so we don’t end up in a fight while there’s a $25 pot sitting unclaimed in the middle of the table.
Anyway, another thing that bothers me about lowball is that I just don’t understand the point…even with structured games like high-low Omaha. Why add low into the equation? What exactly is to be gained except giving someone a side door to collect some money (stealing it in the process from the rightful winner I might add) if he or she manages to scrounge up the worst hand?
I’m sure a justified arguement can be made as to why lowball has a vital home in the world of Saturday night poker games, and like I said, I don’t mind playing it, but when it means the high hand has to share the winnings, especially when most of these split-pot games don’t generate a massive pot to begin with, it takes away from the point of playing – which is to win money, right?
I will throw in one exception – which is why playing a game like “Anaconda”, which I can’t recall if I’ve talked about on this Web site yet, but I can add that in next week if I haven’t…anyway the game ends when everyone has 4 cards face up and 1 left hidden, and in turn from highest to lowest hand, each person must determine whether they are “in” or “out”….with the winner taking the pot, and all the losers who “went in” having to match the pot, and the game continues for another hand.
In this scenario, if you have 2 people fighting High hand and two people fighting for Low hand (and it becomes obvious after the third card if someone is going for high or low) then the two warring sides build up the pot, and even though it’s a split-pot game, there’s a good chance someone’s going to match the full pot and give everyone another chance to win a decent amount of money.
Then there’s the lowball where I’ll try to sell someone a sports figure or videogame online and they lowball me with an offer of $10…but that is DEFINITELY a different article, most likely for a different Web site altogether.
Practice your lowball skills at www.FullTiltPoker.net today.
Either way, happy lowballing!