Poker Home Games: Lowball Stud

May 25, 2008

Poker Home Games: Lowball stud


I continued my recent them of getting back into the poker scene this weekend, finding some time on a Friday night to join in a small, but fun 4-person night of poker.  And to an extent, I feel re-energized about the game as a whole.  It’s easy to become disillusioned with cards as a serious but somewhat casual player, either when you lose or you’ve just been playing for so long it feels like you’re just going through the motions.


However, I find myself staring at an upswing in interest and enthusiasm toward poker, and with a few new games up my sleeve, what better time than describe the one that helped me win 2 out of 3 “tournament” format gaming sessions.


1.)    Base poker game for this one is seven-card stud. 


2.)    Your lowest hidden card is wild.  If that card is a 3, all 3’s in your hand (hidden or open) are wild – just for you.  Everyone will have their own wild card exclusive to their hand.


3.)    Betting happens the same as seven-card stud.


4.)    When it comes time for the river, you have the option of “buying” to have your card face up, or you can take it face down for free.


5.)    Final round of betting, winner takes all


Fairly simple rules, but plenty of strategy along the way.  The most obvious strategy is whether to take your last card up or down.  On the surface, it’s a straightforward decision that would seemingly only make a difference as to what your hand ends up as…the main effect being taking the card face up to avoid undercutting a pair of already-established wild cards.


For example, if your two hidden cards are 3, 3, or one is a 5 and you have a five face up in your hand, these are both scenarios where you’d probably pay to have the card face-up, so as no to run the risk of your river card face-down being a 2.  The result of which would be dropping your # of wild cards from multiples down to 1, and thus certainly handicapping your hand.


Part of the strategy, however, is keeping the power of your hand as well hidden as possible.  Of course, that’s the goal in every poker hand, but in lowball stud you actually have the power to do something about it.  So sometimes there’s the question of a calculated gamble – taking your last card down even though there’s a slight chance you may be undercut – to throw your opponents off the scent that you already have two established wild cards, either hidden or matched somewhere in your open hand.


I like this game because it brings in the element of wild cards without going overboard, and without too much craziness or other rules.  The wild card won’t chance unless you run the risk (but again, you’re the one making the decision there).  There are no extra cards to come into play, and there are no match the pot predicaments.  So it keeps close to what pure poker is all about…although purists will always scoff at wild cards, I find them fun, and in the setting of a home poker game, more than appropriate.