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Low-poker ranking

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Ace-to-five

Ace-to-five low is the most common method for evaluating low hands in poker, nearly universal in U.S. casinos, especially in high-low split games.

As in all low hand games, pairs count against the player. That is, any hand with no pair defeats any hand with a pair; one pair hands defeat two pair or three-of-a-kind, etc. No-pair hands are compared starting with the highest ranking card, just as in high poker, except that the high hand loses. In ace-to-five low, straights and flushes are ignored, and aces play as the lowest card.

For example, the hand 8-5-4-3-2 defeats 9-7-6-4-3, because eight-high is lower than nine-high. The hand 7-6-5-4-3 defeats both, because seven-high is lower still, even though it would be a straight if played for high. Aces are low, so 8-5-4-3-A defeats 8-5-4-3-2. Also, A-A-9-5-3 (a pair of aces) defeats 2-2-5-4-3 (a pair of deuces), but both of those would lose to any no-pair hand such as K-J-8-6-4. In the rare event that hands with pairs tie, kickers are used just as in high poker (but reversed): 3-3-6-4-2 defeats 3-3-6-5-A.

This is called ace-to-five low because the lowest (and therefore best) possible hand is 5-4-3-2-A, called a wheel. The next best possible hand is 6-4-3-2-A, followed by 6-5-3-2-A, 6-5-4-2-A, 6-5-4-3-A, 6-5-4-3-2, 7-4-3-2-A, 7-5-3-2-A, etc.

When speaking, low hands are referred to by their highest ranking card or cards. Any nine-high hand can be called “a nine”, and is defeated by any “eight”. Two cards are frequently used: the hand 8-6-5-4-2 can be called “an eight-six” and will defeat “an eight-seven” such as 8-7-5-4-A.

Another common notation is calling a particular low hand “smooth” or “rough.” A smooth low hand is one where the remaining cards after the highest card are themselves very low; a rough low hand is one where the remaining cards are high. For instance, 8-7-6-3-A would be referred to as a “rough eight,” but 8-4-3-2-A would be referred to as a “smooth eight.”

High-low split games with ace-to-five low are usually played cards speak, that is, without a declaration. Frequently a qualifer is required for low (typically 8-high or 9-high). Some hands (particularly small straights and flushes) may be both the low hand and the high hand, and are particularly powerful (or particularly dangerous if they are mediocre both ways). Winning both halves of the pot in a split-pot game is called “scooping” or “hogging” the pot. The perfect hand in such a game is called a “steel wheel”, 5-4-3-2-A of one suit, which plays both as perfect low and a straight flush high. Note that it is possible–though unlikely–to have this hand and still lose money. If the pot has three players, and one other player has a mixed-suit wheel, and a third has better straight flush, the higher straight flush wins the high half of the pot, and the two wheels split the low half, hence the steel wheel wins only a quarter of a three-way pot.

Ace-to-five lowball, a five-card draw variant, is often played with a joker added to the deck. The joker plays as the lowest card not already present in the hand (in other words, it is a wild card): 7-5-4-Joker-A, for example, the joker plays as a 2. This can cause some interesting effects for high-low split games. Let’s say that Alice has 6-5-4-3-2 (called a “straight six”)–a reasonably good hand for both high and low. Burt has Joker-6-5-4-3. By applying the rule for wild cards in straights, Burt’s joker plays as a 7 for high, giving him a seven-high straight to defeat Alice’s six-high straight. For low, the joker plays as an ace–the lowest card not in Burt’s hand–and his hand also defeats Alice for low, because his low hand is 6-5-4-3-A, lower than her straight six by one notch. Jokers are very powerful in high-low split games.

Wheel

A wheel or bicycle is the poker hand 5-4-3-2-A, regardless of suit, which is a five-high straight, the lowest-ranking of the straights.

In ace-to-five low poker, where aces are allowed to play as low and straights and flushes do not count against a hand’s “low” status, this is the best possible hand. In high/low split games, it is both the best possible low hand and a competitive high hand.

The origin of the name “Wheel” probably derives from the Bicycle playing cards issued by the U.S. Playing Card Company.

Ace-to-six

Ace-to-six low is a method for evaluating low hands in poker. It is not as commonly used as the ace-to-five low method, but it is common among home games in the eastern United States, and also common in the United Kingdom (it is the traditional ranking of London lowball, a stud poker variant).

As in all lowball games, pairs and trips are bad: that is, any hand with no pair defeats any hand with a pair; one pair hands defeat two pair or trips, etc. No-pair hands are compared starting with the highest ranking card, just as in high poker, except that the high hand loses. In ace-to-six low, straights and flushes count for high (and are therefore bad), and aces play as the lowest card.

For example, the hand 8-5-4-3-2 defeats 9-7-6-4-3, because eight-high is lower than nine-high. The hand 7-6-5-4-2 defeats both, because seven-high is lower still. The hand 7-6-5-4-3 would lose, because it is a straight. Aces are low, so 8-5-4-3-A defeats 8-5-4-3-2. Also, A-A-9-5-3 (a pair of aces) defeats 2-2-5-4-3 (a pair of deuces), but both of those would lose to any no-pair hand such as K-J-8-6-4. In the rare event that hands with pairs tie, kickers are used just as in high poker (but reversed): 3-3-6-4-2 defeats 3-3-6-5-A.

It is called ace-to-six low because the best possible hand is 6-4-3-2-A, followed by 6-5-3-2-A, 6-5-4-2-A, 6-5-4-3-A, 7-4-3-2-A, 7-5-3-2-A, etc.

When speaking, low hands are referred to by their highest ranking card or cards. Any nine-high hand can be called “a nine”, and is defeated by any “eight”. Two cards are frequently used: the hand 8-6-5-4-2 can be called “an eight-six” and will defeat “an eight-seven” such as 8-7-5-4-A.

A wild card plays as whatever rank would make the lowest hand. Thus, in 6-5-Joker-2-A, the joker plays as a 3, while in Joker-5-4-3-2 it would play as a 7 (an ace or six would make a straight).

High-low split games with ace-to-six low are usually played with a declaration.

Deuce-to-seven

Deuce-to-seven low is a method for evaluating low hands in poker. It is often called “Kansas City” low or just “low poker”. It is almost the direct opposite of standard poker: high hand loses. It is not as commonly used as the ace-to-five low method.

As in all lowball games, pairs and trips are bad: that is, any hand with no pair defeats any hand with a pair; one pair hands defeat two pair or trips, etc. No-pair hands are compared starting with the highest ranking card, just as in high poker, except that the high hand loses. In deuce-to-seven low, straights and flushes count for high (and are therefore bad). Aces are always high (and therefore bad).

For example, the hand 8-5-4-3-2 defeats 9-7-6-4-3, because eight-high is lower than nine-high. The hand 7-6-5-4-2 defeats both, because seven-high is lower still. The hand 7-6-5-4-3 would lose, because it is a straight. Aces are high, so Q-8-5-4-3 defeats A-8-5-4-3. In the rare event that hands with pairs tie, kickers are used just as in high poker (but reversed): 3-3-6-4-2 defeats 3-3-6-5-2.

A special rule is that a wheel is not considered a straight: A-5-4-3-2 is simply ace-high no pair (it would therefore lose to any king-high, but would defeat A-6-4-3-2.

It’s called deuce-to-seven low because the best possible hand is 7-5-4-3-2, followed by 7-6-4-3-2, 7-6-5-3-2, 7-6-5-4-2, 8-5-4-3-2, 8-6-4-3-2, etc.

When speaking, low hands are referred to by their highest ranking card or cards. Any nine-high hand can be called “a nine”, and is defeated by any “eight”. Two cards are frequently used: the hand 8-6-5-4-2 can be called “an eight-six” and will defeat “an eight-seven” such as 8-7-5-4-2.

Another common notation is calling a particular low hand “smooth” or “rough.” A smooth low hand is one where the remaining cards after the highest card are themselves very low; a rough low hand is one where the remaining cards are high. For instance, 8-7-6-4-2 would be referred to as a “rough eight,” but 8-5-4-3-2 would be referred to as a “smooth eight.”

Wild cards are rarely used in deuce-to-seven games, but if used they play as whatever rank would make the lowest hand. Thus, in 7-6-Joker-3-2, the joker plays as a 4, while in Joker-5-4-3-2 it would play as a 7 (a six would make a straight, and an ace would make ace-five high).

High-low split games with deuce-to-seven low are usually played with a declaration.

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.

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