Lowball (poker)

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Some forms of poker, often called lowball, sometimes called low poker, reward poor poker hands (in the traditional sense). There are four common variations on this idea, differing in whether aces are treated as high cards or low cards, and whether or not straights and flushes are used. The methods are:

  • Ace-to-five low: The lowest possible hand is 5-4-3-2-A, called a wheel. Aces are low and straights and flushes are ignored. This is the most common method.
  • Ace-to-six low: Also called 6-4 low, since the lowest possible hand is 6-4-3-2-A. Aces are low and straights and flushes count as high hands.
  • Deuce-to-seven low: Also called 7-5 low, since the lowest possible hand is 7-5-4-3-2. Almost the direct inverse of traditional "high hand" poker. Aces are high and straights and flushes count as high hands. Since aces are high, A-5-4-3-2 is not a straight, but just ace-high no pair.
  • Deuce-to-six low: The other, mostly unused, possibility would be 6-5 low. Aces are high, straights and flushes are ignored.

Some examples of lowball games are:

  • California Lowball: Draw poker played with A-5 ranking, usually with limit betting, one joker in the deck.
  • Kansas City Lowball: Draw poker played with 2-7 ranking, usually played no-limit.
  • Razz: Seven-card Stud, A-5 ranking.
  • Triple Draw: Draw Poker with three drawing rounds, played limit (or occasionally pot-limit), with either A-5 or 2-7 ranking.
  • London Lowball: Seven-card stud with A-6 ranking and pot-limit betting.

Some games are played high-low split, where the player with the best traditional poker hand (called the "high hand") splits the pot with the best low hand. The low hand is decided by one of the methods above. Nearly every common split-pot game uses A-5 ranking, often with a qualifier for low, in which only an 8 low or better is eligible for a pot. Low hands tie more frequently than high hands, especially in community card games, so it is not uncommon for such a hand to win a small fraction of a poker pot. For example, if one player has the high hand on showdown, and two other players tie for the best low hand, the high hand wins half of the pot and each low hand wins only a quarter of the pot. Playing ace-to-five high-low greatly increases the chances of the "scoop"--winning both hands—because a low flush or straight may count for both high and low. See Rule variations (poker)

Chinese poker can be played with the middle hand played for low.


Low-poker ranking

Some games called lowball or low poker are played where players strive not for the highest ranking of the above combinations but for the lowest ranking hand. There are three methods of ranking low hands, called ace-to-five low, deuce-to-seven low, and ace-to-six low. The ace-to-five method is most common. A sub-variant within this category is high-low poker, in which the highest and lowest hands split the pot (with the highest hand taking any odd chips if the pot does not divide equally). Sometimes straights and/or flushes count in determining which hand is highest but not in determining which hand is lowest (being reckoned as a no-pair hand in the latter instance), so that a player with such a holding can win both ways and thus take the entire pot.

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