Wiesenberg (s074 poker): Sophie plays 7/8

Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published in Card Player. This entry in the "Aunt Sophie" series covers poker.

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Black and white photo of Michael Wiesenberg

Michael Wiesenberg

Aunt Sophie plays 7/8

“Swim time, Dollink,” whispered a seductive voice in my ear. It was not my Aunt Sophie telephonically inveigling me, but Sara.

“Where are you?” I responded.

Nu, tsatskeleh?” she replied. “You can’t figure it out already?”

I summoned my deductive powers. “Your complex doesn’t have a pool,” I mused. “You’re trying with little success to sound like my Aunt Sophie. Ergo and kumquat I conclude you are swimming at her complex.”

“Bang on, Sherlock!” she breathed. “Come on over for a little r’n’r.” I knew she didn’t mean rock ’n’ roll.

I logged off the BARGE Web site, whereon I had been following with no little interest the posted barnyard struttings of the Tiltboys and other super-r00lers (spelt, of course, with the obligatory are-gee-pea two zeros in the middle), who challenged each other to Roshambo and Chowaha tournaments. (Are gee pea being RGP, or wreck dot gambling dot poker, an Internet Usenet newsgroup devoted to discussions of poker, and BARGE being Big August Rec Gambling Excursion, the annual get-together at Binion’s Horseshoe of the online crowd for poker, lies, and drinking, enjoyed, seemingly, in reverse order.) I put my trunks on under my jeans, and hopped into the El Dee for the short drive to Aunt Sophie’s townhouse.

The stares of all poolside males directed my vision to Sara’s precarious perch on the diving board, clad in an equally precarious thong, prior to a precipitous plunge into the pool.

A vision of another sort of loveliness, colorfully clad in a cerulean, chartreuse, and crimson muumuu beckoned, and I joined my Aunt Sophie under an umber umbrella.

Seven-card stud, high-low

Nu, tsatskeleh,” she began, “all about seven-card stud high-low you’ll tell me, please.”

“Aunt Sophie,” I demurred, “I came here at Sara’s invitation, and I’m going swimming.”

“So why do you think she asked you?” asked Aunt Sophie. “At my request it was.”

“You mean this was all a ruse?” I demanded. “A trick to get me here so you could pump me for poker advice?”

“No, Dollink,” she sighed. “The pleasure of your company and my second cousin Minnie’s niece was the occasion, but as long as you’re here, I thought a good time it is questions to ask. You’ll get to have plenty of time with Sara when I’m in the kitchen putting dinner together later, and this dinner I’m sure you’ll like. Chopped liver I made, brisket, my sweet-and-sour red cabbage, and kasheh. With Rhubarb Paradise for dessert. So now an old lady maybe you’ll humor.”

“‘Old lady’?” I snorted. “You’ll outlast us all. But go ahead, ask away. I’ll restrain my aquatic urgings.”

“Well, then,” she beamed, “all about Omaha/8 so kind enough you were to tell me, so now maybe the same for seven stud.”

“Okay,” I assented. “I assume as before you’re referring to the game at the lowest limits 3-6 and 4-8. Seven-card stud high-low split, with an 8 qualifier for low, the game affectionately known to regular players as ‘7/8.’ Everyone antes $1. And just to be didactic, we can specify further a $1 forced bet by the lowest upcard, although the opener can bring it in for $4. A $1 open can be called by succeeding players, or the bet can be completed to $4. The completion is not considered a raise in counting the maximum three raises per betting round. Bets are in increments of $4 on the first two rounds, starting on third street, and $8 on the next three, although if a pair appears anywhere on fourth street, that bet can optionally be either $4 or $8. Games are 8-handed.

“Okay, from what we discussed before, what would you think is the most important decision in this game?”

“Starting hands?” she suggested hesitantly.


“Of course,” I returned, “only it’s even more important in 7/8. As in all high/low games, the overriding key to profitability is to begin only with hands that have scoop potential. By scoop, I mean of course a hand that has a good chance of ending up winning the whole pot. And I’m talking about significant scoop potential — hands that would be considered strong in both a high-only and low-only game.”

“Isn’t that also the case,” wondered she, “in other high/low games like Omaha/8?”

“Quite right,” I pronounced, “however there is a special aspect unique to 7/8. In Omaha/8, the nature of the community cards (the board) can dictate that no one will make a low hand. Indeed, in Omaha/8, no low is possible in about 40% of the hands (because of the lack of three small cards on the board). And in another small number of hands, no one will make a low even when one is possible, because the players either have their low draws counterfeited or were playing hands that couldn’t make lows (which was likely to be a mistake on their part). As a consequence, some very good high-only hands in Omaha/8, like A-A-K-Q, double-suited, might be worth seeing a flop with, even with significant preflop action.


“Such is not the case in 7/8. There are no community cards, so each player has his own ‘private’ chance to make a qualifying low hand. Furthermore, as some players ‘brick out’ on fourth and fifth streets, others will almost inevitably catch their needed low cards, as there are only so many high cards in the deck. As a result, one almost must make a third-street playing decision based on the assumption that someone, somewhere, will make a good low and take half the pot. This means that, if you’re playing for high, half of all the money you invest will go to someone else. Not a good investment.”

I paused to sip the Red Hook Rye ale that Aunt Sophie had poured for me.

“As a consequence,” I went on, “there are many, many hands that are good in high only or low only (razz, that is) that are essentially trash hands in 7/8. A pair of kings (especially split kings), for example, is virtually unplayable in a multiway pot. You really can’t win with hands like this. If you play them strongly early, you’re announcing your hand to the table, and can expect some implicit collusion. By this I mean of course that the low hands and possibly better high hands (like aces) will raise and reraise trying to force you out of the pot, a place you ought to have been in the beginning. If you don’t play them strongly, though, you’re just making it easier for the lows to draw against you, basically promoting a freeroll against you. Better just not to get involved. High-only hands have to be extremely good (like trips or a pair of hidden aces with a live kicker) to play on third street, and even then, your goal is really to thin the field as much as possible, which isn’t likely to generate a big pot for your action. Similarly, low-only hands, like 7-6-2 rainbow, which are very strong in a game like razz, aren’t worth much in 7/8, because your scooping potential on third-street is virtually nil.”

I took another sip of Red Hook. “And now, my dear,” I concluded, “it’s time for my promised r’n’r. I shall continue anon with the 7/8 punditry.”

Thus speaking, I removed jeans, t-shirt, and footgear, and leapt into the pool, there to be distracted from thoughts of poker.

The author extends his thanks for help with 7/8 strategy to Mike Zimmers, organizer of BARGE, and quondam winner of its no-limit tournament.

Next: 075 Aunt Sophie learns ah bissel more about 7/8

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