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.
Aunt Sophie learns ah bissel more about 7/8
“Nu,” Aunt Sophie bespoke, “just a little bit about seven-card stud high-low have you told so far.”
I sat dripping at a poolside table laden with afternoon refreshments at Sophie’s townhouse complex, while Sara remained frolicking in the azure natatorium. I helped myself to rumaki, kept hot in a chafing dish by a small spirit lamp, and poured another Red Hook Rye ale.
“Well,” I continued, “I was telling you what starting hands not to play, of which you saw there were many, including some that look very good in high-only or low-only seven stud. Arising from this is that there really are not many good starting hands in this game, from which you can infer that profitable play in low-limit 7/8 is to play very, very tightly on the early streets. As a result, low-limit 7/8 is one of the more boring poker games, but therein also lies the reason for a good player’s profit. Most players at the low limits either don’t understand this concept, or aren’t disciplined enough to accept it, and thus play rag hands much of the time, including when you’re holding a monster. You should prepare yourself for playing only one hand an hour or so, but this will usually be enough to show a profit.”
“One hand an hour?” she gasped. “Where’s the fun in that?”
“The fun, my dear,” I offered, “is in winning. If you’re looking for an action game, though, look elsewhere, because there simply is no way to profitably play many hands in this game. Further discouragement for the action-seeker comes when you realize that you must consider the seven other up-cards when assessing your own hand. Even the most premium of starting hands can have their value diluted if many of your key cards are already out.”
“So,” interpolated Aunt Sophie, “even when I get one of those hard-to-get good hands a good hand it still might not be?”
“You got it,” I returned. “So, you may well wonder, what, then, can be considered a playable hand? Again, you want to play hands that can scoop. And in 7/8, you want to scoop with small straights and small (but ace-high) flushes. Plan your starting requirements accordingly.
“My personal favorite starting hand is 3-4-5 suited with the 5 as your door card. Obviously, this kind of hand doesn’t exactly grow on trees, and waiting for it would be almost unfathomably tight, akin to waiting for a pat one-outer that has a bong in pan, to use an analogy to something with which you’re familiar. In general, you want three cards below a six, though three to a seven is OK under some circumstances. Suited, or at least two-suited, is a plus, as is having your cards connected; 4-5-6, for example, is much better than 2-4-6. An ace is always a plus (as it is in any high-low game); in fact, some players almost never start without one.”
“Don’t leave home without one,” interjected Aunt Sophie.
“Indeed,” I assented drily. “And your key cards must be live. The aforementioned 3-4-5 suited is much less valuable if the two and six of your suit are out, along with another two or six and one or two more of your flush cards.”
“Could I play that hand,” she queried, “if those cards were out?”
“With caution,” I responded. “I wouldn’t raise on it, and I wouldn’t come in cold for two or more bets.”
“Yah,” she snorted sarcastically, “and another hour for a good hand like that I’d have to wait.”
“You might,” I shrugged. “And here’s something else a lot of players don’t do. Even though the game is eight-or-better for low, the winning player will treat it as though it’s really seven-or-better, and use the eight only as an escape card. I’ll rarely play a starting hand with an eight in it; there are just too many ways to be beaten for low, even if few of your opponents have a lower card on board. It goes without saying that if you do play a starting hand with an eight, it had better be hidden, with a smaller card up.”
“Okay,” she murmured doubtfully. “Does it get any better?”
“Yes,” I said. “These starting requirements can be loosened somewhat if all of the following are true: the pot is already multiway when it gets to you; the bring-in hasn’t been raised; and it doesn’t appear likely that it will be raised behind you. Now, if an ace is behind you, pretend it’s a given that the pot will be raised, and plan accordingly.”
Sara joined us, demurely draping a huge beach towel about herself, and the male heads that had swiveled in our direction returned to their various magazines and other less interesting distractions surrounding their chaises longues. Sara had rumaki and a sip of my Red Hook.
Thanks Mike Zimmers, noted BARGE personality, for input on 7/8