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High-Low Poker

This is a game of draw poker in which nothing differs from any other game of draw poker except that the high and the low hands split the pot. In some high-low games, the ace can be treated as the low card in a low hand, but these games are rare and I will consider only the game in which the high hand is reckoned exactly as it would be in any other poker game and the lowest possible hand is 7-5-4-3-2 of different suits. Straights and flushes count and must be treated as high hands.

One error that a high-low player may make is to treat the perfect low hand (7-5-4-3-2) as unbeatable. Such a hand is not more infrequent than a high full house. At least once in the lifetime of the high-low player, he is likely to hold the perfect low when another player also holds the perfect low. If the other player is equally ignorant, they will raise and reraise each other indefinitely, while the high player simply rides along with a cinch. Eventually they will split half the pot, having put in closer to one-third of the pot each, and the "perfect" hand will have wound up with a net loss. I do not intend to imply that a player with a perfect low should not back it strongly, but after four or five raises he should become suspicious. At that point, even if he has another perfect low out against him, if he calls he probably will do no worse than break even.

In high-low draw poker, the low hand will be about the same as the low hand in low-ball, which is described in the preceding section. The high hand will be slightly better than the average high hand in a regular game of draw poker, because there will be occasional cases in which a player draws to low and gets some freak result that gives him a straight or flush.

More than nearly any other kind of poker, this game rewards the player who has good judgment as to what the other players are trying for. Often a player who pairs on a draw to a possible low hand will know from the circumstances that his pair probably gives him the high hand and he can stay in or even raise with great confidence.

The only reasonable way to approach the game is this: Look at your hand. Appraise its probable chances of winning for high. Appraise its possible chances of winning for low. If in either case you feel that you have mathematically the best of it, •Stay in and play for the kind of hand that is most likely to win in the category, high or low, that you selected originally. In this game, you cannot win both high and low. Let the freak draws take care of themselves, not bothering about them until you are finished. Almost the only time you are playing both ways is when you hold a hand such as 5-4-3-2 or 6-5-4-3, which will give you a probable winning high hand if you hit the straight and a probable winning low hand if you draw a low card.

Just as in regular poker, the average high hand is jacks up or queens up; the average winning low hand is nine high. Almost never is a two-card draw for low worth while unless you are convinced that all the other players are going for high and are paired to begin with. In such a case, a low pair may very readily win low and an unpaired hand is pretty sure to.

 
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