After playing poker for even a short time you may notice a series of Hi-Lo games. Hi-Lo versions of any game are games where the best hand takes only half the pot, and the worst hand takes the other half. The two most common forms of Casino Extra Hi-Lo are Omaha Hi-Lo and 7 card stud Hi-Lo. In both these games the rules are exactly the same as their normal forms, except now the pot is split whenever a low hand is available. In the most common versions of these games that means any five cards that do not make a pair, and have a worse value than a high card of nine (meaning the highest card in the hand can be an 8).
Why split the pot? Well by having games where both good and bad hands can win, the number of cards that help someone at the table increases, and so does the action. Hi-Lo games can lead to a lot of betting, a lot of random hands being played, and add a fun wrinkle into any poker game. Many pros also swear these as the easiest games to build up a bank roll once you learn how to play them well, since so many players don’t.
There are two main methods in use for figuring out how to rank low hands. One way is called the “deuce to seven” method (also nicknamed the “Kansas City” method). If the deuce to seven method is being used, then the aces only count as high cards, not low, and straights and flushes do count as high hands. The lowest hand possible using the Kansas City rules is 75432. This is the less common of the two methods, and the least popular as it makes it much more difficult to make a low hand.
The most common way is to count an ace as a low, so it counts as a one, and to ignore straights and flushes. In this way, a 5432A hand is the Casino Extra lowest possible. This is by far and away the most common use of cards for low games. The other thing to be aware of is where each game caps its low. Many games only allow cards of eight or lower, which is why sometimes you may also see Omaha Hi-Lo referred to as Omaha 8 Hi-Lo. This means any hand that would beat a high card of eight is not eligible for the low part of the pot.
These games can seem very confusing at first, and they take time to learn. Don’t be afraid to watch games, or if at a casino, ask a dealer for assistance if you find yourself confused. The most important part of playing these games are understanding how to find the low.
REMEMBER: Count the low from the highest card down, not lowest up. For example: A2345 should actually be read 5432A for the low. The other way is to remember the sequence as a number. So 87652 would read 87,652. The lowest number wins. That is why 86432 would beat 8732A(1) because 86,432 is smaller than 87,321. This is the part that can throw off many novices, so remember to practice, and good luck at the tables!