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High Low Poker

By Gary Steele

High/Low is a poker variation that can be applied to any poker game because it is not a variation of the rules of the poker game itself. High/Low is a variation to how the pot is divided between the players at the end of the hand. If you have played any typical poker game, you are used to seeing a Hand Ranking Chart which decides who wins the entire pot (unless there is a tie). This is not always the case in a High/Low game where two players can split any pot, providing one of the players at the end of the hand has a qualifying Low hand. This happens over 50% of the time in a game like Omaha where players have a large number of cards to make their hands from.

With High/Low the player with the best hand on the Hand Ranking Chart wins the entire pot only if there is not an eligible Low hand. An eligible Low hand consists of all five cards being eight and below, with Aces being considered the lowest card. An example of a qualifying Low hand is:

  • Ace of Hearts;
  • Two of Spades;
  • Three of Clubs;
  • Four of Clubs;
  • Eight of Hearts.

If a player at the table has a hand which consists of all cards eight and below, the pot is split evenly and distributed between the best High hand and the best Low hand. If there is an extra chip it is paid to the high hand. Flushes and Straights do not count against the Low hand, so Ace, Two, Three, Four, Five (called the Wheel) is the best low hand possible, even if the cards are all the same suit.

If more than one player has a qualifying Low hand, the player with the lowest high card wins the low hand split. For example, the hand laid out above with an Eight of Hearts as the high card loses their share of the pot to:

  • Ace of Clubs;
  • Four of Spades;
  • Five of Hearts;
  • Six of Clubs;
  • Seven of Hearts.

Even though the first hand had more low cards, the Eight was the highest of the five cards and loses to the Seven in this hand.

It is possible for a player to have the High and Low hand in the same game. This is seen typically in games consisting of seven or more cards such as Hold’em and Omaha. Any five of the seven cards can be used in the Low, and a different five cards can be used for the high hand. Having the Wheel (Ace through Five) is an example of an instance where you may have the best Low hand (five high) and the best High hand (a Straight).

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