Poker: Simplicity on the surface

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The Independent Culture
SEVEN-CARD lowball is a simple game on the surface, but ruthless in its demands. Here is an example from the Victoria Club in London. The best low hand is A-2-3-4-6, off- suit (as distinct from wheel A- 2-3-4-5 as played in the US).

Antes were pounds 10 a player, with high card showing forced to 'bring it in' - or make the first bet - which in this game was pounds 25. Stewart called on (8- 2) A, all the other players showing high cards passed, as did one showing an 8, and two others with a deuce.

Sid, an excitable player, raised the pot, also showing an ace. Stewart called. Next card gave Sid a 3 and Stewart a 5. Sid again bet the size of the pot, as nothing gives him greater pleasure than bluffing out Stewart.

Stewart put him on (6-4) in the hole, which would give him a draw to make a perfect low. If Sid held that hand, he was clearly a 2-1 favourite. But with several thousand pounds between them, Stewart felt he had value. The only low cards to have folded were ones he held himself, so he is unlikely to pair up, plus he had a good idea of his opponent's hand.

Card five brought Sid a 10 and Stewart a queen. Stewart knew he should pass - he may never make a hand better than a 10 low. At this stage it is more a matter of intuition than maths. So he called, and was rewarded with a 9 on card 6, while Sid paired his 3s.

Sid: (6-4) A 3 10 3

Stewart: (8-2) A 3 Q 9

At last Stewart had hit the front, so he set Sid in for all his chips - pounds 8,000. Sid called, and hit a magic 7 to win the pot. In the post-mortem, a very experienced player whispered to Stewart that he should not have played against such a hand, when his opponent had three chances after fourth street to hit a 2, 5 or 7, and so leave him stranded.

Stewart read his opponent's hole cards correctly. He played on 'value' and improved. Personally, I would have folded on card 4. But then I would not have sat down with those stakes in the first place.