How to Play Stud 8-or-Better Poker: Official Rules for Stud 8
Stud 8 or Better is a popular split-pot variant of Seven Card Stud because it induces more action.
With the rise of mixed games around 2006, Stud 8 became an integral part of the majority of rotation games.
If you want to become a mixed-games player, or just want to expand your poker repertoire, then this is one of the best games to learn.
Go For the Scoop!
Like any split-pot poker game, the object of Stud 8 or Better is to go for the scoop. In many hands, half of the pot will go to the highest hand with the other half going to a qualifying low hand.
A qualifying low hand is one with five non-pairing cards eight and below. The best low hand is a wheel, or an A-5 straight.
When a player happens to have both the high and low hand at the same time, that player scoops the entire pot.
Playing a Hand
Like all Stud poker games, each player posts an ante prior to the deal. Stud 8 games are normally eight-handed. There's no button, so cards are dealt starting at Seat 1 and then around to Seat 8.
The first three cards are dealt like in normal Stud with two cards down and the third card face up. Fourth through Sixth Street cards will also be face up.
Whoever has the lowest up card will make the first bet known as the bring-in. If more than one player has the lowest card, then the player with the lowest suit is the bring-in.
Suits are ranked in alphabetical order - Clubs, Diamonds, Hearts and Spades. On average, the bring-in is double the size of the ante. This isn't always the case in tournaments.
The bring-in also has the option to complete the bet, which is making the bet equal to the small bet size. If you're playing a $2-$4 game with a 50-cent ante, the bring-in would be $1 and a completion would be $2.
When the lowest card fails to complete, the remaining players to act can either call the bring-in or complete the bet. Once the bet is completed subsequent raises are done in the small bet amount.
Another Up Card
After betting on Third Street is done, remaining players receive another up card. Betting on Fourth Street forward starts with the player with the highest hand.
If more than one player has the high hand, then the player closest to Seat 1 goes first. Betting on Fourth Street is in the small bet amount. Note, that in Stud 8 or Better, there's no "double-bet" when there's a pair showing on Fourth Street like in Stud Hi.
Starting on Fifth Street, bets are in the big bet amount which is normally double the small bet amount. In our earlier example, that would be $4.
After Fifth and Sixth Street action is completed, remaining players get one final card dealt face down. One final round of betting occurs and the remaining players show their hands.
The player holding the highest five-card hand gets half the pot while the player with the lowest qualifying low hand gets the other half.
In the event the same player has both a high and low hand, or when there's no low hand, that player scoops the pot.
Starting Hand Selection is Key to Stud 8 Success
More so than maybe any other poker game, starting hand selection in Stud 8 or Better is the main key to success. You want to shoot for hands that give you the best chance to scoop hands.
This means three card low starters the majority of the time. Any three cards eight or below that have reasonable chances to make a low straight or flush are best.
Outside of those hands, you want three low cards that allow you a solid chance to lock up one-half of the pot. Stay away from most pairs above eights with the exception of aces.
A low pair with another low card or an ace is also a playable hand.
When playing these hands, improving on Fourth Street is ideal but you should abandon the hand on Fifth Street if you have not improved in a meaningful way.
Finally, stay away from playing one-way low hands in heads-up situations. At most, you will split the antes and that's not a +EV play long term.
Stud 8 or Better rewards solid players over the long-term, so don't be afraid to adopt a tighter strategy in these games, especially in cash games.