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05/02/2007 No. 12
he Guardian G2 Poker Column
Victoria Coren
Monday February 5, 2007

Last week, I promised you a secret about high-low split games which would allow you to mop up your innocent friends' hard-earned money. Don't be disappointed by the simplicity of the tip - the original golden goose was a pretty straightforward concept too. Here it is: always play for the entire pot.

In high-low (or "eight or better") games, half the pot goes to the lowest hand and half to the highest. This applies to seven-card high-low, as explained last week, and Omaha high-low (which, having been given the rules of Omaha and high-low split, you should be able to figure out on your own). With two ways to win and so many cards to choose from, your foolish friends will find excuses to call with most starting hands. If you restrict yourself to cards that might allow you to win the whole pot, you will always have a big edge. (Remember that you can make two different hands if necessary, using a different five of your seven cards.)

The key factor is that aces are both high and low. A2345 is the lowest possible hand, yet 10JQKA is the highest possible straight. This means that an ace is a fantastic "dark card" in seven-card high-low - and in Omaha high-low, it's barely worth playing without one.

A perfect opening hand in seven-card high-low would be A23 of the same suit. Now you're drawing to the best low, a flush and a straight. Conversely, QQJ is uglier than it seems, because you are only drawing to the high hand. You can win half the pot at best, and you might not even get that.

The natural corollary is to avoid middling cards. Eights and nines are awful, because they are neither high nor low. This is the first and last law of high-low poker: "going both ways" is not an added bonus. It is the very object of the game.

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