In High-Low Split games players can win with either hand

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The new (third) edition of my booklet, Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision – will introduce what I believe is a new concept called “Hi-Lo Hands.”

There is no relationship to Hi-Lo (“High-Low”) poker games where players can win with either hand at showdown (with some restrictions). These are sometimes called High-Low Split games.

Hi-Lo Hands are quite different: We refer to your two hole cards when one is high and the other low. We distinguish between high cards (ace down to 10) and low (7 to 2). We regard 9 and 8 as intermediate. To emphasize the point, a Hi-Lo Hand consists of one high card and one small card in the hole. (Perhaps Michael Wiesenberg will include this definition in his next edition of The Official Dictionary of Poker.)

It’s usually best to muck these hands.

With a few exceptions, you are wise to fold most Hi-Lo hands, including some that barely satisfy the Starting Hand Criteria for the hold’em algorithm. For example, A-6 off suit (typical of A-rag hands) just meets the criteria for a late position. Like K-4 off suit and most other Hi-Lo hands, it is best folded.

Why? These starting hands can easily lead to “dominated” hands, which can be costly. One out of three flops will pair one of your hole cards. If it’s the high card (say the ace) and an opponent also holds an ace in the hole, you both have flopped a pair of aces.

With a full table of nine or 10, it is not uncommon for the other player to also hold an ace in the hole. But your kicker, the 6 in this example, is most likely smaller than your opponent’s kicker.

According to Tom Green’s Texas Hold’em Poker Textbook, at a table with 10 players the odds are over 50% that an opponent holds a second ace and has you “outkicked.” If you didn’t pair your kicker to make two-pair on the flop, odds are about 7-to-1 against it on the turn or river.

Bottom Line: In the long run Hi-Lo hands are losers.

So it’s wise to fold from the start – before the flop – and save your chips for a better The new (third) edition of my booklet, Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision – will introduce what I believe is a new concept called “Hi-Lo Hands.”

There is no relationship to Hi-Lo (“High-Low”) poker games where players can win with either hand at showdown (with some restrictions). These are sometimes called High-Low Split games.

Hi-Lo Hands are quite different: We refer to your two hole cards when one is high and the other low. We distinguish between high cards (ace down to 10) and low (7 to 2). We regard 9 and 8 as intermediate. To emphasize the point, a Hi-Lo Hand consists of one high card and one small card in the hole. (Perhaps Michael Wiesenberg will include this definition in his next edition of The Official Dictionary of Poker.)

It’s usually best to muck these hands.

With a few exceptions, you are wise to fold most Hi-Lo hands, including some that barely satisfy the Starting Hand Criteria for the hold’em algorithm. For example, A-6 off suit (typical of A-rag hands) just meets the criteria for a late position. Like K-4 off suit and most other Hi-Lo hands, it is best folded.

Why? These starting hands can easily lead to “dominated” hands, which can be costly. One out of three flops will pair one of your hole cards. If it’s the high card (say the ace) and an opponent also holds an ace in the hole, you both have flopped a pair of aces.

With a full table of nine or 10, it is not uncommon for the other player to also hold an ace in the hole. But your kicker, the 6 in this example, is most likely smaller than your opponent’s kicker.

According to Tom Green’s Texas Hold’em Poker Textbook, at a table with 10 players the odds are over 50% that an opponent holds a second ace and has you “outkicked.” If you didn’t pair your kicker to make two-pair on the flop, odds are about 7-to-1 against it on the turn or river.

Bottom Line: In the long run Hi-Lo hands are losers.

So it’s wise to fold from the start – before the flop – and save your chips for a better opportunity. It’s common for your opponents to play “any-ace” hands, including A-rag unsuited. Great; that’s to your advantage.

To every rule, there are bound to be a few exceptions. Here, too. Surely, it is OK to hold onto your cards if there is no raise pre-flop and you are the big blind. It doesn’t cost you anything to see the flop if there are no raises before the flop.

Never refuse a free card.

You never know what cards the flop may bring! I often tell my poker classes at the Claude Pepper Sr. Center and the CalVet Seniors poker group about the hand I was in the big blind with 6-5 off suit. The flop came down: 6-6-6. Wow!

Another viable exception would be if your Hi-Lo cards are suited, and you can stay to see the flop in a multi-way pot with no raises. You are hoping to make a high flush. Best if you hold an A-x suited, but K-x suited can lead to the second-nut flush which often takes the pot.

This is a case of influencing luck to your advantage. There is bound to be a strong temptation to see the flop while holding A-rag, even when the kicker is a small unsuited card. Resist that temptation.

And, of course, the same applies when your high card is lower than an ace. Remember: A dollar saved is worth more than a dollar won.

“The Engineer,” a noted author and teacher, is a member of the Seniors’ Poker Hall of Fame. Contact him at [email protected]

About the Author

George Epstein

A retired engineer, George Epstein is the author of “The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners!” and “Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision.” He teaches poker courses and conducts a unique Poker Lab at the Claude Pepper Senior Center under the auspices of the City of Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks and at West Los Angeles College.

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