Any poker player is used to being after the strongest possible hand – high card being the lowest ranking hand, and royal flush being the strongest possible. But there are several poker games in which players don’t need strong poker hands to win. Instead, they need low-ranking hands. These games are called low poker or simply lowball.
Most poker games have their hi-lo split or lowball variants, and there are several poker games that are exclusively after the lowest hands. Rules of these games may vary, depending on whether the straights or flushes are counted or not, and whether the aces are treated as high or low-value cards.
There are four basic variations of lowball poker games, depending on the above.
In Ace-to-Five low games, the lowest – therefore the most powerful – the hand that can be made is A-2-3-4-5, called ‘wheel’ or ‘bicycle’. In these games, Aces are counted as low cards, and straights and flushes are ignored. In ‘six-four low’ games or Ace-to-Six games, straights and flushes are considered high hands, and the lowest possible (winning) hand is A-2-3-4-6. Deuce-to-Seven, or ’7-5 low’ games treat aces as high cards, the lowest possible hand being 7-5-4-3-2. In these games, aces are counted as high cards and straights and flushes as high hands. And finally, the Deuce-to-Six low, where aces are also high cards and straights and flushes are ignored.
The most common method of counting low hands is Ace-to-Five low, where the smallest possible hand is A-2-3-4-5, the method being used also in high-low split games. In these games, Aces are counted as low cards, so a pair of Aces defeat a pair of twos. A lowball 5 card draw variant, Ace-to-five lowball, is played with a joker added to the card deck, the wildcard being considered the lowest ranking card in the deck.
Deuce-to-Seven low, sometimes called Kansas City Lowball, is the direct opposite of high-hand poker. In this game, the highest hand loses, and the lowest hand wins. Pairs and trips are against the player in this game – no-pair hands defeat these anytime. Straights and flushes count for high hands in these games, and aces are counted as high cards. In Deuce-to-Seven low, the best possible hand is 7-5-4-3-2