Lowball poker – or “low” poker – is any poker game in which the lowest-ranked hand (or the “worst” hand in other poker) wins the pot.
There are three common lowball poker variations:
Ace-to-five lowball (A-5 ranking): The lowest possible hand is 5-4-3-2-A, called a wheel. Aces are low and straights and flushes are ignored. This is the most common method.
Ace-to-six lowball (A-6 ranking): Also called 6-4 low, because the lowest possible hand is 6-4-3-2-A. Aces are low and straights and flushes count as high hands.
Deuce-to-seven lowball (2-7 ranking): Also called 7-5 low, since the lowest possible hand is 7-5-4-3-2. Almost the direct inverse of traditional "high hand" poker. Aces are high and straights and flushes count as high hands. Since aces are high, A-5-4-3-2 is not a straight, but just ace-high no pair.
In any lowball poker game, a hand with no pair beats any hand with a pair, one pair beats two pair or three of a kind, and so on. As in high poker, you compare no-pair hands starting with the highest ranking card, except that the high hand loses.
High-Low Split Games
High-low split poker is like a combination of traditional and lowball poker. The player with the best high hand splits the pot with the player who has the best low hand, with the winning low hand determined using A-5, A-6 or 2-7 ranking. Often a qualifier is set for a low hand – for example, only an 8 low or better is eligible for a pot.
Especially in high-low split community card games, low hands tie more often than high hands. As a result, it’s possible to be “quartered” – the player with the highest hand wins half the pot and the two players with the tied low hands each win a quarter of the pot.
Lowball Poker Games
Some examples of lowball poker games are
- California Lowball – draw poker played with A-5 ranking, usually with limit betting and one joker in the deck acting as a wild card.
- Razz – a low version of Seven-card Stud, played using A-5 ranking.
- Kansas City Lowball – low draw poker played with 2-7 ranking, usually played no-limit.
- Triple Draw – draw Poker with three drawing rounds, played limit (or occasionally pot-limit), using either A-5 or 2-7 ranking.
- London Lowball – lowball version of Seven-Card Stud, played pot-limit and using A-6 ranking.