What are the odds? Part 2 – Marginal low hands

By | September 1, 2013

In the previous post, we looked at some of the premium starting hands, including A2, A23 and double suited aces. We also looked at bare aces, which can actually be a very difficult hand to play, and are easily overrated.

In this post we’ll look at some marginal starting hands, such as a bare 2-3, 2-3-4 or Kings.

The bare 2-3

The attraction of playing 2-3 (without other low cards) is that if an Ace and another low card fall, you will be drawing to a well disguised nut low. If the other card that falls on the flop is a 4 or 5, you are drawing to a wheel. Unfortunately, that’s where the good news ends. A bare 2-3 will often find itself second best, if that. Let’s look at the stats:

A bare 2-3 (e.g. 2-3 with no other low cards) will make a low by the river 37% of the time. Unfortunately it will only make the nut low on the river 14% of the time. That means that approximately two times in three, the low won’t come in. When it does come in, it will only be the nut low three times out of ten.

A further problem is that, whilst the 2-3 has straight potential, it will as often as not be drawing to the bottom end of the straight, so again, it is hard to make the nuts.

In conclusion, if there is significant action in front of you, a bare 2-3 with no other value is unlikely to be worth playing.  You should look to play this hand only where you can get in cheaply and in late position.

Three wheel cards

If 2-3 is a very limited hand, then adding a third wheel card to your hand certainly helps matters. 234x (where x is a high card) will make a low by the river 50% of the time.  It will make the nut low 22% of the time. As we saw with A2 and A23 hands, the additional counterfeit protection also adds tremendous value. Of course the hand is even stronger is it is suited or double suited. Bear in mind though that without an ace, your flush draw may often be second best, so you should play the hand for its low value, not its flush value.

Four little

Having three or even four wheel cards does of course give our hand tremendous potential. What about if we have four low but unconnected cards, for example 2468?

I’ve seen many players fall in love with 4 low cards, but remember, we are playing O8, not Razz. The key stats are that:

  • four low cards will make a low 53% of the time by the river
  • the bad news: 2468 will only make the nut low 6% of the time
  • and (for amusement sake) let’s point out that 2% of the time our 2468 hand will make the nut high.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t play such hands. It does mean you should be careful, play with position and avoid putting in too many bets pre flop.

Ace plus low

We looked in the previous post at A2 and A23 hands. We’ll conclude this post by looking at more marginal Ace/ low hands.

Let’s start by noting that bare A6, A7 and A8 hands (with no other low cards) are unable ever to make the nut low. In addition, they can’t work together to make a straight. As above, it doesn’t mean you can’t play them. Just aim to do so when you have other plus points, be that position, high card potential and/ or pot odds.

A5 is able to make a wheel, but this will only happen 3% of the time by the river. It is therefore best played in late position, when there have not been raises in front, or where you have significant other things going for you in the hand.

That concludes our review of marginal low hands. Next time, we’ll look at high hands.

Category: Hand Analysis Odds and Probabilities Tags: , , , , , , , ,
Andy 'IggyPop77' Mack

About Andy 'IggyPop77' Mack

Andy's first love was chess. Three times a competitor in the British Championships, he has played regularly at international level, achieving the rank of FIDE Master. On a fateful day in 2007 Andy visited Las Vegas for the first time. Since that point, his attention has switched from chess to poker. Initially focusing on Hold'em, Andy has branched out, and has been working hard over the past couple of years to perfect his Omaha 8 game. He also plays all the other variants of the 8 Game. Away from poker, Andy's hero is rock star Iggy Pop. Andy claims to love Iggy's wild man image, although even his best friends would find it hard to compare Andy's solid poker style with that of the Godfather of Punk.

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