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The object of Stud 8 or Better, like any other split pot game, is to scoop pots. As such, players want to pick starting hands that give them the best chance to do so. Some players fall into a trap of playing starting hands that are more suitable for regular Stud rather than Stud 8.

One such starting hand is high pairs. While a high pair is a solid starter in regular Stud, playing these hands in Stud 8 can be dicey and players need to be smart when doing so.

Big Pair Vs. Pocket Aces

When we refer to a big pair in Stud 8 or Better, we are referring to jacks through kings. For sake of this argument, we are also going to include nines and tens because the concepts still apply although most would consider them medium pairs.

Whenever you come into a hand with a pair of nines through kings, you are committing yourself to a high hand only. Even if your third card is low, you have to catch perfect to catch low.

Pocket aces are the only exception when playing a big pair. Aces are obviously going to be  your best pair, but you have a bit of extra value with aces. First, if you have a baby card with your aces, you still have a reasonable chance for low.

Next, if your ace is a door card and you catch good on fourth (meaning you potentially improved a low draw), then you may be able to push out weaker low draws or those starting low and catching badly.

Buried Big Pairs

If you are going to play big pairs, buried big pairs are best. This means that you pair is your two down cards. That’s because the strength of your hand is hidden.

Let’s assume you came in with a pair of buried jacks with a three as your door card. If you catch a jack on fourth or fifth, most opponents are going to assume this is a bad card for you when in reality, you’re in pretty decent shape.

Heads-Up With a Big Pair

For those that choose to play a big pair, it is better if you can get the pot heads-up. When you’re able to get the pot heads-up, you are going to take the pot down before showdown a solid percentage of the time.

The reason is that your smarter Stud 8 players are going to slow down or even get out of the hand if they don’t improve their low draw or weaker pair right away. Some might chase to fifth but often you will take the pot down by Fifth Street unless they improve in some meaningful way.

Beware of Multi-Way Pots

A trap that many players fall into is playing a big pair in a multi-way pot, especially against multiple potential low starters. Unless you are playing something like a buried pair multi-way, your opponents are already going to have you on at least a pair.

This means they are going after either a strong low hand or a scoop capable hand. If you’re opponents improve on fourth and you do not, then you have a tough decision to make. While you may be ahead at the time, the odds of you staying that way have greatly diminished.
Unless you’re against a pair of passive opponents, you need to slow down in this spot and get out of the way if action starts getting heavy or they improve again on fifth.

Don’t Fall in Love With a Big Pair – Even Aces

Finally, don’t let yourself fall in love with a big pair. There are times where a player will go to war with queens, kings or even aces and commit several bets thinking their opponents are going low only.

They then get punished when that player catches a baby straight, flush or back into two small pair. Hold’em players transitioning to mixed games often fall into this trap.
Unless action has been passive, you need to be smart and get out of the way when your opponents improve consistently or start pressing the action. In these spots, one pair isn’t going to cut it. At best, you’re chasing half the pot. The key word is chasing.

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James Guill

James Guill began his poker career in 2006, spending two years traveling the US tournament circuit. Since 2008, he has covered the game extensively for some of the biggest names in the industry. When not writing about the latest poker news, he can be found hunting for antique treasures in Central Virginia.