Lowball is a type of poker in which the lowest hand wins the pot. There are two types of lowball hand rankings:
Some games reward the whole pot to the lowest hand, while others reward half of the pot to the lowest hand and the other half to the highest hand (according to traditional poker hand rankings).
Now, let’s go over how both types of lowball hand rankings work. (If you want step-by-step gameplay instructions for these games, you should check out this guide.)
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Lowball Poker Hands Rankings
Ace-to-Five Lowball (also known as California Lowball)
These rules are used for ranking the low hands in Hi/Lo games, such as Omaha Hi/Lo and Stud Hi/Lo, and Razz, which is a ‘low only’ stud game.
Note that in the Ace-to-Five lowball rankings, suits and straights are irrelevant. Hands are judged solely on the low ranking of the hand. When ranking a low hand, you always start with the highest card and move downward.
1. Five Low
Also known as a ‘wheel’, this is the best hand in the Ace-to-Five Low rankings.
2. Six Low
Any unpaired hand with 6 as the highest card.
If two players have a Six Low, the next highest card is used as a tie-breaker. This means, for example, that 6-5-4-3-2 would lose to 6-4-3-2-A.
3. Seven Low
Any unpaired hand with 7 as highest card.
Like Six Lows, when opposing players have Seven Lows, the player with the lowest card after the 7 wins the pot.
4. Eight Low
This is any unpaired hand with 8 as the highest card.
Again, when multiple players have an Eight low, the player with the lowest card after the 8 is the winner.
Note that when multiple players’ 2nd highest cards are the same, the third and even fourth cards can be used to identify a winner. If both players have the same hand, they split the pot.
In the Hi/Lo variants, an Eight Low is the highest hand that qualifies to win the low half of the pot. If no player has at least an Eight Low, the player with the best high hand wins the whole pot.
There is no need to qualify for the low in low only games (like Razz). Hands such as Queen Low, an Ace Low, or even a pair can win the pot if they are the lowest hand at showdown.
Deuce-to-Seven Lowball (also known as Kansas City Lowball)
Poker hands ranking in Deuce-to-Seven Lowball are essentially ranked in the opposite direction of traditional poker hands. Unlike Ace-to-Five, straights and flushes exist in Deuce-to-Seven; they are very bad hands that you should try to avoid making. Aces are always high cards in Deuce-to-Seven Lowball (meaning, among other things, that A5432 is not a straight).
1. Seven Low
Five unpaired, unconnected cards of different suits, and with a 7 as the highest card.
The best possible hand in Deuce-to-Seven lowball (displayed above) is known as the ‘wheel’, or ‘number one’.
2. Eight Low
Five unpaired, unconnected cards of different suits, and with an 8 as the highest card.
3. Nine Low
Five unpaired, unconnected cards of different suits, and with a 9 as the highest card.
4. Ten Low
Five unpaired, unconnected cards of different suits, and with a 10 as the highest card.
These are the four best low hand-types in Deuce-to-Seven Lowball, but note the winner is simply the player with the lowest hand. This can be a King Low, a pair of Twos, or worse!
If multiple players have the same low, the player with the lowest second card wins the pot. For example, 7-5-4-3-2 beats 7-6-5-4-2. If there is still a tie, the third-, fourth- and fifth-highest cards in the hand can be used to break it. When two players have paired hands, the lowest pair wins the pot.