Dealer’s choice Lowball

Draw poker with a twist – the lowest hand wins

Last issue we looked at Razz – a Stud game where the lowest hand wins. This month, in keeping with the low-handwins theme, we’re taking a look at the 5-Card Draw equivalents – Ace-to-Five Lowball and Deuce-to-Seven Lowball.

Mostly, these variants follow the normal rules of Draw poker. As such, everyone is dealt five cards face down, there’s a round of betting, and then each player still in the pot gets to change as many or as few cards as they choose (in some cases the limit is four). Naturally, in the Lowball version the idea is to form the lowest possible hand, though the details of what is the ‘lowest’ or ‘best’ hand changes according to the variation you’re playing.

In Ace-to-Five – otherwise known as California Lowball – straights and flushes don’t count against your hand and the Ace is low, so the best hand is A-2-3-4-5. However, in Deuce-to-Seven – also called Kansas City Lowball – the worst conventional poker hand wins. Straights and flushes do count, and are Dealer’s choice Lowball Draw poker with a twist – the lowest hand wins thus a disaster to a hand, while the Ace is always high. The A-5-4-3-2 this time is not counted as a straight but an A-5 high, beatable by a King-high or lower. The best hand is therefore a non-flush 7-5-4-3-2 (hence the name of the game).

Some other Lowball quirks:

BLINDS: Rules vary, but it’s not uncommon to play with three blinds, sometimes with the addition of antes.

JOKERS: Ace-to-Five Lowball (though not Deuce-to-Seven) is usually played with a Joker, making a 53-card deck. The Joker automatically plays as the lowest card not already present in your hand.

PAIRS: If you reach the showdown with a pair in your hand, you have to verbally announce it to avoid someone misreading your hand.


Like Hold’em, Lowball is played in limit, potlimit and no-limit variations, and each comes with a different set of betting rules. Check- raising, for example, is fine in pot-limit and no-limit Lowball, but is not allowed in limit Ace-to-Five (unless stated), while in limit Deuce-to-Seven it’s only allowed after the draw. In A-5 limit play, there’s a further (slightly odd) rule called ‘must-bet-Sevens’. Unless explicitly waived, this rule states that if a player checks a Seven-low or better (i.e. in an attempt to trap) and it is the best hand, all bets after the draw are void and the player cannot win any subsequent bets. If, however, he checks the Seven or better and goes on to lose, the bets stand and the winner takes the whole pot. For Deuce-to-Seven the ‘must-bet- Sevens’ rule does not apply.

The hand

With only two betting rounds, Lowball offers a lot less action than the likes of Hold’em, and with no exposed cards it’s almost impossible to put your opponents on a hand (the only real indication being the number of cards they draw). Here we show what might happen in a typical round of Lowball Deuce-to-Seven…

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