Qualifiers - Qualifying Low

by Jesse Knight


Qualifying Low
Qualifier - A requirement that must be met in order to have a valid hand and be eligible for any share of the pot.

A qualifier is a condition that a player must meet if they are to have a valid hand. Hands that do not meet the minimum threshold that the qualifier has established are not eligible to win that part of the pot to which the qualifier applies. Qualifiers most frequently apply to low holdings in hi/lo split games, like Hi/Lo Stud (also known as Stud Eight or Better, or EO) and Omaha Hi/Lo (also known as Omaha Eight or Better, or O8). In both of these games, the “eight or better” describes the qualifier for making a valid low hand. There is no qualifier for the high side of the pot. In order for a low to be valid in either game, players must make an unpaired five card low hand with each card having a value of eight or less. If no one can complete a valid low holding, the high hand will win the entire pot.

The reason that qualifiers are used in hi/lo split games is because they balance power between the high and the low. In these games, it can be much easier to make a good low than it is to make the best high hand. Plus, if there were no qualifier, the lowest hand would be constantly freerolling on the high hands, making play unbalanced. If there were no qualifier, or any other rule that has the effect of balancing the power between the high and the low, it would leave players little incentive to ever go high. This would hamper the action, because players with high holdings would have little incentive to continue when facing action from the low. Adding the qualifier makes it much tougher on the low, and therefore easier on the high. With the qualifier in place, low hands now face the prospect of getting nothing from the pot if they do not qualify, whereas high hand now have the opportunity to scoop when the low busts.

Eight or Better is the standard qualifier for hi/lo split games. Depending upon where you play poker, you may also see a different (higher) qualifier for low used from time to time, but this is rare. An alternative to using the qualifier to balance the power between high and low could be to make the game Hi/Lo declare. In a hi/lo declare game, each player must state their intent to go either for the high side of the pot or the low. In a declare game a player may not win the side of the pot that they did not declare for, regardless of how strong their hand is.

In addition to the qualifier mandating conditions for the low in some poker games, you may also see the qualifier used for high hands in certain draw games, like Jacks or Better Draw. In Jacks or Better, the qualifier is, as the name suggests, a pair of Jacks or better. This means that a player must hold at least a pair of Jacks, or anything stronger, in order to open the pot. If the qualifier is not met, the player may not open the pot, or their hand will be dead by rule.

Draw games are out of fashion, so you are unlikely to see a Jacks or Better game spread in your local poker room. High Low Stud and Omaha High Low both enjoy a certain amount of popularity, especially in certain regions of the country. These games are spread regularly in many casinos, though they are nowhere near as popular as Texas Hold’em. Non-Holdem games Like Stud Split and Omaha Split are frequently referred to as “skill games,” because they have a smaller luck component than Hold’em, and because a certain skill level is required before you can expect to have much success in them.

Usage: His Hand Didn’t Qualify, I Qualified For Low, No Low Qualified

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