Wheel - Bicycle

Wheel Straight

by Jesse Knight


Poker Wheel Bicycle
Wheel -
1. A straight from Ace to five, A2345.
2. The best possible low hand in Lowball or High-Low games.

A “wheel” is slang terminology for a five high straight. This is read as A-2-3-4-5, with the ace counting for low. When an ace is used in a straight, it is sometimes counted as high and sometimes as low, depending upon which end of the straight it falls on. If a player holds A-2-3-4-5 (a wheel), the ace falls on the bottom end of the straight, and therefore counts as low. If a player holds T-J-Q-K-A (Broadway), the ace falls on the high side of the straight, and therefore counts as high. Since straights cannot turn the corner (K-Q-A-2-3 for example), when an ace is used in a straight, it must always fall on either the high side (in the case of Broadway) or the low side (in the case of a wheel). If a player happens to make an Ace to Five straight flush, then it is known as a "Steel Wheel." A wheel is the lowest valued straight possible, beating any three of a kind, but losing to any higher straight or better. This makes the wheel a medium-strong hand in a high-only game, like Texas Holdem or 7-Card Stud.

In a High-Low game, the wheel is much more powerful. There are a few reasons for this. The wheel is the nut low hand, so it beats all other low hands and can only be tied by another wheel. Since this is the case, when a player completes a wheel before the river it allows them to bet much more aggressively and potentially scoop a huge pot. Since a player who has a completed wheel will probably scoop at least the low, and can do no worse than tie for it, it gives them leverage in the betting. If other players are still drawing, this leverage allows the player with the wheel to bet and raise with impunity, thereby charging their opponents the maximum price for their draw. Another situation where the player with the wheel can bet and raise with impunity is when they are freerolling. They may be completely aware that the wheel is no good for high, but because they still have outs to beat the hand they suspect they are up against, it pays to bet aggressively in case they hit one of their high side outs. Even if they do not, they have the low side locked up. Finally, the most obvious reason to bet the wheel aggressively in a high-low game, it that the hand may be a scooper, which means that it is good for both the high and the low side of the pot without improvement. So, you can see that having an unbeatable low has serious betting implications in a high low game.

In addition to this, the wheel is also a much stronger high hand in a hi-lo game than it is in a high only game. There is a very good reason for this. In hi-lo games, like all poker games, players choose their starting hands strategically. Given this, when playing hi-lo, it makes sense to pursue starting hands that have the potential to win both sides of the pot. This means that a good starting hand in a hi-lo game will have at least some potential to make a decent low hand, and will not contain only high cards. Compare this with the starting hand incentives in a high only game. In a high only game the incentive is generally to start with premium high cards only and avoid hands with low holdings. Since players typically start with lower holdings in the hi-lo format, they also tend to make weaker high hands than are made in the high only format. This makes the wheel, which is only a medium-strong hand in a high only game, an extremely powerful high holding in a hi-lo game.

The wheel is also the terminology used for the nut hand in a Lowball game. If the game is Ace to Five Lowball (also called California Lowball), the wheel is comprised of the standard A-2-3-4-5. If the game is Deuce to Seven Lowball (also called Kansas City Lowball), the wheel is comprised of 2-3-4-5-7. This is because the rules of Deuce to Seven state that Aces count as high cards, and straights and flushes are considered as high hands, which is not the case in Ace to Five. Considering these rules, 2-3-4-5-7 is the nut low, and therefore is referred to as the wheel, in Deuce to Seven. If the joker is used as a wild card in either of these Lowball games, it may replace any missing wheel card to complete the wheel.

Another nickname for a “wheel” is a “bicycle.” “Bicycle” is also short for The Bicycle Casino which is located in Bell Gardens, California. It is one of the major card clubs in the greater Los Angeles area, southeast of Los Angeles and close to Commerce Casino. The Bicycle Casino is also known as "The Bike."

Usage: Wheel for Low, I have a Wheel, Drawing to the Wheel, Freerolling on the Wheel.

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