Lowball is a variant of 5 Card Draw whereby the lowest hand wins the pot rather than the highest. Lowball may be played with antes and/or blinds (forced bets at the beginning of every hand that ensure action in every pot). Although antes are mentioned throughout this article, the same rules apply whether a casino plays with antes, blinds, or both.
1. Players ante (or post blinds)
2. Each player is dealt five cards face down.
3. First round of betting.
4. Players draw, in turn.
5. Second, and final, round of betting.
There are two versions of Lowball:
In A-5 Lowball (or California Lowball), straights and flushes DO NOT impact the value of a hand, and Aces are considered low. Therefore, the best hand in A-5 Lowball is A,2,3,4,5 of any suit.
In 2-7 Lowball (or Kansas City Lowball), straights and flushes DO impact the value of a hand, and Aces are considered high. Therefore, the best hand in 2-7 Lowball is 2,3,4,5,7 made up of at least two different suits. In 2-7 Lowball, A,2,3,4,5 is NOT considered a straight because Aces are high only. Likewise a pair of Aces is the highest pair and therefore, in 2-7 Lowball, a worse hand than any other pair.
As in any 5 Card Draw game, you must be aware of the rules regarding drawing cards specific to the casino at which you're playing. Some casinos allow you to draw up to five new cards, though you're only dealt four initially, the fifth card coming after everyone else has drawn. In most casinos you can draw up to four cards, though in some casinos you can only draw four if you’re holding (and keeping) an Ace.
If playing with antes, the player to the left of the dealer, or dealer button, is first to open the bet and can, if they wish, choose to check (pass the option to bet along to the player to their left). If blinds are used, with or without additional antes, then the player to the left of the big blind (or three to the left of the dealer or dealer button) is first to bet in the first betting round and must either bet, at minimum the big blind, or fold. Players using blinds may NOT check in the first round of betting. The second round of betting, when playing with blinds, starts with the player directly to the left of the dealer (or dealer button), and this time they may check if they wish.
Lowball can also be played Jacks or Better, which means a player must have either a pair of Jacks or any better ranked hand before opening the bet. If no player meets these qualifications it’s considered a misdeal, the antes remain in the pot, players ante again, and are dealt five new cards each. Most casinos only allow this to happen three consecutive times before no more antes are taken.
Just like in 5 Card Draw, in Lowball many casinos allow four consecutive raises after the initial bet in each round of betting, though some only allow three. It is crucial to check the rules specific to the casino you're playing before sitting in.