The game is commonly referred to as closed lowball and just as the name suggests, players win by making the weakest possible hand.
Overview of California Lowball poker
The game bears many similarities to standard draw poker variants, so if you are familiar with the five card version you will pick up the rules and master California Lowball quickly.
In the absence of community cards, players need to make the most of the hole cards and a maximum of eight players can sit around the same poker table. In their attempt of making the weakest possible hands, players should know that flushes make no impact and you don’t have to worry about straights either.
The best case scenario is to make a hand ranging from ace to five and the second and third best hands look like this: Ace-2-3-4-6 or Ace-2-3-5-6. It rarely happens that players are satisfied with the hole cards and that’s why the game offers them the option of discarding some of them and receiving an equal number in return. The process is called “pulling” and uses the same game mechanic as in 5 Card Draw.
California Lowball starts with the five hole cards being dealt and players need to choose between betting, raising or folding their hands. After the initial betting round concludes, those who are still in the game can discard a couple of cards and receive the same number, hoping to improve the card combination. Players can remove three cards, with the exception being the first player who has the option of discarding 4 and nobody is allowed to replace all five cards.
The second betting round starts after participants receive the new cards and this is also the last one so they need to bet according to the strength of their hand.
Once again they have three distinct options, between calling, raising or folding and after the betting round concludes, players reveal their cards. The one who has the weakest hand is nominated winner and claims the pot, or shares it with another player that has a hand of the same value.