C9 Writes about 7 Card Stud: Starting Hands
So I just got done doing a bromination, and the whole lab smells like Hydrobromic acid!
However, I've got about an hour or two to kill while my product dries on HiVac, and I take some Carbon 13 NMR's. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_magnetic_resonance)
So my last article on Bring ins & Antes (http://www.cardschat.com/f11/c9-writes-about-7-card-stud-antes-bring-ins-117496/) was apparently a bit specific, so today I'm gonna try to write about the most important decision when you're playing 7 card stud: What hands to play, and how to play them.
Now, before I go rattling off a hand chart, there are two things you need to realize about 7 card stud that makes it very different from the Hold'em Games.
Number one, the cards that are out matter!
So lets say you're playing some stud, and you're staring at the following hand:
Lets get one thing clear before I start. In this scenario, you do *not* have
with the following dead cards:
That's right, your starting hand is 10 cards. 3 of them are yours, 7 of them are the rest of the table's. You'll see why this matters later, but the key here is that you must take into account what is out when you play your hand!
Secondly, Stud hands are far more sensitive to how many players are in the pot!
So in Hold'em, its pretty hard for one opponent starting with 2 spades and another opponent starting with 2 clubs to both make a flush. In fact, its impossible. However, when you're playing stud, it is VERY possible to have two players both drawing at a live flush draw against you. Stud is also a limit game, so especially at microstakes, there will be quite a few 6-7 player pots. So when deciding to play a hand, you must take into account the number of players in the pot!
Okay, now that that's out of the way, I'd like to group the good starting hands into 2 catagories: Hands that like multi-way pots, and hands that like to be in small/heads up pots. Of course, like all forms of poker, there are situations where you can play multi-way hands in heads up pots and vice-versa, but you won't be doing too badly following these general rules.
And none of these hands take into account ante-stealing. They all assume that you are playing your hand for value against at least one player who is unlikely to fold on 3rd street. Hands you would steal with, as you might guess, don't have to be as strong.
Hands best played with few players.
1. Rolled up trips
2. A pair of Aces or Kings
3. A pair of Queens, Jacks, or Tens.
4. A live small pair with an ace or king kicker.
Rolled up trips
So while rolled up trips are stupid strong, and they don't hate multi-way pots, they certainly do better with less players. The higher your trips, the more you can consider slow-playing them 'til 5th street for a big raise, but in general, go ahead and limit the field if you can with these hands. The odds
of you making a full house by 7th is only 2:1 (if your cards are live), so you'd prefer to be able to win just on the merit of the trips you're holding.
You'll notice I split big pairs into two groups: Aces & Kings, and Queens, Jacks, and Tens. I've done this intentionally because the smaller pairs are MUCH more vulnerable to being beaten by the river. While a pair of aces is almost always playable, a pair of tens is VERY vulnerable.
For example, take these two scenarios. In both of them, our opponent is an idiot, and decides he's going to play some trash with a king in it. In one instance, we have a pair of A's, in the other, we have a pair of Q's.
Hand - Equity
As you can see, the presence of 1 over card makes us go from a 5.8:1 favorite to just a 3.1:1 favorite. With 2 overcards, it gets even worse. And if you give our opponent a real hand rather than just 3 rags with an over card, then things can get really bad for our pair of queens.
Additionally, if we can limit the field to 1 person, then our lone big pair has a very appreciable chance of winning unimproved on the river (we can even sometimes value bet a single pair on the river). However, against 2 or more opponents, someone will almost always make 2 pair or better.
So when you play big pairs, you'll want to limit the field to as few players as possible. However, it is even more important to limit the field when you are playing QQ - TT. If you fail to limit the field, then you must play them in a much different way, or fold them.
For example, you're holding -- on 3rd street, and there are already 4 players in the pot, 2 of them holding live over cards and there is the out. You should fold in this spot, even if it is only limped to you. If you had 2 live straight-flush cards, or your tens were hidden and very live, you could then play them in a multi-way pot for implied odds. However, in this particular case, its a pretty easy (and profitable) fold. So as your big pair becomes smaller, be more inclined to fold or play your hand differently if your cards are not live, or you can't limit the number of players in the pot.
Live Small Pairs with Big Kickers
Live small pairs with a very strong kicker are usually worth playing in optimal situations. The first key point is that when I mean strong kicker, I mean an ace or a king, and it helps even more if its suited in a live suit. I also mean live, in that all of your pair cards and kicker cards should be totally live. If they are not, this hand is not worth playing.
But if these criteria are met, then this hand is worth playing in all but the tightest games. So first, lets see how the presence of having an over card kicker and a two flush affects your hand. Take the two situations below:
Hand - Equity
As you can see, the presence of the over card kicker improves our hand by quite a bit over the split kings. This doesn't just apply to small pairs, since a pair of queens with an ace kicker also fairs a *lot* better against a pair of kings than just a pair of naked queens. The over card kicker allows us make a dominating two pair that is very difficult for the split kings to draw out of. Now lets add in a dead king.
Hand - Equity (Dead Cards: )
So as you can see, the addition of a strong kicker, plus slightly less favorable conditions for our opponents turn our hand from a 1.8:1 underdog into almost a coin-flip. Also, we have big implied odds playing this hand. Our opponent with split kings will bet pretty much every street. However, if we do not improve our hand, we won't be calling all the way to the river in a heads up pot. Also, if our ace is in the hole, our opponent will have no idea he is drawing very thin if we catch an ace.
So even in the most tightly structured games, these hands are certainly playable.
Hands that like a party.
1. A live 3-flush
2. A live & large open ended 3-straight
3. A non-quality 3-straight
4. A live small pair in the hole with a live straight flush kicker
If you'll notice, these hands are all drawing hands. They all have the ability to make hands much stronger than two pair, which is what you need to win in a big multi-way pot. And since they're drawing hands, its very critical that they be live draws!
A live 3-flush
Live 3-flushes are awesome hands! Making a flush in a big multi-way pot will account for a huge chunk of your profits when you play micro stakes 7 card stud. However, that said, they need to be live. A good rule of thumb is that you should not play if there are more than 2 of your suit out. So if you have a 3 spade flush, but you see 3 other spades, fold it unless the pot is ridiculously multi-way and you can see 4th street for just the bring in.
And here's why live 4 flushes are so great on 4th street in multi-way pots:
Hand - Equity
Notice, that each bet we put in, we get 1.7 bets back in equity. So the whole strategy is to make a four flush in a multi-way pot, and then get as many people as possible to contribute to the pot while you own about half the equity in the pot. So if the player on your left bets, and 5 players call, RAISE! Make the entire field call another bet!
Now lets say our flush is a lot less live:
Hand - Equity (Dead cards: )
As you can see, our hand loses a lot of strength, and we go from 1.7 bets in expectation, to 1.4. But also keep in mind, that with 3 spades out on 3rd street, it is only 16% likely to make a 4-flush, rather than 23% likely if you had all live cards. So you make a 4-flush 30% less often, and even when you do, your draw is weaker.
So in conclusion, if you see 3 of your suit, ditch it. Otherwise, play a big multiway pot.
A live & large open ended 3-straight
Notice, this particular hand has 2 caveats. The straight needs to be live, and it needs to be large. Straight over straight happens a lot in multi-way pots, and can be very expensive. Another advantage of your big cards is that you can make 2 big pair, and back into another way to win.
Unfortunately, straights often get beaten by flushes in multi-way pots. Additionally, they aren't as strong a draw since you have less outs (8 instead of 9). So we're dealing with a weaker hand.
However, these 4 hands can be playable in just about any multi-way pot for 1 bet. QJT, JT9, T98, and 987. This is especially true if you have a live 2-flush to go with it.
So lets say we're on 3rd street, with . We need to be looking for 9's, K's, A's, and 8's. The nines and Kings are crucial to be live, and if there is more than 1 dead 9 or K, then you should fold. Aces and eights are less important, but if 3 or more of them are showing, you should fold. And if 1 of your primary straight cards is out (9's or K's), along with 2 of your secondary straight cards (A's or 8's) then you should fold. So the key here is to have very live outs.
So how does a 4-straight compare when its in our 4 way pot from before?
Hand - Equity
Not nearly as drastic as the 4-flush is it? We have 7 live outs to a straight, so when we bet 1 bet, we get 1.43 bets back in equity. Not as strong as a 4-flush for sure, but still profitable to play.
A non-quality 3-straight
Non-quality 3 straights are fickle creatures, and they require very optimum conditions to play. These include hands like 456, QJ9. They are either very small, or have a gap in them. You should only play these straights for the bring in, and only if the pot has at *least* 3 opponents in it. And these straights must be *very* live. Many stud players never play low straights, or 1-gap straights. And if the ante structure is very tight, I wouldn't fault you for folding these hands, even for the bring in. But if the pot is multi-way, and there is a lot of ante money in the pot, these can still be hands that add to your profit.
A live small pair in the hole with a live straight flush kicker
So this hand has a lot of things that need to happen. Your small pair needs to be in the hole, and it needs to have a live straight flush kicker. If there is more than 1 of your suit out, fold it. And if any of your pair cards are out fold it.
We're playing this hand to make trips, a 4 flush, or a 4 straight by 5th street. Also, if we make 2 small pair, and can later limit the field, we can play our small pair for value. However, 2 small pair can easily get you into trouble, and should be folded to resistance. The main point of this hand is to make trips, a flush, or a straight.
Having your pair in the hole is also very critical. Any halfway decent stud player is going to fear you if you pair your door card on 4th street. So if your pair is split, then you have very little chance of getting paid off when you make trips. However, if your pair is in the hole, then players will often be oblivious to the strength of your hand, and will pay you all the way to the river.
So, I hope now you have at least a general understanding of what to play. And keep in mind, that these are just a set of guidelines. There are many situations where a multi-way hand might play well in a heads up pot. And ante stealing can also add many more playable hands to the mix. However, these rules will give you general guidelines for how to play, and should allow you to profit in most micro-stakes games on the internet.