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Seven Card Stud Poker Introduction and Strategy

You’ve seen seven card stud in casinos and poker sites right next to Hold em and Omaha. Some of you may remember playing it when you were younger. But, in this day and age of poker where you can play anytime on the internet, you don’t bother risking money playing it because you’re not quite sure how to play it profitably. In this article, I hope to make have a clearer understanding of how to play seven card stud and provide you some helpful hints that will help you win in the long run.

How to Play 7 Card Stud Poker

Seven card stud is usually played as limit so anyone who has played Limit Hold em before is slight ahead of the game. A seven card stud table usually has no more than 8 players. The button’s only function is to determine who gets dealt the first card and then clockwise from there, which is the player to the left of the dealer. There are no blinds in this game but there is an “ante” that every player must pay to start the hand. The ante is smaller (usually 10-20%) than the minimum bet. All the antes get gathered into a pot in the middle of the table.

Let’s use the limit $1-$2 to help explain. Each player is dealt two cards down and one up (known as “third street“). You can look at your two down cards at any point just like hold em. The player with the lowest card showing has to “bring-in,” which is the minimum bet the player must pay automatically however you do have the option to bet the full minimum bet. So, if the limits were $1-$2, the bring in is $1 but you have the option to play the full $2. If two players have the same low card, you go by the lowest suit rank. The suit rank is, from highest to lowest, Spades-Hearts-Diamonds-Clubs. An easy way to remember this is they are in reverse alphabetical order. The next one to act is the player to the left of the lowest card. You go clockwise from there. Since this is limit, you can only raise by the same amount as the last bet. So, a raise would be $2 total, then the next raise will be $4 total and so on. You can’t raise after the third raise (fourth bet) so it’s capped when players either call or fold.

Another card is then dealt (known as “fourth street”) to each player still in the hand face up (four cards total two card face up and two cards face down). Betting continues. The player with the highest hand showing bets first when the fourth card is dealt. If two players have the same high hand, the player closest to the dealer’s left acts first. So, the player who bets first is always first, so position can change with each card dealt face up. I should point out at this point that you can double the raise if any player has a pair showing. So, if the bet is $1 and there is a pair showing on any player‘s board, you can raise it to $2, making it $3 total. Once any player chooses the option to bet $2, the bet stays at $2 for the rest of the hand, no more $1 bets.

After that round of betting has ended, another card is dealt face up (known as “fifth street”) to each player who is still in the hand. A round of betting. Another card is dealt face up (“sixth street”). Another betting round. (Sorry, trying to move things along).

The seventh and final card is dealt face down (“the river”) and a final round of betting takes place. Whoever has the best five card hand wins the pot.

Helpful Tips

Third Street

One of the key decisions you must make is at this point. You must know what hands you should play and which you should fold. The best starting hand is trips (“Rolled-Up Trips“), the highest being Aces all the way down to deuces. You should always raise and re-raise with these monster hands. You are at a big advantage to win.

The next best starting hand is premium pairs (Aces-Tens). Concealed pairs are better (the pair is your two down cards) than spilt pairs (One part of you pair is your down card, the other is face up) because it conceals your hand. Raise and re-raise with these hands. Keep an eye for the other player’s boards. If you have a pair of Queens but one player has an Ace showing and another player has a King showing, play with caution. There are times when you have to learn to fold your pair of Tens or Jacks if the bets are raised.

Now, the third best starting hands are drawing hands. These are basically three straight (J, Q, K or 5, 6, 7) and three flush (Jh, Ah, 4h). The higher the better. You are already off to a great start for a great hand. These you want to play as cheap as possible and try to get as many “free cards” (everyone checks during one round of betting) as you can. Once you hit your straight or flush, raise and re-raise. Don’t chase two flushes or two straights. That’s where beginner’s lose most of their chips.

The last best starting hand you should play is small and medium pairs (9-2). If you see over cards showing, just call. If you don’t, raise.

Since there is a lot of betting in this game, you going to fold a lot of third street hands. Like Hold em, you have to be patient. A lot of beginning players play ANY hand and hope it improves on fourth and fifth street. Do not attempt this! Stick to the starting third street hands I mentioned earlier and you should do well.

Fourth and Fifth Street

At this point if you’re still in the hand, you need to make a decision if you want to keep playing the hand or fold it. You get an idea of what other players have at this point and it might be a god idea to consider your outs. Pay attention to the card the players fold. It’s much easier to count your outs because you have seen the cards that have been dealt face up. If the cards you need are on more than one player’s board, it is not a good idea to keep playing the hand. Always pay attention to the other player’s cards. A good rule of thumb is that if your hand hasn’t improved by fifth street, you should fold your hand.
If you think you have the best hand, raise and re-raise. You must try to drive the straight and flush chasers out of the pot. Don’t let them get “free cards.” You want to build up the pot when you are sitting with the best hand.

If you are going to chase a straight or flush, you must be sure that you chasing the best hand. A lot of players chase and chase without even noticing that the cards they need are showing or have been folded. You can lose A LOT of chips this way.

Other Tips for 7 Card Stud

Like hold em, position is a big advantage to this game so use it, even if you don’t think you have the best hand. Bluffing is difficult in any limit game, but in stud it could be done.
For example, let’s say you have four diamonds showing. Raise and re-raise representing a flush. Many players are fearful of four of the same suit showing with no other of that suit in the other player’s boards.
There are times when you want to slowplay. After all, you want as many chips in the pot as possible. The best way to slow play depends on how your hand is concealed. Let’s say you have a full house. But, the player will never see it coming when you hand looks like this: (note: d=down cards) Ad, Ad, 2, 5, 9, 2, Ad. So the more concealed your hand is, the better.
Seven card stud involves a lot of betting and a lot of poker strategy. There are many things to consider, mainly what the other players are holding, so play cautiously.

Where to Play

It’s has become almost standard that poker sites offer 7 card stud. I recommend Pokerstars, but you can also find them on Titan Poker, Party Poker and Full Tilt Poker. A great way to start learning is playing the freerolls that Pokerstars offer, or play on the fake money tables on the poker sites mentioned.

Final Word

Even though most seven card stud poker games are limit, you can win and lose a lot of money PER HAND. Please play within the limits you are comfortable with and play smart. Don’t call the raises just to see “one more card.” Like any other poker game, you must be patient, aggressive and use your position to your advantage. Once you play seven card stud, you realize what you have been missing.

By: Timothy Riel (t1riel)

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