A Detailed Guide to Help You Learn to Play 7 Card Stud
7 Card Stud: An Introduction
Are you someone who has started playing poker in recent times? If yes, then, you are less likely to have heard about the 7 card stud poker game. Why? Because it is not as famous as the Texas Hold’em or Omaha Poker. But, you will do well to note that the seven card stud was perhaps the most popular poker game before Hold’em started gaining popularity from late 1990s and early 2000s. In fact, ask any of the highly experienced poker players who have been involved with this game for decades now, and they will tell you interesting stories around the 7-card stud game.
Texas Hold’em outdid the popularity of the stud game, and with a feature in the main event of World Series of Poker, it was inevitable, wasn’t it? You will still find that loyal fanbase of the stud game, and there is merit in trying it out. Why? Because it differs quite a bit from the Texas and Omaha poker games. So, you have a new variant of poker which you might not have played and enjoyed, despite it having existed for a long period of time. Plus, it is a challenging strategic game with limited information level at the initial stage.
So, what are you waiting for? Read further to know about the nuances involved in playing the 7-card stud game. This article shall act as a 7 card stud guide for you.
Basics of 7 Card Stud Poker
After you hear about such a new game, it is very difficult to resist the temptation to learn to play 7 card stud. To start off with, you need to be aware of the basics of this poker game variant, before you even start thinking about playing the stud game at poker tournaments.
It does not involve community cards, unlike the Omaha and Hold’em game. Also, there is no usage of blinds here to increase the size of the pot. Instead, stud poker makes use of antes and bring-in bets to encourage more players to get involved in the game.
There are some more notable differences, especially between stud and Texas Hold’em, which we will discuss along the way.
7 Card Stud Guide
As the name of this poker game variant suggests, seven cards are dealt to all the players (maximum of 8 players possible on the table), and your end objective is to form the best possible five-card poker hand. The most likely version of 7 card stud is played with the limit betting structure, wherein the bets placed are in fixed increments. For instance, in a 2/4 limit stud game, the bets could be in increments of $2 for the initial two rounds, and increments of $4 for the remaining three betting rounds.
To determine the rank of the poker hand, the standard poker hand rankings/ratings are considered during the limit seven card stud game.
Let us understand the steps to play this 7 card stud poker game.
1. There is no fixed dealer for distributing the cards at the beginning of the stud game, unlike the Hold’em or Omaha poker variants. And as mentioned earlier, there are no blinds used. Instead, every player is expected to put an ante into the pot, the value of which is decided by the house or perhaps by the table limits. For instance, for a $10/$20 limit seven card stud, the ante could be about $1.
2. After the ante is received from every player on the poker table, you and every other player will be dealt with three cards at first – comprising of two hole cards dealt face-down and one door card dealt face-up. This is the ‘third street’ phase where a good decision will ensure you face fewer challenges in the subsequent betting rounds.
Here, there is no dealer button (unlike Hold’em), and each hand is dealt in the same sequence – starting from the left of the dealer.
3. Now, the player who has the lowest-ranked door card will be forced to start the action. This player has two options:
To make a bring-in bet whose size is generally half of the lower table limit. So, for our example, the bring-in bet will have to be $5.
To make the complete bet which is equivalent to the lower table limit, i.e., $10 in our example. If the player uses this $10 bet, it would be considered as the first raise.
4. The action on the table continues to unfold in the clockwise direction from this player who had the lowest-ranked door card and who made the initial bet. Every other player on the table will have the option to either fold, call, or raise depending on their judgement. In case the initial player places a bring-in bet of $5, the other players have the opportunity to make the first raise with a complete bet of $10 (for our example).
5. Once the third street is over, every player is dealt with the next card face-up. This card is known as the ‘fourth street’ card.
6. As we do not have the dealer button in this stud game to determine who will act first, the player who has the highest possible hand with the two cards (face-up) that are exposed to everyone will make the first move. So, if you have a pair of Aces and there is no hand better than this, you will start the betting after the ‘fourth street’ card is dealt. In this second round of betting, the first player to act may check or place the bet equivalent to the lower table limit.
As seen in the third and fourth street, there is no positional benefit that any player gets in case of seven card stud poker game, since the first turn is decided by the cards. This is unlike what happens in Texas Hold’em.
7. Once the round of betting is completed in a clockwise direction from the player who made the first move, the next card (fifth street card) is dealt face-up to each player.
8. Now, the player to act first will again be the one with the highest possible hand from the set of exposed cards (face-up cards). Further bets from this stage onwards will be in increments of the higher table limit ($20 in our case). So, the first player to act in this round can possibly place a bet of $20.
9. After the round of betting is completed for the fifth street stage, the next card (sixth street card) is dealt face-up to every player on the poker table. Again, the first player to act will be the one with the highest poker value for his / her set of exposed cards. The bets will continue in increments of the higher table limit ($20 for our example) until this round of betting is over.
10. Now, we arrive at the final stage before the showdown. This is ‘the river’ phase or the ‘seventh street’ stage. Every player is dealt with the seventh street card face-down (and not face-up). So, each player can check out his / her own card without others getting a chance to see the same.
11. In this seventh street round, the first player to act will the one who has the highest possible poker hand with the face-up cards. So, the first player to act for this round will be the same as the one who acted first in the sixth street round. The final round of betting continues.
12. Once the final betting round is completed and if more than one player is remaining, then, the showdown begins with the player who made the last bet or raise. This player will show his / her cards to everyone. Every other remaining player will then expose their cards one-by-one in the clockwise direction.
13. The player who has the best possible five-card poker hand wins the pot. Of course, there is a possibility of multiple players having identical best poker hands, in which case the pot will be divided equally between the winners.
14. Once the winner is decided, and the pot stake is awarded, the table is ready for the next game of seven card stud.
Possible Betting Options
In the above steps, we have discussed various betting rounds. So, what are the betting options possible for each player in these rounds? Well, the actions that can be taken while betting are similar to other poker games – bet, call, raise, fold, or check.
When no one has placed a bet, the player has the option to either ‘check’ (refuse to bet, and still keep the cards) or ‘bet’.
When there is a bet already placed, the player has the option to ‘call’ (match the amount of the bet made by the previous player), or ‘raise’ (increase on the bet raised by the previous player), or ‘fold’ (forfeit the cards).
Another notable difference you would have spotted here as compared to Texas Hold’em is the fact that there are five betting rounds in stud poker (instead of four).
Other Key 7-card Stud Rule Exceptions to Remember
There are certain extreme possibilities when specific exceptions are possible in the stud game. Let us check out a few of these exceptions below:
We have stated that 7 card stud does not make use of community cards, but there is an exception. As the number of maximum players is 8 for a game of 7 card stud and the number of cards in a deck is 52, there is a possibility of the table running out of cards with the seventh street stage still remaining. In such a peculiar scenario, the last card is placed at the center of the table, and this will act as the community card for everyone to use. So, in this particular scenario of the table ‘running out of cards’, seven card stud game makes use of community card.
In the above discussed step-by-step guide to play seven card stud, we used the general rule of having the lower table limit ($10 for our example) as the bet limit for the third and fourth street, and the higher table limit ($20 for our example) as the bet limit for the fifth, sixth, and seventh street stages. But, there is an exception possible here. For the fourth street stage, if a player has a pair (on the face-up cards), the bet limit could be double the lower table limit. So, for our example, this limit would be $20. Once someone makes this big bet, this amount continues for the entire round of betting in fourth street phase.
The player who has the lowest-ranked face-up card at the third street starts the round of betting actions. However, if this player is all-in with regards to the ante and is not able to make the required bring-in bet, then, the bring-in option will be available to the next player in a clockwise direction, irrespective of the rank of the face-up card of that player.
Variants of Stud Poker
While we have discussed the main seven card stud game, there is a possible variant of this game that is played by poker professionals. This variant is the ‘Seven Card Stud Hi / Lo’ or ‘Stud Eight or Better’ or ‘Stud / 8’, which is along the lines of the Omaha Poker variant ‘Omaha Hi / Lo’. In such a variant, you can have two winners for every hand – the player holding the best possible hand and the one holding the lowest possible hand (which is eight-low or better).
There is another variant for Stud known as ‘Razz’, where the player with the best low hand is declared as the winner of the pot, with no qualifier.
Useful Tips for Playing 7 Card Stud as a Pro
Knowing Which Hands to Play
It is vital to be smart about selecting your starting hand in the game, especially during the third street. You have to be very selective as most of the important decisions are generally made on the third street. Your smartness is required in deciding whether to play a hand or not and how to go about playing it (if you decide to play a specific hand). Drawing hands such as three-straights, or three-flushes, any combinations of these two, are likely to do well in multiway pots. Similarly, big pairs are likely to do well during short-handed pots. Usually, the better starting hands are three of a kind, three high suited cards, three high unsuited cards, or three card hands that can be worked together in some way or the other.
Knowing Which Hands Not to Play at the Start
Just like you need to be clear about which hands to play (as discussed in the above point), you need to be clear about which hands you should never play as your starting hand. You should necessarily fold hands that do not have any possibilities of forming flushes or straights or any three cards which are not likely to form together something good. Even low hands with no pairs are ones which you should fold up.
Getting Out of Hand at the Right Time to Avoid Big Losses
It may not always be possible to make the right decision of continuing/discontinuing with a hand at the third street stage. However, you should be wary enough to realize the importance of folding up at a later stage to avoid further losses. You need to be ready to get out of your hand at a later stage and not get emotionally attached and playing till the end even if there is a very slim chance of making a note-worthy hand. For example, if your low pair hand is not able to improve for a long time, you need to be able to make a call whether you should get out of the hand instead of continuing to draw further.
Controlling the Pot Size
Understand the method you can use to control the size of the pot. How can you control the pot size? This is the thought that you would have, right? Well, you have to be clear with one thing – you are playing the stud or any other poker game to win money. So, when you realize you have already formed a strong hand like three of a kind or better, you can focus on building the pot by using ‘bet’ and ‘raise’ appropriately during the betting rounds. Similarly, when you are still unsure and are drawing to form a strong hand later, you can stick to the strategy of using ‘call’ or ‘check’ during the betting rounds and keep the pot size contribution from your end minimal.
Knowing Which Opponents Cards to Remember
You will hear many people talk about remembering the face-up cards of opponents on the table at every street in stud. This is because you are likely to have different players fold up during the game, and once a player folds up, you won’t be able to see their face-up cards. So, does it mean you have to remember all the face-up cards that you see on the table at a particular stage?
Well, technically speaking, you do not have to remember all the exposed cards. You can remember only the ones that have got to do something with your hand. For example, if you have three low cards, you can opt to ignore the face cards. But, with three low cards, you need to remember the aces as they can help you to form a five high straight.
While holding three high cards with no ace, you can afford to ignore/forget the low cards. If you are holding a set, you can possibly ignore all other cards. However, you may wish to remember values of cards that get folded as this will enable you to determine the possibility of making a full house later.
But, yes, if you would do much better if you can manage to remember all the face-up cards. You can develop this habit by playing more games of stud at an online platform like Spartan Poker.
Not Getting Confused with Hand Strength for Texas Hold’em
If you have been playing a lot of Texas Hold’em and suddenly play a game of seven card stud, you are likely to make an error in judgement with regards to your hand strength. Why is it so? This is because the hand strength of your cards is quite different in case of stud as compared to Texas Hold’em. For example, a pair of Kings is very likely to win you the pot in Hold’em. In case of stud, this pair or any other pair is not a very strong hand as many players are likely to show pairs during the fourth, fifth or sixth streets. Instead, three of a kind or anything better is considered to be pretty strong in case of seven card stud.
Avoiding Commonly Made Mistakes in Stud Poker
Be wary of some of the most repeated mistakes that many poker beginners commit in this game. Below are some of the most notable ones:
Opting to play way too many starting hands.
Not deciding to fold when you have weak draws or modest holdings.
Not using ‘raise’ option appropriately with premium hands, and letting go of the opportunity to build a good pot size.
Not paying proper attention to your opponents in every street and their types of play, betting actions, etc.
Ignoring most of the exposed cards that get folded.
Using the ‘call’ option too frequently instead of the ‘fold’ or ‘raise’ option depending on your hand.
Chasing second best hands and ending up losing to stronger hands at the final stages of the game.
With the seven card stud, you have a game of poker which is quite different to Texas Hold’em and Omaha Poker, that get played most often. You can easily expand your poker repertoire with this stud game which is quite easy to play. You get to use your skills to emerge as a winner here with partial information available to you. It is ideal for beginners to poker, who can quickly increase their confidence by playing a few games of seven card stud. All you have to do is have a strict hand selection method, be disciplined and patient enough for the good hands, and read your opponents well. If you are looking for something more complex, you can try out the Hi Lo variant of the stud poker.
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