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Poker Strategy | Seven Card Stud

Seven Card Stud for Beginners

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Seven card stud has been losing popularity to Hold'em over the last few years, but still has a large number of players, and often presents excellent profit opportunities for a skilled player. Additionally, the increasing popularity of mixed tournament formats like HOSE, (Hold'em, Omaha, Seven Card Stud, and Eight or better) and HORSE, (Hold'em, Omaha, Razz, Seven Card Stud, and Eight or better) suggest that players should become at least competent in the many variations of poker. This beginner's tutorial will provide a good starting point for the novice stud player. For bad players Stud is a better game than Hold'em because the variances are smaller and they have better chance with speculative hands.

Although the goal for Hold'em and Stud are similar, some things are significantly different and a failure to adjust could cost the new stud player a significant portion of their bankroll. The attitude that works best in Hold'em is, "Maximize your winnings" but in Seven Card Stud, "Minimize your loses." provides a better positive expectation. Hold'em is about position and the players. Seven Card Stud is about the cards. Hold'em punishes chasers and makes them pay. In Stud, if you are not chasing and winning some hands, you are leaving a lot of money on the table. (It doesn't mean that you should chase with any hand.) The comparisons can go on forever, but those are probably the most important.

Like Hold'em or any other variation, the most important characteristics of a winner are; patience and discipline. In Stud where the cards are so important, you must wait until the cards are there before you get involved. This is stressed in Percy's book, "7 Card Stud, the Waiting Game," the source for this tutorial. This Tutorial is for FIXED LIMIT Seven Card Stud. At the end there will be a short discussion of the modifications needed for Spread LIMIT Stud.


In all variations of poker the best starting hand usually wins in the end, but in Stud there are some hands that have a great potential for catching a better hand, and can be played profitably. Some doesn't mean every hand can be played profitably. A good set of starting hand standards are just as important in Stud as in any other variation. So that is always the best place to start.

In an eight player stud game you can expect to be dealt the best hand only one in eight times. You need fold often. By restricting ourselves to only good starting hands, we can minimize the amount we might lose during later rounds of the hand. Here are the starting hands with the rule of thumb ‘action if no more than one of your cards are showing in other hands'. Also remember, in Hold'em you see only 2 cards before the first round of betting. In Stud you see as many as 10 cards or about 20% of the deck

Trips, {5-Diamonds}{5-Hearts} {5-Spades} you will only be dealt trips 0.24% of the time in Stud. It is the best possible starting hand and your goal with this hand should be to get the most money into the pot. The best way to put money in the pot is RAISE.

Hidden big pair, {Q-Diamonds}{Q-Hearts} {8-Diamonds} generally a big pair means at least a pair of Queens, but in Stud this may vary. You might call nines a big pair if none of your opponents have a higher door card. On the other hand if you have a pair of queens down and there is an Ace and King showing too, you might not consider you pair of Queens a high pair. May be we should call it the highest pair. Again, you want more money in the pot and you don't want your opponents to see 4th street cheaply. RAISE.

Split big pair, {Q-Diamonds}{8-Diamonds} {Q-Hearts} we should still call it the biggest pair, but this time one of our pair is exposed as our door card. This hand is played the same as the hidden pair, but since it loses some value because your opponents will speculate that you have paired your door card. RAISE.

Hidden small pair with a good kicker, {2-Spades}{2-Diamonds} {K-Hearts} or any pair smaller than two of the up cards with an up card no lower than a Queen. This hand isn't that strong but it does give you an excellent opportunity to be a bit deceptive. When you raise with a high card up, most of your opponents will put you on that pair. RAISE. If the pot has already been raised, re-raise if your up card is higher than the bettor's door card.

Split small pair with a good kicker, {8-Hearts}{K-Hearts} {8-Spades} again if there is an Ace and a King up, a Queen is not a good kicker. This hand is very marginal and will usually require significant improvement to win. Call the bring-in bet but fold to any bet if the bettor's up card is higher than your kicker.

Any small pair with a bad kicker,{8-Diamonds}{5-Hearts} {8-Spades} this is a marginal hand and very speculative. Call the bring-in bet but fold to any raise.

Three cards to a Flush with two face cards, {5-Hearts}{K-Hearts} {A-Hearts} is another speculative hand but with flush possibilities and the high cards, it does have a positive expected value, if the 4th card is favorable. Call the bring-in bet, but only call a raise if there are at least three other callers.

Three cards to a Straight Flush, {8-Diamonds}{10-Diamonds} {9-Diamonds} another speculative hand that needs significant help to go past 4th street. Call the bring-in bet but only call a raise if there are four others in the pot.

Three small cards to a Flush, {10-Diamonds}{3-Diamonds} {5-Diamonds} call the bring-in with this hand but it is probably best if you fold to a raise, unless none of your cards are showing.

Three cards to the Broadway straight, {J-Spades}{10-Diamonds} {Q-Hearts} with the extra value added by the high cards, this hand is often playable. If your three cards are higher than any card showing, RAISE. Otherwise call the bring-in, and Call a raise if two of your cards are higher than the bettor's up card.

Three cards to a medium straight {8-Diamonds}{9-Hearts} {7-Spades} (9 high,) this is the most speculative hand suggested. Call the bring-in bet if there are three or more players in the pot, but FOLD to any raise.

Two face cards and a rag, {K-Diamonds}{Q-Spades} {2-Spades} is playable if all of your cards are live, (none showing,) and the pot has not been raised by an opponent with an up card higher than either of your face cards.

Everything else, Fold.

Again, unlike Hold'em where you only see your two card hand, in normal stud games you will see eight or more cards before the first betting rounds so the situation changes every hand. Below are the modifications for our starting hands based on the up cards of our opponents, and examples of these situations. Additionally, in the situation where you are the low card and must make the initial bring-in bet, simply bet the maximum when your hand dictates that you raise.

Trips are so good that there is no situation where a raise is not warranted. You might choose to slow play the hand against just the bring-in bettor or against another opponent who you expect to fold if you bet.

High pair (hidden or split). If there are high cards higher than your pair, you do not have a high pair. Consider folding to a bet or raise by a higher up card, especially if one or more of your cards, including your kicker are already out. If you do have the highest pair and one of your cards are already out, always raise. You want to win the pot right now. It is not a good hand to slow play.

Small pairs with a good kicker should be call a raise if one or more of your cards are already out.

Small pairs with bad kicker should not be played if one of your pair is already out.

Never play a flush draw if two of your cards are showing, unless you also have high card strength.

Never play a straight draw if three of your required cards are showing, unless you also have high card strength.

Simple rule 1: It will probably save you money. If two are more of your outs are up, you should probably fold.

Simple rule 2: Do not chase a higher pair with few callers or heads up.
{K-Diamonds}{K-Hearts} {5-Diamonds} vs. {A-Clubs}{A-Diamonds} {7-Spades} with no K's or 5's in other hands. The K-K must improve to win, but the hand can only be expected to improve 42% of the time. So, it loses 58%. Those odds alone should be sufficient to deter you from chasing with an under pair, but it is actually worse. Of the 42% they do improve, The Aces will improve 42% of the time. So, the actual win rate is only slightly more than 25% of the time. This is similar to the dominated hands in Hold'em. If the aces were to bet every round, it would cost 3 big bets to see all seven cards. So for the mathematically challenged:
Play 4 times =(4*3)=12 Big Bets
Win 1 time =3 Big Bets
You lose 3 times = (3*3)= 9 Big Bets.
A serious negative expectation of -6 Big Bets.

*Seven Card Stud for beginners continues with 4th street*

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