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An Introduction to Seven Card Stud Hi

Introduction

In this article
  • Seven Card Stud Rules
  • Starting Hands Selection
  • Basic Strategy on third Street

Seven Card Stud is a poker variation that appeared in USA in the middle of the 19th century. From the 1930s it remained the most popular casino and poker club game until 1980 when No Limit Holdem took over. Nevertheless, Stud remains a rather popular poker variation, including being a part of H.O.R.S.E. mixed games, 8-game and so on.

Rules

For Seven Card Stud, we use a standard 52-card deck. Two to Eight players can take part in the game.

Firstly, all players are dealt three cards, two cards face down and one card face up. After the first betting round, called “third street”, in accordance with the number of cards that have been dealt so far, each player is dealt one more card face up. There are three more betting rounds in the same manner, and after the seventh and last card is dealt, the final betting round occurs which is called the river. The hands are shown in a showdown and the winner is the one who makes the best five card poker hand out of seven possible cards.

Combination ranking is the same as in most poker variations; in ascending order – high card, pair, two pairs, three of a kind, straight, flush, full house, four of a kind, straight flush, royal flush.

The most common variant is Limit Stud – there are antes and a bring-in instead of blinds. All players put in an ante before dealing out the first three cards. The player with the lowest card face up has to start the betting round either by putting in a bring-in or making a “completion bet” which is equivalent to a small bet. The amount of ante and bring-in usually vary depending on the rules of a specific casino or poker room – as a rule they make about 10-15% and 25-50% of the small bet accordingly. If more than one player has equally ranked cards face up on the third betting round, then the player with the higher suit is the first to act. Suit ranking is considered in alphabetical order from lowest to highest: Clubs, Diamonds, Hearts, Spades.

The betting moves clockwise from the bring-in, players have an option of folding, calling or making a completion bet. After the first minimum bet is made, all the following raises should be in these minimum bet increments. As a rule, they are limited to four. The first to act on the following streets is the player with the highest combination of cards face up. It means that during a hand the position may change a few times. If two or more players have equally ranked open cards, then suits are used as additional ranking criteria.

On the fourth street, bets and raises are made in the amount of a small bet. On the fifth to seventh streets they are made in the amount of a big bet that usually is equal to 2 small bets. Unlike the other Stud game variations, if one of the players has an upcard pair on the fourth street, he can make a big bet instead of a small one. If he does not do that, then any other player at the table can make a big bet until there is a bet and raise in the amount of a small bet, or until the round of betting moves back to the player first to act.

«Dead» cards

As each player sees not only his cards, but also one card of his opponent on the third round of betting, there isn’t a single chart of starting hands in Stud poker. The strength of the same starting hand can change considerably depending on what cards we see our opponents holding, what our position towards the bring-in is and also the betting action. It’s also important which card out of three we have face up.

One of the key ideas of decision making on the third street is the idea of “dead” cards. Dead cards are our opponents’ cards that are revealed which improve our hand. For example, if we have three spades, then all spades showing at the table will be our dead cards. If we have a pair of tens and an ace, then all tens and aces that our opponents have face up are dead cards. At that point the starting combination is also “dead”, having a very small chance to improve.

Alternatively when cards we want to improve are not showing, it is said that we have “live” outs, and therefore, our starting hand is also “live”. It is very important to have a good memory when playing Stud Poker, as you have to remember all the dead cards in the hand on previous streets in order to correctly understand both your and your opponents’ chances on the following streets.

The same care should be taken, as with other poker variants, to your starting hands selection. This should be tight and attentive. In Stud terms it means – playing the most “live” hands that have a good chance to improve and win a pot.

Starting hands selection and third street betting action

We can simplify all starting hands into three groups – made hands, draw hands and trash hands. With made hands we will bet and raise to protect our hand and maximise the profit. With draw hands we should be very careful and call the bets only if we have live outs and correct implied odds to stay in hand. We should fold trash hands, except the spots when we want to steal antes and bring-in. Let’s discuss each group of starting hands more precisely.

Made hand

Made hands are high pairs and all starting hands of an equal rank – dealt or rolled-up trips. With rolled-up trips we are mostly interested in building the biggest pot. Hand protection from weaker made hands and draw hands with trips is not so much important now. If your opponents play too cautiously and fold quickly, sometimes you may even slowplay.

Compared to Holdem Poker, high pairs in Stud are more vulnerable. Therefore, we should do our best to force most opponents to fold and ideally play the hand with one or two opponents. The most often winning hand in Stud Hi is two pairs. That’s why a good pair on the third street may be considered as a good drawing hand. We should play aggressively when our face up cards are higher than the others, as we have good chances to improve our hand to best two pairs by the river. At the same time we should always make sure that we have live outs. When playing middle pairs we should also evaluate the rank of our third card – kicker, that can help us make better pairs than our opponents might have.

It’s better to fold small pairs at a full table, especially if we do not have a good kicker or we have a “split” pair (i.e. one card making a pair is face up). If the opponents understand that we are playing aggressively with an open pair on the further streets, it will be easy for them to consider that we have a set and not to put a lot of money in the pot. That is why “hidden/closed” pairs are more valuable on the third street. Two small pairs have little chance to win a pot. Therefore they should be considered only as drawing hands to a set and not made hands. We should play such hands passively.

Drawing hand

All hands that are not made on the third street, but that have outs to improve, are considered to be drawing hands. Suited hands, connectors – for example: and , overcards like As Kh 9d with opponents’ face up cards . The more diverse potential and live outs the hand has, the stronger it is.Thus, three suited connected overcards should be raised from any position. However, drawing hands are usually not so good to build a big pot on third street already. Therefore, they are played passively. Selection of such hands depends on a great number of factors such as our position and the number of opponents staying in the hand.

Overcards are not valuable as such, and just serve as additional “backdoor” potential for other drawing hands. The reason is that even if we are lucky to make a hand on the further streets, our opponents will hardly pay off, seeing our high and connected overcards face up.

Our main goal with non made hand is to have several opponents in the pot. At this point we should be very careful if players behind are rather aggressive, being capable of making our drawing hand not profitable by re-raising. We may call with a flush draw only if there are no more than two “dead” cards of our suit. Otherwise, it would be to better fold our hand.

We should play carefully with straight draws, as they may be dominated by flush draws and they have fewer outs to improve on average. Therefore, standards for starting hands selection in this subgroup are stricter. Our goal is to see further streets as cheaply as we can. That’s why we should avoid limping from early position right after the bring-in. We also should not play the gapped hands – our chances to hit a straight are reduced, especially when there are “dead” cards. After limpers or a raise-call, we may play straight draws only with one or no “dead” cards.

When we are in late position and last to act in a betting round, play in a multiway pot, or our hand has an additional potential to improve, we may soften the requirements to starting hands stated above. With a good diverse drawing hand we may even raise – thus we get the initiative and give deception to our real hand strength.

Trash hand

All other hands not stated in the other two groups are trash hands. Almost always, it’s better to fold them and just wait for a good spot to stay in the hand. For Stud poker, the proverb “tight is right”, is even more applicable than in Hold'em or Omaha. However, when less players are at the table, the wider our range of starting hands should become.

If it is folded to us, and we are the last or penultimate to act before the bring-in, we may try to steal ante or bring-in, even with mediocre hands. This move will very often be successful, as according to the rules, the bring-in is always put in by a player with the lowest face up card at the table, and his hand is usually not so strong. The success of stealing depends on the rank of our face up card and whether it is live or not. Generally speaking, the math of stealing in Stud poker is quite complicated and strongly depends on ante and bring-in structures. For example, when playing on PokerStars where the amount of ante is lower and the bring-in is higher, as a rule, such a move will be less profitable.

Conclusion

From this article you have learned:

  • Seven Card Stud rules
  • Starting hands strength relativity
  • The concept of “dead” cards in Stud
  • Splitting starting hands into 3 groups: made hands, draw hands and trash hands
  • Basic strategy for all starting hands on third street

Stud – is a very interesting and dynamic poker variation, where diverse and complicated situations arise quite a lot. This article pointed out some basic terms necessary to understand the game process. Now you are welcome to try yourself in “conquering” this poker variation.

 

Comments (4)

#1 alliennas, 03 Aug 11 22:23

Good article, thank you.

#2 ShawnlovesShawn, 24 Jul 14 08:06

I've played some of the 7 card stud freerolls on pokerstars. I found them to be pretty challenging given my low experience level. I feel more confident about playing 7stud after reading this.

#3 MrPink578, 21 Nov 15 12:12

Good article. I really enjoy 7 card.

#4 SuperPtje, 06 Feb 16 16:35

Nice article!