Seven Card Stud is a very old and challenging form of poker that most great players have dabbled with at one time or another. While it is somewhat overshadowed in the modern poker era by the more popular Hold’em and Omaha games, Seven Card Stud remains a mainstay with certain groups of players and in certain areas, and is also an important part of many mixed games. Seven Card Stud is well suited to be played as a cash game or in a tournament format, and is an important game to learn if you’re an aspiring HORSE or 8-game player, or if you just want to try out something quite different from flop games. The following tips should assist you greatly and should be read before you play your next hand of Seven Card Stud.
You’ve Got to be Live
Especially for players coming from a background of playing Flop games or Draw games, new players to Seven Card Stud often discount the huge importance of making sure your “cards are live” when considering whether or not to play a hand on third street. Even complete beginners know that when you have a hidden pair, or three big cards to a straight or flush, this represents a desirable hand and one that you probably want to play. However, one of the unique things about Stud games is that since (at a full table) everyone has an up card and you have two down cards, you’ve seen almost a fifth of the deck before you have to make your first decision, and this can dramatically affect the chances that your hand will improve by the river. For instance, if you have an ace showing and two nines in the hole, then this is probably a good enough hand to play unless you see one of the remaining nines (and to a lesser extent an ace) in your opponents’ hands. Most of the reason to play these buried pairs is for the deception gained when you hit that third nine, and if even one of the nines is dead, then your chances of spiking your trips has diminished by half, and this is almost always enough of a reason to turn your hand from a raising hand into one that belongs in the muck. Similarly, if you have three cards to a straight or a flush and you see that more than one of the cards you need to complete your hand are dead, then you should probably just let the hand go and wait for a better spot later.
Stealing on Third Street
Attempting to steal the antes on third street in Seven Card Stud is a very complex and intricate topic and in is one of the most important aspects of the game in high level play. The great majority of the raises on third street come from a player with a high card showing, and any time this happens, the raiser is basically representing that they have another one of those cards to go with it in the hole. Obviously, this is plain to see for everyone who has the highest up card showing of the players left to act, and any time that player puts in a raise it is going to be considered a suspicious move. If you always raise when you have the highest up cards, then no one is going to believe you and the play will lose its teeth On the other end of the spectrum, if you only raise when you have the big pair that you’re representing, then you’re going to become too predictable and not get very much action on your good hands. The key then, as in many poker situations, is balance, and paying close attention to your opponents to determine just what it means when this player comes in for a raise with the highest card showing.
Being Rolled Up
Being rolled up in Stud High (having three of a kind on third street) is perhaps the most exciting starting hand in any form of poker. It is almost certainly the best hand at the table so far, can often improve to a full house or even quads without anyone suspecting it and is perfectly disguised and easy to trap with. Although these hands do not come along often, playing them for the maximum profit when you do get them is an important skill to master. This is practically the only hand starting hand in Stud that it is appropriate to slow play, and you should generally do so at least until the betting limits double on fifth street or unless there are players in the pot on fourth street who you suspect may be drawing at a straight or flush to beat you. The one time to perhaps not slow play a rolled up hand is when it is aces or kings so that it looks natural to be raising early in the hand, and you also have a loose table image and you expect to get significant amounts of action.
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