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Seven Card Stud Poker Strategy

7 Card Stud (High) has long been a casino table favorite, recently supplanted by Texas Hold 'em as poker's premier game. 7 Stud is still a very popular game, and is actually my favorite. There are plenty of 7 card stud games to be found online as well.

This variation of poker rewards careful observation and memorization of cards and player tendencies. A student of the game can make a lot of money playing 7 card stud, online or off! This 7 Card Stud strategy article aims to help you do just that.

The Ante, Deal, and Bring In

Most 7 card stud tables require an ante of every player before being dealt any cards. After everyone "ante's up", each player is dealt 3 cards, 2 face down and one face up. This is called third street. The face up card is called your door card. Unlike Hold 'em, there is no button, rather, the player with the lowest door card posts what is referred to as the bring in. If two or more players have the same value card, the bring in is determined by suit value. Suit values from lowest to highest are: clubs, diamonds, hearts, spades. Players to the left of the bring in then have the option of folding, calling or raising the bring in bet.

4th Street - 6th Street

These betting rounds are almost identical. Each round, each player gets another card face up. Unlike 3rd street however, it is the high hand showing that determines where the betting action starts. As you can probably guess, position does not play as important a role in 7 stud, simply because your position in order of action can change every round! The only other difference of note is that the limits go up on 5th street. If you are playing a $5-$10 table, 3rd and 4th street's max raise is $5 per bet. 5th, 6th and 7th street, the limit goes to $10 per bet. The later streets of 7 stud can be expensive indeed.

7th Street

Everyone is dealt their 7th and final card face down. For the astute reader, this brings us to a total of 7 cards per person, 3 face down, 4 showing. The cards showing are often referred to as a player's porch. As in the streets before, there is a betting round after the 7th card is dealt, with the beginning action determined by who has the highest ranked porch.

Showdown

If more than one player remains after betting on 7th street, a showdown occurs and the winner is determined by who has the best 5 card hand, formed from their 7 cards dealt. Unfortunately, theres no such thing as "3 pair". Standard best 5 card hand rules apply.

As with any poker game, the most important moment of each hand is right after the first deal. This is where you make your decision to play this hand or surrender your ante. Way too many players get attached to their antes. Remember, antes are cheap and you can afford quite a few of them. 7th street losses will put you out of the game.

Heres my list of playable hands in 7 stud at third street (after the first deal)

Rolled up Trips

That's 3 of a kind, dealt from the get-go. This hand will probably win, with no help from the other streets. Generally you want to slow play until the more expensive streets when the bets double. Then you make them pay for staying in. Be careful though. You don't want too many draw hands staying in, risking the chance that someone will hit their flush or straight.

Top Pairs

A pair of 10's or better. What to do with these cards? Raise, raise, raise! Too many novices make the mistake of slow-playing good pairs, allowing too many people to limp in. The more people limping equals a greater chance that someone else will hit 2 pair or better. Of course you still have to show caution here. If you're dealt a pair of jacks, with one of your jacks showing and put in a raise in middle position, and a strong player behind you has a King showing as his door card and re-raises, you might be in trouble, facing a pair of kings. Use discretion, and when you figure you have 2nd best pair, your best bet is to swallow your pride and fold. Just don't become so predictable that everyone with a high door card re-raises you, knowing that you'll fold. Watch your opponents and learn who the bluffers are, then bust them bluffing a few times. It'll cure them.

Finally, I must repeat, top pairs lose value quickly the more people that stay in. The ideal situation would be you with your pair of aces, against one other person on a draw hand. You have him beat and he's praying for a card. The odds are that most of these situations, you'll win. So bet when you have a top pair, and drive out as many others as possible.

Three to a Flush

I have seen so many people be dealt 3 to a flush, and then start betting like its a full house. Remember, even though this hand can turn into a major winner, it is still only a draw hand that has to have help to win. You must consider a couple of things when trying to determine the strength of a 3 to a flush dealing. First, what's the high card? If you're dealt an Ace, 10, and 3, of hearts, its a really nice flush draw. If you make your draw, chances that someone else would have a flush with ace high are very small. Plus, with a high card ace, even if you don't make your flush, you have a chance of pairing your Ace, which can win for you. Secondly, the strength of your flush draw is determined by how many other of your suite is showing in your opponents hands. Using the same example, if you see 3 or more hearts in your opponents hand on 3rd street, odds are getting smaller fast that you'll hit your flush, making it even more important to have a high card to give you another out. If several opponents raise, you're probably better served by folding.

How to bet 3 to a flush? Your chance of making your flush are still not huge, even with 3 already in hand. You have to play "pot odds" here. You want as many people staying in as possible to ensure a larger pot. And on the flip side, you want to get in as cheaply as possible. In this situation, I'm hoping to limp in until i get 4 to a flush by 5th street, or pair my high card Ace. I'll talk more about how I play flush draws in a later post.

3 to a Straight

This is three to an outside straight, ie you have 9-10-J. I'm not a big fan of "belly buster" straights, such as 8-9-J. A belly buster, you need one particular card to help you, (a 10 in this case) and there are only 4 of those. An outside straight on the other hand, such as 9-10-J, both 8 and Q help you. That's 8 total cards, and double the chances. Just as in a flush draw, your strength is determined by your high card, and how many of the cards you need showing in your opponents hand. Some general rules for straight chasing are:

  1. Outside straights only, unless you're getting in for practically free.
  2. Only straights with a "paint" card. This gives you more "outs"...not only do you have a chance at your straight draw, but you can pair a high card.
  3. Just as a flush draw, you're an outside chance at winning, even being dealt 3 to a straight. You want to get in cheap, and have as many others playing as possible to create pot odds worth the gamble.

Smaller Pairs

Pairs, 9's and lower, I routinely toss out unless they meet some basic conditions. I have to have a good "kicker", ie. a pair of 9's with an Ace kicker might be very well worth playing. You have a shot at two pair, aces and 9's, as well as the prayer for 3 of a kind 9's. If you decide to play them, be on the lookout for either your high card or your trips card in an opponent's hand. If you see one of them, its time to dump your hand. Using the example above, as soon as I see another ace or 9, I'm out. Yes, I might see a miracle, but odds are I won't, and a good poker player always plays the odds.

Basically, these smaller pairs can serve two good purposes. One, if you play them at times, it will help you keep from getting a reputation as a "Rock". Second, they can make good bluff hands in late position where almost everyone has folded. If your high paint "kicker" is showing, your remaining opponents may believe you have that high pair, and fold. And even if they don't bite on your bluff, you at least have something to fall back on, and a shot at winning outright, if you get your 2nd pair or trips.

Other hands not mentioned above

...are pretty much all money wasters. If you just have to play that K-10-7, do it with "demo" chips. An exception might be the occasional situation where you have Ace-King-10, or two other high paint cards. But even here, only play when you can get in for next to nothing, and fold them at the first sign of trouble.

Assuming you have strict starting hand requirements, I will assume that you make it to 4th street with good cards. You will need to be paying close attention to what your opponents receive on 4th street, and how they bet it, as this will give you great insight into what they are holding.

4th Street with a Dominating Hand

I consider trips (three of a kind) and 4 of a kind to be :"powerful hands" on 4th street. Both of these will probably win the pot outright, with no further help. In the case of 4 of a kind, I would suggest slow playing. If you slow played your rolled up trips (your first 3 cards), this can work beautifully here. Wait till the bets are doubled before jamming the pot. With 4 of a kind, you want the other players to develop good hands like flushes and straights that they will raise and re-raise with! This pot is almost completely in the bag, so let everyone limp along and build hands that they will call you to the river with.

3 of a kind (trips) is somewhat trickier. While this hand has a huge chance of winning by itself, the last thing you want is for someone to draw to a flush or straight and beat you. If you feel there are several players limping along hoping for a flush or straight, do not hesitate to bet and drive some of them out. But be careful not to drive everyone out. You can beat everyone holding 2 pairs or less, and if you make a full house, then you can rake in some serious cash off players who complete their flush or straight.

4th Street with 2 Pair

This is a touchy decision based on many factors. What is your top pair? If you have Aces high, then you may be in good position to slow play here. If you have 10's as your top pair, you're probably better off jamming the pot. Two pair is strong, especially this early in the streets, but its still very beatable, if you let too many players limp along. If there are only a couple of players remaining and you sense they have weak cards, slow play is a good idea. On the other hand, if you have 4+ players in the pot, a well timed bet here might help you force out a potential flush or straight draw that could beat you later.

Slow play at your own risk though. I almost always jam the pot with 2 pair on 4th street. If someone is going to try and pray for a miracle card, make them pay to play.

4th Street with a High Pair

If you are dealt a pair and don't improve on 4th street, then you have no other option than to jam the pot and force people out. If someone has paired their door card and their pair beats yours, fold. If you can beat the pair on their porch, bet into them or raise their bet. If they only have the pair, they will probably just call your bet. If they have 3 of a kind, they will probably try and cap the pot. Its worth an extra bet on 4th street to find out though, rather than find out the hard way when the bets are doubled.

Also consider who it is that you are betting against. If hes a strong player who generally only plays pairs, then you are probably up against 2 pair now or even worse trips. If you get the sense you're already beat, fold your cards on the cheap streets and save your bankroll for another fight.

But the general rule is, if you were leading on 3rd street and you're not beaten in sight on 4th street, you have a good shot at still being in the lead. Bet and force everyone out. A single pair rarely wins in 7 stud, low limit poker.

4th Street with a Draw Hand

If you have 4 to a flush or 4 to an open ended straight, I would probably put in a bet here. Always watch for cards of your suit or cards that complete your straight, that unfortunately land on another player's porch. If you count more than 3 of your suit, or 2 of the cards needed for your straight, you are at a serious disadvantage. Generally though, with four of your cards already in your hand and plenty of live cards, you will be taking this hand to the river. If none of the cards you need are showing, then put in a bet here, and call if you are raised. This hand can pay off big dividends, but you have to accept the reality that it still needs help.

If after 4 cards, you are still 3 to a straight or flush, you should consider folding. If you don't see more than 3 of your flush suit or 2 of your straight cards on the board, then definitely try to stay in cheap. If on the other hand you're seeing a lot of your "outs" in other people's hands, fold your cards.

4th Street with a Low Pair

The only time you should consider staying in past 4 street with a low pair is if you're getting in free or by calling one bet, and only if there are none of your pair or high kicker showing on the board. In other words, if you have a pair of 3's with Ace kicker, if another ace or 3 shows up on 4th street, and you are not the fortunate recipient, then fold.

The only two exceptions to this are when you feel you have high hand, even with the low pair. You might jam the pot and see if everyone will fold and allow you to pick up a small pot. Secondly, if your 4th card was a high paint card, it might be a good opportunity to bluff. It won't be a naked bluff, because even if you are called, you still have a pair to fall back on and potential for a better hand.

Now we are into the big money streets. Besides your starting hand decision, this is probably the second most important decision point of the game, simply because the majority of money won or lost comes in the final streets of big bet play. Again, stay vigilant as to what the other players are calling, checking and betting with, as you will have even more insight into what they hold.

5th Street with a Dominant Hand

There are a whole host of dominant hands possible on 5th street. If you are lucky enough to have a Royal Flush, 4 of a kind, Full House, Flush or Straight by 5th street, then by all means, consider slow playing. You've all but won the pot already, and your remaining task is to make sure you extract as many chips as possible from your fellow players. There may be times that slow playing here will allow someone to draw out and beat you, but the great majority of the time, these hands are money in the bank.

3 of a Kind is still a dominant hand on 5th street. The chances that someone else has been dealt a higher hand in the first 5 cards is small. However, I am inclined to bet my 3 of a kind on 5th street, if there are alot of limpers looking for flush or straight draws. If by looking at the board your are confident that there are few if any flush/straight chances, then slow play with your trips here as well, otherwise, jam the pot and force a couple of them out if possible.

5th Street with 2 Pair

Bet and raise. You want to win the pot right here, and without seeing another street if possible. There are way too many hands than can beat 2 pair if you allow them to draw out on you. Again, follow the old axiom of making them pay to play.

5th Street with a Draw Hand

If you have 4 to a flush or 4 to an open ended straight on 5th street, you are probably staying to the river. However, you want to call here, not bet or raise. You only have 2 more chances to make your hand.

If you only have 3 to a straight or flush draw on 5th street, fold. There are precious few times I will call a bet here. If I have other value like a small pair with high kickers, I may stay, as this provides a larger number of outs. But as a general rule, fold on 5th street if you have not got your 4th draw card.

5th Street with a High Pair

If no one raised your bet on 4th street, then continue to jam the pot. You are hoping to force as many people off the table as possible now. If you are "beaten in sight" as in someone has a pair on their porch that beats you, fold immediately. Don't chase.

5th Street with a Low Pair

Don't bet. Your best chance now is to get in free or call one bet. I generally don't even call one bet, unless none of my outs have shown or folded. In reality, this is probably a losing hand already. Don't invest anymore into it if you can help it. Here again, you want live over card kickers. Small pairs with small kickers are losers hands.

Of course the exception would be a continued bluff attempt from 4th street, if there is only one player left at the table.

Seven Card Stud - 6th Street Poker Strategy

This is the street you want to stop slow playing monster hands and start building the pot. If you're still in with a weaker draw hand, you are trying to get to the river as cheaply as possible.

6th Street with a Dominant Hand

Dominant hands on 6th street include Royal Flush, Straight Flush, 4 of a Kind, Full House, Flush, Straight. The strategy here is simple. Jam the pot. Bet, raise and re-raise. The only exceptions might be if you have a flush and are afraid you are beaten by a higher flush, or you have a straight and fear someone has a higher straight or a flush. Typically though, you have the pot won, and betting it hard is the only strategy to use here in limit poker.

6th Street with Trips (3 of a Kind)

Bet them hard if you feel you're still in the lead. If you are raised by what looks like a made flush or straight, call. This hand is still strong, but not nearly as strong as it was on earlier streets.

6th Street with High Pair

If you have been jamming the pot and noone has been raising you, keep jamming it in hopes of forcing people off the table. Chances are though, the players that make it to 6th street are probably going to pay to see 7th, so at least make them pay the price if they are praying for a miracle card.

If you bet and get raised, consider folding the hand right away. They probably just made their hand, unless their trying to bluff you off the table.

6th Street with a Draw Hand

Check or call. You want to see the river card as cheaply as possible with your 4 to a straight or flush. If for some warped reason you're still in with 3 to a straight or flush, then simple math tells you making your hand is impossible. Fold it.

6th Street with Low Pair

Check. If someone bets into you fold. If they are betting, after only calling your jam or bluff attempts through the first 5 streets, this is a pretty good indication they now have made their hand.

If you attempted to bluff everyone off the table with bets during the last couple of streets, its obvious they're not folding. Only bet here if you are 100% sure you have the high hand and everyone else is still drawing. On the bright side, many times, as a result of your aggressive betting, the other players will check to you, at least allowing you to see your last card free.

If you have made it to 7th street, you are now preparing to rake up the chips and start counting your winnings. Either you have the best hand or you don't. If you think you do, bet, if think you don't, fold. By now, from watching how the other players bet or called their hands, and from the 4 cards showing on their porch, you should have an excellent idea of what they have.

If you have missed your straight or flush draws, then obviously you are checking/folding. Always check if given the chance, because at least you will be able to see the winners cards, and this may give you an edge down the road in understanding how he bets and what he bets with.

If you have dominant hands, you are betting, squeezing that last penny from anyone who will call. On the other hand, if you're holding a high pair, 2 pair or 3 of a kind, checking on the river might be a good idea. If one of the other players made their straight or flush, be assured that they will bet and you will only have to put in one bet to call to make sure they aren't bluffing.

I have read one play philosophy that said always bet out on the river, thus giving yourself a chance to win by the other players folding, even if they have a better hand than you. In my opinion, this only works in high limit or no limit games. In low limit poker, noone is going to fold a good hand when they can see if your bluffing for a couple of bucks.

When do you fold a good hand on the river? Almost never. By now, the pot size is big enough that its worth one extra bet to make sure you're not being bluffed. By gaining the reputation as someone who can't be bluffed out on the river, you will also avoid having people try it very often.

One of the few times I will consider folding on the river is if I have been jamming with a high pair or limping with a low pair, and I have a "rock" (extremely conservative) player bet on the river. Another exception might be when I have a high pair or low pair and 2 other players who have been drawing get into a bet/raise war. Chances are that both of them aren't bluffing, and at least one if not both have made their hand. You should most likely fold in this case.