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7 Card Stud
POKER STRATEGY

In my opinion, 7 Card Stud is the most difficult of the three major Stud variants (Razz and Stud Hi/Lo being the other two). The reason for this is that Razz is pretty straightforward and Stud Hi/Lo is a split pot game. In split pot games, even if you're a mediocre player you probably won't lose much money thanks to the pot being split between two people. Stud is tougher because it is not particularly straightforward and the entire pot is awarded to just one person.

There are two ways to win the pot in 7 Card Stud:

•Make a strong hand.
•Make your opponents believe you have a strong hand so they fold.

Every hand of Stud falls into one of these two categories so the first thing to do is figure out which category you're in. In full Stud games (8 players), especially those played for small stakes, the way to win the pot is almost always going to be by making a strong hand. This is because almost all hands go to showdown in full, small-stakes games. If you want to win the pot, you're going to need to show up with the best hand following the final round of betting.

In 8-Game tables where Stud is played just six-handed, you'll see more situations where you can win the pot just by making your opponents fold. For example, suppose you're dealt [[cards 9d 7d]] down and [[cards Kc]] up. This is not a particularly good hand by any stretch of the imagination, but in the right circumstances, it could be good enough to win. Let's say the action folds around to you so there are just three players remaining in the pot: you with a [[cards Kc]] up, a player with the [[cards 8d]] up, and the bring-in player who has [[cards 3c]] up. In this scenario, you should raise because there's a very good chance that you will win the pot outright.

The fewer players that remain in the pot, the less the strength of your hand matters. This is why position is important in 7 Card Stud. Even though there is no dealer button that rotates in this game, you are still in some "position" during the first round of betting. It all depends on where you sit in relation to the "bring-in" player. If you are on his immediate left, you will be the first player to act. In this situation, you need a fairly strong hand to enter the pot since everyone else at the table is yet to act. Our [[cards 9d 7d]] down and [[cards Kc]] up from the previous example is complete garbage in this situation. Fold.

Starting Hands

The quality of starting hand you play in Stud all depends on what position you're in. As we've established in the previous example, there are hands that might be an easy raise in one position and an easy fold in a different position. In early positions (one of the first couple of players to the left of the "bring-in"), all three of your cards matter. If it folds to you in later positions, your two down cards don't matter as much since a strong up card might be good enough to win the pot outright. However, if you're in a later position where a player has already completed the bring-in, all three of your cards matter. If a player completes the bring-in and another player raises, you better have a pretty strong hand in order to stay in the pot.

The best starting hand in Stud is to be "rolled up". This means you're dealt three-of-a-kind on your first three cards. It is incredibly rare for this to happen, but when it does, ram and jam the pot with confidence because you've just been dealt a monster.

In Stud, being dealt a high pair, concealed pair, three to a flush, or three consecutive cards (example 789) are all good starting hands. If you are dealt three to a flush or three consecutive cards, take note of how many of your "outs" were dealt to other players. Being dealt [[cards 2d Qd]] down with [[cards 4d]] up is a pretty good hand if no one else's up card is a diamond. However, if there are two or three other diamonds up, you can fold this hand since your odds of making a flush just went down considerably. The same applies for when you're dealing [[cards 7c 9h]] down and [[cards 8s]] up. You want to see as few Fives, Sixes, Tens and Jacks up as possible since these are all cards you're hoping to catch in order to make a straight.

Other decent-but-not-great starting hands are three high cards like [[cards Ad Kc]] down with [[cards Js]] up. If you're facing a completion and a raise, I would generally fold a hand like this. However, if there's no action, go ahead and complete the bring-in because you've got a pretty strong starting hand. If you don't win the pot right now, you've got a decent chance of making a high pair that could very well be the best hand.

Observing Your Opponents' Cards

It's very important to observe your opponents' up cards in Stud. You need to know which of your "outs" to a better hand are no longer in the deck. For example, let's say you're dealt [[cards Qd 10h]] down and [[cards Qs]] up. Generally speaking, this is a very good starting hand in Stud. But let's say someone with an Ace showing completes the bring-in. They're representing a pair of Aces. They may or may not have this pair of Aces, but you always want to have some extra outs to a better hand in case they aren't bluffing. In this example, if two of your opponents have the [[cards Qc]] up and the [[cards 10s]] up, that's very bad for you. It means there's only one Queen left in the deck to try to make three-of-a-kind and only two Tens to try to make two pair. In this situation, it might be wise to just fold your pair of Queens. However, if none of your "outs" to a better hand are showing, you might be more inclined to call and hope that a.) your opponent doesn't really have a pair of Aces and b.) if they do have a pair of Aces, you hit a card that improves your hand.

The same rules apply for drawing to flushes and straights. Your draw is considerably less valuable if three or four of your outs have already revealed themselves in your opponents' face-up cards.

Betting

If you have four to a flush or four to an outside straight after just four cards, feel free to raise and re-raise your opponents. Although right now you only have a draw, there's a pretty strong chance you'll complete your draw and therefore want to build the pot as big as you can. But always be mindful of your outs. If you have four to a flush but have already seen three of your suit dealt to opponents, you only have six outs to a flush, not nine.

Another thing to be aware of in Stud is what hands your opponents are representing. A player who raises with an Ace up is representing a pair of Aces. They may or may not actually have a pair of Aces, but that's what they're representing. When a player with a high card (Jack or better) raises and you see a good player with a lower card call, I would keep a close eye on what the player with the low card is dealt. For example, if a player with the [[cards Ad]] face-up raises and a player with the [[cards 4c]] calls, I would immediately assume the caller has at least: a pair of fours, three consecutive cards or three to a flush. If they are dealt another club or another Four on fourth street, I would give them credit for a very good hand (either three-of-a-kind, four to a flush, or at least two pair) and slow down considerably if I was just holding a single high pair.

As with any poker variant, pay attention to your opponents' betting tendencies. The quality of hand you need against a very aggressive player who is always betting and raising is much lower than the quality of hand you need against a tight player who is coming out of his shell and betting.

Bluffing

When you raise to represent a hand that you don't actually have, how long should you keep up the charade? It depends on two things:

•How many players remain in the pot?
•What card did your opponent(s) receive on fourth street?

For example, you are dealt [[cards Jh 9c]] down and [[cards Ks]] up. You complete the bring-in trying to represent a pair of Kings. If two or more players call, I would give up on trying to buy the pot on fourth street unless your hand improves considerably (you make a pair of Kings or a pair of Jacks or Nines that you have reason to believe could be the best hand). However, if just one player calls, whether or not you fire another shell on fourth street largely depends on what card they are dealt. If their card doesn't really coordinate well with their original face-up card, go ahead and bet. For example, if their first face-up card was the [[cards 10d]] and they're dealt the [[cards 3c]] on fourth street, you can probably assume that [[cards 3c]] didn't help them. Go ahead and bet again hoping they go away. However, if their fourth street card is the [[cards Jd]], you might want to slow down since that may have very well improved their straight draw, flush draw or given them a pair.

When you're heads-up in a Stud pot as the aggressor, you can often win the pot simply by betting when your opponent is dealt a card that doesn't seem to coordinate very well with the other cards they're likely to be holding.

Next Article: Razz
 


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