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Seven Card Stud

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SEVEN-CARD STUD STRATEGY

This is one of the most popular poker games and is played with three of your cards face-down and four face-up from which you will make your best five-card poker hand. Because there are four cards visible from each player, you have a lot more information about your opponents’ hands than in other poker games. For example, you might see that another player has a stronger hand in their upcards than you do in your whole hand, in which case, you know to fold. Or you can figure out the odds of your opponents making the hand they’re hoping to achieve. Of course, information about your hand is on display as well. As such, you should employ the following strategies in your game and increase your chances of winning big.

Bluffing

If your visible cards show the possibility of beating all of the other hands, but you don’t have the cards you need to make the hand in your non-visible cards, you should raise and bluff. But do so judiciously! One of the key things to remember about bluffing is not to do it too much or it loses its effect (not to mention you’ll lose more money in the long run). So if it looks like you have a really strong hand in your upcards that will beat everybody else, raise.

Starting hands

Having a list of hands you will play and folding when you don’t have them is an integral part to playing smart Seven-Card Stud. You generally need a pretty big hand to win normally it’s two pair, with Jacks or better as the high pair. (As a matter of fact, if all players in a seven-person game were to make it to the showdown, 97% of the time the winning hand is two pairs or better.)

At the beginning of the game, every player is dealt three cards face-down. These three cards determine whether you’ll enter the pot (play) or fold. They’re called ‘starting hands.’ These cards have to work together in making the strongest hand at the table.  Good starting hands you should play are:

- any premium pair (from 10s to Aces)
- low or middle pair with an Ace or King kicker
- pocket pairs (paired hole cards) with a strong kicker
- three-of-a-kind
- three-card straight flush
- three-card straight
- three-card flush

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Because straights and flushes aren’t usually made until the last two rounds of betting (the Sixth and Seventh Streets), if you have a pair of 10s or higher, raise! If the opponents’ upcards are lower than your pair, raise if nobody has yet and reraise if they have. The idea is that you want players who are hoping to make a straight or flush get nervous by all this raising and fold you don’t want them in the pot in case they get the cards they want as their straight or flush will beat your pair.

It is better to play big pairs with fewer players and straights and flushes with four or more players.

Behavioral tips

1. have patience

It is said that in poker, money flows from the impatient to the patient players, and this couldn’t be more true than in Stud games. No matter how much you know about poker, if you don’t have the patience to wait for the right hands to play, you risk losing a lot of money and giving yourself a reputation for being a loose player if you play weaker hands. Good players know it’s better to risk less money and wait for the strong hands before they enter a pot.

2. be firm

Only play good starting hands and live hands. Don’t waste money on a hand with low odds of winning.

3. be attentive

One excellent skill for Seven-Card Stud is remembering what cards have been used in play including cards that have been folded. You’ll win less often if you don’t memorize the upcards of every player. All of these upcards are considered ‘dead’ for helping you make your poker hand: they’ve already been used in the game and won’t come up again. (If the card hasn’t showed up in anybody’s upcards, it’s said to be ‘live.’) It’s a waste of money to keep playing if the card you need to make your hand is dead, so it’s important to remember the discards to rule out whether it was in there or not.

4. be aggressive

If you have a really strong hand, don’t be afraid to raise and reraise now’s the time to get money in the pot! You can even check-raise if you have a monster hand! Remember, poker’s not about the quantity of games you win, but the quantity of money, so don’t be bashful to get people to pay to stay in the game when you have a very strong hand.

5. watch your opponents

When you’re not in a hand, make sure you use that time to study the mannerisms of the other players. Watch what kind of starting hands they play and if they give off any tells when playing certain hands.

Live cards

As mentioned above, it is critical in Stud games to remember the upcards so you know they’re dead and won’t show up again you should fold if your cards have already been used. If they haven’t showed up yet, you stand a chance of making your hand.

If you’re dealt three cards of the same suit, take a look at your opponents’ upcards: if three or more cards of that same suit show up, you shouldn’t try to make a flush. Because these cards have already been used, the likelihood they’ll show up are greatly reduced, thus reducing the odds that you’ll make the hand.

Pot Odds

It is said in poker that if you’ve called a bet on Fifth Street, you’ve bought yourself a ticket to Seventh Street. This is because the size of the pot gets to be very big by the Sixth and Seventh Streets, and correspondingly, the pot odds increase. This means that unless you have a totally useless hand, you should stay in because the value of the pot is worth the few extra chips you need to spend to stay in. Keep in mind, though, that you need to be careful in earlier rounds of betting to not stay in to the Fifth with a weak hand.

Seven-Card Stud is one of the more challenging poker variants and requires concentration and attentiveness to play. When you’re first learning how to play, it’s highly recommended that you get a lot of practice in by playing online. It is so much more comfortable to learn a new poker variant playing online without the pressure (and potential embarrassment) when playing in person. Also, you’ll be dealt many more hands per hour online than you would live, so you’re getting more opportunities to practice. Poker Stars and Full Tilt Poker all have free Seven-Card Stud tables and are highly recommended: they’re among the most popular sites, so you’ll never have to wait for people to play on the free Seven-Card Stud tables. This can be a problem on smaller, lesser-known sites where the few people who are online are all playing Texas Hold’em, leaving the Seven-Card Stud tables virtually empty.

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