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Five Card Stud

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The French introduced poker, or poque, to the United States in the early 1800s when New Orleans was a French colony. Its popularity spread up along the shores of the Mississippi River and was a huge attraction on the riverboats. By the 1830s, an American version on the game, Five-Card Stud, emerged and quickly became the most-played version of poker. It rivals Draw poker as the oldest poker variant played today.

Five-Card Stud has four rounds of betting and is played with fewer cards than other poker games, which can make for a crowded table and huge pots! Up to ten players can play and in the unlikely event that everyone makes it to the showdown, only two cards are not used in the game and forty will have been revealed. However, it is best played with six to eight players and an exciting game can be had between just two players, as evidenced in the classic poker film, The Cincinnati Kid (1965). Also, since most of the players’ cards are face-up, it allows for a greater use of strategy during play.

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The game begins with all of the players placing their ante in the pot (if the table requires one). After the deck is shuffled and cut, each player is dealt one card face-down (hole card) and one card face-up (door card).

The player with the lowest-ranking face-up card showing opens the betting by placing the first bet, or ‘bring-in.’ (In some games, the player with the highest door card is the first to bet check the rules before you play.) This is a forced bet and they can not check or fold. If two or more players are tied for the lowest-ranking card, the player closest to the left of the dealer bets first. Play moves clockwise and players can now fold, call or raise in turn. (The proper way to fold is to turn the door cards over and place them face-down on the hole card, so they do not become exposed. If agreed to before play, players who forget to turn their cards over have to put a few chips in the pot.)

After the first round of betting is complete, the dealer gives every active player another face-up card, followed by a round of betting (also called ‘Third Street’). For this and subsequent betting intervals, the player with the highest door cards (face-up) bets first.

The dealer then deals every active player another card face-up, followed by another round of betting (also called ‘Fourth Street’).

The dealer deals the remaining active players their last card face-up, followed by the final round of betting (also called ‘Fifth Street’). The players have a total of five cards (four exposed and one hidden) from which to make their hand.

If there are two or more players with a claim to the pot, they turn over their hole card for a showdown and the player with the strongest hand wins the pot. At any time during the game when all but one player has folded, the remaining player immediately wins the pot.

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It is common to play Five-Card Stud with a low and high limit. The stakes determine each round’s bet and raise amounts. In a $2-$4 stakes game, the first two rounds are limited to $2 bets and raises, and $4 in the last two rounds.


These rules apply in addition to general poker rules, so be sure to read that section as well.

1. The player with the lowest face-up door card by suit starts the betting (sometimes it is the highest-ranking card check before you play) with a forced bet. For the rest of the betting rounds, the highest-ranking hand on the board bets first. If two or more players tie for strongest hand, the player closest to the dealer’s left bets first.

2. The player who starts the betting with the forced bet can opt to open with a full bet.

3. If the opening bet was less than the lower-limit amount (for example, $5 in a $15-30 game), another player can increase the bet to $15 and not have it count as a raise since they are completing the bet.

4. If a player is absent from the table when it is their turn to act, they lose their ante and forced bet and their hand is killed.

5. If there is no wager and a hand is folded, that seat will receive cards until a bet kills the hand.

6. If a player has put all of their chips in for the ante (said to be ‘all in’) and on the first round they have the low card, since they are the forced bet and have nothing left to bet with, the player to their left bets first. They can fold, bet the forced bet rate, or bet the full amount of the lower-tiered limit (full bet for this betting round ($2 in a $2-$4 game)).  

7. If a player is incorrectly identified as having the lowest-ranking card and they bet, the play is corrected to the actual lowest-ranking card if the next player has not acted yet. The incorrect lowest-ranking card player gets their wager back and the correct player bets instead. If the next player has acted after the incorrectly-made bet, their money stays in the pot and play continues as normal. The true lowest-ranking card player has no more responsibility for the forced bet.

8. If a player picks up their face-up door cards and does not call when facing a wager, their hand is dead as this is a fold. This isn’t important during the showdown because betting has ceased until discarded, the hand is still in play.

9. A card that is accidentally dealt off the table is still used and is played like an exposed card.

10. The dealer declares in every game the visible low card, the high hand, all raises and all pairs. The dealer does not declare straights or flushes, except for certain low-stakes games.

11. If the dealer runs out of cards for everyone, all of the cards are dealt except for the last one, which is combined with the burn cards and any cards that may have been removed from play. The cards are shuffled, cut and the top card burned. They are then dealt as the outstanding down cards (the last card is used, if needed). If there are not enough cards for everyone, the dealer does not burn so all players receive a new card. If there are still not enough cards for all active players, the dealer tells the table that they will use a common card. The dealer burns a card and flips a card face-up on the board as a community card everyone can use to make their hand. The player with the highest-ranking hand incorporating the common card starts the betting for the final round.

12. If a player has bet all of their chips (said to be ‘all-in’) and is dealt a hole card face-up during the last round (the River), they have to play that card as is and the remaining players are dealt their cards as normal.

13. A hand is declared dead if it has more than five cards. A hand short of five cards at the showdown is also declared dead. However, any player without a fifth card can get permission to play the hand (to be ruled live).

14. A player who calls a bet at a time when there is another player with a stronger face-up hand is not allowed to have a refund. They are obtaining information about the other player’s hand that is not for free.


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