In 7-Card Stud poker every player gets their own cards, 3 of which are hidden and 4 visible to everyone in the game. A winning strategy in this game involves telling a coherent story as your board progresses through the betting rounds. This article shows you the key factors to consider in Stud Poker on every betting street – as well as some overall ‘rules of thumb’ for profiting in this game.
You should bear in mind that there are a total of 5 betting rounds in Stud poker, compared to 4 in Holdem. This makes for bigger pots, and can often lead to the size of the pot making you mathematically committed to calling more bets due to huge pot-odds. Small mistakes early in the hand can thus become compounded into expensive situations later on – you need to stay solid to profit from this game.
With so many cards visible, you can get an advantage on your opponents by remembering cards which have been folded. For example if it looks like your opponent is drawing to a flush, and you have seen 3 of his suit discarded by other players (and maybe have one yourself), then you will know that the odds of him hitting his draw are worse than they appear.
The betting rounds in 7-card Stud are called ‘Streets’ and follow from the number of cards you hold. Each player is dealt 3 initial cards (2 of them face down) which means the first betting round is known as ‘3rd Street’. I have gone through the streets one at a time below – outlining the main strategy considerations on each one.
3rd Street: Your main consideration here is what hands to play and which to fold. Pairs are valuable, especially when they are hidden rather than split (one card visible), as these can make hidden trips later. Pairs lower than the door cards of your opponents need to be approached carefully, and folded if players with high door cards start raising. Suited cards are valuable and worth a raise, especially when you have one or more high cards to accompany them. Unsuited high card combinations and run-downs like 9-10-J are also playable when there are no higher cards out there betting. With 3 cards you will find a lot more pairs and seemingly playable combinations than in Holdem games – my advice is to be selective, you do not want to start off the hand behind and not know where you stand when the pot gets large.
4th Street: If any player pairs their door card, a double bet is allowed – otherwise betting is at the smaller early streets unit. You need a good reason to continue without a hand if someone does pair. Even if they do not have trips or two pairs at that point, there is a fair chance they will get there by the end of the hand. 4th street can be a good place to bluff if you appear to be developing a strong hand. For example if you start with a split pair of Jacks, and hit a suited Queen on 4th, then a bet or even re-raise is a powerful move. If you hit a 3rd suited card on 5th street, then you can represent a flush, or a straight card could come too.
5th Street: This is where the bets double to the bigger unit. 5th street is a great opportunity to fold those speculative hands which were just about good enough to call a small bet on 4th but did not improve. Remember to mentally note the cards in your opponent’s boards on 5th – since many people fold there will be a lot of ‘dead card information’ available to you. You should also remember that if you do call on 5th the pot will be getting large enough that folding 6th or 7th street is probably an error – this is the best place to make a ‘shall I continue to the end, or fold now’ decision.
6th Street: This is the last visible card on the player’s boards – and so your last chance to decide how strong your opponents are. If someone was betting since the start showing a high card, and has caught junky or low cards since, then they could well be bluffing. If their board ‘improved’ with more high cards, coordinated cards or suits, then you will need to be more cautious. If you call a bet on 6th then you will almost certainly call another one on 7th.
7th Street: This card is dealt face-down, and is visible only to the individual player. If you called a bet on 6th then the pot will be even bigger on 7th and you have no new information – so calling again is mandatory. Remember, if your opponent had a weak hand which got there on the river beating you – then you must say ‘nice hand’ and move on. Those players will go broke pretty quickly, and you should make them feel welcome in your game.