Mexican Stud Poker Tutorial for Beginners: An Intro to Mexican Stud Poker

By Randy Ray in Poker
| March 2, 2020 12:50 pm PDT

Do you love playing poker but want to try a new game? If so, I have a game for you: Mexican stud poker.

Mexican stud poker is a variant of regular stud poker in which you can choose to reveal cards to your opponents as you bet.

That aspect (only choosing to reveal some cards) gives Mexican stud poker a far different dynamic than a lot of poker games. In fact, the feel of the game is closer to strategy games than poker, but that’s part of what makes it so great.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with games like Texas hold’em, draw or stud, but sometimes, change can be good. In that case, I recommend Mexican stud poker.

If that sounds like something you might want to try, then read on in this Mexican stud poker tutorial for beginners.

What Is Mexican Stud Poker?

If you have played regular stud poker, a lot of Mexican stud poker will feel pretty familiar (if not a little odd with a few extra little bits added for complexity). If you are coming to Mexican stud poker with no previous stud poker experience, then this game may seem more than a little strange.

First, like regular stud poker, there are no community cards. Each player will make the best hand possible from the five unique cards that are dealt to them. With a few exceptions mentioned below, hand strengths follow the standard strengths from basic poker.

However, and again, we’ll get into this more in a moment, while there are no community cards, you will know four of your opponents’ five cards, and they, in turn, will know four of yours. That makes the betting interesting and will tax your ability to hide your single down card.

With that said, let’s cover the basics of Mexican stud poker.

Mexican Stud Poker Deck

In some poker rooms, Mexican stud poker uses a normal deck of 53 cards and a single joker. If so, hand strengths are the same for all poker games.

However, the more common Mexican stud deck removes the 8s, 9s, and 10s from the deck while still adding a single joker, making the deck 41 cards. The good news is that straights can jump from a 6 to jack, but it also means that flushes are hard to get. Because of this, a flush and a full house are considered equally strong.

Once you get into the math, having a smaller initial deck size can drastically change the probabilities of getting certain hands. However, until you get to be a Mexican stud poker genius, you need not worry about the draw possibilities. Instead, keep in mind the deck size so you know how to rate the strength of your hand.

Sequence of Play

Before a hand, each player makes a small ante into the pot. Then each player is dealt two cards — one face up and one face down. (Note: in some variants, both cards are dealt face down, and the player chooses to flip one up.)

Betting begins with the player who has the highest hand going clockwise from the dealer. However, the player with the lowest card is not permitted to check or fold. This ensures that someone will bet during the round.

This is important to keep in mind because it means that pots will have a tendency to grow in Mexican stud poker. Make sure you plan your chip stacks accordingly and expect big swings as pots are taken down and picked up.

After the first round of betting, players are given the option of flipping up their down card. If they do, the next card is dealt face down. If not, the card is dealt face up so that each player has one (and only one) face down card. After each card is dealt, betting begins again as above (highest card first) until each player has five total cards and has bet.

The Joker

There’s one other thing that you need to know when you play Mexican stud poker: the joker is wild. Sort of.

If you are dealt the joker in a facedown position, as long as it stays face down, that joker is wild. It can be any card for the purposes of completing a hand. That’s a very good thing.

However, if a joker is ever turned or dealt face up, the joker loses its wildness. Instead, it is considered an ace (and only an ace) for the purposes of determining hand strength. Therefore, whenever possible, jokers should be kept face down unless you need an ace for determining if and when to bet.

How Did Mexican Stud Poker Start?

The origins of Mexican stud poker are a little shrouded. Even Wikipedia, which tends to trace card games back thousands of years, has little to say about how the game began.

With that said, as a variant, Mexican stud poker has been played for several years in Mexico and Central America. Fortunately, this is different than several games that carry the name “Mexican” in that the game actually has its roots in Latin soil.

These roots may also be the reason why the game is called stud loco (crazy stud), which, in my opinion, is a much, much better name.

Is Mexican Stud Poker Played in Casinos or Card Houses?

According to one source, even though the game got its start in Mexico and Central America, if you are interested in Mexican stud poker, you may need to head to California. You can always check and see if Mexican stud poker is played locally (or put together your own poker night), but if that doesn’t pan out, head to Petaluma, CA.

There, you will find the 101 Casino, which features a lot of Mexican stud poker action. There are also other casinos in the area which feature Mexican stud poker, too.

Finally, Wikipedia mentions that Casino San Pablo (a Native American gambling hall) also plays Mexican stud poker (with the stripped down 41 card deck). However, this information could not be verified on the casino’s website.

Strategies for Domination of Mexican Stud Poker

In general, you will either love or hate Mexican stud poker based on how you feel about playing with cards face up and deciding which cards to flip. If you like that kind of decision making, this is your game.

If you find that too fiddly to be fun, regular stud poker might be more your speed. (And no judgements either way. Not every game is for every person.)

With that said, if you want to beat your opponents at this game, you have three skills you really need to master: information management, deciding how to bet, and guessing your opponents’ hands.

First, “information management” could almost just be called bluffing because what you are really trying to do is limit the amount of data your opponents have on your face down card, and misdirection is a good way to do that.

To prevent your opponents from knowing what you have, you can always bet like you have a much stronger or weaker card than you do. You can also flip your facedown card later in the hand (thereby giving your opponents less of a chance to guess what you have). Most importantly, if you have that joker in your hole, bet like you don’t.

When you don’t have the joker, bet like you do.

Next, you need to determine how to bet. This goes beyond just bluffing as Mexican stud poker pretty much guarantees you will be throwing chips in the pot at least twice (once when you ante and at least once per round).

This means unlike other games where everyone checking can be a real possibility, you are going to have to decide to call, fold, or raise a lot more often. You will have to manage your stack and be mindful about your bets.

In fact, the general philosophy in betting Mexican stud is to play defensively and rarely go for the big bets. Therefore, be ready to slow play and bet a little bit at a time as you will have plenty of time to grow a pot over the course of the game.

Finally, as you play more (or if you have a head for figures), be ready to learn new probability math. Because Mexican stud poker is played with a smaller deck size, the probability of pairs, flushes, full houses, wins, and losses are all dramatically different.

Going from 53 cards to 41 alone cuts out about 400 starting hands and makes some easier hands (like a flush) much harder. Learn those combos to win.

Conclusion

Mexican stud poker is a unique stud variant. Its rules around card flipping make it vastly different from just about every other game out there. With that said, it’s also a lot of fun and very lucrative form of poker if you are willing to master it.

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