Guide to Seven Card Stud
Seven Card Stud has been around for quite some time. Dating back to the days of the Civil War, Stud poker quickly became the go to game for soldiers. As the years went on and the Texas road gamblers were traveling the circuit in the mid-1900s, Stud was predominantly the game of choice.
The Seven Card Stud format also accounts for 60% of the game rotations in a H.O.R.S.E. tournament. Brick & mortar casinos usually spread Seven Card Stud, more so in some geographical regions than others.
Online poker has a healthy supply of Seven Card Stud games for all skill levels and bankrolls. In addition, there are plenty of Seven Card Stud or H.O.R.S.E. tournaments available to get in as many hands as possible.
If you’ve never played this variation of poker before we suggest taking a look at our Rules of Seven Card Stud section so that you can a good sense of how the game is played.
If you’ve got that part out of the way, however, we’ve got you covered with some basic strategy and tips and tricks to get started off in the right foot in your Stud journey.
Seven Card Stud can be a pretty intimidating game if you’ve never played before. While there is no departure from Texas Hold ‘em when it comes to hand rankings, the flow of the game and the betting structure is quite different.
When seated at a table full of players that have a strong grasp on all of that already it can be a little unsettling. Luckily, online you can’t see those types of things. There are a few basic strategies that you are going to want to keep in your back pocket when you sit down at a Stud table.
So much of Seven Card Stud is based on what you see, as in the cards that have ben dealt face up. As the hand plays out and players fold, their up cards are sent into the muck.
It’s imperative that you remember what cards have been dealt so that you know which cards your opponent or opponents either don’t have or can’t be dealt if they need it.
If your opponent is showing a hand such as (X-X)Jx-Qx-KxAx(X) and you know for a fact that all of the 10s have already been accounted for, either as a current up card in someone’s hand or folded ones, than you know it is impossible for this opponent to have a Broadway straight (Ten through Ace).
Additionally, it helps to have exposed cards committed to memory so that you know how your hand is likely to shape up, or fail to be able to do so. When facing a bet and you know that just about all of your outs have already been accounted for, it makes your decision making process fairly easy.
Practice makes perfect when it comes to getting better at remembering which cards have come out. It is good practice to stay attentive during hands that you are no longer involved in and keep track of the cards that have been exposed to further enhance this skill.
In Stud, it is very rare that players will raise with nothing during the initial round of betting. If you have a strong up card like a King or an Ace and are in late position, however, this creates a great steal opportunity.
If you have an Ace face up in late position and action folds around to you, you’re going to want to always raise or complete the bring-in.
If you find yourself in late position holding an Ace, and a player showing a King or Queen raises ahead of you, it is most likely their way of saying they can beat the Ace high that you’re showing. So they are most likely representing a paired up card.
Given that Seven Card Stud is very much a drawing game you’re going to want to play a bit more on the aggressive side when you’re involved in a hand. Often times you have an idea of what type of hand your opponent is trying to make, so the last thing you want to do is give them free cards to get there.
Since you’re playing your hand against their exposed cards you’re going to have a good idea of just how aggressive you need to be. Play your strong hands very strongly.
Raising Strong Draws
Betting with a draw is even more valuable in Stud than it is in Hold ‘em, depending on which part of your draw is up and which part is down. If you are on sixth street with a four-flush and three of your suited cards are down and one is up, a bet is less likely to get a fold than if you had three suited cards up and one down.
If you opponent has a weak draw that isn’t panning out or calling down with a single pair, eventually they may look to toss their hand if you keep applying pressure with your draw that looks like a made hand.
Because Stud is a draw heavy game and no one is sharing cards, your best bet is to stay away from slow playing strong hands. Letting people either catch up or get that much stronger of a draw is never a good idea.
Play the Players
In Stud, you are likely to pick up on player tendencies a lot quicker than in Hold ‘em because so much of everyone’s hand is on display. Pay close attention early on; who plays inferior hands, who folds to aggression, who bets with draws, who calls bets with weak hands or weak draws, and so on.
There is so much information at your disposal in Stud, make sure you are paying close attention to it.
Tips for Every Street
When it comes to Stud games we have to remember that the hand can change heavily with every street. Not only does position change from time to time, but hands can also take bad turns out of nowhere.
Here are some quick tips for navigating every street of a Stud hand.
- Third Street
Don’t play every three-flush you are dealt. Depending on the makeup of the up cards and how heavy the action is, if your three-flush is fairly weak or doesn’t also have straight possibilities, consider pressing the fold button.
Don’t overplay middle or low pairs when facing raises from Aces, Kings, or Queens. If any of those three-bet before it’s your turn to act you should dump your hand. Calling one bet, however, is ok at times if your stack dictates as not every raise from a big card is symbolic of a paired up card or a pair in the hole.
- Fourth Street
It makes sense at times to raise on fourth street even if you don’t think you are in the lead. This could possibly allow you to see a more expensive card for free when the bet size doubles on Fifth Street.
Aggression on Fourth Street will often cause a better hand on Fifth Street to check to you when the betting starts, allowing you to check back for a free card.
- Fifth Street
- A great spot to pick off bluffs. Often times a player that raised on Third Street will fire a continuation bet on Fourth Street. If their initial idea was to take down the pot with sheer aggression, they are likely to check on Fifth Street if you’re showing strength by sticking around. This is a great time to fire a bet and steal the hand away. With the bet sizing doubled on Fifth Street, beginning players are likely to throw their hand away when faced with a bet.
- Sixth Street
Avoid drawing dead at all costs. If you’re drawing to a flush and it isn’t the nut flush it would be wise to fold when faced with a bet if your opponent is showing a strong flush as well.
For the most part if you make it to Sixth Street you are going to see the river. This makes the action fairly automatic in following along with whatever gets you there whether it be a check or a call. Remember, though, if it looks like you’re beat or are chasing a weaker draw, there’s no shame in folding.
- Seventh Street
If a player has been aggressive and then all of a sudden checks the river, it’s possible they either missed their draw or are not too confident in their hand compared to what you’re showing.
In tournament play, the size of a river bet compared to the size of the pot will often times make it mathematically correct to call the bet even if you think you stand a very low chance of winning the hand.
So much of your action in Seven Card Stud is predicated on what your opponent is showing you. Key things to keep in mind are to always know what cards have been exposed so you know the likelihood of your of your opponents’ hands coming to fruition.
Lastly, stay away from sub-par draws and hands that are likely to cost you a lot of money in the end.
Seven Card Stud 8 or Better
Not to be forgotten is Seven Card Stud’s split pot counterpart, Seven Card Stud 8 or Better. Believe it or not, the low element makes for a fairly different game.
Even though there is a lot to unpack in this game, we don’t want you going into battle overwhelmed with info, so we’re going to lay out some of the top strategies for Seven Card Stud 8 or Better.
Play Two-Way Hand
When taking into account which starting hands to play in H-Low, you’re going to want to focus on hands that can go both ways. Meaning they can draw to winning both the high and low end of the pot.
Typically, this means any cards eight or lower that are also three to a straight. Hands like (3x 4x)5x or even gappers like (3x 4x)7x are great hands to start with. You are already three to a low and three to a straight.
In 8 or Better, the king of all starting hands are your “three suited babies”. Anytime you have three suited babies you are going to be looking at three to a low, three to a straight, and three to a flush.
When it comes to suited babies, the undisputed king of kings is the suited (2x 3x)Ax. You have the three lowest cards, a wheel draw, and a straight flush draw, not to mention a backdoor Ace high flush draw.
Don’t Chase with Only a High Hand
Even though there will ALWAYS be a high hand in 8 or Better and there will not always be a low, you want to avoid chasing down only high hands. Players on low draws often backdoor their way into straights, flushes, two pairs, and sometimes trips. A high hand holding like one pair or a weak two pair can be very susceptible.
The exception here is of course if it is obvious that both you and your opponent are playing high hands.
Respect Raising Aces
Players often assume that when someone is raising with an Ace on third street in Stud 8 or Better that they are raising with a strong low. This is not always going to be the case. Sometimes they really are holding a pair of Aces and so calling with a pair of Kings when an Ace raises can get you in a lot of trouble.
It’s best to throw away hands like Kings or weak low draws when an Ace is raising into the pot on third street. Not respecting raising Aces in 8 or Better can set you up for a world of hurt.
Don’t Chase a Low When Heads-Up
A common mistake beginning players make in 8 or Better is to continue chasing a low draw when they are heads up against a high hand. The problem here is that you’re essentially drawing to a chop. In theory, you’re risking a number of bets to chop the pot and essentially win your money back.
Sure you can get lucky and catch two pair and beat your opponent’s pair of Kings, but playing to get lucky is not playing optimal poker. If it’s just you and one other player and you’re going for just a low, throw it a way and find a better spot.
There will be times in a multiway pot where you’re going to be freerolling with a made low hand versus two or more opponents that are playing a high board. When you’ve made a low hand and you’re in a pot with two or more players that are drawing high, put in a raise or a bet every time the action is on you.
Every extra bet they have to call is money in your pocket as half of that pot is coming your way.
Chopping Will Only Get You So Far
Chopping is great. Splitting a pot rather than losing money is always a welcomed outcome. If you’re in tournament play, however, where the blinds are increasing every so often, you’re going to need to scoop some pots along the way.
Chopping will keep you in the game, but scooping will keep you climbing up the ladder.
Seven Card Stud 8 or Better can be tricky for beginners, but these tips should keep you from stepping into some of the more common pitfalls made by first time players. Taking the time to study your opponents’ boards is important in all variations of Seven Card Stud.