Rules of Seven Card Stud
The game of poker comes in many forms and fashions. Most poker players are used to playing the flop-based games like Texas Hold ‘em or Omaha. Those aren’t the only games on the market, however. One of the greatest and oldest forms of poker is Seven Card Stud.
Seven Card Stud, or 7 Card Stud, is believed to have been around for over 150 years now. Poker in America is believed to have started around the 1830s in New Orleans where it was predominantly played on riverboats.
It wasn’t until the mid-late 1800s during the Civil War that Seven Card Stud and other forms of Stud poker became popular. The game is thought to have originated somewhere in the Midwest, but no one can pinpoint its origin for certain.
The spread of Seven Card Stud and a few other forms of poker can widely be attributed to the military of America, the Navy in particular. 7 Card Stud continued to grow in popularity and for awhile was THE poker game of choice for poker players.
It wasn’t until much later after the inception of the World Series of Poker that No Limit Texas Hold ‘em began to take over.
Almost every brick and mortar casino spreads Seven Card Stud. In some locations, games run around the clock, in others it is up to the players to get a game going. Online, however, games are always running.
If you’re accustomed to Texas Hold ‘em or Omaha, than Seven Card Stud will be quite the departure from what you’re used to. If your games of choice are No Limit Texas Hold ‘em or Pot Limit Omaha than you are especially in for a drastic change of pace.
Whatever the case may be, if you’re looking to dive into the world of Seven Card Stud for the first time, pull up a seat. We’ve got you covered with an overview of the rules of the game and how it differs from its poker variant counterparts.
Seven Card Stud Basics
One thing we must always keep in mind is that poker is poker. So when you are talking about the rules of poker in a game in which you are trying to make the best high hand, the hand rankings are always the same.
As a quick refresher take a look at the table below.
A major difference of 7 Card Stud versus other forms of poker is that it seats a maximum of 8 players to a table. This is due to the nature of the game and the fact that every player will receive 7 cards if they make it to the end of the hand.
I know what you’re thinking, 8 players times 7 cards each is 56 cards and there’s only 52 cards in the deck. Don’t worry about that for now, we will touch on what would happen if every single player in the hand made it down to the end a little bit later in this tutorial.
Right off the bat you will see that 7 Card Stud operates very differently. Prior to the dealer dealing the cards every player must post an ante to be a part of the hand. The amount of the ante will be relative to the betting limits, something we will touch on in a later section.
Once the dealer collects all the antes they will then begin the deal. Each player will receive two cards face down and one card face up and the action will begin.
In 7 Card Stud there is no dealer button. That means that every hand starts with the dealer dealing to the 1 Seat first and continuing to the left. Every proceeding street will continue in the same fashion.
The action starts with the LOWEST face up card placing a forced bet called the “bring in”. The amount of the bring in is a set amount relative to the betting limits. Just like with antes, we will cover this in a later section when we discuss the betting limits.
In 7 Card Stud an ACE is high (in the Razz variant the Ace is low, however). Therefore, a Two (or deuce as it is commonly referred to) is the lowest card. I know what you’re thinking, what if the lowest card face up is held by more than one player.
In the instance that two or more players share the lowest face up card, and this happens fairly often, the suits of the cards become the deciding factor. Let’s say two players are dealt a deuce face up.
Player A has the Two of Clubs and Player B has the Two of Spades. In this case, you will refer to the suit. The suit strengths go from low to high in alphabetical order as follows:
So as you can see Clubs are the weakest suit and Spades are the strongest. That means that in our example above, Player A with the Two of Clubs will be the bring in. Action then continues to the left of the bring in.
After a round of betting the dealer will burn a card and then deal each player still in the hand another face up card. Once this happens you will see that position will most likely change. What happens now is that for every proceeding street, the player with the strongest hand showing will be first to act, and action will continue to their left.
That means that form street to street, the first player to act can always change. As the hand continues and the dealer continues to burn a card and deal a card face up to each player still in the hand they will continue to call on the highest showing hand to act first.
When it comes time to deal each player their last card, the dealer will burn a card and then deal each player’s final card face down.
If you are still in the hand after the river, or 7th Street as it is often called, you will be looking at four cards face up and three cards face down. You must make your best 5 card hand out of the 7 that you are holding.
There are no community cards to share in 7 Card Stud so you will be using your cards and only your cards.
What If There Are Not Enough Cards in the Deck?
In the event that there are not enough cards to continue the deal due to the amount of players remaining in the hand there is a solution in place.
- If there are not enough cards left in the deck for all players, all the cards are dealt except the last card, which is mixed with the burn cards (and any cards removed from the deck, as in the previous rule).
- The dealer then shuffles and cuts these cards, burns again, and delivers the remaining down cards, using the last card if necessary. If there are not as many cards as players remaining without a card, the dealer does not burn, so that each player can receive a fresh card.
- If the dealer determines that there will not be enough fresh cards for all of the remaining players, then the dealer announces to the table that a community card will be used. The dealer will burn a card and turn one card face up in the center of the table as a community card that plays in everyone’s hand. The player who is now high using the community card initiates the action for the last round.
Betting in 7 Card Stud
7 Card Stud is typically played as a fixed limit game. We mentioned above that Stud also includes an ante and a bring in. So what exactly are these forced bets?
- Bring In
In 7 Card Stud, each player must post an ante to be dealt into the hand. The size of the ante is relative to the betting limits. Often the ante will be anywhere from 10%-25% of the first bet in the betting limits.
The bring in is the first forced bet that is the responsibility of the player with the lowest face up card to post. The size of the bring in is relative to the betting limits.
In some cases it may be equal to the ante, in others it will be somewhere between the cost of the ante and the first betting limit. Additionally, if you are confident in the strength of your hand you can also bet the full bet to start as opposed to just the bring in amount.
To complete the bet is to put in the first possible raise when the betting starts. The bring in is a fraction of the first bet. When a player wants to raise the bring in they will “complete” the bet to the first bet amount. For example, let’s say you’re playing in a $10-$20 7 Card Stud cash game with a $3 ante.
The bring in is likely to also be $3 in this game as well. The bring in will post their bet of $3 and then next player can raise by completing the bet to $10.
- Small Bet
- Big Bet
In fixed limit games like 7 Card Stud the betting on every street is capped, meaning there is a limit to how many times you can raise. Usually betting is capped at four or in some cases five bets.
In stud there is a big bet and a small bet. Using the same example from above in a $10-$20 7 Card Stud cash game, $10 is the small bet and will be the betting increments on the first round of betting and again on Fourth Street.
Building on the description of the small bet, the big bet in the above example will be $20. Betting in big bet increments occurs on Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Street. Additionally, when there is pair on board on Fourth Street, a player may place a big bet.
7 Card Stud comes in three different variants. The betting structure is exactly the same for all forms of 7 Card Stud, but each game variation has a few of its own characteristics.
- 7 Card Stud
- 7 Card Stud Hi-Lo
The game we have been discussing is 7 Card Stud. When you say 7 Card Stud you are always referring to the high hand only variation of the game.
7 Card Stud can also be played as a split pot hi-lo game. You can either play with no qualifier or with a qualifier, which in almost all cases is 8 or Better. There will be a little bit more on this game variant a little further down.
Razz is a variation of 7 Card Stud where the lowest hand wins the pot. Think of it as playing only the low version of a Hi-Lo game. To better understand Razz check out our Rules of Razz Poker article.
By now you should have a good understanding of the rule set required to play 7 Card Stud. Let’s quickly recap some of the specifics:
- Players receive 7 cards each, 3 face down and 4 face up.
- Betting is done in fixed limits.
- Action starts with the lowest card face up after the deal.
- The strongest face up hand begins the betting on every street thereafter.
- Position can change from street to street depending on the strongest hand showing.
- Suits can be a factor in deterring the strength of the bring in if two players share the same lowest card.
Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo
A popular variant of 7 Card Stud is 7 Card Stud Hi-Lo, or the more popular Hi-Lo variant of 7 Card Stud 8 or Better. The structure of the game is exactly the same as the high hand only variant with the caveat that the low hands wins half of the pot.
It is rare to see a 7 Card Stud Hi-Lo game with no qualifier so for this brief rules description we will focus on the 8 or Better variant.
- To make a low hand you must have 5 cards that are 8 or lower.
- Straights and Flushes do not negatively affect the value of a low hand.
- Strength of a low hand is based on your weakest low card and descends in order from there.
- You can play both a high and a low hand in the same hand.
- “Scooping” is when you win both the high and the low portion of the pot.
- “Quartering” is when you win only half of a half of a pot.
- Ace is the lowest low card.
- If two players share the same weakest low card, you look at the next weakest card for each player to determine the better hand and so on.
- There WILL NOT ALWAYS BE A LOW HAND when a qualifier like 8 or better is needed.
To better understand this let’s take a look at the strongest and weakest low hands. The weakest low hand you can have will be 8-7-6-5-4. A strong hand in that it is both a straight and a low hand, but when chasing a low draw this will be the weakest low hand you can table.
The strongest low hand you can table is 5-4-3-2-A, more commonly known as a “wheel”. Again, it’s a very strong hand in that it also gives a straight for a high hand, while also being the best possible low hand.
Each player may choose a different subset of five cards to play for high and low. For example, a player with A-A-8-6-6-4-3 can play a high hand of A-A-6-6-8, and a low hand of 8-6-4-3-A.
A player with K-9-8-7-6-5-4 can play a 9-high straight for his high hand, and 8-7-6-5-4 for low (which is the worst possible qualifying low, but it does qualify).
A player with K-9-8-7-7-6-5 can play the 9-high straight for high, but cannot play any low hand, because he cannot make an 8-high or lower. If there is no qualifying low hand, high hand takes the entire pot.
7 Card Stud and 8 or Better Rules Recap
The rules of 7 Card Stud and its variants are far different than Texas Hold ‘em if that is what you’re used to. There are, of course, the basic similarities like hand rankings and that action always flows to the left.
By now though you should have a solid understanding of how 7 Card Stud is structured and the rule set you have to follow when playing the game. The only thing left to do now is pull up a seat and post your first ante.
If you want to expand your 7 Card Stud knowledge a bit further before pulling up that seat, however, we suggest checking out our Guide to Stud Poker section where we cover some of the basic strategy plays as well as clue you in on which sites offer the best Stud games.