7 Card Stud Game Strategies & innovative tricks of the trade
Stud poker used to be the most popular poker game played by poker enthusiasts before the surging emergence of Texas Hold’em. Unlike in its rival, each player in 7 Card Stud Poker receives their own separate board; there are no “community cards” shared by all players to create the best 5-card poker hand. This, combined with the fact that you can see 4 of each player’s 7 cards by the last round of betting, creates a unique dynamic of gameplay.
To get you off on the right foot, here are some strategies you should keep in mind when playing 7 Card Stud:
1) Play Good Starting Hands
As in all other forms of poker, you should be looking to play decent starting hands when you choose to enter a pot. In Stud Poker, this means playing hands that have decent potential for improvement, such as high cards, high pairs, three-cards-to-a-straight, or three-cards-to-a-flush.
Do note that low pairs do not carry as much value as they do in No Limit Texas Hold’em because:
- Stud is a limit game, so you cannot extract maximum value when you do hit a set, and
- all players’ hands are independent of each other, unlike Hold’em.
This means that you cannot use individual player's board texture to determine the value of your set. Other players in the hand may have up-cards (cards that are exposed on their board) that show strong potential for straights, flushes or better. All of which would beat you if they’re, in fact, truly what they seem to be.
Also, consider how many cards of your “made hand” are shown to your opponent. For example, if you have 3-5-K-J showing, and your hidden cards are A-Q-10, you have a very well-disguised nut straight and can keep your opponents quite off-balance, whether or not you actually have a hand.
Similarly, if you have two hidden Aces (Aces in the hole) at the start of your hand, your opponent can be more easily duped into thinking you have a weak holding.
2) Use Information from Your Opponents’ Up-Cards
Because all players’ hands are independent of each other, you cannot simply focus only on the cards that you currently have and what 5-card hand you might be able to make. On the flip-side, you should always take into account any information you can glean from everyone else’s up-cards when determining how to act, in any given hand.
For example, let’s say after six cards are dealt you have 4 cards to a straight. However, another one of your opponents has 4 cards facing up that are all of the same suit. Chances are that they already have a flush or could get there by the river (7th street). You shouldn’t continue drawing to your straight here. Even if you do improve to your straight, you could already be beat by your opponent’s flush.
You can also use the information from your opponents’ exposed cards to correctly determine your number of outs. If you have 4 clubs, for example, and you see one of your opponents also has a club showing, now you only have 8 outs to make your flush (instead of the typical 9).
You should also pay attention to everyone’s up-cards at the very start of the hand (even before they potentially fold) and try to remember what cards were mucked so that you can use that information, if necessary, later in the hand to calculate outs.
Keeping tabs on 5's and 10's is a good tip. Every possible straight needs a 5 or a 10. Therefore, if you see three 10's folded off, and you hold the fourth, a player with a board showing As-Jc-Kh-Qd cannot have a straight. They could be rolled (3 starting cards of the same rank) and full – but broadway just isn't in their cards.
3) How Many Players Are in Each Hand
Your hand strength at showdown will often correlate to the number of players in each hand. For example, if there’s only one other player in the hand with you, it’s quite possible that even just a big pocket pair could win the hand, unimproved at showdown. However, if there are multiple opponents, chances are that at least one of them would have that big pair beat. You would probably need a straight or better to have a good chance of winning with multiple players in the pot.
Therefore, with fewer opponents playing in a hand, you should look to play big pairs and big cards, because there’s a good chance that “just a pair” could win at showdown.
If there are more players in a hand, drawing hands can play well and get more value, as you’ll need a stronger hand to win at showdown. You’re also more likely to get good pot odds to continue chasing your straight, flush, or boat with more players staying in through each street.
4) Getting the Right Odds to Chase Your Draw
Because of the limit structure in Stud Poker, you’re often going to be getting the right odds to chase your draws, especially when there are multiple opponents in the hand with you. However, like always, you should take all the information you have into account before making your decision. If you’re chasing a straight and think your opponent could already have a flush, there’s not much point in continuing. Even if you make your hand with the right pot odds to call, there’s a good chance you’re already beat now or will be by 7th street.
If you can get 4-cards-to-a-straight or 4-cards-to-a-flush in the first 4 or 5 cards you’re dealt, you should chase your draw all the way until 7th street. Chances are pretty good - roughly 40% - that you’ll hit one of your outs along the way.
If you start with 3-to-a-straight or 3-to-a flush, though, and are unimproved by 5th street, you should probably fold your hand and wait for a better spot. You’d need two perfect running cards to make the hand you’re going for.
5) Use Scare Cards To Bluff Opponents
Like other forms of poker, not every hand will always go to showdown and award the pot to the player with the best hand. Bluffing is still a pivotal part of the game. In Stud Poker, you can sometimes use scare cards that are visible to your opponents to represent a hand stronger than the one you may actually have!
For example, suppose you have three connected cards in the same suit showing. Chances are by 7th street that you’ll either have a straight or a flush. But even if you don’t, you can likely represent that you do to your opponents and still win the pot. If you put in a bet or raise on the river, they’ll probably give you credit for a strong made hand (because of the cards that you have showing), and potentially fold a better hand, making your bluff successful.
Do also be aware of how scare cards can sneakily improve your opponents’ hands, as well. For example, if your opponent pairs their door card (3rd street card), they might have improved to trips, if they started the hand with a pair.