Updated In May, 2013 - A winning seven card stud strategy is very versatile. Unlike Texas Holdem where everything is pretty much an exact science 7 card stud is much too complex for that. The only aspect of a proven stud poker strategy that can be simplified by looking at a chart or using a software program is hand selection. Hand selection in stud is one of the most important decisions you will make at the table but it is just one part of a winning strategy. In this article I will go over some of the basic tactics you can use to improve your stud poker skills and discuss some more advanced strategies that will give you a better understanding of 7 card stud and mixed poker games like HORSE. If you have never played stud before please read our 7 card stud rules article. The box below contains a list of all mixed poker games that include seven card stud in their line-up.
Hand Selection For Seven Card Stud
As mentioned above hand selection in 7 card stud is a critical factor. Playing too many hands in stud poker is a sure way to lose your bankroll. The same holds true for playing too few hands. You also have to be able to adapt your hand selection to the competition at the table. Since I'm not at the table with you I will list the hands that should always be played in stud.
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Best Stud Poker Starting Hands:
- Any pair
- Any 3 suited cards
- Any 3 connected cards (3-4-5, 10-J-Q..ect)
- Trips - This is obviously common sense but it must be listed
Stud Poker Strategy - Pocket Pairs
How you play a hand is just as important as which hands you play. For instance, if you're two down cards are a pair (4-4-X) you should play it much differently than if your pair includes an up and down card (4-X-4). Pocket pairs in Stud poker can lead to large pots due to the advantage you have by being able to represent a hand you don't have. With 57% of your hand visible to the other players reading hands in stud is quite easy and very beneficial. Having a pocket pair opens up many possibilities that your opponents won't be able to easily read. This gives you a great chance to take down a big pot.
Having a pocket pair doesn't mean you are going to get a good hand. It just puts you in a solid situation if you do catch a hand. Catching trips is every stud players dream when they get a pocket pair. Since two pair is the most common winning hand in 7 card stud your odds at taking down the pot are very good.
Bluffing & Pot Odds In 7 Card Stud
Since 7 card stud is primarily played in fixed limit format bluffing isn't very effective. The reason for this is a basic concept in poker called pot odds. Lets say its headsup on 7th Street (last card) you didn't get your flush and all you have is a pair of jacks. There is $50 in the pot and your opponent bets $4. As long as his up cards do not beat you jacks it is usually better to call, even if you are 90% sure than you are beat. Look at it like an investment. The part of the pot that you put in is no longer yours, it's the pot's. You will be investing $4 to see if you can win $58. Even if you only get lucky and catch your opponent bluffing 10% of the time you will still walk away a winner.
Stud is a drawing game, players draw for straights and flushes and they don't always get them. Even if a player is showing four suited up cards there is still a chance he won't get his flush. For example, lets say you have 2s-4h-2h-6d-4c-8c-9d and your opponent has x-x-6h-7h-Jh-Kh-x. Obviously you didn't get your full house and your opponent is representing a flush. Any respectable Stud player is going to be betting on 5th Street, 6th Street and 7th Street no matter what. If you only have to put 4 more dollars into a $50 pot that is giving you a chance to get a 1,250% return on your $4 investment. With 6 out of 13 hearts on the table and 38 cards left in the deck your opponent only has a 54% chance of having is flush. The moral of the story is sometimes on 7th Street it's worth it to call, even when you think you are dominated.
When To Raise In 7 Card Stud
Since you can see more than half of your opponents cards you should usually have a pretty good idea of what they have and what they are hoping for. Raising in 7 card stud to me is like an art form or science. You only want to raise when:
- You think you have a better hand and your opponent(s) will call
- You don't think you have the best hand and your opponents will fold
That probably sounds like common sense and it is but there is one key point I'm trying to make. If you think you have the best hand you never want to raise if you think your opponent will fold. Building pot value is an essential stud strategy. Knowing your opponents is vital when deciding if you should raise or not. That is why using the notes feature and being very observant at the table will allow you to study and classify the other players at the table. As a 7 card stud player you will likely be playing against the same players on a regular basis, especially if you stick to the same blind ranges. Using your notes feature is a great way to catalog and beat the competition in 7 card stud.