Quick Start Guide to 7-Card Stud and Other Stud Poker Variations
These days, when No Limit Holdem and Omaha are so dominant as far as poker formats go, Stud poker is rare. At one point Stud games were the main format played – taking over from the earliest games, which were mainly draw poker.
There are several variations. 5-Card Stud started things off, before the 7-Card version took over. What is different about these games is that each player has their own set of cards. There are no ‘community cards’ like you find in Holdem. Each player needs to make the best 5 card poker hand from their own 7 cards. The specific variation of the game will determine exactly what constitutes the ‘best hand’.
This page takes you through a hand of 7-Card Stud poker – explaining the rules along the way. At the end of the page you will find some simple strategy tips to give you an edge in the games.
Playing Stud Poker – Before the Deal and 3rd Street
Stud is played 8 handed and can use either fixed betting units or pot-limit betting. Fixed limit is the standard format. Before the deal, each player places a small ante into the pot. This replaces ‘blinds’, and creates the initial pot to fight over.
Each player gets dealt 3 cards. Two of these are face-down, seen only by each individual player. The 3rd card is face-up – and visible to all.
The player with the lowest showing card (which is known as the ‘door card’) places a small bet to start the action. This is called the bring in. If 2 or more players share the lowest ranked card, suits come into play. The order is clubs (the lowest rank), diamonds, then hearts – with spades being the highest suit.
Action then goes clockwise around the table from the bring in. Each player will have the opportunity to call (matching the bring in), raise, or to fold. There are a maximum of 4 raises per betting round. While you need to match the ante to play on 3rd street, it is possible that 4th street and onwards sees the action checked around.
4th Street Through 6th Street
Once betting is completed from the initial deal, a 4th card is dealt. Again, this will be visible to all the players. The betting action now starts with the player showing the highest poker hand, and continues clockwise around the table. If your bet causes all opponents to fold (on any street), then you will win the hand.
When the 5th card is dealt, the bets are doubled. For example, if you play $1 / $2 7 Card Stud, then the bets on 3rd and 4th street are in $1 units, and the bets on 5th, 6th and 7th street are in $2 units. The player with the best poker hand showing starts the action on each round.
7th Street and Showdown Rules
If you make it to the 7th card, this will be dealt face-down for all players. This means that whichever player started the betting action on 6th street will also start it on 7th street. After all bets and raises have been called, remaining hands are shown down to determine the winner.
The last player to take aggressive action (bet) will show their hand first in a live game, giving the caller a chance to muck. Online, both hands are normally visible.
The winner is the player with the best 5-card poker hand. Suits do not come into play at showdown. Ties can happen, though this is rare. In the Stud Hi-Lo variation, the pot is split between the best high hand and the best qualifying low. To qualify as a low a hand needs to have 5 unique cards 8 and under.
Tips for Playing Stud Poker
One important factor when playing Stud is that there is an extra betting round compared to Holdem type games. With 5 betting rounds, having the second-best hand could prove to be expensive. For this reason, you need to be selective with starting hands, and get out before 5th street betting starts if you feel your hand is weak. Once the bets increase, you can easily get ‘trapped’ into calling – since the pot will be large compared to your chances of improving your hand.
There is a lot of information available in Stud Poker that is not available in other formats. You can see your opponent’s boards ‘improve’, and put together the story they are trying to tell with their bets. You can also see which cards get folded. Remembering these will be a big advantage. This can show you spots where a lot of your ‘outs’ are gone, making it unlikely that you will improve your hand. It can also show the opposite, that many of the cards you need are still in the deck!
Hidden pairs are much stronger than paired starting hands with one card visible. If you pair your ‘door card’, opponents can see this and play safe. If you hit a card which matches a hidden pair, it can look like you missed completely to your opponents – allowing you to win a big pot.