7-Card stud poker is similar to Texas Hold ‘Em in so far as you use your best five cards out of a total of seven to make your best poker hand, but that’s exactly where it ends. This article is designed to help those who understand the gameplay get ahead of the competition, particularly at the beginning levels, when a lot of players don’t understand what they’re doing and stick to traditional Omaha or Texas Hold ‘Em playing styles.
In 7-card stud, playing third street (your first three cards) is critical to your success in any given hand. Let’s take a look at starting hands in their order of value, starting with trips.
Starting out with three of a kind in your first three cards is called being “rolled up.” The odds aren’t exactly friendly for this — 424:1, in fact — but they are the very top of the food chain. Small trips (555, for instance) should be played fast so they don’t get run down by people building flushes and straights. Three aces, two down and one up, is the equivalent of AA in hold ’em. It might be tempting to slow play trip Aces but it’s likely to look very suspicious to your opponents if you check an open Ace.
Premium pairs (tens or better) can either be dealt both in the hole or split between the hole and face-up. Of course, having both in the hole is to be preferred. Have TT, JJ, QQ or KK gives you a decent chance of prevailing, so they should always be played unless a player with a higher door cord raises and someone with an event higher door card follows with a re-raise. Generally speaking, these hands play better heads-up or in a small field so raising to thin the field is usually a good strategy.
Drawing hands offer good potential, but they’re not premium hands on their own and should be approached with a bit of caution. Good drawing hands (such as three of a kind) do better when they offer some additional coverage, such as an Ace or a higher straight potential. Drawing hands also rely heavily on live cards. If you have a three flush but there are three additional up cards of your suit in opponents’ hands, your draw has dropped significantly in value. You’ll also want to keep in mind that drawing hands play better in multi-way pots, do you shouldn’t bother to thin the field like you would with premium pairs.
Smaller pairs are frequently guided by the value of their kicker. If you’ve got a pair of sevens on third street and a player with a ten as their door card raises, it’s probably not worth calling unless you’ve got a face card as your backup. Your opponent can make two pair just as you can but if both of your two pair are below the value of his door card, you could be headed to a major dent in your chip stack. Inexperienced seven card stud players often overrate small pairs.
The most important decision you can make in a 7-card stud poker game is whether or not you’re playing on Third Street. If you make an error here, it can be compounded greatly later on and become costly due to the fact that there are give betting rounds in 7-card stud versus four in hold ’em or Omaha. Monster hands are also stealthier in 7-card stud, so you’ll have to be very aware of the door cards your opponents have and what they actually means.