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Seven-Card Stud

In seven-card stud each player antes a token sum of money into the pot before receiving any cards. In a fixed limit games with $2 and $4 betting limits, an ante of 50 cents is typical, and betting is in increments of two dollars until the fifth card is dealt, when the limit increases to four dollars.

Another frequent structure is a $1-to-$4 "spread limit" games, in which players may bet between one and four dollars at any time. Three or four raises per betting round are usually allowed, with the proviso that a raise must be at least the size of the previous bet or raise.

If Karen for example, bets one dollar, and Abby raises two dollars, 'David can play if he calls three dollars (the total of Karen's bet and Abby's raise). If David has a good hand and wants to raise, the minimum allowable raise is now two dollars. He can also raise three dollars, or raise four dollars. If David raised four dollars, the next player to act may fold, call seven dollars to match David's raise above the prior wager, or raise four dollars more, making it a total of eleven dollars for the next player.

How To Play Seven-Card Stud

The dealer shuffles, cuts the cards, and - beginning with the player on his left - deals to each player who has posted an ante, until each player has three cards. Therefore, this point in the hand is called "Third Street."

Two of the cards are face down and one is face up. The two cards dealt face down are yours alone to look at, and are referred to as your "hole cards." (In case you wondered where the expression "...an ace in the hole" originated; now you know.) The card dealt face up is called the "door card."

The holder of the lowest ranking door card is forced to make a token starting bet, called the "bring-in bet," or simply the "bring-in." or say, one dollar - which would be correct for the $2-$4 fixed limit structure we're discussing. If two or more door cards are of the same rank the low card by suit "brings it in." The lowest suit is clubs, followed by diamonds, hearts, and spades. This by the way, is one of the very few times suits matter in poker.

Once the bring-in bet has been made, each player - beginning with the player to the left of the bring-in  has an opportunity to:

- Relinquish any claim to the pot by "folding."

- Call the amount of the bring-in bet, or

- Complete the bet to the two-dollar limit.

If you bet or raise, and your opponents all surrender the pot by folding, you win. If two or more players remain after the first betting round, the dealer gives each active player another card face up, and a second round of betting ensues.

This time, however, the holder of the lowest card showing is spared, since the holder of the highest hand on board must now act first (a rule that applies to all subsequent betting rounds). He either checks - really a bet of nothing - or wagers two dollars. If there's a pair "on board" (showing faces up in anyone's hand), the player has the option of making a double bet of four dollars, or the standard bet of two dollars. Poker players refer to this second round of betting as "Fourth Street."

If two or more players remain after Fourth Street, each player receives another card face up, and another betting round - Fifth Street - begins. On Fifth Street, however, betting increments double. In our example, betting limits would now escalate from two to four dollars. The highest-ranking hand still acts first, and may again check or bet. Action proceeds as before.

Sixth Street is a mirror of Fifth Street. If several players are active, there's a nice pot by now.

On Seventh Street - often called "the River" - each active player gets a final card. This final card, like the first two cards dealt, is face down and thus makes up the last of the "hole" cards. If two or more players are still vying for the pot when the betting concludes, the hands are turned face up. At this "showdown," the best five-card poker hand, composed of any five-card combination home all seven cards in a player's hand, is the winner.

Some Stud Tips

Once you've glanced at your hole cards look around to see whether any ~'up cards in your opponents' hands affect your own. If some of the S you'll need to improve your hand belong to others, those cards are said to be "dead" to you. Seven-card stud, therefore, is a game of live cards. Take advantage of Internet anonymity: Take plenty of notes on which cards are dead.

Let's say your first three cards are K?9?5? - a promising beginning for a flush. But wait - are the other clubs you need live or dead? If only one or two other clubs are exposed, you can take another card to see whether it helps your hand. But if three or four other clubs stare back at you from opponents' upcards, don't even think about it: When it's your turn to act, just fold.

Unless your three suited cards are very high in rank, or sequenced as well as suited - like J? T ? 9?, providing a chance to make a straight as well as a flush - throw them away whenever you see three or more of your suit showing. There are only 13 cards of each suit, and you need five of them to make a flush. If the cards you need are out already, there's no chance they'll be dealt to you. On the other hand, if you don't see the cards you'd like to receive, chances are they're still in the deck. That doesn't mean they'll be dealt to you, but at least you have a chance.

The first major decision point in seven-card stud occurs right away, on the initial betting round: Be choosy about the hands you play on Third Street. That's right - when you get those very first three cards! Seven card stud rewards patience above all other virtues.

Your second crucial decision will be made on Fifth Street, when the betting limits double. If you call a bet on Fifth Street, it's usually correct to continue on until the bitter end. Winning players confronted with a bet on Fifth Street typically discard lots of hands that began with great potential, but died on the vine.

Starting with Three-of-a-Kind

Three-of-a-kind in your first three cards is about as good as it gets. If you're fortunate enough to be "rolled-up," or "wired," as stud players like to call this, don't come out raising. You almost certainly have the best hand right now, so you can afford to call quietly: Give opponents a chance to improve their hands. Against just a few opponents, the best time to raise with three-of-a-kind is usually on Fifth Street, when the betting limits double and opponents are more committed to their hands.

On the other hand, small trips (deuces through nines) are relatively vulnerable. Especially in a loose game, you may want to play them aggressively from the start in order to protect them. Big pairs in your opponents' hands can become bigger trips than yours, so you want to make it as expensive as possible for them to draw against you. You only figure to be rolled up once every 425 hands, so make the most of such good luck whenever it comes around.

When You Have Been Dealt a Pair

A pair on your first three cards can be a strong raising hand, or weak enough to fold. As is often the case in poker decisions, it depends. If its any pair but aces, and you see just one other card of the same rank on board, you may be better off folding unless you're a skillful, experienced player.

You should raise to eliminate opposition if you start with a pair bigger than any cards you see in opponents' hands. A big pair plays better against a few opponents than against an entire table of adversaries. And raising makes it more costly for anyone with sequenced or suited cards to stick around and get lucky by making a straight or flush that wins the pot.

If you're dealt a small or medium pair, your third card - the "kicker," as it's called - becomes vitally important. If it's live, and bigger than any exposed cards, you can keep playing. If your kicker is big and live, you might make two pair bigger than any two pair an opponent might make. Two pair is a pretty good hand in seven-card stud, and you'll win many a pot with it. But if your two pair are smaller than your opponent's, you'll find yourself calling all the way, only to lose money unless you're lucky enough to improve your hand.

Drawing

A drawing hand - like four cards to a flush or open-ended straight - is a hand with great promise. But unless you catch one of the cards you need to complete your draw, it's worthless.

So the cards you need must be live. It helps if your starting cards are higher in rank than your opponents' visible cards, since you can win by pairing big cards even if your draw fails.

Bluffing

The biggest mistake most players make is to call when they should fold. In the movies, the art of bluffing is what separates great poker players from the rest. But in lower limit games - the kind you'll play in while you're learning and improving - it seldom pays to bluff. After all, most players come to play, not to throw away hand after hand. In general: Save your bluffing money for bigger games unless you have good reason to believe your opponents will fold if you bet. Nevertheless, feel free to steal antes whenever you can. If you have a big card showing, and no one's in the pot on Third Street when it's your turn to act, raise and try to steal the antes. Unless they have something of substance, opponents will gladly fold to get on with the games.

 



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