Deception and the Ability of Your Opponents
A question you must always address, then, is when to play a hand straightforwardly and when to use deception. The most important criterion for making this decision is the ability of your opponents. The tougher they are, the more you must consider playing a hand other than optimally to throw them off. The weaker they are, the more you can get away with optimum play. Thus, if you have a good hand on an early round, you would not put in that last raise against tough players, but with a weaker hand you might consider putting in an extra bet to make your opponents think your hand is stronger than it is. For example, with a three flush on third street in seven-card stud you might throw in a reraise to create the wrong impression. Now if you happen to pair on board, you have the extra equity that your opponents may fold incorrectly, afraid you have three-of-a-kind or two pair.

On the other hand, if you are playing against dunces or just mediocre players, you don't gain enough in deception to justify the cost. Against such players you should put in an extra raise when you think you have the best hand, but throwing in an extra bet with a weaker hand, against someone who won't fold anyway, simply costs you extra money. In using deception, then, you must weigh the ability of your opponents against the extra cost.
Your kicker starts to matter a lot when you have a medium pair. For a hand to be playable, you need all three starting cards working together. If you have a pair of Aces, then any kicker works with it for Aces up potential. But with a smaller pair, you need a good-sized kicker to have a draw at a high two pair. Medium-sized two pair, like 9s and 6s for example, are not strong hands in seven-card stud and are probably overall money losers for most players. Actually, medium-sized two pair are probably long-term money losers for most players in any popular form of poker today. A lot of players seem to think all two pair are alike, and this is far from correct.
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