Prior to Texas Hold´em Poker being introduced into Las Vegas in the1970s, 7 Card Stud was the most popular variant of poker being played throughout casinos all over the world. It still remains a popular game in tournament format and as part of mixed poker games, but sadly few online poker sites see much cash game traffic for 7 Card Stud Poker except at nosebleed stakes.
There are several reasons for this. Firstly, 7 Card Stud Poker is most commonly played at Fixed Limit. This means that unless there are a load of people involved in a hand, the pot is rarely going to be very valuable. It takes longer to play a hand of 7 Card Stud than other variants of poker, and there are not so many opportunities to bluff – so it tends to be a very tight game.
How to Play 7 Card Stud
One other major difference between 7 Card Stud Poker and games such as Texas Hold´em and Omaha Poker is that there are no community cards. Each player is dealt seven cards – two face down, four face up, and a final card face down – from which they have to make the best five-card hand of poker. You can see what constitutes the best five-card hand of poker on my page about the hand rankings.
Not all the cards are dealt at once. The first three cards are dealt at the start of the game, followed by a round of betting (described below). Subsequent cards (or “streets”) are dealt individually, with a round of betting following each. Watch out for the stakes doubling after fifth street. This can often make it expensive to see a hand to the end of the game if you are chasing a drawing hand (a straight or flush).
Starting Each Hand
Each hand of 7 Card Stud begins with three cards being dealt to each player – two “face down” that only the player can see, and one “face up” that everyone can see. The player with the lowest face up card pays a “bring-in” – normally around 30% of the stakes that are being played for – and the action continues clockwise around the table, with each subsequent player having the option of calling the “bring-in” (if it has not yet been raised), raising the bet by the stake units that are being played for, calling a raise or folding their cards.
In the event of two players having an exposed card of equal value, there is a suit hierarchy. Spades is considered the highest suit, followed by hearts, diamonds and clubs. Therefore if Player A is showing X-X-2♣ and Player B is showing X-X-2♥, Player A will be responsible for paying the “bring-in”. In some cash games and in the later stages of tournaments, it may also be necessary for players to pay a small ante at the start of each hand.
In most online games of 7 Card Stud Poker, the first round of betting concludes when every player has had the opportunity to bet, call, raise or fold their cards. Usually in fixed limit games of 7 Card Stud, a maximum of four bets/raises is allowed before the betting is concluded. Once betting has finished, a fourth card is dealt face up to each player still active in the hand.
After the fourth card has been dealt, the player with the best exposed cards starts a second round of betting. Aces can be high or low when compiling a hand in 7 Card Stud, but for the purposes of determining who has the best exposed cards at the start of the second round of betting, Aces are always considered to be high. Again, if two hands are identical in value, the hierarchy of the suits is taken into account.
In the event that a player is showing a pair, that player has the option of playing for the “Big Bet” – effectively double the normal betting stake at this stage. Therefore, if you were playing in a game of 7 Card Stud Poker with a stake value of $1.00/$2.00, the second round of betting would normally be conducted in units of $1.00. If a pair is showing, players have the option of playing in units of $2.00, but they do not necessarily have to take it.
Once the second round of betting has been concluded, each active player is dealt a fifth card face up. Another round of betting begins with the player who has the highest value exposed cards, but at double the bet size of the first round. If you are playing in a game of 7 Card Stud Poker with a stake value of $1.00/$2.00, the first two rounds of betting are conducted in units of $1.00 (unless a pair is showing on fourth street). From fifth street until the end of the hand, betting is conducted in units of $2.00.
Betting continues in a clockwise direction, with each player having the option to “check” (if no bets have yet been made), “bet”, “call”, “raise”, or “fold”. Again betting is capped at four raises and, once each bet has been matched (“called”) or every player has “checked” the round of betting, the round is concluded. If one player bets, and every other player folds, the hand concludes with the betting player collecting the pot. This can happen after any round of betting in 7 Card Stud.
Sixth and Seventh Streets
The penultimate card and round of betting is known as sixth street. By now players have a good site of two-thirds of their opponents´ cards and should be able to weigh up the relative strengths of each other´s hands. A fourth round of betting commences with the player showing the strongest hand from their exposed cards and progresses as previously among the remaining active players.
Once this round of betting has finished, the remaining active players are dealt a final card “face down” (that only they can see). A final round of betting follows, at the end of which the remaining active players have a “showdown”. Starting with the last player to bet or raise, each player takes it in turn to reveal or muck their cards. The player(s) with the best five-card hand of poker takes the pot. If two hands are of equal value – for example a five-to-nine straight – the hierarchy of the suits is not a factor and the pot is evenly divided.
Because 7 Card Stud does not involve so much bluffing, my P.O.K.E.R. advice for this game is not the same as you will find on other “Guides to Online Poker Games”. The key to playing 7 Card Stud Poker profitably is making a mental note of the exposed cards that other players have folded and how that affects your odds – and the odds of other players – of making a winning hand.
Patience – I mentioned above that it takes much longer to play a hand of 7 Card Stud– usually due to their being an extra round of betting compared to Texas Hold´em and Omaha Poker, and more players usually remaining involved after the start of a hand. Be patient and wait for the right starting hand to come along, rather than get involved in too many hands and leak chips like a sieve.
Observation – I normally harp on about observing the betting actions of other players seated at the table, and although this is important in 7 Card Stud, your observations should also be focused on the exposed cards that are subsequently folded. A good tip to remember is not only what cards were folded, but why. For example, a player folding a Queen on third street would not have had another Queen in their face down cards, and probably had two non-suited, low value cards.
Keenness – Keenness – the enthusiasm of a player to make a swift bet when it is their turn in the betting action – is a major “tell” in 7 Card Stud Poker. With the exception of the very best players, this often means that a player has been dealt the card that completes a very valuable hand. Unless you have identified the player as a regular bluffer, think hard before calling or raising their bet when it is your turn to act. Also, watch out for your own “tells”.
Eight – “Eight” has two possible meanings in 7 Card Stud. It can refer to the maximum number of players seated around a table, or “Stud Poker Eights or Better” – a variant of 7 Card Stud Poker in which the pot is divided between players with the highest five-card hand and the best qualifying “Lo” hand. You can find out more about this variant of 7 Card Stud in my guide to “7 Card Stud Hi/Lo Poker”.
Risk – Knowing how much you may be risking in each hand of 7 Card Stud will enable you to play at a stake level where your bankroll is not in danger of being wiped out. In our example above, we used the stake unit of $1.00/$2.00. If the betting in each round went to the maximum four raises, and there was a pair showing on fourth street that was played at double the stake unit, you could be paying as much as $36.00 to remain in each hand until showdown. Be prepared for that eventuality and choose an appropriate stake level at which to play 7 Card Stud.