Before community-card games such as Hold'em and Omaha became popular, the most widely played poker variation was Seven-Card Stud.
Even now Stud is regarded as a more "pure" poker variation, as much for its historic past as its increased difficulty of play.
Seven Card Stud requires more attention and card-playing prowess, along the lines of Bridge or Gin, than a community-card game.
This is not to say that Stud is any better than any other variation, but it is a game worth knowing how to play. Every poker player should have the ability to play multiple variations of the game, and Seven-Card is one of the most popular and important.
The game of 7 Card Stud can be played with two to eight players at a table. The goal in Stud is the same as any other poker variation: win as many chips as you can, one pot at a time.
Stud has a lot of little rules and a few quirks, but it's a simple game at its core. The game can be broken up into four sections:
- The Bring
- Betting Rounds
If you've just read the Texas Hold'em Rules and Game Play article, you'll notice that Stud has one more section. For players familiar to the rules and game play of a community-card game, the only completely new concept you'll learn in this article will be "the bring."
The first thing you need to do is get everyone at your table some chips. You will need a combination of chips that will allow for a big bet, small bet and an ante.
The size of the bets will dictate how large your game will play. A big bet is typically twice the size of the small bet, with the ante around 10% of the big bet.
Here's a chart of buy-ins and bets to give you some ideas. The buy-in amounts are the minimum amounts you would want to buy in for the stakes. If you want to be sure to have lots of chips, play with smaller stakes for the buy in - for example, use the bets for a $10 game, and buy in for $20:
Once you all have chips, one player needs to grab the deck and shuffle up. It doesn't matter who starts as the dealer in a Stud game.
Betting Rules: Stud can be played in a variety of different betting structures. This article uses the most common structure: Fixed Limit. To learn about other various betting structures, head to this article (there will be another link at the bottom of this page):
Once the cards are shuffled, all players must ante. Antes are dead money, meaning they go immediately into the pot: any bets you make will be in addition to the antes.
Starting with the player on the dealer's left and moving around the table clockwise, the dealer deals every player two cards face down (all cards face down are known as as down cards or hole cards), followed by one card face up (this card is known as the door card, or window card. All cards face up are collectively known as up cards or show cards).
Why not learn at the table?
In every form of poker, there is some determining factor as to how and where the action starts in the hand. In Hold'em or Omaha the action starts to the left of the big blind; in Stud it starts with the bring.
The player with the lowest-value door card is the one required to "bring it in." Here's what you need to discern the losing player for the bring:
- All cards are worth face value and face cards are valued from worst to best: Jack, Queen, King.
- Aces are high for the bring, which means they rank higher than a king.
- If two players have the same value low card, suits are used to determine the loser.
- Stud uses poker-suit ordering, alphabetic from worst to best: clubs, diamonds, hearts, spades.
The player required to bring has two choices. They can either bring by making a bet equal to the size of the ante, or they can complete the bet to the full amount of the small bet.
Betting Round One (Third Street)
The player to the left of the bring is next to act. That player has three options:
- Fold: They pay nothing to the pot and throw away their hand, waiting for the next deal to play again.
- Call: They match the amount of the bring.
- Raise: If the first player made a minimum bring (only brought the amount of the ante) a raise will be completing the bet to the amount of the small bet limit. If the first player completed their bring to the full small bet a raise would be doubling the small bet amount.
For example in a $20 game:
Player 1 brings 10¢
Player 2 can call 10¢ or complete to 50¢.
Max Bring (Completion)
Player 1 brings (completes) 50¢
Player 2 can call 50¢ or raise to $1
Play moves clockwise around the table one player at a time. A betting round ends when two conditions are met:
- All players have had a chance to act.
- All players who haven't folded have bet the same amount of money for the round.
Betting Round Two (Fourth Street)
Once the first betting round has completed, the dealer deals every player (always starting at the first live player to his or her left and moving clockwise around the table) one card face up, next to the first face-up card.
In this betting round, and every betting round to follow, the first player to act is decided by the value of the show cards. The player with the highest value show cards acts first. The value of show cards are ranked in the same order as poker hands.
On fourth street, with only two cards showing, the best possible hand would be two aces showing (A♠ A♥ to be exact). The worst possible hand would be 2♣ 3♣. Any pair is better than any two non-paired cards; for example 2♣ 2♦ is better than A♠ K♠.
Suit ranks are used in the event of a tie for the highest-ranked show cards. When evaluating rank by suit, the value of the hand is determined by the suit of the highest ranking card. For example:
Player 1: A♠ K♣
Player 2: A♥ K♠
Player 1 has the better hand since the Ace of spades is of higher rank than the Ace of hearts.
Player 1: 3♠ 3♣
Player 2: 3♥ 3♦
Player 1 wins, since they have the Three of Spades, which is a higher ranked card than Player 2's Three of Hearts.
Once you have discerned the highest hand, that person acts first. They have the option to check (wager no money, and move the action to the player on their left) or bet the small betting limit.
The action moves from that player clockwise around the table one player at a time. Each player has the option to:
- Check (if no bet has been made).
- Call (match any bet made).
- Bet/Raise (If no bet is made, they can bet the small limit; if a bet has been made they can raise it by adding an additional amount to the bet, equal to the small limit).
- fold (throw away their hand).
Once every player has acted, and every player that has not folded has put the same amount of money into the pot, the betting round ends.
Betting Round Three (Fifth Street)
At the completion of fourth street, the dealer deals every remaining player another card face up, starting with the first live player to his or her left, moving clockwise around the table.
Once all the cards have been dealt, the betting round starts the same way fourth street started. The player with the best show cards bets first. Three of a kind is the best combination, followed by a pair, followed by the highest cards.
Live Stud's a slow game for the online player.
In this betting round, players bet using the big betting limit. Other than the size of the bets, this betting round is identical to fourth street.
Betting Round Four (Sixth Street)
Sixth street is identical to fifth street. Every player is dealt one card face up, and the highest valued show cards bets first. On sixth street, with four show cards for each player, the best possible show card value is four of a kind.
Sixth street betting uses the big betting limit.
The Final Betting Round (Seventh Street)
When the sixth street betting round is complete, the dealer deals one final card FACE DOWN to every player. Again, the dealer starts at the first player with cards to their left, and moves on clockwise around the table.
The player with the highest-ranked show cards in the previous betting round is the first to act in this betting round as well. The final card having been dealt face down does not affect the value of the four show cards.
The final betting round uses the big betting limit.
Once the final betting round has been completed, the players still in the hand enter into the showdown. In the showdown, each player makes the best five card hand possible out of their own seven cards.
The remaining two cards are "dead" and have no value towards the hand at all. They are never used to evaluate the strength of a hand.
Here are the rules for evaluating the winning hand:
- The poker hand ranking order can be found here. (there will be another link at the bottom of this page) There are no exceptions to this ordering, a flush always beats a straight, and three of a kind always beats two pair.
- There are no other hands used in Stud than the hands listed in this chart. For example, having three pairs is actually only "two pair" with the highest valued two pairs making your hand.
- Poker hands must be exactly five cards and only those five cards are used to evaluate the winning hand. For example:
- if the player holds 2♥ J♣ Q♣ K♠ A♦ 10♠ 9♣, the player's best hand is a straight: 10♠ J♣ Q♣ K♠ A♦
- If all remaining players have nothing, no pair or anything stronger, the winning hand is the hand with the highest valued single card. meaning:
- A♣ 3♥ 4♦ 6♠ 7♠ is a better hand than K♠ Q♠ J♣ 9♣ 8♦
- A♣ J♥ 9♠ 8♦ 6♥ is a better hand than A♥ J♣ 9♦ 8♣ 2♠
- Suits are never used to evaluate the strength of a hand. If two players have the exact same hand (disregarding the suits of the cards), the pot is split between the players.
Once you have discerned the winning hand, that player is awarded the pot. After the pot has been shipped, all players ante and are dealt their next hand. Unless you have a professional dealer, typically the role of dealer will rotate around the table, although it is not necessary for Stud.
Having one player as the dealer for the entire duration of the game will give no player an advantage or disadvantage during the game.
Fourth Street Open Pair: If a player pairs up their door card on fourth street (giving them a pair as the winning high hand for fourth street), the player has the option of checking, betting the small limit or betting the big limit.
If the player chooses to check, the next player to act inherits the same options (meaning they can check, or bet either the small or big limit).
If a player chooses to bet the larger betting limit, all bets and raises in that betting round must be in the big betting limit unit. For example in a $10-$20 limit game, if a player is dealt a pair on fourth street, they can bet $10 or $20.
If they choose to bet $20, the next player must fold, call $20 or raise to $40.
Capping the Bet: In any one betting round while there are three or more players still in the hand, there can only be one bet and three raises. Once the third raise has been made, the betting is "capped," meaning all future action in that betting round is restricted to calling or folding.
Running Out of Cards: If you are playing with eight people, it is not possible for every player to be dealt a full 7 cards, since there are only 52 cards in the deck.
If you ever get to the point where all eight players are in the hand until seventh street, instead of dealing every player one card, you must deal a single card face up in the middle of the table.
This card is used as a community card (like in Hold'em or Omaha). Every player shares that card as the seventh card of their hand.
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