Before Hold'em became a dominating force in the poker world, Stud was the big game all across America. In the post-Hold'em-boom poker world, Stud is becoming rarer, and is mostly played by poker's old-timers.
One of the aims of this article is to try to get new players into this game. Stud was a big game for decades for a very good reason. It's a wonderful game worth getting into, and can make for a great break from the everyday grind of two cards.
This article aims to help beginner players improve their Limit Seven-Card Stud game by playing in a solid, tight and aggressive style. It advocates balancing bluffs and semi-bluffs with mostly solid play, and focuses on third-street play because this betting round is the most important.
If you play correctly on third street you will face fewer difficult situations in subsequent betting rounds, because the game quickly becomes very complex as it progresses.
Limit Seven-Card Stud is a highly strategic game, involving a great deal of skill and discipline, and one that requires players to balance many concepts simultaneously. It is even harder to analyze than Hold'em because of the extra betting round.
As in all forms of poker there are exceptions to the rules, and the concepts addressed in this article should be understood as general guidelines only.
To be a truly successful player, you must be able to make exceptions and use your judgment in order to determine the best possible play. It is virtually impossible to give clear-cut advice that applies to all situations.
The best general advice, as mentioned in this brief introduction to stud, is a line that you're probably very familiar with.
"You only play premium hands. You only start with jacks or better split, nines or better wired, three high cards to a flush. If it's good enough to call, you got to be in there raising, all right?" - Mike McD from Rounders.
Key Skills to Becoming a Successful Seven-Card Stud Player
- Strict hand selection
- Discipline (the ability to wait for a good hand and not chase with second-best hands)
- Ability to read opponents
- Ability to remember the other players' up cards
A Comparison: Seven-Card Stud vs. Texas Hold'em
Here's a list of difference between the two games, some of which are glaringly obvious:
- There are no community cards.
- An ante and a bring-in bet are used instead of blinds.
- There are five betting rounds as compared to four in Hold'em.
- The player who has the best starting hand starts the action on every betting round, except for the first round of betting, when the lowest up card begins.
- You must remember the folded up cards.
- The number of players is limited to a maximum of eight.
- There is no positional advantage before the cards are dealt. The cards determine who acts first and last on every betting round.
- There is no dealer button, as every hand is dealt in the same order starting at the dealer's immediate left.
Structure and Antes
- All players receive two cards dealt face down (hole cards) and one card dealt face up (up card). The cards are dealt one at a time.
- The player with the lowest up card has to make a bring-in bet.
- The betting continues clockwise with the player to the left of the bring-in bet.
- A fourth card is dealt face up. The action begins with the player holding the best up cards and continues clockwise.
- A fifth card is dealt face up. The action begins with the player holding the best up cards and continues clockwise.
- A sixth card is dealt face up. The action begins with the player holding the best up cards and continues clockwise.
- A seventh card is dealt face down. The action begins with the player holding the best up cards and continues clockwise.
- All remaining players make out the best possible five-card poker hand.
The following table shows the most common betting structure in Seven-Card Stud:
Key Advice for Limit Seven-Card Stud
- Be very selective with your starting hands: Nothing is more important than choosing the correct starting hand for a certain situation.
- Play the players: Assess the opposition quickly: who plays inferior hands, who folds at aggression, who bets with draws, who calls bets with weak hands and long-shot draws, who can be bluffed, who bluffs, etc.
- Pump it or dump it: Fold or raise. You should avoid calling unless you have a good reason (like trapping an opponent).
- Remember the up cards: Be sure to look at all of your opponents' up cards and remember them. It is very important to know if the hands are "live" (none or few of the key cards are gone) or not. The only way to get good at this is to practice. The more hands you play, the stronger you will get. Sign up to an online poker room, such as Poker Stars, to play as many free hands of Stud as you like.
- Raise with your strong draws: Betting on the come is even more valuable in Stud than in Hold'em, depending on which parts of your draw are "up" and which are in the hole, or "down". If you're on sixth street with a four-flush (meaning you have four cards to a suit, only needing one more to make a flush), and three of your suited cards are down, betting on the come is less likely to get a fold than if you have three suited up cards.
More Articles in the Guide to Limit Seven-Card Stud:
- Part 2 - Third Street Advice, Starting Hands, Stealing Antes and More
- Part 3 - Playing Rolled-Up Trips, Big Pairs and More.
View Best Rooms to Play: 7 Card Stud