Even now Stud is regarded as a more "pure" poker variation, as much for its historic past as for its increased difficulty of play. 7-Card Stud requires more attention and card-playing prowess, along the lines of Bridge or Gin, than a community-card game.
That's not to say Stud is a "better" poker game than any other variation but it is a game worth knowing how to play - especially if you're interested in playing 8-Game or any other mixed games.
Every poker player should have the ability to play multiple variations of poker and 7-Card is one of the most popular and important.
How to Play 7-Card Stud
The game of 7 Card Stud can be played with 2-8 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. 7-Card Stud rules can be broken up into four sections:
- The Bring
- Betting Rounds
If you've just read the Texas Hold'em Poker Rules 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."
Watch our introductory 7-Card Stud video below for a quick run through the basics of 7 Card Stud rules.
Watch and Learn How to Play 7-Card Stud
7-Card Stud - Game Setup
The first thing you need to do (if you're playing 7 Card Stud for your home game) is get everyone at your table some chips.
You'll 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.
Note: 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:
|Recommended Buy-in||Big Bet||Small Bet||Ante|
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.
7-Card Stud Betting Rules and Dealing
In Limit Stud the betting limits are fixed at set amounts. The size of the game is determined by the bet size. For example, in a $4/$8 game the small bet is $4 and the big bet is $8.
The ante is typically 10% of the big bet. A minimum "bring in" is equal to the ante.
Betting and raising is done in increments of the big or small bet (depending on what street the betting is taking place.)
For the first two betting rounds betting is done in increments of the small bet. So in our example a bet would be $4, and a raise would be an additional $4 making a total bet of $8.
In the last three betting rounds betting is done in increments of the big bet. A bet would be $8 while a raise would be to $16.
The limit betting structure puts a cap on the number of raises. In most venues there is a maximum of a bet and three raises although some rooms have a cap of four raises.
7-Card Stud: Ante and Bring
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 "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).
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 up card is the one required to "bring it in."
Here's what you need to discern the 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¢.
Maximum 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 (AA to be exact). The worst possible hand would be 23. Any pair is better than any two non-paired cards; for example 22 is better than AK.
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.
Player 1: AK
Player 2: AK
Player 1 has the better hand since the Ace of spades is of higher rank than the Ace of hearts.
Player 1: 33
Player 2: 33
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.
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.
7-Card Stud - Which Hand Wins
Here are the rules for evaluating a winning hand in 7 Card Stud:
- 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 2JQKA109, the player's best hand is a straight: 10JQKA
- If all remaining players have nothing, no pair or anything stronger, the winning hand is the hand with the highest valued single card. meaning:
- A3467 is a better hand than KQJ98
- AJ986 is a better hand than AJ982
- 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.
Stud Eight-or-Better (Stud Hi-Lo)
Also known as Stud EB and Stud Hi-Lo, Stud Eights-or-Better plays the same as Stud. Everyone antes, the low card brings and you get three cards off the deal.
The difference in Stud EB is the same as between Omaha and O8, where the qualifying low hand wins half the pot.
As in O8 the low is made up of the lowest five-card hand, all cards being below eight in value, with no pairs. Straights and flushes do not count against you, making the nut low A-2-3-4-5.
Stud Hi-Lo Starting Hands
Starting hands for Stud EB are the same as both Stud and Razz. A monster Stud starting hand can be good for the high, while a monster Razz starting hand is good for the low. The best are hands with the option for scooping, making A32 the best possible Stud EB starting hand.
7 Card Stud Hi-Lo Showdown Rules
The high hand in a 7 Card Stud Hi-Lo game is identical to the winning hand of a standard 7 Card Stud game. Half the pot is awarded to the player who holds this hand.
Low hands must qualify to be eligible for winning the low half of the pot.
- The cards a player uses for her best high hand have no effect on the low. A player can use any five cards from her hand, regardless of the cards used in her high hand.
- A qualifying low hand is defined as: five unpaired cards, all with ranks at or below eight.
- Aces are considered low for the low hand.
- Flushes and straights do not count for the low, meaning the best low possible is A-2-3-4-5.
- Low hands are counted from the top down, meaning the hand is only as good as its highest card. For example:
- 23567 is lower than A2348
- Any hand with a pair, or a card higher than eight, does not qualify, even if the rank of the pair is below eight.
- Suits do not count toward a low; any players sharing the exact same low must equally split the low half of the pot. (Winning half of the low pot and nothing from the high pot is known as being quartered.)
Hand 1: A2KK345
Hand 2: A3QQQ3
High Winner: Hand 2 wins with a full house, queens over threes: QQQ33.
Low Winner: Hand 1 wins with a five-four low: 5432A (Hand 2 doesn't have a qualifying low).
- If there is an extra odd chip that cannot be split in half, this chip is always added to the pot awarded to the winning high hand.
- If there is no qualifying low hand the entire pot is awarded to player with the winning high hand.
- Players can win one or both halves of the pot with the same or different cards from their hand.
- A player does not have to announce what half of the pot they're playing for at the beginning of the hand. This is only required in other variations of poker, known as "declare" games.
Basic 7-Card Stud Hi-Lo Strategy
In Omaha 8 or Better you always want to be playing for the high with a redraw to the low.
Stud Hi-Lo is the opposite: You want to play for the low with a redraw to the high. It's easy to get quartered for half the low pot by playing exclusively low.
In Stud EB it's much easier to discern if you have the winning low than the high. You use the same technique as you would in Razz, and read the other players' board cards.
Also, the low card is forced to bring in Stud. If you're dealt three to a bike you have the chance to complete, adding money to the pot with well on the way to half the pot.
You have to correctly gauge your own hand and pit it against your opponents' hands. Who's chasing what? Who's on the high and who's on the low? Whom can you beat?
You want to play the low and hopefully pick up a high along the way. The beauty of hitting the wheel is it can be good for both the high and the low if no one can beat the baby straight.
Spread-Limit 7-Card Stud
Another popular betting structure, known as Spread-Limit, is typically exclusive to Stud (occasionally players will play other games as Spread-Limit, but it's extremely rare).
This betting structure is the rarest and as such the least standardized of all Stud structures. The rules you will encounter in one room may change to the next. Even with the variation in specific rules, the standard concepts stay the same:
- There is a set minimum bet and a set maximum bet.
- All bets made on any street must be at or between the limits.
- For example, in a $1 to $5 Spread-Limit game, a player can bet as little as $1 or as much as $5 at any time.
- In a variation of Spread-Limit, the limit doubles on the later streets. For example "$1 to $5 with a $10 on the end" would allow bets from $1 to $10 on the later betting streets.
- A minimum raise is double the previous bet.
- A maximum raise is raising by the top end of the spread limit. For example:
- If a player bets $2 in our $1 to $5 game, a minimum raise would be a bet of $4, a maximum raise would be a bet of $7.
- If a player bets $5 the only allowable raise would be raising by $5 for a total bet of $10.
- Typically there is a cap on raises, just as in a Limit game. The number of allowable raises changes depending on the house rules, but most often you're allowed one bet and three raises.
- Many low-limit Spread-Limit games have no ante, but the ones that do have one typically set it around 25% of the minimum bet.
- The minimum bring is equal to the ante (or in some places without an ante, the minimum bring is equal to the bottom end of the spread).
- A player wishing to complete the bring can bet any amount within the spread.
For high-limit Stud players looking for lots of action Pot-Limit is the only way to go. Because there are five betting rounds in Stud as compared to four in Hold'em or Omaha, a Pot-Limit Stud game can play much larger than a Pot-Limit game of another form.
The size of the game depends on the size of the buy-in and ante amount. Typically the ante is around 1/200th of the buy-in, making a $1 ante for a $200 buy-in game. The bring minimum is equal to the size of the ante.
How you determine the maximum bet is by counting all the money in the pot and all the bets on the table, including any call you would make before raising. (It sounds more complicated than it really is). Two examples for you:
You're first to act on third street (you need to bring) with a pot of $5. You have the option to bet as little as the amount of the ante ($1) or as much as the pot ($5). Any bet in between is a "legal bet."
You're second to act on fourth street. With a pot of $15, the first player bets $10. You now have the option to fold, call ($10) or raise.
Your minimum raise is equal to the amount of the previous bet. In this hand your minimum raise is $10 ($10 + $10 for a total bet of $20).
Your maximum raise is the amount of the pot. To do this, add up the pot + the bet + your call ($15 + $10 + $10 = $35). You are allowed to bet that total amount in addition to your call, meaning your total bet is $45 ($10 for the call + $35 for the size of the pot).
You can raise any amount in between the minimum and the maximum raise amount.
More 7-Card Stud Rules
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's 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.