As one of the most popular types of poker, Stud Hi, or Seven Card Stud, can be a technically demanding game. It is based on the challenge of obtaining the highest poker hand and the best A-5 lowball hand, which will result in a pot split during the showdown. In a traditional Seven Card Stud (Stud Hi) game, each player will be dealt seven cards over the course of developing a hand. However, the best possible hand will be a combination of only five cards being held by every player.
Long before the invention of Omaha Poker or Texas Hold’em, 7 Card Stud was the most widely enjoyed and played variation on poker around the world. Typically referred to as “pure” poker, it can be a more challenging form of poker play when compared to any of its counterparts. The game of Stud Hi require significantly more attention and a commanding prowess at card playing, akin to playing Gin or Bridge, and less like traditional community card games.
Stud Hi, or 7 Card Stud is usually played with between 2 to 8 players around the poker table, and always with a 52-card deck. The ultimate goal of playing Stud Hi is identical to any other type of poker variation, in that the player is always attempting to win as many chips as possible, at only one hand at a time, to take the pot.
The Stud Button
Unlike traditional poker games that use a blind, the dealer position in Stud Hi does not change or rotate. A “stud button”, or white disk, is used to indicate the nominal deal position during each hand. In effect, seat position eight will always have the “stud button,” with every new deal beginning at seat position one.
Stud Hi Basics
Filled with odd quirks and a tremendous number of little rules, the basic feature of 7 Card Stud (Stud Hi) is that it is truly a simple game when compared to other variations of poker. The rules include the Set-up, the Bring, the Betting Rounds and the final Showdown.
Initially, every player at the table is required to bring chips to the game. The combination of chips should allow for placing an ante, a small bet and a big bet. The size of each player’s bet is initially dictated on exactly how huge the game will become, based on the number of players and the level of play. A typical big bet can be defined as a bet that is double the size of the small bet. Every ante in the game usually comprises of approximately 10% of the big bet. An example of the limits on low/high bets and the ante would be X, X*2 with an ante of X*2/10, or $3, $6 with an ante of $.60.
The “Bring” in Stud Hi is really no different than any other type of poker, in that it is used as a determining factor of exactly how the poker hand action will begin. In Omaha Poker, or a Texas Hold’em game, the action of the poker game starts with the individual sitting immediately to the left of the player that placed the big blind. Alternatively, in Stud Hi, the action begins with the “Bring.”
The “Bring” is the bet that is brought into the game by the player that displays the lowest value face up (door) card on the table. Every player holding a losing hand that is required to provide the “Bring” can choose between two options that include:
· The player can provide a full amount “Bring” equal to the size of a small bet
· The player can offer a “Bring” by matching a bet that is the size of the ante
To determine exactly who the “Bring” player will be in each hand, the decision will be based on:
· Every door card that has a face value is ranked in ordinal sequence with 10 having a greater value than 9, and face cards ranked lowest to highest as jack, queen, king.
· In Stud Hi, all aces are considered the highest card for the “Bring,” meaning they have greater value than the king.
· When two players share an identical value low card, the suit will determine which player is holding the losing card. The value of suits is determined alphabetically with the best being spades, followed by hearts, diamonds and finally clubs.
Like every other poker game, each player participating in Stud Hi has the same opportunities during every betting round. They can hold their bet, call the bet or raise an existing bet. The betting round always begins with the player sitting directly to the left of the “Bring”. Each action includes:
Folding the Bet – By folding the bet, the player gives up their hand, and waits for the next hand dealt out by the dealer. Any money placed into the pot by that player is forfeited when folding their bet.
Calling the Bet – Calling the bet is simply a match of a raised bet, without adding any additional money to the pot higher the previously raised amount.
Raising the Bet – When a player chooses to raise the bet, they are indicating to their opponents that they believe they have the winning hand. Raising the bet has the ability to expand the size of the pot.
Winning the Pot
After every betting round has been completed, the remaining players still holding their cards automatically enter into the showdown. The winner will be the player holding the best five-card hand in the remaining group, formed with a combination of any five cards in the seven cards they hold. Both of the remaining cards not used to make the best five-card hand combination have no value and are considered “dead”. They are not used to evaluate any part of the player’s hand strength.
Playing the Game
Any player that has developed a strong theoretical knowledge of poker enjoys playing complicated card games. Often times, successful poker players take full advantage of their opponent’s poor decisions and mistakes. Based on the skill of the player, they can easily develop a strategy for playing and winning the game. Part of the strategy includes:
· The Foundation – In Stud Hi, the first three cards that are dealt to each player in the game build the foundation for every possibility of this hand’s future. To become successful, and win pots, it is essential that the player stays with the cards that can formulate the best winning hands.
· Start and Stay – Whenever players hold promising hands, it is essential to start and stay with the most hopeful cards that have the best potential for increasing bets and raises. In order to have every opportunity for winning, it is essential to hold a quality minimum starting hand that includes three cards with the potential of:
o Three of a kind
o A straight flush
o A flush
o A straight
o A pair of tens (or higher)
o A low or middle pair with a king or ace kicker
o A concealed pair with at least one face card kicker
o Three high cards with the possible flush or straight
· The Play – At the beginning of every Stud Hi hand, after every ante is in place, the game’s dealer will deal two cards face down in front of every player with a single card face up and exposed on the table. The dealer begins at seat position #1. As with every poker game, the two down cards are referred to as the pocket cards or hole cards. Usually, the first two rounds of betting are at the low level, or a low bet. The first round of betting, often referred to as Third Street, will begin with the player that is holding a losing up card, or one that has the lowest value when compared to all of his or her opponents.
· Third Street – Once the initial cards have been dealt, the player holding the lowest or losing door card (the card facing up on the table) will need to place a bet. The bet they place is required to be a specified minimum, or low, bet. It is referred to as the “bring,” because it is a forced “required” bet. Traveling around the table clockwise, every player has the option of folding their hand, calling the bet, or raising the bet. Any player that folds will have their cards removed from play for the remainder of the hand.
· Fourth Street – After every player sitting at the Stud Hi table has completed their round by either betting, raising or folding, the next round begins. The dealer will distribute a second up card, often referred to as Fourth Street, to every remaining active player still holding cards. Once the next up card is in position, another round of betting will commence. Typically, the Fourth Street bet is usually at the lower betting limit. The commencement of betting at the Fourth Street, and all remaining streets, begins with the player holding the highest board, or the highest combination of cards face up on the table.
· Fifth Street – Like Fourth Street, Fifth Street offers the same opportunity to every player team to either check or call the bet for this round, after receiving their next up card (Fifth Street). They can also fold instead of bet. Every placed bet during Fifth Street is the higher limit bet.
· Sixth Street – Once Fifth Street is completed, the dealer distributes the fourth up card (Sixth Street) to every remaining player. The following round of betting is similar to Fifth Street, where every player has the ability to check their bet, call the bet, raise the bet, or fold.
· Seventh Street (The River Card) – At the completion of Sixth Street, the dealer will distribute the final card to every player face down on the table. Often referred to as the River card or Seventh Street, this hand allows for the same betting opportunities as the last couple of high limit bets. Any remaining player still holding active cards at the end of Seventh Street will automatically enter the showdown.
· The Showdown – For every remaining player still holding active cards, the final showdown will determine the winner of the pot. The reveal of every remaining player’s hand happens in a clockwise motion, usually commencing with the player that made the last raised bet.
All remaining active players are required to produce their hands to determine the winner. The winning hand is determined by the combination of the best five cards among every remaining player’s seven cards. Any ties during the showdown will split the pot equally amongst every player that has an equal valued winning hand.
Generally speaking, the most effective decisions in winning the Stud Hi (7 Card Stud) game will be determined at Third Street. At that point of the game, every player must make the decision whether or not they will fold their hand, or play their hand along with the exact strategy for playing it.
Due to numerous considered factors for making the best decision, players often find ways to develop short-handed pots, or multi-way pots. Many times, players will be holding a drawing hand that can easily turn into a multi-way pot including: three-straights, three-flushes, or any variation on either one. Usually, any hand that holds big pairs plays well in winning the short-handed pots.
Making the best determination on exactly which cards to play in every hand, the players usually follow a guideline that includes:
Determining which cards are still out (alive) in the game
Calculating how many players remain active in the pot, when it is their turn to act
Determining if the players at the table are playing loose or tight
Calculating the odds by the number of players that are currently sitting and playing at the table
Making a determination based on how many times the pot has been raised, along with the position of the players raising their bets
Taking into consideration the player’s position in relationship to the player raising the bet, if applicable
It is essential to take into consideration all the remaining cards that are still “alive”, or out, and how many players remain active in the game. Often times, a player will consider both of these issues to make a determination as to whether or not they should throw away their best Third Street hand. The determination is usually based on justifying a call or raise based on the odds or chances of winning. It is crucial to watch for other cards as they turn up and reveal themselves on the table.
Splits vs. Wired Pairs
A player holding split pairs will have half of the pair exposed on the table, and the other concealed as a pocket card, or hole card, being held close to the vest. Wired pairs are described as any pair that is completely concealed from all the other players, without an exposed card on the table. Alternatively, split pairs reveal too much information to the opponents, diminishing the cards’ effectiveness at betting and winning pots.
For obvious reasons, a wired pair will have significantly higher value than pairs that are split. A wired two pair offers a level of deception to the player’s opponents. Based on the up cards, every opponent may realize that the player has not improved their hand, when in fact, they have. Successful players do not bet during every round, when holding a wired pair. To be effective, most wired pairs work best when betting against the fewest opponents possible.
The Importance of Not Chasing the Straights
In Stud Hi, every bet needs to be based on the level of odds at creating a strong winning hand. Logically speaking, a straight is only slightly more valuable than holding two pair, because it requires five cards to be made, in comparison to the four cards needed for generating two pair. Because of that, most players sitting at a Stud Hi table must remain in the hand longer in an effort to achieve a straight. This is because a straight usually does not appear in the first five cards dealt to the player. The longer the player stays and bets hoping to generate a straight, the more chances they have to lose the hand.
Often times, Stud Hi players give away exorbitant amounts of money just chasing the potential of developing a straight. Even when those players achieve their goal of garnering a straight, it may not be strong enough to win the hand against someone holding higher value cards.
Stud Hi, or 7 Card Stud, is an exhilarating and complex poker game that can be mastered over time. More challenging than Texas Hold’em, Omaha Poker and Razz Poker, Stud Hi is a comprehensive game requiring extensive skill and patience. The effective strategies that are developed by successful players are usually based on understanding the best starting hand combinations, taking advantage of the mistakes made by opponents, and the full comprehension of the basic Stud Hi game.