Stud poker is one of the simplest of all poker games, is fun to play and easy to learn. Best of all, poker, unlike every other game in the casino, is not a game of chance, but a game of skill. This means that with a little practice and good strategy, a player can win consistently.
7-Card Stud is played with one deck of 52 cards. Each player is dealt two cards facedown, and one card face-up. There is a round of betting, then three more upcards are dealt, with a round of betting after each card. Each player's final card is dealt facedown, there is a last round of betting, and then a showdown to determine who has the best 5-card poker hand.
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Most games in a casino or cardroom will have what is called “structured betting.”
For example, if you are in a “$3-$6 7-Card Stud ” game, the first two betting rounds will be $3 bets, and after that the bet will go up to $6. Usually a bet and three raises are allowed in each round, to ensure that people don't get too crazy at the table.
If I bet $3 in the first round, you raise me $3, another player re-raises $3, and I re-raise $3 again, the dealer will then declare that we are “capped” at $12. The exception to this rule is if there are only two players left; then, they can raise the pot as high as they want.
One note on winning hands; for a single pair, a “kicker” is your highest single card, and may be the only thing that lets you win. Say you have the following hand: Q-Q-A-4-7 and another player shows this hand: K-6-Q-Q-9 – both of you have a pair of Queens , but your Ace kicker will beat his King for the win.
Kicker's work on identical two-pair hands also; and for all other hands, just remember that a flush with high cards (like J-9-2-4-7 of spades) will beat a flush with low cards; (3-4-8-9-2 of spades.) Same applies for straights and full houses. A full house of 5-5-5-2-2 beats a full house of 2-2-5-5-5.
That should be a good reminder of what we're looking for, let's take a look at how the game is played.
Let's sit down at an imaginary 7-Card Stud game and learn the rules as we play a hand. First we need to buy some chips. The buy-in for most 7-Card Stud games is 10 times the minimum bet. We're sitting at a $3-$6 table, so we give the dealer $30 and they give us 30 one-dollar chips.
Now everyone must “ante up” to get their cards. This means placing a small wager, in this case, $1.00 into the pot. After everyone places their ante in the pot, the dealer is going to deal out 2 cards facedown and one card face-up. Before each deal, notice that the dealer takes one card off the top of the deck and discards it – this is called “burning” a card and is an old rule to designed to prevent cheating.
We look at our downcards and see J-T and our upcard is a 9.
There are 3 other players at the table and their upcards are:
Player #1 - A
Player #2 - J
Player #3 – 3
Now, in 7-Card-Stud , the first round of betting is initiated by the player with the lowest card showing. In this case, it would be Player #3, but he folds. So, that means our 9 is now the lowest card.
We have a good shot at a straight (7-8- 9-T-J or 9-T-J -Q-K) so lets go ahead and add $3 to the pot. Usually the starting bet must be equal to the minimum bet.
Player #1 raises $3 more, putting a total of $6 in the pot; Player #2 calls the bet by placing $6 in as well. Because we don't have a good hand yet (but we're halfway there) we don't want to raise, but we should call this bet. Since we already put $3 in, we need to add another $3 to make a total of $6.
At this point, the dealer will collect “the rake” – usually about 3-6 dollars which goes into a lockbox for the house. This is how the casino makes money to pay for the dealers, free drinks, space in the casino, etc.
Now the dealer will burn a card, and deal us each another face-up card.
Our Cards – 9-T
Player #1 – A-A
Player #2 – J-T
From here on out, the person with the highest cards starts the betting. Player #1 has 2 Aces, so she starts, and bets $3. Player #2 calls $3, and the safe thing to do is for us to call again. Remember, even though we're trying for a straight, we don't have one yet, right now all we have is a pair of Tens.
The dealer burns and deals:
Our Cards – 9-T-Q
Player #1 – A-A-2
Player #2 – J-T-T
Player #1 still has the best cards showing, so she bets. Now, she can either bet or check. Checking means she “passes” but if someone else bets, she's going to have to call their bet, or fold. Now, you might wonder why someone would check when they have Aces showing. Wait and see…
Player #2 bets $6, and we call the bet for $6. Now the action is back to Player #1, who checked earlier. She must either bet or fold, or she can raise $6, which is exactly what she does.
This is called a “check-raise” and people who have strong cards will do this to try and make their pot even bigger. Just think, if she had raised in the first place, everyone else would have just called, and she would only have gotten $18 in bets. But by checking, letting someone else raise, and then re-raising, she built the pot by $36.
After everyone calls this bet, the dealer will deal the last upcards.
Our Cards – 9-T-Q-K
Player #1 – A-A-2-6
Player #2 – J-T-T-J
Now, Player #2 has the best cards showing; two pair, Jacks and Tens. He bets $6. Since we just made our straight, which is higher than either of the other players upcards, we want to raise, but before we do, let's consider what the best possible hands they might have are. Player #2 probably has a hidden Ace, giving her 3-of-a-kind, which our straight would beat. There's a slim chance she has two Aces in the hole, which would beat us. Player #2 is a bigger threat because he might have a full house, but, we know that we have the last Ten, and that there's only one other Jack in the deck, so we're probably safe. So, let's raise $6, for a total bet of $12.
Both other players call our raise, and the dealer is going to give us our last cards facedown. We get a 6 of hearts. Player #2 still has the best hand showing, he checks, we bet $6, both players call, and it's time for the showdown.
Everyone turns over all their cards. Here's what is shown.
Our Cards – J-T -9-T-Q-K- 6
Player #1 – A-K -A-A-2-6- J
Player #2 – Q-Q -J-T-T-J- 7
Player #1 had 3-of-a-kind early on, but her hand never improved after the 2 nd upcard. Player #2 had great cards but never caught a Queen, Jack, or Ten to get a full house. We win with our 9-T-J-Q-K straight, collecting a pot of $121.00 If you win a big pot like this, it's good form to tip the dealer with a few chips.
The game may end before the showdown if all players except one fold; this player wins the pot (and isn't required to show their hole cards) but in any case, once the pot has been awarded, that hand is done.
Now, from the example above, we've seen pretty much every aspect of the 7-Card Stud game. Here's a little advice on picking what cards to keep and when to get out of the game. Knowing when to fold is the most important aspect of the game. For example, in our game above, if the other player's had been smart, they would have noticed that you probably had the straight, especially once you started to raise. If they had folded then, they could have each saved themselves $12-$16… Make sure you look at everyone's cards, not just your own. Pay attention to the way they are betting, put two and two together, and if you decide that they probably have you beaten, don't be afraid to fold early and save your money for better cards.
Well, now you know the basics of 7-Card Stud poker. Time to rustle up a bankroll, put on your poker face, and make a fortune. Good luck, partner!
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