Poker Game Guide: Seven Card Stud

Seven card stud was the most popular form of poker before
Texas holdem burst onto the scene in the early 2000’s. Some
argue that holdem started taking over for stud in the 1970’s,
and it did gain in popularity because the main event of the
World Series of Poker used Texas holdem.

But 7 card stud still had a strong following through the
1980’s and 1990’s.

Stud is a strategically challenging game where partial
information dictates play. Unlike Texas holdem or Omaha, in
seven card stud there are no community cards except in one rare
circumstance which I’ve covered below and each player will
receive seven cards in order to make their best five card poker
hand.

On this page you’ll find a basic how to play guide and the
rules of the game followed by a strategy section. This will arm
you with the information you need to hit the felt and start
honing your seven card stud skills. As always, when reading a
poker guide you can only get so far, and the best way to learn
the game and become an expert is by actually playing it.

How to Play – Seven Card Stud Rules

Seven card stud uses standard poker hand ratings with a royal
flush being the best hand. The betting rounds are a little bit
different from other forms and antes are used instead of blinds.
Read on and we’ll cover how the game is dealt, antes, bringing
in, and the betting rounds and structure.

Hand Rankings

I’ve outlined some examples for you below to show what hands
would beat others and some of the basic hands and associated
strengths. Seven card stud uses standard poker hand ratings,
listed below from highest to lowest.

Hand Description Example
High Card A hand with no other combination. Valued by it’s highest ranked card. A Spade
K Club
6 Heart
3 Diamond
2 Club
Pair Two cards of the same rank A Spade
K Heart
Q Club
9 Diamond
9 Spade
2 Pair Two pairs combined 4 Heart
4 Spade
7 Club
7 Spade
A Diamond
3 of a Kind Three cards of the same rank 4 Heart
4 Spade
4 Club
A Heart
K Diamond
Straight Five consecutive cards 2 Club
3 Spade
4 Heart
5 Heart
6 Diamond
Flush Five cards of the same suit A Spade
K Spade
9 Spade
4 Spade
3 Spade
Full House A pair and a three of a kind combined A Club
A Spade
K Heart
K Club
K Diamond
4 of a Kind Four cards of the same rank A Spade
A Club
A Heart
A Diamond
2 Club
Straight Flush Five consecutive cards of the same suit 2 Heart
3 Heart
4 Heart
5 Heart
6 Heart
Royal Flush A straight flush that runs from the 10 to the Ace 10 Diamond
J Diamond
Q Diamond
K Diamond
A Diamond

To spice it up you can also occasionally find a hi/lo variant
of the game which splits the pot with half being awarded to the
highest ranked hand and the other half going to the low hand. Hi
/ Lo stud is a much more complex game however and we won’t go
into it in too much detail here.

How the Game Is Dealt

Unlike many other forms of poker there is no designated
dealer in seven card stud. Play begins with every player
entering the pot by wagering an ante. The value of the ante will
be determined by the table limits you’re playing or by the
house. For example if you’re playing $10 / $20 limit seven card
stud, the ante could be $1.

After each player has placed their ante in the pot the
dealing will begin with each player receiving three cards. The
first two of these cards will be dealt face down and are known
as the hole cards, with the third card being face up and called
the door card.

Seven Card Stud Deal Setup

Betting Rounds

To start the initial betting, one player will make a bring in
bet. Using the above limits, the bring in could be $5. The
player who brings in is determined by the door cards, with the
lowest ranked card bringing in.

This player also has the option to complete, which would be a
$10 bet and is considered the first raise. In a limit game a
complete bet is equal to the lower limit and the bring in is
usually half the low limit.

From here the play continues clock wise around the table,
where remaining players have the following options.

  • Fold
  • Call
  • Raise

If the initial player only brings in for $5, then other
players can complete for $10 and this is considered the first
raise.

Once every player has had the chance to act, remaining
players are dealt a fourth card which is called the 4th street
card. As we don’t have a dealer button to determine who acts
first, in seven card stud the player displaying the highest
ranking hand with their two face up cards acts first, and this
continues on the remaining streets.

At this time there is another round of betting, followed by
the 5th street, which is dealt face up and followed by a round
of betting. A sixth card is dealt face up with another round of
betting at this point. Finally 7th street, which is the players
7th card, is dealt face down. From here there is a final round
of betting and a show down where players expose their best five
card poker hand and the highest ranked hand wins.

Seven card stud is usually a fixed limit game. Using the
above limits of $10 / $20, this means on the 3rd and 4th street
the limit for each bet is $10, and on the 5th, 6th, and 7th
streets it is $20. The game has one exception to this betting
rule, If a player has a pair on the face up cards on the 4th
street they may bet double the limit, which would be $20 in our
example.

Running out of Cards

It’s possible to run out of cards in seven card stud. If
there are still 8 players remaining when the 7th street is due,
the dealer will place the last card in the middle of the table
and this will act as a community card for all players to use.

Seven Card Stud Strategy

Becoming a winning seven card stud player requires many of
the same skills needed to win playing Texas holdem or Omaha.

Though stud isn’t as popular as it was at one time, you can
still find games available in larger poker rooms and online.
Because most of the best players have moved over to playing
Texas holdem there’s a great deal of opportunity for smart
players to profit at the stud tables.

In this section of our game guide you’ll learn the basic
strategy you need in order to become a break even player. You’ll
then learn the advanced tactics used to start making a long term
profit. There’s also some strategy advice for the hi lo version
of the game.

To start with, we’ve provided a few words on hand strength.

Hand Strength

Hand strength in seven card stud is a lot different than in
Texas holdem. It’s probably closer to Omaha. While a simple
high pair in Texas holdem, such as K HeartK Spade, will often win the
pot in that game, in seven card stud a pair is not a strong hand
and often one or more players will be showing a pair on their
3rd, 4th, 5th, or 6th street. Often three of a kind or stronger
will be required to win at show down in seven card stud.

The best possible starting hand in seven card stud is ‘rolled
up’ aces (for example A SpadeA Diamond
A Club). This is where you’re dealt
two aces face down and one face up. This is an extremely strong
hand and you have a very low chance of losing with this. If you
get any card rolled up you’re in a very good position.

Basic Strategy

Remembering the Cards

The first step to becoming a winning long term seven card
stud player is remembering every card that’s been played. You
can see the up cards for all of the players still in the hand
but when a player folds, her hand is no longer visible.

At first most players find it difficult to remember every
card they’ve seen, so we’ve put together a series of tips that
will help you to take advantage of all of the available
information on every hand.

Tip #1

You don’t technically need to remember every single card
you’ve seen. The only ones that you must remember are the ones
that have something to do with your current hand. The issue is
that with your first three cards almost any card can come into
play later in the hand.

The only cards that can be safely ignored are when you have
three low cards, when you hold three high cards, or when you
have a set. With three low cards you can ignore face cards, but
don’t ignore the aces because they can be used to make a five
high straight. If you have three high cards without an ace you
can ignore low cards.

When you have a set you can ignore just about any other
cards, but you may need to know the values of folded cards to
determine your possibilities of making a full house later in the
hand.

Tip #2

Ignore suits when your first three cards are three different
suits. Knowing the suits that have been played can help you
determine the odds an opponent has a flush late in the hand but
it won’t come into play often. You still need to remember the
rank of the cards to see how they change your odds later in the
hand.

Tip #3

When two of your first three cards are the same suit, their
suit is the only one you need to track. The odds of drawing a
flush with only two out of your first three cards are suited is
low, but it does happen from time to time.

Tip #4

You can train your brain to remember every card that’s been
revealed every hand. Start by tracking the cards, including your
own, in hands where you fold. You won’t have the added pressure
of making playing decisions so it’s the best way to start.

Work on this on every hand until you have it down perfect. It
doesn’t matter if this takes weeks or months, as long as you
keep making progress.

As you should fold most of your hands you’ll quickly get a
great deal of practice. Don’t get discouraged, because you won’t
be able to memorize all the cards right away. But it’s a learned
skill so in time your brain will start remembering.

Once you’re able to remember all of the cards folded when you
aren’t involved in the hand focus on just the first up card for
every hand when you’re still in the hand. When you have that
mastered it’s only a short step until you’re remembering all of
the folded cards.

Starting Hand Selection

The next basic strategy area you need to consider if you hope
to be a winning player is starting hand selection. Your starting
hand selection depends somewhat on your opponent’s up cards, but
some hands should never be played and some should always be
played.

As we’ve already mentioned, the best starting hands are three
of a kind (called rolled up) followed by three high suited
cards, pairs, three high unsuited cards, and other three card
hands that work together in some way.

Just like in most forms of poker, the player who enters the
hand with the best starting cards wins a higher percentage of
the time than her opponents.

Your starting hand in any single game is a matter of chance
based on the randomness of the shuffle, but over time you’ll
receive the same collection of starting hands as everyone else
who plays 7 card stud.

What this means is you have to fold hands that don’t have a
chance to turn a long term profit as quickly as possible.

Hands without flush or straight possibilities, ones with
three cards that don’t work together in any way like K Spade8 Diamond
3 Heart,
and low hands with no pair are examples of poor hands that
should be folded as quickly as possible.

You also need to watch out for trap hands. Starting hands
with medium and low pairs are playable in most games but if they
don’t improve they rarely hold up. One of the keys is
determining when to get out of the hand and when you should keep
drawing hoping to hit a three of a kind or two pair.

Pot Control

One of the biggest weapons you have is the ability to
influence the size of the pot. It might not seem like you have
much control because when you’re drawing to a better hand all
you can do is check and call and when you have a big hand all
you can do is bet and raise, but both of these actions is a form
of controlling the pot size.

You want to put as much money in the pot as possible when
you’re the favorite and as little as possible when you’re not.

The challenge in most hands is figuring out when you’re the
favorite and when you aren’t. In the situations we just
mentioned it’s easy. If you’re drawing to a straight or flush
you’re behind in the hand so in most cases you don’t want to
build the pot until you hit your hand. If you have three of a
kind or better you’ll want to build the pot until it’s clear an
opponent has a strong hand.

But what do you do when you have a middle to high pair or
even two pair against an opponent who shows a pair?

It depends on your opponents, how they’re playing the hand,
and the cards you see around the table.

The important thing is always be aware of the pot size and
know whether you want it to be bigger or smaller.

In limit seven card stud this is important, but if you play
pot limit it can be the difference between winning and losing a
great deal of money.

The size of the pot can quickly climb in a pot limit game so
you don’t want to get stuck drawing to a weak or second best
hand in a big pot. Keep the pots as low as possible when you’re
drawing and build them when you’re the favorite.

Outs & Pot Odds

When you play Omaha or Texas holdem determining the number
of outs is fairly easy to do. You always start with the same
number of cards and the same number of known cards are available
in each stage of the hand. After the flop you know the values of
your cards and the three community cards, and you know one more
card value after the turn.

But when you’re playing seven card stud the number of known
cards changes all the time.

It’s still a straight forward calculation, but you have to
pay attention and use the skills for memorizing the cards that
have already been played that we covered above.

Imagine the following example.

  • You’re playing with six other players and start with three hearts.
  • In addition to your three cards you know the values of six other cards.
  • You know the deck holds a total of 13 hearts and you hold three of them.
  • You therefore know that that ten hearts remain in the deck.
  • If one opponent has a heart showing there are now nine hearts remaining.
  • Four of your opponents fold, leaving three of you in the pot.
  • On the fourth card you and one of your remaining opponents both receive
    a heart.
  • Now you have four hearts and two have been dealt to other players.
  • You have seven outs to make your flush on the last three cards you’ll
    receive.

At this point it’s important to note that you shouldn’t make
the mistake of thinking that all of your opponents have been
dealt cards you can’t see and some of the hearts are probably
among those cards. While it’s true that some of the hearts are
probably out of play, the only information you can act on is how
many cards you get to see. Every other card is unknown.

In the example, you have seen your four cards, one card of
four of your opponent’s and two cards of two of your opponent’s.
This is a total of 12 cards, so you haven’t seen the value of 40
cards. You have 7 out of 40 cards to complete your flush on the
next card dealt. Let’s continue with the rest of this
hypothetical hand.

  • The fifth card is dealt and no hearts are dealt on the round.
  • You still have seven outs, but now they are out of 37 unseen cards.
  • The sixth card is dealt and one of your opponents receives a heart.
  • Now you have six outs for the final card out of 34 unseen cards.
  • To make a happy ending, you receive your fifth heart as your final card.

As you can see from this example, your number of outs, and
unseen cards, change throughout the hand.

Don’t panic because you don’t think you’ll ever be able to
figure all of this out while participating in a hand.

While some of the best players can figure exact percentages
and odds on the fly, most of us can’t do it perfectly. The good
news is you don’t have to do it perfectly. You just have to get
it close enough to make the right decision.

In the example above, you’ll almost always be correct to stay
in the hand because when you hit your flush, even though it
won’t happen as often as you miss, you’ll win enough to make up
for the times when you don’t hit it.

That’s the magic statement that winning seven card stud
players understand and losing one’s don’t.

The secret of long term profitability in any form of poker is
putting yourself in situations where you’ll win more in the long
run than you’ll lose and escaping from situations where you’ll
lose more than you win in the long run.

A big part of this is determining how many outs you have and
comparing it to the amount you can win when you hit your hand.

Most hands aren’t as easy as the flush example, because you
have different ways of winning the hand. Though we didn’t spell
it out, the assumption with the flush example is if you don’t
hit the flush you lose the hand. But the truth is if one or more
of the non-suited cards got paired with one or more of your
hearts you could possibly win the hand without hitting the
flush. It won’t happen often, but it does happen sometimes.

Instead of hitting your flush on the last card let’s say you
paired your highest card and neither of your opponents show a
hand that can beat it. The odds of you winning the pot at this
point are small, but in a limit game if you only have to call a
single bet you almost always have to call in this situation.

Here’s why.

Let’s say at this point the pot has $200 and you have to call
a $10 bet to find out who won. This means that you only have to
win the hand one out of 20 times to break even. Even if you lose
the hand 19 times you’ll break even in the long run if you win
once. If you win two times out of 20 you’ll turn a profit in the
long run making this call.

Do you think you can win 5% of the time in this situation? We
can almost guarantee you’ll win at least 5% of the time.

What if the pot only has $150 or $100?

This is where it gets a little tricky, but you still need to
try to guess your overall chances of winning and compare it to
the amount in the pot.

If you think you can win the hand one out of 15 times or more
you need to call if the pot has $150. If the pot has $100 you
need to determine if you can win one out of 10 times or more.

Every decision you make while playing 7 card stud can be
boiled down to the same type of mathematical decision. It’s not
easy because you don’t know exactly what your opponent holds and
you don’t know your true chances of winning, but as you gain
experience you can get a good idea of the possibilities and make
an educated guess.

Table Selection

One of the easiest ways to improve your overall results while
playing 7 card stud is playing with opponents who aren’t as good
as you at the game. We know it sounds simple, but most stud
players don’t even consider the competition before joining a
game. It’s common for only one or two tables to be active so
players just sit down at the first available seat and start
playing.

If you want to win as much money as possible playing poker
you need to find every advantage possible. If you can’t find
games filled with weaker players than you why don’t you try to
create a game? Of course you’ll continue working on improving
your abilities, but spend some time trying to recruit players
you can beat.

You might ask why weaker players would join a game, but it’s
no different than players taking the first available seat at an
open table. Some of the world’s best backgammon players travel
all over to play rich and powerful opponents. These opponents
usually know they aren’t as good as the pro, but they want to
play against the best and are willing to pay in the form of
their losses over time in order to do so.

Poker and backgammon have some things in common, including
the chance that a poor player will beat a good one on any given
day. The feeling of accomplishment when a poor player beats a
better player can be significant and make the long term losses
worth it to the lesser player.

The point we’re trying to make is you won’t know if the worst
poker player you know will play in your game unless you ask.
Just remember to treat them well even when they do get lucky and
beat you every once in a while. You don’t want to run them off.

Finding or creating games filled with players who aren’t as
good as you is a powerful enough strategy that if you don’t
follow any of the other advice on this page except this you can
go from a losing player to a winning one.

How much do you think you could win if everyone started with
$1,000 and you started playing against five first time players?
More often than not you’d win $5,000.

What if instead of playing against five players who haven’t
played before you play against the best five seven card stud
players in the world? More often than not you’d lose your
$1,000.

We don’t know how to make it any more clear than that, but
over 90% of the people who read this advice won’t act on it.
Make sure you’re in the 10% and your bankroll will thank you in
the long run.

Intermediate and Advanced Play

We’ve combined the intermediate and advanced seven card stud
sections because once you master the basic strategy items
covered above you’ll be well on your way to being a winning
overall player. Everything else works to improve your overall
play and profitability, so the line between intermediate an
advanced is blurred at best.

Once you learn which hands you can play and which ones you
need to fold early in the hand, the next thing that changes your
long term profit is how you play on the fourth through the
seventh cards.

You need to continue using what you learned above about how
to determine your outs and comparing your chances to win against
the amount in the pot and apply it to each round of betting
action.

It’s easy to write about doing this, but in reality it takes
a great deal of practice and experience to improve. Even the
best players make mistakes, but the key is getting it right more
often than getting it wrong.

The next two areas, reading your opponents and mindset, will
both help you improve your advanced playing tactics.

Reading Opponents

Most poker players instantly think about tells when they see
or hear something about reading their opponents, but in truth
you can learn a great deal about the strength of an opponent’s
hand by the way they bet and act throughout a hand.

Compare their actions with the cards showing in their hand
and around the table and when they start betting and raising and
/ or when they check and call.

You also need to know as much about their overall playing
tendencies as you can. The only way to learn about your
opponents is to watch them play and remember every time they
play a hand or difficult situation. Most low limit players tend
to play too many hands and bluff too much, so if a player has
these tendencies you can use this information when you need to
make decisions.

Here’s an Example

In the situation we discussed above about calling a $10 bet
on the river with $200, $150, or $100 in the pot, if you knew
for a fact that the lead bettor on the river had a tendency to
bluff too often you’d call the bet with only $100 in the pot,
because the odds are he missed his draw and you’ll win more than
one out of 10 times.

Though this is an advanced play beyond the scope of this
page, it might even be correct to raise in this situation if it
can get the third player in the hand to fold a better hand than
yours. The math on this decision is extensive and the truth is
you only make the play if you know the playing tendencies of
both your opponents well, but a raise can have a positive
expected long term value in some situations.

Most players will never reach the point where they even
realize a raise may be the best play, so when you start thinking
about the game at this level you’re probably beyond the scope of
this page.

This leads to the subject of your mindset.

Your Mindset

The best poker players in any form of poker are not the ones
with the best natural abilities. The best poker players are the
ones that work at making themselves the best player they can be
and work endlessly on putting themselves in positions where they
win more than they lose in the long run.

This all starts with your mindset.

If you aren’t willing to work hard and do whatever it takes
to be a profitable long term seven card stud player there isn’t
much we or anyone else can do to help you. It’s acceptable if
you just want to play for fun and aren’t interested in working
at getting better, but don’t say you want to be a winning player
if you don’t do anything you need to do in order to improve.

Learning and using everything on this page is a great start.
The next step is start playing as much as you can and pay
attention while you’re playing. With time, dedication, and
experience you can be a winning player.

Hi Lo Strategy

This page is mostly about the high only version of seven card
stud because it’s by far the most common form of the game found
in poker rooms, but we wanted to touch on a few things.

The same general ideas for strategy pertain to 7 card stud
high lo as the ones used on Omaha hi lo, so it’s a good idea to read
the strategy section on that page as well
.

All high low split pot games have their long term
profitability based on the ability to scoop pots and win at
least three quarters of pots where the low or high is split
again.

In order to scoop pots you either have to win both the high
and low half of the pot or win the high half when no low hand
qualifies.

Low starting hands that offer straight and / or flush
possibilities are valuable. Starting hands with a pair and two
low cards also offer some possibilities, but every starting low
hand will have to improve in order to win part of the pot. You
only have a total of seven cards to work with, so you won’t see
as many low hands qualify as you do in Omaha 8.

While most seven card stud high low games have an 8 qualifier
like Omaha high lo, don’t make the mistake of assuming this is
the case. Always check the rules so you know for sure what
qualifies as a low hand and what doesn’t.

One of the fastest ways to lose money playing seven card stud
high lo is to play low only draws. A starting hand of 2, 3, 4
looks great but you still need two more cards 8 or lower that
don’t match your current cards to qualify for a low. It does
happen, but chasing a low hand when the pot has a great deal of
betting and raising will lose money in the long run.

Not only are you drawing to a fairly long shot hand, you’re
almost always only drawing to half the pot. Of course you
probably want to see the fourth and fifth cards if possible with
a hand like this to see if a straight draw materializes, but if
you haven’t improved on the fifth card you probably need to fold
to any bet.

Summary

It should come as no surprise that seven card stud was once
the most popular form of poker. It’s a great game which gives
partial information to players and forces some great action.

The game is very easy to pick up and can be easily played by
beginners after just a few hands. It’s a great entry level poker
game or an alternative for those that have been focusing on
Texas holdem and want to expand their poker repertoire. The hi
/ lo variant of seven card stud is also fun, but a little more
complex so it might be a good idea to hone your skills at
standard seven card stud before moving on to the split pot
variety.

Simply follow the strategy advice on this page and not only
will you have a great time playing seven card stud, you’ll also
have a great chance to win a little money along the way.