Traditional 7-card stud is still widely played today. Stud is played with 2 to 8 players. It is generally played with fixed-limit betting, though sometimes people play it as a spread-limit game (rules for the spread-limit version). After everyone antes up, five betting rounds take place.
Ante: Seven card stud is generally played with an ante. Different stakes games have different antes. For example, a $1 ante is common in a $10-$20 game (10% of the small blind), but a $0.25 ante is also common in a $1-$2 game (25% of the small blind). Some places do not even play with an ante at all.
3rd street: After everyone antes, all players are dealt two cards face down (hole cards) and one exposed card. The person with the lowest card must 'bring in' and is forced to bet half the small bet (if it is played fixed-limit). Players can then, raise, call, or fold.
4th street: An exposed card is dealt to each player, followed a round of betting. For fourth street onward, the person with the best exposed hand begins the betting (e.g. if someone has A K exposed, another has 6 6 exposed, and someone else has 3 3 exposed, the person with 6 6 goes first, because he has at least a pair of sixes.)
5th street: An exposed card is dealt to each player, followed a round of betting. If the game is played in a fixed-limit format, this is where the big bet would kick in.
6th street: An exposed card is dealt to each player, followed a round of betting.
7th street: Each player is dealt a final hole card, followed by the final round of betting.
If the game has 8 players and there aren't enough cards left in the deck to deal each player a final hole card, a card is placed on the board and it is considered 'shared' by all the players (similar to a community card in Hold'em).
The best poker hand wins (the best 5-card hand out of the 7 cards the player has).Example #1
Straight, ace through ten
Two pairs, kings over jacks, ace kicker
In my opinion, 7 Card Stud is the most difficult of the three major Stud variants (Razz and Stud Hi/Lo being the other two). The reason for this is that Razz is pretty straightforward and Stud Hi/Lo is a split pot game. In split pot games, even if you're a mediocre player you probably won't lose much money thanks to the pot being split between two people. Stud is tougher because it is not particularly straightforward and the entire pot is awarded to just one person.
There are two ways to win the pot in 7 Card Stud:
Every hand of Stud falls into one of these two categories so the first thing to do is figure out which category you're in. In full Stud games (8 players), especially those played for small stakes, the way to win the pot is almost always going to be by making a strong hand. This is because almost all hands go to showdown in full, small-stakes games. If you want to win the pot, you're going to need to show up with the best hand following the final round of betting.
In 8-Game tables where Stud is played just six-handed, you'll see more situations where you can win the pot just by making your opponents fold. For example, suppose you're dealt 9 7 down and K up. This is not a particularly good hand by any stretch of the imagination, but in the right circumstances, it could be good enough to win. Let's say the action folds around to you so there are just three players remaining in the pot: you with a K up, a player with the 8 up, and the bring-in player who has 3 up. In this scenario, you should raise because there's a very good chance that you will win the pot outright.
The fewer players that remain in the pot, the less the strength of your hand matters. This is why position is important in 7 Card Stud. Even though there is no dealer button that rotates in this game, you are still in some "position" during the first round of betting. It all depends on where you sit in relation to the "bring-in" player. If you are on his immediate left, you will be the first player to act. In this situation, you need a fairly strong hand to enter the pot since everyone else at the table is yet to act. Our 9 7 down and K up from the previous example is complete garbage in this situation. Fold.
The quality of starting hand you play in Stud all depends on what position you're in. As we've established in the previous example, there are hands that might be an easy raise in one position and an easy fold in a different position. In early positions (one of the first couple of players to the left of the "bring-in"), all three of your cards matter. If it folds to you in later positions, your two down cards don't matter as much since a strong up card might be good enough to win the pot outright. However, if you're in a later position where a player has already completed the bring-in, all three of your cards matter. If a player completes the bring-in and another player raises, you better have a pretty strong hand in order to stay in the pot.
The best starting hand in Stud is to be "rolled up". This means you're dealt three-of-a-kind on your first three cards. It is incredibly rare for this to happen, but when it does, ram and jam the pot with confidence because you've just been dealt a monster.
In Stud, being dealt a high pair, concealed pair, three to a flush, or three consecutive cards (example 789) are all good starting hands. If you are dealt three to a flush or three consecutive cards, take note of how many of your "outs" were dealt to other players. Being dealt 2 Q down with 4 up is a pretty good hand if no one else's up card is a diamond. However, if there are two or three other diamonds up, you can fold this hand since your odds of making a flush just went down considerably. The same applies for when you're dealing 7 9 down and 8 up. You want to see as few Fives, Sixes, Tens and Jacks up as possible since these are all cards you're hoping to catch in order to make a straight.
Other decent-but-not-great starting hands are three high cards like A K down with J up. If you're facing a completion and a raise, I would generally fold a hand like this. However, if there's no action, go ahead and complete the bring-in because you've got a pretty strong starting hand. If you don't win the pot right now, you've got a decent chance of making a high pair that could very well be the best hand.
It's very important to observe your opponents' up cards in Stud. You need to know which of your "outs" to a better hand are no longer in the deck. For example, let's say you're dealt Q 10 down and Q up. Generally speaking, this is a very good starting hand in Stud. But let's say someone with an Ace showing completes the bring-in. They're representing a pair of Aces. They may or may not have this pair of Aces, but you always want to have some extra outs to a better hand in case they aren't bluffing. In this example, if two of your opponents have the Q up and the 10 up, that's very bad for you. It means there's only one Queen left in the deck to try to make three-of-a-kind and only two Tens to try to make two pair. In this situation, it might be wise to just fold your pair of Queens. However, if none of your "outs" to a better hand are showing, you might be more inclined to call and hope that a.) your opponent doesn't really have a pair of Aces and b.) if they do have a pair of Aces, you hit a card that improves your hand.
The same rules apply for drawing to flushes and straights. Your draw is considerably less valuable if three or four of your outs have already revealed themselves in your opponents' face-up cards.
If you have four to a flush or four to an outside straight after just four cards, feel free to raise and re-raise your opponents. Although right now you only have a draw, there's a pretty strong chance you'll complete your draw and therefore want to build the pot as big as you can. But always be mindful of your outs. If you have four to a flush but have already seen three of your suit dealt to opponents, you only have six outs to a flush, not nine.
Another thing to be aware of in Stud is what hands your opponents are representing. A player who raises with an Ace up is representing a pair of Aces. They may or may not actually have a pair of Aces, but that's what they're representing. When a player with a high card (Jack or better) raises and you see a good player with a lower card call, I would keep a close eye on what the player with the low card is dealt. For example, if a player with the A face-up raises and a player with the 4 calls, I would immediately assume the caller has at least: a pair of fours, three consecutive cards or three to a flush. If they are dealt another club or another Four on fourth street, I would give them credit for a very good hand (either three-of-a-kind, four to a flush, or at least two pair) and slow down considerably if I was just holding a single high pair.
As with any poker variant, pay attention to your opponents' betting tendencies. The quality of hand you need against a very aggressive player who is always betting and raising is much lower than the quality of hand you need against a tight player who is coming out of his shell and betting.
When you raise to represent a hand that you don't actually have, how long should you keep up the charade? It depends on two things:
For example, you are dealt J 9 down and K up. You complete the bring-in trying to represent a pair of Kings. If two or more players call, I would give up on trying to buy the pot on fourth street unless your hand improves considerably (you make a pair of Kings or a pair of Jacks or Nines that you have reason to believe could be the best hand). However, if just one player calls, whether or not you fire another shell on fourth street largely depends on what card they are dealt. If their card doesn't really coordinate well with their original face-up card, go ahead and bet. For example, if their first face-up card was the 10 and they're dealt the 3 on fourth street, you can probably assume that 3 didn't help them. Go ahead and bet again hoping they go away. However, if their fourth street card is the J, you might want to slow down since that may have very well improved their straight draw, flush draw or given them a pair.
When you're heads-up in a Stud pot as the aggressor, you can often win the pot simply by betting when your opponent is dealt a card that doesn't seem to coordinate very well with the other cards they're likely to be holding.
In Stud Hi/Lo, half the pot is awarded to the best Hi hand and half the pot is awarded to the best Lo hand. To qualify for a low hand, one must have five unpaired cards Eight or Better (eight or lower). The dream hand in Stud Hi/Lo is A2345. This is known as the "wheel". You have the nut low meaning you'll definitely win half the pot and you also have a straight for a high hand which gives you a good chance of scooping the entire pot.
Beginners should note that low hands are counted from high card down. Many players with A2348 (eight low) think they have a very strong low when in reality they would lose to someone holding A4567 (seven low).
Starting hand selection is very important in this game. Generally speaking, the worst cards to be dealt in this game are Nines, Tens and to a bit of a lesser extent, Jacks. These cards are caught in "no man's land". They don't qualify for a low and they aren't very strong for a high hand. Even if you pair a Nine, it's entirely likely someone will make a higher pair to win the high half of the pot. Aces are the best cards to be dealt in this game since they qualify as a low card and can also make top pair. A very good starting hand is A 5 down and 3 up. You have a concealed Ace, three to a wheel, three to a strong low, and even two to an Ace-high flush which is worth a little something as well.
Suppose you're dealt three to a low. Many novice players fall into the trap of always playing this hand, but there are some circumstances where you should fold three to a low. Ask yourself these three questions to determine if you should play your three to a low:
Let's say you're dealt 8 6 down and 4 up. This is a pretty weak three to a low. First of all, you're drawing to an eight low which is the worst qualifying low hand. If anyone else successfully makes a low hand, theirs is probably going to be better than yours. If you are one of the first players to act and hold this hand, I would fold unless everyone else at the table (or almost everyone) is showing a high card face-up (Nine or higher). If that is the case, you can assume you're probably the only player drawing to a low and might even be compelled to raise or re-raise in light of this to help lure more money into the pot between a few players who are all competing for the high side. However, if a few of the remaining players are showing low cards, especially other low cards than the ones you have (such as an Ace, Two, Three, or Five), you should probably just fold. This is because a.) they might be drawing to a better low than you and b.) some of your outs to completing a low hand are already gone.
Made low hands are very powerful in Stud Hi/Lo, especially when you know you're the only player who will have a qualifying low at the showdown. For example, suppose you have A 7 down and 5 6 3 9 face-up. Even though all you have is Ace-high for a high-hand, you appear very threatening. It could be very easy for a player to believe that you have a flush or straight to go with your low. Even though you and I know all you've got is Ace-high, you should still bet and raise with total confidence when holding this hand. You already know that in a worse case scenario you're going to get half the pot, so you might as well bet really aggressively and hope you're able to scare an opponent with a bare high hand (like, say, a pair of Kings) into folding under pressure thereby awarding you the entire pot.
When you have a made low hand and are in a pot against two other players who are clearly battling for the high side of the pot, raise, raise, and raise some more. Make them each put in as much as you can since you know half of everything they put in is yours. Conversely, avoid getting caught in situations where you're one of these other two players who is being punished dearly by an aggressive player with a made low unless you're very certain that you'll be the one winning the high pot.
A pair of Aces is a great hand to be dealt as you've got a very strong high hand that could potentially backdoor its way into scooping if you're lucky enough to run out a bunch of low cards. Anytime you're dealt an Ace face-up, you become a force to be reckoned with. Opponents will be unsure which side of the pot you're playing for, high or low. Hopefully you'll make a wheel and show them that the answer was "both".
As a general rule, it's nice to be the only player drawing to the high half of the pot. A situation where you have a strong high hand in a pot where two or three other players are all trying to make a low hand is very nice. Anytime you're the lone contestant for half the pot and two (or more) others are contesting for the other half, try to jam as much money into the pot as possible since you're likely to get half of everything they put in.
What you do not want to do in Stud Hi/Lo is make thin calls hoping to make a hand that might win the high side of the pot. Suppose you're dealt K J down and Q up. You call after someone completes. That's usually fine. But on fourth street you're dealt the 5 and someone bets. You should not call while thinking, "well, maybe if I catch a King, Queen or Jack I'll win the high pot." That type of thinking is a recipe for losing money hand over fist. All you're doing is drawing to a high hand that you're not even sure will be the best high hand. Doesn't sound very wise, does it?