5 Card Stud - Real Money Games, Rules & Strategy Tips

The objectives and basic strategies for playing 5 Card Stud Poker that are shown here are those generally agreed to and recommended by the experts on bet limit poker games. Understanding the rules and basics is needed to know how to play at all competitive levels. Solid intermediate and expert level poker normally requires lots of at-the-table, or online game playing experience.

Limit 5 Card Stud Poker Rules - 2 to 8 Players

  • Highest hand wins
  • Ace plays both high and low for straights
  • Three raise limit per round
  • Cards speak

The image below depicts the card distribution and betting procedure for 5 card stud.

Typical Five Card Stud Poker Hand Illustrating the Deal Procedure

How to play a $2/$4 five card stud game:

After all players have anted $.25 or so, (1.) Each player is dealt one card face down and one face up. The player with the lowest upcard makes a forced bet of either $1 half minimum bet or $2 full bet (player's choice) to start the game*. The rest of the players, in clockwise order, either call the opening bet, raise it, or not call and "fold" their hands back to the dealer.

(2.) All get a third card face up followed by a round of $2 betting. From this round on, the player with the highest upcard(s) is always first to check or bet.

(3.) After the fourth card is dealt face up, the minimum bet goes to $4.

(4.) Then the fifth card is dealt face up and followed by the final round of $4 betting. The dealer then determines the highest hand and awards the pot.

*(Note) Only for the purpose of determining the lowest upcard to bring in the betting, the card denominations are sub-divided by these suit values in descending order: Spades the highest, through Hearts, Diamonds, and Clubs the lowest.

General Strategy

Five Card Stud is mostly a game of HIGH CARDS and PAIRS. Don't play for straights and flushes unless you have three cards to a straight flush on third street, or it looks like you might luck into a straight or flush on fourth.

With only one down card, it is easier than most games to put your opponents on hands. Pay close attention to how they each play.

Usually don't start without either a pair or at least one live card that beats the board. Usually fold if you do not have at least a pair in the first three cards. Almost always fold when you are beaten on the board and do not have a good draw to the best hand.


High Cards
10 thru A
Low Cards
2 thru 9
Door Card
The exposed upcard of a starting hand.
Live Cards
Cards that have not been revealed on the board and are possible to get.
Dead Cards
Cards that have been revealed and are no longer in the deck.
Fast Play
Bet, raise and re-raise to get as many other players out as possible.
Slow Play
Just check or call along to keep other players in the game to increase the pot odds.
Check when you can and fold if you are bet into. Gladly accept all free cards offered.

Playable Starting Hands

Any Pair - Fast play low pairs to try to get heads up. Consider folding if you don't get trips or a live upcard on third street. Bet/Call high pairs.

Both Cards Higher than the Board - i.e.: You hold 9 8 and there is no opponent upcard that is higher than 7.

High Hole Card that Beats the Board with Any Upcard - i.e.: You have Q down/ 6 up and there is no opponent upcard that is higher than Jack.

High Hole Card with a High Upcard that Beats the Board - An Ace up is a good hand that you can sometimes take past third street unpaired, if you have a good kicker. The high card in the hole does not have to beat the board.

Strategy Tips

  • Don't play for Straights and Flushes, except for three cards to a straight flush.
  • Usually fold if... you don't have a pair or better in the first three cards.
  • Remember the folded cards so that you know which cards are "live".
  • Play only live cards from the start and at least semi-live cards from the middle to the end.
  • Study your opponents. When he or she plays a low upcard, it is likely that the card is paired or just a loose starting hand of some sort. Does the player bluff? Can he or she be bluffed, etc.
  • Usually fold (unless you are playing a strong draw hand) if your complete hand is beaten on the board by an opponent's upcards.
  • Usually don't play low hole cards.
  • Don't fall in love with your Ace in the hole. If that's all you have, against apparent strong hands, usually fold early.
  • Beware of the paired door card. This often means trips, especially if it is a low pair.
  • Get caught bluffing once in a while. It is a way to vary your play and not be too predictable. You win pots that you don't deserve when your bluff works. You lose a few chips when it doesn't work but it will get you calls from weaker hands down the line when you are strong and need the action.
  • Look for reasons to fold early. When someone else gets the card you wanted or you suspect that you are unprofitably chasing a better hand - fold it up. Trust your instincts and you will usually be right.
  • Make 'em pay to try to draw out on you when you have a good hand.

Have fun and GOOD LUCK!

Another Note about Five Card Stud

This grand pappy of modern poker games has almost slipped off the popularity charts in favor of Hold'em and others so places to play are not very easy to find. As more and more players come online, the game might just make a little comeback for two reasons.

First, it is by far the fastest poker game that there is (well over a hundred hands an hour on a good site). I find that refreshing because I like to wait for quality starting hands in any game, and when my cards are not running well, long waits between hands gets tiresome.

The second reason is that this game is so simple that everyone understands how to play. However, it seems that not very many know how to win at it, especially in the lower limit games. That makes for one of the easier games to beat.

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