Seven Card Stud Rules, Strategy, How to Play Tips

The basic how to play strategies for 7 Card Stud Poker shown here are those generally agreed to and recommended by the experts on flat limit games.

An understanding of these basics is needed for all levels of competitive play. Solid intermediate and expert level poker normally requires extensive study of the more advanced game tactics and considerable hours of actual casino or online playing experience.

Limit Rules - 7 Card Stud Poker

  • Highest hand wins
  • Ace plays both high and low for straights
  • Lowest upcard is a forced starting bet
  • Three raise limit per round
  • Cards speak

The image below depicts the card distribution and betting procedure for 7 card stud.

Typical Seven Card Stud Poker Hand

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

After all players have anted $.25 or so, (1.) Each player is dealt two cards 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 fourth 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 fifth card is dealt face up, the minimum bet goes to $4.

(4.) The sixth card is dealt face up and there is another round of $4 betting.

(5.) The seventh and last card is dealt face down 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 starting lowest upcard in the case of ties, 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

Seven Card Stud is a HIGH card game. More winning hands are decided by the highest pair of two pair or just the highest pair, than by straights, flushes and other big hands. So if you start with a straight or flush draw, it should have at least two high cards or at least one card that is higher than anything up on the board. These draw hands and low pair starting hands need to improve or turn a high pair quickly to justify continued play.

Any time your high hand is beaten on the board, fold, unless you think you still have the best draw hand. Fast play early high hands (that could win without improvement) to thin out the competition. Slow play draw hands to keep other players in to increase the pot odds in case you hit.

Definitions

High Cards
10 thru A
Low Cards
9 thru 2
Split Pair
Starting hand with one of your pair cards down and the other up.
Concealed Pair
Starting hand with both of your pair cards in the hole and your side card kicker up.
Door Card
The exposed upcard of a starting hand.
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-fold
Check when you can and fold if you are bet into. Gladly accept all free cards offered.

Normally Playable Starting Hands

High Trips - (AAA down to 101010) Fast play these. Your opponents will put you on a high pair.

Low Trips - (999 down to 222) Slow play until your 5th street bet. Keep 'em guessing.

High Pair - (AA, KK, QQ, JJ, 1010) Fast play these, split or concealed, if they are not overcarded on the board. Try to narrow the field and play fast until threatened by a higher hand.

Low Pair / High Kicker - Slow play split or concealed low pairs with a kicker that is higher than any upcard on the board. Fold this hand if two or more of your key cards are dead. Check-fold if you don't get trips or two pair on the next card.

Concealed Low Pair / No High Kicker - Slow play for trips on 4th street. Fold if one or both of your pair cards are dead. Check-fold if you don't make trips or two pair on the next card.

High Overcards - Two or three high cards that are higher than anything on the board. Slow play and check-fold if they don't make a high pair on the next card.

High 3 Card Flush - (2h 10h Kh) Must have at least two high cards. Fold if three or more cards of your suit are dead. Slow play and check-fold if you don't make a four card flush or a high pair on the next card.

High 3 Card Straight - (9 10 J) to Q K A) Slow play and check-fold if you don't make a four card straight or a high pair on the next card.

Any 3 Cards to a Straight Flush - (5d 7d 9d) Fold if four or more of your key straight and flush cards are dead. Slow play and check-fold if you don't make any four cards to a straight or a four card flush.

Strategy Tips

  • When you start with a high pair, fast play to eliminate as many players as possible.
  • Slow play starting draw hands like three to a straight or a flush. You want to keep other players in to build the pot odds.
  • Slow play starting trips until the fifth card. You want some players around with this powerful starting hand.
  • Usually don't begin with a small pair unless they are concealed or your side card can beat the board.
  • Don't play three to a low straight or a low flush.
  • Watch the board closely for key cards that can seriously diminish your chances of making a good hand and for opponent's hands that look dangerous. Play cautiously and fold out early if it looks like the tide is turning against you.
  • Beware of the paired door card. If an opponent is playing a pair in his starting hand, and pairs his door card (first upcard), the odds are two out of three that the door card is part of his pair. A paired door card presents a strong possibility that the holder has a dangerous set of trips.
  • Usually fold if your complete hand is beaten on the board by an opponent's upcards. (Unless you are playing a strong draw hand)
  • Try to find reasons to fold both your starting hands and those that develop on the later streets. Look for a dead card in the denomination that you need and for two or three dead cards in the suit that you are drawing to. Look for too much strong competition developing for the winning hand. When you can't find reasons to fold, you can then proceed aggressively.
  • Beware of multiple "check-arounds" on 7th St. Straight and flush draws often hit on the last card and there is usually so little in the pot that your last card pair of Aces etc. is not a very good bet.
  • Study your opponents, especially when you are not playing hands and can pay careful attention. Do they find more hands to play than they fold? Do they bluff? Can they be bluffed? Do they have any "tells" (give away mannerisms) that disclose information about their hands etc.
  • 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 really strong and need the action.
  • The first four cards are the major key to winning at Seven Card Stud games. If your starting hands develop according to plan, you can be a strong favorite to win. If they don't, you get out early and escape the expensive second best experience. The three card starting hands recommended above are those with the best chance of producing a dominant four card hand. Good four card hands that are carefully played don't always win but they win a lot more than the others.

More Resources

Seven Card Stud Starting Hand Frequencies - Starting hand information with hand type illustrations and frequency data.

Have fun and GOOD LUCK!

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