One of the most sought after forms of poker is undoubtedly seven card stud poker, incorporating elements of both patience and skill. If one had to take all the variants of poker, it would be found that seven card stud poker, together with Texas Hold'em, is the most played out of them all.
The appeal of seven card stud poker is the fact that the game is more complicated than other variants as it is played, as its name implies, with seven cards. Due to this complexity, one of the ways to learn skills in this game is to learn when to hold cards and when to fold them. The game is not for the faint hearted, however, as there are a large number of cards and plenty of betting rounds, making it one of the more expensive variants of poker. Therefore, only players who are absolutely positive that their cards are going to win should go for the pot. A pot in seven card stud poker can be substantially larger than pots found in other games – this is because maximum bets in seven card stud poker double when the third betting round is reached.
Two of the most important elements in seven card stud poker are flexibility and strategy. It is not enough simply to ‘sit down and play’. The game requires players to constantly assess – and then reassess - their cards in a bid to make the right decision regarding their next move. Players will get very far in seven card stud poker if they develop good memory skills, as having the ability to calculate odds in the hope of getting cards to complete a perfect hand is one of the key demands for doing well in this game.
The game begins with players placing an ante at the poker table. This ante’s size is pre-determined by the poker room or poker site. As a rule of thumb, tables that have $0.50/$1 limits do not carry ante wagering.
A round known as Third Street begins. Essentially, the poker dealer will deal three cards to each of the players around the table. These cards consist of two hole cards and one visible card (aka a door card). The player who has the lowest card starts the betting.
This is the point where the first round of betting begins. Players choose to check, fold, bet or raise, according to their cards dealt.
Another round known as Fourth Street begins. This is where the dealer deals one more card face up to all the players around the table.
Another round of betting begins, and again, players choose to check, fold, bet or raise according to their cards dealt.
The round known as Fifth Street begins, where a fifth card is dealt by the dealer to all players, face up.
Another round of betting – the third – begins, and again players choose to check, fold, bet or raise according to their cards dealt.
The round known as Sixth Street begins, where the dealer deals a sixth card face up to all players around the table.
A fourth round of betting begins, where players check, fold, bet or raise once more.
The round known as the River or Seventh Street is played out, with the final card being dealt by the dealer, with the difference being that the card is dealt face down.
At this stage, the final round of betting begins.
The stage known as the Showdown wraps up the game. Should two or more players be after the pot at the end of these betting rounds, their poker cards are turned face up. This is the point where the players with the best high and low hands split the poker pot between them and the game concludes.
Rules of the Game
Like most poker variants, the main objective of seven card stud poker is to complete the game with the best poker hand and take home the pot at the end. There are many rules pertaining to seven card stud poker, and players need to understand them well before embarking on a game:
In seven card stud poker, the initial round of betting commences with a forced bet by the player who holds the lowest up card. This is determined by the card’s suit. In all subsequent betting rounds, action is initiated by the highest displayed card.
Should the player making the forced bet choose to do so, he may open with a full bet.
If the opening bet is increased by the player, this is considered a completion of a bet and does not constitute a raise.
During the second up card stage of the game – aka the fourth street – should an open pair be visible, players have the choice of selecting to bet either the lower or the upper limit. Note that this pertains to fixed limit games only.
It sometimes happens that a dealer obliviously deals the first or second hold cards face up. If this happens accidently, the third card will then be dealt down. Should both hole cards be dealt face up, the hand is declared a dud and the ante will be returned by the house.
Should the first card that is dealt face up have been the low card, the game begins with the first hand to that player’s left.
If a player is missing from the poker when it is his turn to act, his ante is automatically forfeited. Should any forced bets have been placed, these, too, are forfeited.
If there is no wager present and the player decides to fold a hand, the player will still be dealt cards until the hand ‘dies’ due to a wager.
In the case of the player being in for the ante holding the low card, the rules dictate that the player to his left becomes the first to act. This player has the choice to fold or open for the full or initial bet.
Should the low card be misread, resulting in the incorrect person being selected to begin the betting round, action is corrected by shifting to the right low card as long as the next player has not yet acted. In this case, the player who had the incorrect low card needs to withdraw the bet and the correct low card places the bet. Should, however, the next hand play out already, the bet is accepted and action continues.
In the case of a player picking up the up cards and not calling when he needs to wager, seven card stud poker rules dictate that this is considered a fold and the hand is dead. If this takes place during the showdown stage of the game, the move is immaterial as betting is already over.
A card dealt off the table is considered ‘exposed’ and has to be played.
Dealers do not announce straights or flushes. They have to announce the low card, high hand, raises and all pairs.
Should the dealer forget to burn any card, or, alternatively, burn two cards, these cards are returned to their correct position. Should this occur on the final down card, the player needs to accept the card should he mix his cards with other hold cards or has a look at the card.
Cards need to be removed from play if one (or more) are burnt and dealt before the end of the betting round. At the end of that round, an extra card for each player still left in the game is removed. These are put on the side so that they can be dealt to players who would have seen them dealt to them if there was no error at the beginning of the round. When the betting round ends, a card is burnt by the dealer and the game continues. Should the dealer run out of cards, these cards that have been set aside can be utilized. Should the dealt card be the final down card – and has been seen or mixed with other cards – the player has to keep the card and the player is then not allowed to bet or raise on the sixth street.
In the case of there not being sufficient cards in the deck for all players to get their deal, the following happens: a) All cards are dealt except the last card, b) The last card is placed with burned cards and any other discarded cards, c) The pile of cards is shuffled, cut and burned again, d) The dealer deals the remaining down cards, and the last card is utilized if necessary, e) Should the dealer require all the cards to complete the deal, no cards are burned, f) A common card is utilized should the dealer decide that there are not enough fresh cards for the remaining players in the game, g) This common card is turned face up in the middle of the poker table and all players can use it to make hands, h) The player who has the high card begins wagering on the last round.
Players who are ‘all in’ get their hole cards face down. However, if the last hold card is dealt face up then the card has to be retained and all other players receive normal cards.
Should the last card be turned face up by the poker dealer, the high hand using all the up cards begins the action.
Two or more players around the table means that all players get their last card dealt face down. Should the player’s last card be dealt face up, he has the option of declaring ‘all in’ prior to the commencement of betting action.
If a player’s final down card is dealt face up and there are only two left at the poker table, the second player’s down card is also dealt face up. Betting takes place in a normal way. Should the first player’s card be face down and the second player’s card is face up, the latter has the option of declaring an ‘all-in’ prior to the commencement of betting action.
A dead hand in seven card stud poker is one that contains more than seven cards. Should a hand reach the showdown stage with less than seven cards, this is also considered a dead head.
A refund cannot be claimed by a player who calls a bet despite the fact that he has been beaten by another player’s up card.
Tips for 7 Card Stud Poker
There are a number of tips that poker professionals are able to offer players in a bid to help them improve their strategies and become good five card stud poker players. These are as follows:
Be Flexible: As in any variant of poker, it is important to go into your game with a planned strategy. Having said that, you also need to maintain a certain level of flexibility due to the very nature of the game. Strategies may need to be adjusted as the game unfolds, and you need to be ready for this. Experience will eventually teach you to go into the game with a back up strategy that will help you adjust your game playing should important cards, for example, suddenly turn up in your rival’s exposed cards.
Bet Wisely – Consider the betting patterns of other players around the table when considering what hands to be bet on. As a rule of thumb, a big pair is worth betting on, provided that other players are not playing too aggressively.
Learn to Calculate – Strong calculation skills are very important to develop in seven card stud poker. You need to remember that there are 13 cards in a particular suit, and to create a flush you need five of them. Learn to remember which cards appear in your opponent’s hands in order to take them out of your equation when trying to create a flush.
Prepare for the Fifth Street – The Fifth Street is considered the most important stage of the game, and by this point of the poker game you really do need to have confidence in your hand in order to proceed. If your opponent’s exposed cards beat your entire hand, there is really no point in advancing, and you should fold at this stage.
Develop Patience – Patience is a number one skill to develop when playing seven card stud poker, due to the many different rounds. If you find that you have no patience, practice or choose a simpler variant of poker.
Learn to Memorize – The best seven card stud poker players have amazing memories, and are able to remember the cards as they are discarded or dealt. This is a good way to ensure that your rivals do not have the cards you need, and, if they do, gives you an advantage when deciding when and if to fold.
7 Card Stud Poker Hand Ranking Chart
7 Card Stud Poker Hand Rankings Descriptions
A straight flush involving Ten, Jack, Queen, King and Ace
Five sequential cards of the same suit with the high card being less than an ace
Four of a Kind
Four cards with the same value
Three cards of the same value and a separate pair of cards of the same value
Five cards of the same suit
Five cards with sequential values (cards of any suits)
Three of a Kind
Three cards with the same value
Two separate pairs of cards with the same value
Two cards of the same value
No other combination, the value of the highest card wins
As we have outlined above, seven card stud poker is not considered one of the more complicated variants of poker, with the most complex rules, for nothing. Having said that, this game is still considered one of the most entertaining and challenging of all poker games. Players who manage to conquer this game and develop skills are considered good players. It means that they have managed to develop all the elements needed to do well in the game, including patience, skill and good memory. The big pot at the end of the game makes this a particularly lucrative and attractive game to play.