Seven Card Stud: 4th Street

In the previous articles we could clearly see that a reasonable starting hand selection is a relatively complicated issue in Seven Card Stud. The reason for this is that in Seven Card Stud there are around 17 times as many starting hand combinations as in Texas Hold'em (22,100 compared with 1,326). With a pair as a starting hand we should attempt to keep the number of active players in the hand as low as possible, while the pot odds make it more effective to play draws in multiway pots.

The situation on Fourth Street adds another criterion that must be taken into consideration: in the great majority of hands the position will now change. While in the first round of betting the lowest upcard had to pay at least the forced bet, on Fourth Street the player with the highest card showing speaks first. It's easily possible for us to change from a late to an early position and then we will have to act as first or second player.

Besides reducing the number of opponents in preparation for the subsequent rounds of betting on Fifth and Sixth Street, the aim of our strategy on Fourth Street must also be to obtain as much information as possible about the quality of our opponents' hands. On Fourth Street, bets and raises are still at the lower limit. For the same information that can be obtained for a bet here, we will have to pay twice as much from the next round onwards.

On Fourth Street we similarly distinguish between made hands such as trips, two pair, or a pair and draws. However, draws can become very strong hands and a favourite to win against one or two pair, depending on the fourth card.

Made hands on Fourth Street

In Seven Card Stud, as in all other limit poker variants, we should bet if we're convinced that we have the best hand. As with lower pairs, draws should never get a free card on Fourth Street, and when we're the favourite, we will naturally also want to increase the size of the pot or, in the ideal case, win it right away without a showdown because our opponents fold.

However, there are two exceptions where a slow play even on fourth street can make sense. If we were dealt rolled-up trips as a starting hand and had already decided to play slow in the first round of betting, then it makes sense to continue on Fourth Street as long as we are not playing a multiway pot (i.e. with several active opponents) against several possible draws. After all, a possible raise on Fifth Street adds twice the amount to the pot from each remaining opponent. The second possible slow play results from the situation in which we were holding a hidden pair as starting hand and bought the three of a kind on Fourth Street. The card does not appear suspicious to our opponents because there is no connection to our doorcard.This applies in particular when aggressive players in late position will very probably bet.

  • Example 1 
We start with , the jack is our doorcard. In the first round of betting the player with an exposed completes and an exposed calls, just as we do.
Three players are left on Fourth Street where we get the . The player with opens with a bet, the player with calls. In this case we also call so as not to reveal the strength of our hand, keeping back the raise for the betting round on Fifth Street. At this  point we don't want to force any opponent to fold early.

In contrast to this example, if our doorcard is paired and forms trips on Fourth Street we should always bet. In this special situation, the rules allow a player whose upcards form a pair to bet the upper limit. If we don't bet, then that would be a fundamentally suspicious sign for our opponents and they will usually all check.

Playing two pair on Fourth Street

Holding two pair on Fourth Street is also a situation in which our tendency should be to play aggressively. If we are playing against an obvious overpair then we will be the slight favourite with 55% anyway. Above all, with two pair we must try to reduce the number of active opponents as far as possible. An overpair will very seldom fold at this point, but we should make the next card as expensive as possible for players with draws.

When a player has paired his doorcard we have to be careful. If he was willing to call the complete and a raise with his starting hand then it is certainly possible that he has now hit a set. If there is a lot of action in the form of raise and re-raise between a player showing a pair on Fourth Street and a player showing a card higher that your own two pair, it may be a sensible idea to fold two pair right away on Fourth Street, especially if the opponents' upcards include one or two cards of the same rank as your pairs. If we decide at this point to go along with all the action, it's difficult to get away from the hand in the course of the game, and with two pair, we are the rank outsider against three of a kind.

One pair on Fourth Street

Most of the mistakes made in Seven Card Stud are made with a pair on Fourth Street. As a rule, the preceding betting will give us a fairly precise overview of the quality of the remaining opponents' hands. If we can see that at this point we are probably up against a high pair, we should only continue playing the hand when the following conditions are fulfilled:

  • our own pair and kickers are completely live,
  • both kickers are higher than the pair we suspect our opponent has, and
  • the action comes to us with, at most, a raise, i.e. two bets.

Even if all these conditions apply, playing passively and just calling is still strongly recommended.

If our own pair is probably the best hand on Fourth Street we should bet aggressively.

  • Example 2
Our starting hand is , our doorcard is and so we have a flush draw. On the basis of the preceding action I suspect that the opponent showing the has a pair . On Fourth Street we buy a , while our opponent buys an apparently irrelevant . We're the player with the highest upcard and have to act first. If we are up against a relatively aggressive opponent we check with the intention of making a check-raise. If there are doubts as to whether he will bet on Fourth Street, we open the round by betting. Our hand isn't strong enough to consider a slow play at this point, and I want to go heads-up with the suspected pair of queens as quickly as possible.

Draws on Fourth Street

Playing draws on Fourth Street depends decisively on whether the quality of the respective hand has improved. Draws that haven't improved on Fourth Street should be folded right away, even against a single bet. If we start with a flush draw, for example, and don't get another card of the same suit or a straight draw or a pair on Fourth Street, we should muck our hand without further ado. Calling more bets on the hope principle is expensive in the long run and is what distinguishes the long-term winners from the losers.

Conversely, a draw on Fourth Street can turn into a very strong hand. If we start with a flush draw and then on Fourth Street we buy the fourth card of the same suit, we will already be a 59% favourite against a high pair, even if none of our cards is higher than the opponent's pair. In this case we should play the draw aggressively, which means either betting ourselves or raising our opponent's bet. The same applies to a straight draw that improves to an open-ended straight draw on Fourth Street.

  • Example 3
We start with and on Fourth Street we are dealt the . Against a suspected pair we are only a slight favourite at around 53%, but should act as aggressively as possible and raise our opponents bet on principle. Aggressive play on Fourth Street will often get us a free card on Fifth or Sixth Street, where the upper limit applies and additional cards become expensive. Especially if we're in position, we will find that when opponents have been raised on Fourth Street, in the course of the hand they then tend to check.

But even if the draw has improved on Fourth Street, it is still mandatory to observe the remaining upcards. If four cards of the remaining nine of our flush draw suit are already showing, the probability of winning is correspondingly reduced and we very quickly change from being favourite to underdog.

In contrast to Texas Hold'em, Fourth Street in Seven Card Stud is the flop situation. Now we have to decide whether we want to continue playing the hand and whether we are also prepared to invest what may become a considerable amount.