Seven Card Stud: 5th and 6th Street

The decision on fifth street is almost as important as the careful selection of our starting hand at the beginning of the game. There are two main reasons for this.

  • One is that if we continue playing our hand here it often means that we are committed to staying in until the last card and the showdown.
  • The other is that in limit seven-card stud, from fifth street onwards the high limit is played, which means that bets are exactly twice as big as they had previously been.

Especially in games that are basically aggressive, the pot becomes considerably bigger in the last three rounds before the showdown than it did at the beginning.

By fifth street, every successful seven-card stud player has a reasonably good idea of what his active opponents are doing with their hands, for example whether they are or were waiting for a flush or a straight draw, or whether they're playing pairs. The opponents' upcards play a correspondingly more important role from fifth street on. Besides the ever-important question of how far one's own outs are reduced by the upcards of the other players, another aspect now becomes central to judging the state of the game: which of those cards could have improved the opponents' hands?

On fifth street we also distinguish between made hands and draws. By contrast with the earlier rounds of betting, however, we can now estimate the strength of our own hand in relation to that of our opponent much more clearly. Calculating our own outs and the resulting probabilities for winning the showdown are within assessable limits.

For purposes of general orientation, here are the probabilities of winning various hands in a heads-up situation:

The odds on fifth street  

(The probabilities of winning are given in percentages in parentheses)

Trips                             vs.        4-card straight and flush draw
  (63)                 (37)

Trips                             vs.        2 higher pairs
  (81)                   (19)

Trips                            vs.        Flush
  (32)                   (68)

2 pairs                           vs.        Higher pair with flush draw 
(41)                     (59)

2 pairs                           vs.        Higher pair with 3 higher cards
(58)                    (42)

Straight                            vs.        Flush draw
(64)                    (36)

Pair of aces                      vs.        1 pair with open straight draw 
(50)                   (50)

Low full house                 vs.        High trips
(65)                    (35)

Made hands on fifth street

On fifth street our opponent can already have a full house or even quads (four of a kind). The prerequisite for this, however, is that he is showing at least a pair.

On principle we should never slow play a made hand on fifth street. Even if we started with trips and have been slow playing our hand so far, now is the time to go on the offensive. Opponents who pay the fifth street round of betting in full will very seldom fold in the course of the hand because the pot odds afterwards justify almost any call.

In this context it is a big mistake to play passively and thereby virtually invite draws to stay in the game. If we think we're holding the best hand, we should always bet or raise.

A check raise with a made hand on fifth street is only suitable if the profile of the next player is such that we are sure he will bet.

Most of the mistakes made in the game of seven-card stud as a whole are made on fifth street with marginal hands such as two small pairs or one high pair and low kickers that are no longer live. As mentioned in the previous article, around two-thirds of showdowns involve in the region of one to two pairs. If we can foresee at this point that we will have to go up against two pairs, then we should fold here without much resistance. It is often correct that the pot odds at that point would justify paying a bet. However, in many cases, especially in multiway action, this is followed by a raise, and with the two rounds of betting on sixth and seventh streets, one bet at the high limit can quickly become four. This is because up to that point the pot had only been increased by bets at the low limit, so the subsequent bets when taken together are no longer in a positive EV relation.

Draws on fifth street

Let's assume that we are playing a draw on fifth street, for example a flush draw, with four cards in a single suit. In a hand like this too, playing somewhat more aggressively is likely to produce advantages in the long run. If we would pay a bet on these cards anyway, it is usually a more skilful move if we bet immediately. 

  • Example 1: We started with three diamonds and caught a fourth one on fifth street. Since fourth street we've been heads-up with an opponent holding (we think) a small pair or a straight draw. On fourth and fifth streets he bought two cards that clearly didn't improve his starting hand. We bet immediately, because there is a justifiable chance that he will fold here. If he calls our bet then we can already start preparing a possible bluff for the next two rounds of betting if we miss our flush. 

Another mistake is to assume that with a draw on fifth street, we should keep as many opponents as possible in the game. If the draw includes, for example, overcards to the suspected pair of the opponent who is betting, then we should always raise in order to force players in later positions to fold. If we're holding a draw and have the choice between playing against one opponent or two, the heads-up situation is usually the better alternative. In the heads-up situation, the potential of the hand can often result in alternative solutions that wouldn't be adequate to win the showdown in multiway action.

  • Example 2: We started with three spades and is one of our hole cards. On fifth street we buy . There are three players in the game and player A, with as doorcard, who always bet in the first three rounds, buys on fifth street. He again opens the round with a bet and now we raise him although we think he is holding a pair of queens. The double bet will often cause player B on our left to fold and with a high pair we can possibly win a heads-up showdown with an alternative solution if we buy an ace or even a king in the remaining two rounds.


Sixth street

The probabilities of various heads-up situations on sixth street:

Full house                            vs.       Higher trips
(76)                 (24)

Full house                            vs.       2 higher pairs
(90)                 (10)

Straight                                vs.       Trips
(75)                 (25)

Trips                                   vs.       2 higher pairs 
  (90)                (10)

2 pairs                                vs.       Higher pair (higher kicker)
(71)                 (29)

1 pair                                  vs.       4-card flush draw with high cards
(58)                 (42)

On sixth street we will often find ourselves in a situation where we can't figure out for sure whether we're the slight favourite or a rank outsider to win the showdown. The opponent's four upcards and his betting behaviour in the earlier rounds sometimes allow different interpretations of his hand.

That is the case when, for example, we're holding a high pair and we thought from the beginning that our opponent was holding a small pair. On sixth street he is showing three suited cards and we have to take the possibility of a made flush into consideration. Here, checking followed by calling a possible bet by our opponent would be the best course. If we then bet, in many cases our opponent will raise us, even with a pair and flush draw, and we will often lose an additional bet.

We should always raise on sixth street if we are to a great extent sure that we hold the best hand. In a few cases, especially when our upcards reflect a very strong hand, a raise may force an opponent out of the game in the belief that he was drawing dead when he actually had good a chance of winning.

  • Example 3: We started with a pair . During the course of the game we became convinced that our opponent had a pair of queens. After sixth street has been dealt we have the following upcards: . Although together with our hole cards we only have a pair of nines with an open-ended straight draw, we should definitely raise this hand against a suspected pair of queens. In many cases our opponent will fold. If he does pay, we can use the raise for the logical preparation of a bluff on seventh street in the event that we don't improve our hand with the last card.

In general, sixth street does not offer many opportunities for influencing the game. Fundamentally, we can assume that a bet on sixth street will be paid by all players still in the game. The pot is almost always big enough for the pot odds to be against a profitable fold in any situation, except for one in which a player is convinced he is drawing dead.