Seven Card Stud: 7th street
In Seven Card Stud, the way hands are played on Seventh Street is very largely dependent on the profile of the respective opponent. The tendency of most players on Seventh Street is often (overall, too often) to check and only to bet really strong made hands. At this point value bets are often missed, as are opportunities to bluff. Normally, most players will show clear patterns of behaviour and reactions from Fifth Street onwards and will also remain surprisingly faithful to their basic strategies.
The optimised strategy on Seventh Street depends almost entirely on the pattern of behaviour observed in the respective opponent so far.
Example 1: We're holding a pair of aces. Since Fourth Street we've been playing heads-up against an opponent who clearly has a pair of kings. The seventh, hidden card hasn't improved our hand and we don't know whether our opponent now has two pair or even trips. It is often recommended that we check in this situation, and call if the opponent bets. In principle, this is not the best strategy, as the following reflections show:
- On Sixth Street we were on average a 76% favourite to win a showdown. Even assuming optimum conditions for our opponent, he will improve to trips in only 5% of all cases, and to two pair in 31% of cases, while we are unable to improve our pair of aces. However, he will raise in the most seldom of cases, i.e. only with trips. But due to the pot odds he will call the bet in the vast majority of cases, in order to keep a possible bluff from us under control. The only situation in which it doesn't make sense for us to bet is when the pair of aces is open on the board.
The recommendation is therefore: to always make a value bet on Seventh Street against a player who tends to be passive, because in the vast majority of cases we will be able to collect another big bet.
By contrast, if we're playing against a very aggressive player, checking would be recommended, followed by an obligatory call if our opponent bets. In this special case it would also be advisable to consider a check-raise on Seventh Street if we hit a second pair.
Folding on Seventh Street
Folding our hand at this point is sensible in only the fewest of cases, unless we can tell from our opponent's upcards that we are definitely beaten.
Otherwise, calling can never be a big mistake. If worst comes to worst we will lose one additional bet. But a fold on Seventh Street always costs the entire pot: from a mathematical point of view, there is no bigger mistake in Seven Card Stud than to fold on Seventh Street when an opponent bets, while we would have won the pot at the showdown.
Some aggressive players enjoy making unexpected bets on Seventh Street to force their opponents to fold.
- Example 2: Again we started with a pair of aces. One of our opponents showed another ace but folded. We have been heads-up against our opponent since Fourth Street and on Fifth Street he buys the last ace in the deck. In a case like this, some opponents will bet on Seventh Street even though we had been the aggressor up to that point. There is often a bluff hiding behind this bet: because of the way the hand was played, our opponent doesn't believe that we have a pair of aces and so he sees this as the ideal opportunity to take the pot down with a single bet although he himself has only middle pair.
Bluffing on Seventh Street
Bluffing barely makes sense on Seventh Street and we should restrict it to genuinely exceptional situations. A well-constructed bluff always has a history that has been built up in the course of the hand, for example by a raise on Sixth Street, and is always directed at opponents who are extremely passive and careful.
A favourable opportunity to bluff results from upcards that look very dangerous, for example four cards to a flush or a straight, and we reckon that our opponent has at best middle pair on Sixth Street. If we already had the opportunity of raising an opponent's bet on Fifth or Sixth Street, then a bluff attempt on Seventh Street is worthwhile, but this is an exception.
Another opportunity for bluffing can arise when our opponent is showing a pair but hasn't paired his doorcard. Interestingly, this bluff works better when the opponent's pair is a higher one, for example or .
- Example 3: We start with and buy the on Fourth Street. Now we're heads-up against an opponent who is showing the (doorcard) . On Fifth Street he gets the and we buy the . On Sixth Street he gets a while we get a . With an inside straight flush draw we raise his bet here. Seventh Street brings us the and in the end we only have ace-high. If our opponent now checks, then a bet as a pure bluff will always be worthwhile, because back on Sixth Street we suggested that we could beat a pair of jacks. Especially careful players are in this specific situation even prepared to fold one pairs . Certainly, a bluff will only be successful in a minority of cases, but in light of the pot odds we'll have a positive EV even if it only works every fourth time.
As we were able to see in the previous chapters, strategies after Third Street are quite complex. We have to be able at all times to determine the strength of your own hand in relation to that of our opponents' with the greatest possible precision.
Without a doubt, in Seven Card Stud most of the money is won or lost with the selection of the starting hands. A player who is proficient in optimising his strategy in the later course of the hand will on average win 50% more than the "standard" player, who tends to be rather passive, although both of them play the same range of starting hands.