Seven Card Stud: An Introduction

Long before Texas Hold'em began its unstoppable march through the U.S.A. and Europe, poker was being played in the casinos as well as in the state-owned gaming houses in Germany. The game was Seven Card Stud and the variants played were limit, spread-limit and, in some casinos, even pot-limit. If you went to the Mirage, the biggest poker room in Las Vegas in the mid-nineties, you generally found a very balanced mix. Seven Card Stud was being played at around 50 per cent of the tables, while at the other half the game was Texas Hold'em. You wouldn't have found any No-Limit Hold'em tables and the casinos didn't offer Pot Limit Omaha as well. However, in the U.S.A. they almost exclusively offered limit hold'em.

Nowadays, Seven Card Stud is unfortunately a little neglected, but it is nevertheless worthwhile play the game. From a technical point of view, the average playing ability at stud tables is generally considerably lower than in Texas Hold'em games. The average age is considerably higher and many of these players have trouble in getting to grips with modern information technologies such as the Internet. They have mostly made only a very superficial study of the theoretical concepts of the game and often justify their "gut feeling" actions as being based on experience. In Seven Card Stud you will find a lot of calling stations; thus, a high proportion of passive players who stay in the hand up to the very last card with only marginal hands. In the German speaking area these players have even earned their own nickname: here they are known as "Steinbeisser", lit. "rockbiters".

If you want to play profitable poker, then the poorer the strategic skills of my opponents, the greater your expected value. For this reason alone it can be exceptionally lucrative to learn to play Seven Card Stud and acquire at least some basic knowledge.

The starting point that poker is a strategic game with incomplete information also applies to Seven Card Stud. However, there is no other poker variant in which you will get so much information about an opponent's hand. The game requires a high degree of concentration in every single hand. In the course of each hand you will see a large number of open cards and should keep them all in your short-term memory. Not only the cards you may need to improve your own hand, but also those that appear to be completely unimportant at first glance. As they could turn out to be key cards for your opponent in the further course of the hand, and then knowing whether these cards are already out of the game could be the decisive factor for a bet, a call or a raise. That sounds complicated and difficult at first but it's really just a matter of practice. If you practice card counting at home, half an hour a day every day for two or three weeks, you will find that you achieve respectable results. There are also several techniques you can use to aid memorising skills. You will find plenty of literature on this subject in the Internet and on Amazon.

Explanation of the rules of Seven Card Stud

Nowadays you will find only very few pot-limit or spread-limit stud games. We will therefore exclusively refer to explanations of the rules of limit stud. Only in the last section entitled "Advanced concepts" will we look at the other two variants. The game is suitable for two to eight players, and in exceptional cases can also be played with nine people. In contrast to Texas Hold'em, there are neither blinds nor a button. In order to create a pot, each player has to post a mandatory bet known as the ante before the first card is dealt.

  • The first round of betting
Subsequently the first bet is placed. This is a forced bet, called bring-in. The lowest exposed card (upcard) on the table determines which player must post the bring-in. As a rule, this forced bet is lower than the small bet at the table. In the case of a tie the suits will determine who has to posts the bring-in. Spades is the highest suit, followed by hearts then diamonds and then clubs, the lowest suit in poker. However, the suits have nothing to do with determining the winning hand when playing Seven Card Stud. The player immediately to the left of the bring-in must now decide what to do. He can fold his hand, call the bring-in, or raise to the lower of the two limits. If he decides to call (the bring-in), the next player has the same options available. If in the course of the betting round there has already been a raise, then, in addition to the options of folding or calling the small bet, the next player has the additional option of re-raising. The amount of the re-raise must be the amount of the lower limit. Here is an example for clarification: we're playing $10/$20 limit Seven Card Stud. The ante is $2 and the bring-in is the same amount, $2. The lowest exposed card is held by player A and is the . Player A pays the $2 bring-in. Player B, sitting to the left of him, calls $2. Player C raises to $10, making what is known as a complete. If player D now wants to raise, he can raise by exactly $10 to a total of $20.
Almost all limit variants are played with a "cap". In Seven Card Stud there is a cap after a total of four raises. In our example you can raise to a maximum of $40; after that re-raises are no longer permitted. Fourth Street: when the round of betting is complete, the dealer deals each of the remaining players another upcard, known as "Fourth Street". 
  • The second round of betting
In contrast to the opening round, the player with the highest upcard combination has to act first. An already formed pair counts more than an ace, for example. If one player already has an open pair, a special rule applies: in this case each player can place the big bet, i.e. the upper limit of the table, or raise by the amount of the big bet.
If there is no open pair, the player with the highest card can check or bet. If he wants to play, he has to bet the lower limit amount, which is $10 in our example. After a player has bet, the players to his left can again fold, call or raise. There is also a cap, but in this case it is after the third raise (because in this round of betting there is no longer a complete, i.e. the first raise to the complete small bet). However, the procedure followed when the cap is reached can differ from casino to casino. You need to obtain this information before playing.
If the player with the highest card checks, then it is the turn of the next player in clockwise direction. Fifth Street: subsequently, all the players left in the hand are dealt another upcard, "Fifth Street".
  • The third round of betting
In the round of betting that now follows, the bets change to the upper limit, in this case $20. If a player now wants to bet, he has to bet $20, and if a player wants to raise, he can only do so by raising another $20. Sixth Street: as soon as the round of betting is over, the dealer deals a fourth upcard, "Sixth Street".
  • The fourth round of betting
The procedure for the subsequent round of betting is exactly the same as on Fifth Street. Seventh Street: the seventh and last card in Seven Card Stud is now dealt face down after the round of betting is finished. It is known as "Seventh Street" and is the equivalent of the river in Texas Hold'em.
  • The fifth round of betting
The final round of betting follows at the upper limit and as soon as it's finished, there is a showdown. At the showdown, the best-possible five-card hand from a total of seven cards is always evaluated. The person with the best hand wins, of course. As in all other types of poker, the suits do not count, when it comes to determining who has the best hand. If, for example, two or more players have the same straight, the pot is split between the players. The suit is irrelevant. In contrast to Texas Hold'em, two players can have the same flush , but in two different suits. At the showdown, Player A shows .
Player B shows . Without taking the suits into consideration (spades rank higher than hearts), this pot is split equally.
Now you know the rules of Seven Card Stud. How to play Stud in practice, what starting hands are good, i.e. profitable, how to play the individual betting rounds, when you can play draws and when you shouldn't - is explained in the following articles.