Seven Card Stud: Ante-stealing

Regularly stealing the ante is part of the indispensable repertoire of every profit-oriented poker player.

Frequency of steal attempts 

The pot odds in a full ring standard game with eight players are roughly 4:3 (8 x $1 ante + $5 forced bet = $13 as opposed to the bet that is risked, which is a $10 complete), which means that attempts to steal must be successful in around 40% of all cases in order to return a profit. But even with a lower probability of immediate success, trying to steal is still worthwhile because under favourable initial conditions you can often steal the pot at a later point in the hand, such as on Fourth or Fifth Street.

How often we can attempt to steal and what our own hand requires in terms of quality depend decisively on the limits we're playing. The most important factor is the relation between the ante and the limit, the so-called ante/limit ratio. In a 10/20 game the ante is usually 1 so the ratio is thus 10. In a 40/80 game the ante is 5, so the ratio here is 8. There are even live games with an ante of 20 at a limit of 60/120. This corresponds to a ratio of only 3. The higher the ratio, the tighter the game. Obviously, a game with a ratio of 3 has to be extremely loose.

The higher the ratio, the easier it is to steal the antes, because they are seldom defended. The lower the ratio, the more the other players are forced to reduce the quality required in starting hands and it becomes more difficult to carry out a direct steal on third street.

Prerequisites for a good steal attempt

In Seven Card Stud, two factors are of decisive importance for steal attempts:

  • our position at the table
  • our opponents' upcards.

In late position immediately to the right of the forced bet, a complete as a steal attempt is almost always profitable, if all the other players have folded. The quality of our own starting hand in this example is almost completely irrelevant. However, if we are confronted with a raise from the forced bet here, we must fold your hand if it doesn't meet our minimum requirements for selecting a starting hand. Over the course of time many players lose lots of bets because they start a steal, are raised by an opponent and then passively continue calling their opponent's bets up to Fifth or Sixth Street. Decisively folding here would often save them a lot of money that they would superfluously invest in the pot.

Steal attempts from middle position are almost always worthwhile if all previous players folded after the forced bet and we are holding the highest upcard. But even with a low card, a steal attempt can be a very good move if our own card is still fully live and the subsequent upcards block one another.

  • Example 1: At a full ring table we're the third player to act after a player showing the has posted the bring-in. The exposed and fold, We're holding with doorcard . There are three players behind us, one of whom is showing . In this situation a complete makes sense although our starting hand is actually unplayable. The three players with a block one another and we represent a pair of nines. In the majority of cases we can collect the pot right on third street. But even in this example the following applies: as soon as we are confronted with another raise, we fold immediately.

Fundamentally, we should attempt steals in early position only if we are showing an and no other player has an ace as upcard. Since an exposed ace is almost always respected by the other players and only seldom raised again. If, contrary to expectations, a later player does raise, this is almost always the sign of a strong starting hand. The question of whether to call the raise depends mainly on the quality of our hidden kickers and our estimate of our opponent's potential for aggression. For example, if one of our hole cards is higher than the raiser's doorcard, then we should definitely be prepared to call his bet. There is a probability of 12% that there will be a direct improvement of our hand on fourth street and that we will pair our ace or kicker. However, if our hand doesn't improve and the raiser remains aggressive, we should fold on Fourth Street.

Defending against a steal

As you can easily see, stealing the antes is an important part of the game and of course, our opponents will often also try to apply this strategy. Poker literature recommends immediately raising the suspected stealer on third street. However, in many cases this approach is not the optimum one. Particularly when up against opponents who often and regularly try to steal the ante on third street, it is advisable just to call the complete at first. If our opponent is dealt a relatively meaningless card on Fourth Street and we buy one that beats his doorcard, we should take the initiative here and bet. If we apply this strategy we build up more pressure and present ourselves as being more serious, which can often lead to us being able to collect the pot uncontested on Fourth Street.

Decisive in defending steal attempts are

  • a clear characterisation of our opponents
  • that our knowledge of their respective patterns of behaviour is as precise as possible.

Most players fall into the same, often stereotyped patterns of action again and again. And it is here that we can find an effective approach: we anticipate the opponent's action by doing exactly the opposite of what he expected.