Seven Card Stud: Draws as Starting Hands


As mentioned in the introduction, Seven Card Stud is also referred to as a buying game. Since the starting hand already consists of three cards it is possible to already hold a draw in the first round of betting. Draws like this are of more significance here than in any other poker variant. For this reason it is important to deal with the conditions under which a draw

  • represents a very strong hand,
  • is only just playable, or
  • should rather be mucked. 

There are two forms of draws: the flush draw, where the three starting cards are of the same suit, and the straight draw, where your starting hand consits of three connected cards.

Flush draws

Whether we can play a flush draw as starting hand and how aggressively it should be played depends largely on three factors:
  1. The number of upcards that are of the same suit
  2. The value of our own upcard
  3. Our position at the table

If our opponents have no upcards of the same suit then the flush draw is generally playable. The exception is when the action comes with a complete, a raise and a re-raise and none of the three flush cards is of higher rank than the upcards of the opponents who betted.

  • Example 1
I start with . The player in front of me with an exposed completes, the raises and the exposed reraises. Even though I don't see another spade amongst the upcards, I fold my flush draw here. The reason for this is that I would usually be playing against at least two players who are already each holding a pair higher than my highest card. In this case I don't have much of an alternative solution for winning the hand in the end with one or two pair; I would almost always have to complete the flush in order to win.

If our opponents are holding one or two upcards of the same suit, then a flush draw should only be played if the action comes round with, at most, a complete, and if we have alternative solutions. This is the case when, for example, our own cards are live (i.e. when no opponents have upcards of the same rank) and at least one of our cards is of higher rank than the upcard of the player who completed.
  • Example 2 
My starting hand is . My opponents' upcards include the and , which means that two of my flush cards are already out of the game. But I don't see another or or . The player with the exposed makes a complete and isn't raised. I call because my cards are live and in addition to the flush draw I also have alternative solutions to win the hand. For example, if I get a on Fourth Street, I beat a possible pair of queens and can still improve due to the flush draw.

The question of how aggressively we should play a flush draw depends mainly on how many high cards we have compared with our opponents' upcards. If we're holding the highest upcard and a flush draw, we should generally start the first round of betting with a raise. A flush draw in itself does not yet have any intrinsic strength and would be beaten by any pair. In this case we want to reduce the number of possible opponents by raising and at the same time, the drawing hand does not become too obvious right away.

Straight draws

Straight draws often occur as starting hands in Seven Card Stud, but only a few of them are playable. Just as in Texas Hold'em we distinguish between an open-ended straight draw, such as , and an inside straight draw, such as . The question of whether we can play a straight draw as a starting hand is largely decided by analysing the following criteria.

1. How high are the cards?

It's obvious that there is a considerable difference in quality between and as starting hands. Both are inside straight draws. While the first hand should be mucked under almost all circumstances, the second one is worth at least an opening raise in most cases. If one of the three highcards pairs on Fourth Street, it's very likely that we are holding the best hand in the moment. However, if any of the cards in the first-mentioned hand - the three, four or six - pairs, then although the hand has improved a little, as a rule we will still be the underdog, especially if we are up against several opponents.

2. Are the required cards live cards?

In answering this question it immediately becomes clear why we are in a considerably more favourable initial situation when we have an open-ended straight draw than with a gutshot (inside straight draws). With we have eight direct outs (four and four ) to make our open-ended straight draw right away and eight more outs (four and four ) to get a gutshot draw, a total of 16 cards that would significantly improve the hand on Fourth Street. An open-ended straight draw should not be played as a starting hand if three of the required cards are already visible as upcards. If two of the required cards are visible as upcards we should play this draw only if at least one of our three starting cards is higher than the highest of our opponents' upcards. We should consider playing a gutshot straight draw as a starting hand only if none of the required cards is visible and at least two of our starting cards are higher than the highest of the opponents' upcards.

  • Example 3
My starting hand is and I am in second-last position. After the forced bet () the player with the exposed completes and is called by his neighbour with an exposed . There is no amongst the upcards. I also call the complete and if my upcard is a or I'll even raise. In many cases the raise can force the player who placed the forced bet to fold right away, and the two opponents will probably reraise me only if they have a hidden pair higher than my doorcard (the exposed card in front of me).
3. What alternative solutions are there to the straight?

If two cards of the straight draw are of the same suit, the quality of the hand improves, especially if the upcards do not include any further cards of this suit. We should pay close attention to whether the three connected cards are live. If our opponents don't have any of these cards as doorcard, then this also improves the quality of the starting hand considerably.

In general, in Seven Card Stud beginners should be restrained when it comes to playing straight draws. The quality of the hand is often overestimated and when starting hands are poorly selected, lots of bets are unnecessarily wasted in the course of a game. Even a starting hand that looks very strong, such as (open-ended straight flush draw) has only a 45% chance of winning and is thus a slight underdog against with a as kicker!