Card Stud is one of the most demanding Poker games. There are a lot of
cards on the table, each street demands a different approach, and the betting
can move from modest to sweat-breaking in minutes. It's a skill, memory and
strategy game that can be exhilarating, punishing and even humiliating. Our
strategy guide will help you enjoy more of the former and suffer less of the
he minimum Buy-In in 7 Stud is typically 10-times
the low limit, or $20 for a $2-$4 game.
But playing with the minimum is not recommended. Using the 40-times
recommendation, the player should buy in with a minimum of $80 for the $2-$4
games, $320 for the $8-$16 games, and $400 for the $10-$20.
You can always play with less, but the chances are you won't have enough to
see you through to the point where you've got a feel for the other players and
can bring your skills to bear. If you're underfunded you'll be nervous and
therefore at a disadvantage right off the top.
tud games are defined by their betting limits. The low stakes online games
are usually $2-$4 while the higher games are typically $8-$16 or $10-$20. I've
seen land casino Stud at $100-$200 or higher, but these stakes are very rare on
The game's betting limits tell the Stud player pretty much everything they
need to know about the nature of the game, the expectations of the players, and
the size of the bankroll you should have before you sit in.
he usual Ante in the lower-end games is 10% of the low betting limit. When the
betting limits climb so does this percentage, up to 25% or so. These higher
percentage Antes actually change the nature of the game. The proportionally
larger pot makes it worthwhile to come in strong in an attempt to "steal" the
When stealing the Ante becomes a worthwhile proposition, the speed and
intensity of play also increases, which in turn requires a shift in playing
strategy. Stud players traditionally find it difficult to make the transition to
the higher betting limits precisely because of this change.
t should come as no surprise that the big games attract the big players. A
rookie can and will get eaten alive by the sharks at the $100-$200 tables
without learning much in the process. What's the point of that? Remember, Stud
is a skill game and overestimating yours will cost you money.
A major part of any winning player's strategy has to be card memory and card
analysis. Studying what's on the table and what it could mean is critical in
Stud. You must observe the upcards in each street and examine not just your
chances but the chances of all other players.
hree of a Kind is the best opening hand in 7-Card
Stud and the higher the rank the better. They can often win you the round
without improvement and leave you great flexibility in your betting and
positioning in the coming streets.
If anyone at the table knew you held Trips right off, they'd almost certainly
Fold. The usual recommendation is to take it slow and hide what you've got. Bet
modestly, Check or Call as necessary, until you're in the high streets (5-7th)
where you can drag more money into the pot.
You want to keep as many players in as long as possible because you're
probably going to beat them. This is called the "slow play" and is designed to
maximize the pot.
If you're holding a set of "scare cards" (Aces or Kings), or highest door
card, keep in mind that everyone is expecting you to Raise, so if you don't
they're going to wonder what's up. With anything other than the scare cards
there's no need to bother.
At "the turn" (fourth street) you continue to play modestly, keeping the
other players in.
Once you hit fifth it's time to make the others pay to stay. If they're still
in at the fifth, the chances are that they'll want to see the "river" (seventh
street) and won't be scared off by the steeper action you provide.
As ever, watch the opponents cards watching for anything that could honestly
threaten your potential win.
fter Trips, a High Pair (10s or better) is the best starting hand you could
hope for. If the paired cards are in the hole (face down) that's even better:
open cards are worth less since the others can see or surmise what you've got.
This is a solid position for an opening Bet or Raise or even a re-Raise if you
hold highest door, J or better.
Don't be afraid of strong betting in third and fourth streets because you
want to eliminate as many players as possible while it's cheap to do so. You
still need to improve on your hand so you don't want anyone to pull cards for
If there are better door cards on the table--you've got holed Queens and
there's a King and Ace on the table--it's probably wise to leave it at a single
Raise. If it's two Aces, for example, on the table then don't hesitate since
it's already looking like a broken threat.
If you door card is reasonable, say a 10 or Jack, and the High Pair is buried
you're in an ideal situation. Your Raise will look like you're moving on the
Paired 10s, for example, and the other players will respond accordingly. You're
in an excellent position to pull them in deeper in the later streets.
By fifth the remaining hands that do not have an obvious strong position
(non-paired opens) are probably draw hands. Raise in order to knock them
Sixth and seventh: if you're not beaten by the open cards and you've improved
on the Pair, Raise. Otherwise you have to consider Folding, or at least Check
along if there's no Raises to match and nothing on the table looks
Three to a Flush
hree cards to a Flush is a "drawing" hand: you need cards to make anything
worthwhile. That said, it's worth a Raise, but how much money you can put behind
it without giving yourself away is largely determined by your door card.
If your doorcard is Faces or Aces (A, K, Q, J), then the Raise will look like
you're backing a high Pair. If your door leads, following a Raise and re-Raise
will probably pass without being suspected.
The "head" cards, highest of the held cards, also affect how you play the
hand. Assuming you don't have High door as above, you want J or better in the
Flush to justify the betting. This way you're drawing to both the Flush and a
High Pair to balance the expense.
If you've got a weak door or no High cards you need to get to fourth street
as cheaply as possible since you're facing 5 to 1 odds against completing your
hand. Consider mucking if any of the cards you need are "dead" (in another
If Fourth street brings you a fourth for the Flush you're facing 1.5 to 1
against completing, which is good odds at this point and worth a Raise. Consider
mucking if two or more of the cards you need are "dead" or if you've got no High
Pair possibilities as an out.
Fifth street: you must have that fourth to the Flush by this point in order
to justify further betting. If you get it, and especially if there's a High Pair
out, consider raising. The odds are still reasonable that you'll complete (2 to
By the sixth the odds are swinging against you at 4 to 1 to complete. You can
only justify staying in if it's cheap and there's still some chance of an out.
Three to a Straight
gain, we're talking about a draw hand, and this one's a lot tougher to
complete than the 3-Card Flush. If you've got two or three High cards, you've
got a chance at a High Pair as an out. This hand can sustain a Raise or even a
re-Raise if it's an Outside Straight (can be completed from either end). But
don't let A-K-Q fool you: that's an Inside Straight (only open at one end) and
is better played for it's Pairing possibilities.
Throughout the round it's doubly important to study the other players cards
for anything that could kill your Straight. If any one of the cards you could
use is dead, it seriously detracts from your completion chances.
At fourth street you want another (consecutive) card in your Straight. If you
don't get it, Fold unless all of your cards beat the up cards. If you've still
got an Outside Straight you're facing 1.3 to 1 odds against completing and this
is worth continuing to play. If you draw a fourth to the Straight and it leaves
you with an Inside Straight consider folding unless you're holding the two
highest up cards.
At fifth street you're facing 2 to 1 odds against completing. If you still
have two of the highest up cards then it's worth Check or Call to continue to
the sixth. Otherwise Fold. Four to a Straight is tempting to chase, but it's not
nearly as good a bet as it looks.
By sixth street you're facing 5 to 1 odds and there's no justification to
continue unless all necessary cards are still "live" (in play, not "dead"). If
your open cards still lead, it's worth a Raise. Muck if you're facing a double
here are a million hands is Stud and probably just as many ways to advise a
player on their playing strategy. From all I've seen and read I'd say that it
boils down to two options: Bull or Bear.
This player is conservative, plays "tight", takes the risks only when there's
something to back it up. In this play style the streets largely determine the
On third street the tight player has a simple choice, do they have the goods?
If they're holding Trips, three to either a Flush or Straight, a high Pair (10s
or better) or, at the very least, two of the highest cards (A-K) they bet.
Otherwise they Fold without a second thought.
On fourth street it's a question of whether they've improved their initial
hand, still appear to lead and have a solid chance of bringing it home. At this
point only Trips, four to a Flush or Straight, Two Pair and no visible
competition justify a bet. Otherwise the hand is over and nothing significant
has been risked.
The rest of the round is the expensive streets and the tight player must
believe they are holding the "nuts", the winning hand. If they're still trying
to draw that hand, they'll only continue if it's cheap to do so, the cards they
need are still alive (not showing), and the upcards pose no significant threat.
Otherwise, they're gone.
Playing tight is about risk minimization. Nothing is ventured without the
cards to back it up. If the betting gets too steep, Fold. If the cards are going
against you, Fold. If you're running out of time and still don't have the cinch
ullish, aggressive play, is almost the opposite. What you have in your hand
is important, but it's equally important to assess how your cards appear to the
other players. The bullish player manipulates their opponents expectations as
much as they managing their own cards. And they push the game, following a
"Raise or Fold" policy, forcing the other players to pay up or muck out.
The key to bullish play, in addition to knowing your game as well as the
tight player does, is careful card analysis. It's a never-ending game of "how do
my cards appear to him?", "am I supporting that perception with my actions?",
"is he falling for it?", "can I use his expectations to get more money on the
Sound tricky? It is! Bullish players make Stud the roller-coaster ride that
it is and they demand the most of a player's powers of observation, card
analysis, and psychological deception.
Bull or Bear?
s it better to be a "rock", play ultra-conservatively and only risk your
money when you've got the nuts. Or is it best to play aggressively, only Fold or
Raise, almost never Check, and force the other players to pony up or muck
While the beginning player might think that tight play is the shrewd
approach, it's not necessarily so. First, you'll get the reputation of being a
"rock" and few people enjoy playing with someone who is tight-fisted and super
cautious. Worse, you're probably going to lose. When the other players can
predict your card decisions they've got an huge advantage and that will put your
money in their pocket.
Bullish play is favored among professional players. By choosing the "Raise or
Fold" policy, they force more money out onto the table. And since their style is
far less predictable they have more room to maneuver, more ways to attack, more
opportunities to use your expectations against you. Bullish play and solid card
skills wins the money.
Reading the Players
nything that gives a player's feelings or intentions away is called a "tell"
and learning to read these is a key component of Poker play. Obviously when you
play online, you're don't have direct access to this information, so the
dynamics of the game change a bit. But there can still be ways to gain this type
The chat box that appears in most online Poker games can be a dead give-away.
I've been in games where players would jump on the chat box as soon as they read
their cards and had a good hand. They're happy and they want to share their good
feelings with others. A shrewd Poker player absorbs this information and uses it
to gain a playing edge.
I've also seen players who would jump on and cuss the cards whenever he
thought he'd received something good: he's trying to lull the other players into
thinking they've got him beat. Same story: use what you know about his playing
style to beat him and take his money.
To Bluff or not to
he do's and don't of bluffing could fill a small book on
their own, but here are a few of the most important things to keep in mind:
- avoid bluffing heavy winners: they can afford to Call and usually do.
- beginners are often desperate to know what you've got and will Call just for
the sake of knowing.
- experienced players play a cagey game, are studying your actions more
closely, and are often easier to bluff.
- ask yourself how good your cards might look to the other players. Don't
bluff without at least a little something in your hand to make it look
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