Stud is a unique form of poker because it mixes face-up and face-down cards, and position becomes irrelevant because it changes depending upon the face-up cards. It is most often played with seven cards.
There are numerous forms of stud poker, the most common being Seven-Card Stud. Five-Card Stud is also played at times, but variations on stud include Razz, Stud Hi/Lo, Stud Eight-or-Better, Caribbean Stud, with less popular versions including Follow the Queen, Lowball Stud, and Six-Card Stud.
Similar to draw poker, stud poker originated in Asia and Europe but made it to the United States via immigrants and settlers in the 1800s. It was played among travelers and in small town bars but most often on gambling riverboats.
When the 52-card deck made its way into the games, seven-card stud became wildly popular with enough cards to play it. A four-card variation was popular during the American Revolutionary War, five cards took over during the Civil War, but seven cards were used in most casinos that came into existence in Las Vegas. Card rooms in California and other states also used the seven-card stud variation as well.
Before the Texas hold’em craze, stud and draw poker were the only games typically played in bars, casinos, or even in people’s homes. When hold’em took over, many cardrooms continued to spread stud poker when requested, but it became more popular in the late 2000s when younger players wanted to challenge themselves to learn more poker variations. As mixed games became prevalent in tournaments and even in high-stakes cash games, players learned the intricacies of stud poker.
The game of seven-card stud is played by sections, and it tends to be a long game but one that gives players many opportunities to win. In addition, betting takes place with fixed amounts with small and big bets set based on the buy-in and antes usually 10% of the big bet.
- Round 1 of betting, all players ante
The dealer gives every player two face-down cards and one face-up card, which is known as the door or window card, and this completes third street.
- Round 2 of betting, the player with the lowest up-card starts with the bring of the ante amount or small bet amount, others call, fold, or raise.
Every player receives another up-card from the dealer, which makes fourth street.
- Round 3 of betting, the player with the highest two-card poker hand checks or bets, others check, call, raise, or fold.
Another up-card is given to every player, which is fifth street.
- Round 4 of betting, player with best hand checks or bets, others check, call, raise, or fold.
The dealer gives each player a fourth up-card, known as sixth street.
- Round 5 of betting, player with best hand checks or bets, others check, call, raise, or fold.
The dealer provides one last card, which is face down and called seventh street.
- Round 6 of betting, player from last round starts betting process.
Players make the best five-card hand of their seven cards, and those still in the game show their hands to determine the winner.
The hand rankings are as follows:
- Royal flush, an ace-high straight flush, such as A-K-Q-J-10 of the same suit.
- Straight flush, five cards in a row and of the same suit, i.e. 8-7-6-5-4 of the same suit.
- Four of a kind or quads, all four of the same card, i.e. all sevens.
- Full house or a boat, three of a kind and a pair of another, i.e. 9-9-9-2-2.
- Flush, any five cards of the same suit, i.e. A-J-10-4-3 of the same suit.
- Straight, five cards in a row, such as 9-8-7-6-5 of any suit.
- Three of a kind or trips, such as three jacks.
- Two pair, such as aces and eights.
- Pair, two of the same card, such as two jacks.
- High card, with no pairs or higher hands, the highest card wins, with ace ranking highest.
If playing the hi/lo version of seven-card stud, the pot is divided in half, one half for the high hand and the other for the low hand. The high hand is determined per typical poker rankings, but the low must be unpaired and all below eight to qualify. Aces are low, and the best possible hand is A-2-3-4-5. If there is no qualifying hand, the entire pot goes to the high hand winner.
The basic strategy for playing seven-card stud is to be selective with starting hands and play fewer hands. The numerous rounds of betting become expensive when chasing hands for several rounds.
When calculating outs, make sure to note all of the opponents’ cards on the table. Those are no longer available outs, and the vast number of cards that may be in play severely reduces the number of outs to make a hand.
Reading other players, as in draw poker, becomes vitally important. Some of their cards are visible, and each round of betting provides more information as to the strength of their hands, whether they are chasing or bluffing, and if they react as the betting and dealing continues. The long time it takes to complete a hand offers more time to read the other players and make mental notes about their actions.
Most professional poker players note that calling bets in stud is a sign of weakness. Folding and raising should be the primary choices in each round.
The most important considerations when learning the game and developing strategies are the cards on the table and the opportunities to garner information from opponents.
Many players make the mistake of playing too many starting hands and having to fold after several rounds of betting or chasing draws without paying attention to the up-cards on the table already. It is also important to raise with strong hands to eliminate players who may be chasing a draw on third, fourth, or fifth streets.