Texas Hold’em poker is currently the most popular poker game among beginning players and experts alike. However, up until a few years ago that distinction belonged to Seven Card Stud poker. Anyone who has spent any amount of time playing poker has probably played some variation of the game, and with online poker steadily growing in popularity more and more people are learning to play this classic variation of draw poker. Therefore, those who are learning to play cards either online or in traditional brick-and-mortar card rooms should learn how to play Stud poker.
Seven Card Stud poker features five rounds of betting. This is different from Texas Hold’em and Omaha which both feature four rounds of betting. There are two betting variations that may be encountered depending on the limits being played. In higher limit games, bets in the first two rounds are one amount and the betting limits are doubled in the last three rounds. For example, in a $5/10 game the limit is five dollars in the first two rounds and ten dollars in the last three. Betting levels are usually spread out more evenly in lower limit games, with players betting anywhere between a minimum and maximum bet. Players who want to raise must double the previous bet.
Stud poker is an ante game, which means that each player has to put money into the pot before play begins. The amount of the ante depends on the game limit, but it is usually between one tenth and one fourth of a full bet. Some casino card rooms offer low limit games with no antes. These are ideal for beginners who aren’t comfortable betting large amounts of money.
After all the antes are in the pot, each player is dealt two cards down and one card up starting with the player to the left of the dealer. Card rooms supply their own dealers, so a dealer button is only used to indicate who was the last player to act. The two cards that are dealt face down are called the hole cards, and the card facing up is referred to as the “door card.”
The first betting round is played after all the antes are paid and the cards are dealt. This first round of betting is known as Third Street because of the three cards that are dealt to each player. In this round the player with the lowest door card makes a forced bet known as the “bring in” bet, which is slightly larger than the ante but still not as big as a full bet. After the bring in bet the next player to the left has the option of calling the bet, raising, or folding. In a higher limit game, a raise in this round is equal to the minimum bet.
After all the bets are made each remaining player is dealt a fourth card face up. This is the beginning of the next round of betting, also known as Fourth Street. Starting with this round the action begins with the highest face up cards. This player isn’t forced to make a bet, however; he or she may check instead. Each player may choose to check, bet, call the previous bet, raise the bet, or fold. A raise is double the bet in a spread game or the highest denomination in a higher limit fixed fixed betting game.
The Fifth Street begins with each player dealt a third card face up. Another round of betting occurs, only this time the betting is the higher bet if a fixed betting game is being played. As before, the player with the highest cards plays first. The betting continues clockwise.
Another card is dealt face up to each remaining player as Sixth Street begins. This round is played the same way as Fourth and Fifth Streets, with the player showing the highest cards initiating a round of betting.
Seventh Street is the final round. Each player is dealt a card face down, giving each remaining player a hand of four cards face up and three cards face down. There is a final round of betting, after which all the players reveal their hands. The player who can make the highest five card hand wins the pot. Of course, one player can win the pot before the play gets to this round if all other players fold.
There are special rules for certain conditions in Seven Card Stud Poker. In Stud Hi/Lo, the pot can be split between the player with the best high card hand and a player with a low card hand if all the cards are between aces and eights. If there are eight players in the hand and the dealer runs out of cards before the final street, a community card will be placed in the middle of the table for anyone to use.
Seven Card Stud is itself a variation of Five Card Stud, which is the original poker game. The rules are the same as Seven Card Stud, except it is played with four cards face up and only one hole card. As always, the highest hand wins unless all but one player folds before the end of the hand. This variation is slightly easier to play than the seven card game, and thanks to the smaller hands it can be played by up to ten players. Seven Card Stud is usually played by seven players or less.
Both Five Card and Seven Card Stud can sound complicated, but learning how to play Stud poker is actually much simpler than it sounds. Once a player has a good understanding of the rules he or she can begin to learn more advanced techniques such as bluffing and board texture and begin to play for higher stakes.