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Seven card stud poker is a variant of poker played on organized tournament events, cash games, and online card tournaments. Seven-card stud once was the most popular home card game. It was also the most widespread card game in certain regions, such as the eastern United States.
The game was surpassed (in terms of popularity and availability of games in casino poker rooms) by Texas hold’em in the last several decades, due to the popularity of this holdem variant invented by Amarillo Slim through televised poker of the World Series of Poker Main Event and the various poker tours around the world.
While 7-card stud isn’t played in live casinos as often anymore, the game remains popular in home games and in the online casinos. Several variants of the game are played. I want to discuss the most popular variations, including the classic game and the hi/lo 8-or-better version.
Stud poker is played with no redraws, like draw poker, and no community cards, like Texas holdem or Omaha. Instead, players are dealt a certain number of cards and they have no other chance to improve their position. Unlike five-card stud, some leeway is given. Each player must build the best 5-card hand with the seven cards they’re dealt, so a player can discard two useless cards.
Unlike the small blind and big blind in Texas holdem, betting is spurred by the inclusion of ante bets and a bring-in bet (in casino games). The ante bet requires every player to put in a small sum to the pot each round. The bring-in is paid by the player showing the lowest upcard after the first set of cards are dealt. Once again, this encourages spending by the players. Rules dictate how the bring-in works, but the bring-in player is the first to act in the first round of betting. They are given a chance to raise their wager to the first raise, if they so wish. In home games, antes tend to be the only mandatory bets used.
To begin a hand, each player is dealt 3 cards. The first 2 cards are dealt face-down. Third street, which is a common name for the third card, is dealt face down. The 1st round of betting occurs. Once again, the bring-in better is the person who acts first.
The fourth card or fourth street is deal face-up, then a second round of betting occurs. Betting this time starts with the player showing the best hand (with two cards showing). This better is allowed to check, instead of raise. Fifth street is dealt with the 5th card dealt face up. Once again, the player with the best hand showing begins bets. A sixth card is dealt face-up, followed by the fourth round of betting.
Finally, the 7th card is dealt face-down. The final round of betting occurs, once again with the player holding the strongest hand starting the betting. Keep in mind that flushes, straights, and full houses aren’t considered for determining strength of hand, since players are only showing 4 cards. Once betting ends for the fifth time, a showdown occurs (if two or more players remain in the pot).
Seven-card stud has one extra round of betting than Texas hold’em does. This makes hands take a little bit longer. The game often uses pot limit or some other alternative to no-limit betting, so players often have a more methodical approach than holdem players.
Most games are played with 2 to 8 players. Experienced and/or serious groups of gamblers usually can get away with having 8 players at the table. Note that 7 cards dealt to 8 players (plus 4 burns cards) would be 60 cards used in a hand, which exceeds the 52-card deck. This can happen in penny-ante games or low stakes home games where all the players stay in the hand for the full seven cards.
In this case, rules must be used to limit the cards used to 52. In most cases, this means the number of players is limited to 7, not 8. Other options are to use the burn cards to complete the final deal. If players need more than 4 additional cards, then the final deal should use a community card. Instead of dealing all remaining players their own separate card, a single card is dealt at the centre of the table. This card is used by everyone as the seventh potential card in their hand, like the community cards in Texas holdem are used.
This is not a problem in serious games, because multiple players are likely to fold well before they reach the end of the betting cycle. Few, if any, high stakes or serious 7-card stud games are going to have 8 players remain for the showdown.
One popular variant in online casinos is the high/low version where the pot is split between the player with the highest hand and the player with the lowest hand. To qualify for the low hand pot, a player’s hand cannot have a card higher than 8, though an ace can count at as 1. If no one qualifies for the low pot, then the whole pot is won by the gambler with the highest hand. Those familiar with Omaha hi/lo (Omaha 8-high) will understand these rules, as they are much the same.
Mississippi stud is a variant in which no round of betting takes places between the deal of the fourth and fifth cards. Also, the final card is dealt face-up, so each player only holds two face-down cards. Both of these rules give the game a feel more similar to Texas holdem, since it has 4 rounds of betting and two cards hidden from the rest of the table.
“Roll Your Own” is a version of the card game where players are dealt four rounds of two cards apiece. After each deal, players bet. Also, each player must choose to “roll” one of their cards face-up, revealing it to the other players. In the first round, this is done with one of the dealt cards. After the second, third, and fourth deals, the card chosen to be rolled can be either a recently dealt card or one of those previously dealt.