For some poker fans, seven card stud gets a bad rap because the rules are similar to casual card games like Spit in the Ocean and Baseball. Yes, these games are similar to 7 card stud. But they’re different enough from the way stud is played in casinos or private games to make the comparison meaningless.
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The history of stud poker really tells the story of the United States; in some ways all games are a mirror of the culture that invents them, but seven card stud reflects the history of the USA like no other American game. Though Texas holdem is by far the most popular variant these days that was not the case up until the late 1970s and early 1980s, when stud was the number one variant in the United States and in most of the world. Though it has waned in popularity in recent years, stud is still available in traditional poker rooms and at Web-based casinos.
Since many poker rooms have been forced to turn away from the majority of the US poker market (embracing their European and Asian audiences) more stud games and tournaments have been popping up. European and Asian players are generally far more into this game than American gamblers.
7 card stud is considered a more difficult game, and while no one is saying that US card gamblers are less intelligent, it is clear that bettors who enjoy stud seem to be those that like a bigger challenge. Learning strategy for stud is more difficult, thanks in large part to the game’s greater number of betting rounds.
The larger number of betting rounds forces gamblers to learn patience and the psychological side of the game. More betting rounds means more chances at spotting tells. This feature also reinforces the need for good hand selection. Players who learn stud will benefit greatly from learning to read their opponents better.
Why the increase in patience and hand selection? An extra betting round in stud (compared to the more-popular Texas holdem) means more pots go head to head and fewer pots are chased by most if not all of the gamblers at the table. Learning patience means learning to wait out a good hand, and gaining the confidence required to stick to a bluff. It’s funny how the addition of a single betting round has such a drastic change on strategy. It may be that the inclusion of a fifth betting round is responsible for many holdem fans’ shyness toward stud.
Gamblers who have only ever played Texas or Omaha holdem may be intimidated by the different appearance of a casino’s stud table. The door card is presented face up (at all times) and plays a big role in the game’s action.
It has been said that Europeans have never embraced American style football (think NFL not soccer) because of the unfamiliar shape of the ball. Most sports use a ball that is essentially a perfect sphere. The unwieldy pigskin in American football games not only looks funny, it bounces in an unpredictable and unfamiliar way. Think of stud’s door card as the NFL’s weird non-spherical ball. It may be the use of a face up door card that keeps Americans from really embracing stud on a grand scale.
The door card has a major effect on stud strategy. It is the reason why some stud players learn how to count cards. That’s because, as is the case with all game variants, the more you can figure out about your opponents’ hands, the better chance you have of keeping some of their bankroll for yourself.
The door card tells you just enough about the hand of the guy you’re going head-to-head with to make players with a keen eye for psychology really dangerous.
Combined with the knowledge of their other cards and it is really easy to work out their strategy, their goal, their approach to each hand. What’s the value of card counting in stud? Imagine you’re at a table with seven other players. You’re holding out for an Ace. A glance around the table at door cards (and whatever information you’ve stitched together about what else they may be holding) gives you an advantage non-counters don’t have.
The biggest impact of the door card in the game’s strategy comes from the effect it has on wagering. The initial bet in stud is a forced bet. The player with the lowest-value door card is forced to make a bet of a certain size depending on the rules of the game or table. After the first round the highest door card determines the bet; but the first time around the holder of the lowest card has to wager.
The three hands described below are examples of those not normally very valuable in poker; because of the way stud is played and the way other players tend to approach the game, they can be used to surprise your way to a pot.
Trips are among the best hands in the game, but they need to be played the right way. In stud, trips should be played quickly. We’re talking about aces through 10s. The reason – most of your opponents will think you’ve got a high pair and they’ll bite. Low trips aren’t necessarily bad (“low trips” here means 9s through 2s) but they should be played slowly until fifth street. This tactic is best used against newbies or players who lack confidence and experience.
Many players (especially those unfamiliar with games other than holdem) don’t realize that high pairs can be great hands in stud games. If you’ve got a pair of face cards and you play your hand quickly, you are in a pretty good position, especially compared to the value of the same hands in other variants.
A hand made up of any three cards toward a straight flush (for example, suited 5, 7, and 9) should be folded if most of the flush cards are dead. But if that’s not the case, playing this hand slow puts you in the catbird seat more often than not – as long as you check/fold once it is clear you aren’t getting your cards.
More poker players should learn to play this game. Players who focus exclusively on Texas holdem are not just holding themselves back from improving their skills, they’re missing out on a lot of fun. Giving a game like stud a try will increase your understanding of game strategy and give you a leg up against other players who focus exclusively on one game.
Gamblers can benefit from stud because the game involves more betting rounds and requires you to learn how to use your position and bluffing skills in a way that the Texas holdem variant doesn’t. The “door card” feature of stud games that forces players into difficult betting situations will only make you a better poker player; many 7 card fans end up learning the basics of card counting, a skill that will serve poker players well on almost any game held in a poker room or at your buddy’s house on a Friday night.