7 Card Stud
For the vast majority of players, 7-card stud takes a back seat to Texas Hold’em, if they know the stud game at all. This traditional version of poker is still found in a tiny number of live and online poker rooms but it usually attracts players from an older generation. Both Hold’em and this version of stud use seven cards, with the primary difference being how the cards are dealt and displayed. There are no “community” cards in stud. The cards that everyone can see are with individual players, usually four cards face up out of seven that each player receives.
The basics of the game are:
- Ante and Bring-in – The "ante" and "bring-in" (both are forced bets) amounts are determined before the game.
- Hole Cards and Third Street – Each player antes and is dealt two cards face down (the "hole" or "pocket" cards) and one card face up ("third street").
- 1st Betting Round – In traditional seven-card games the player with the lowest up card has to “bring in” an amount that is set before play starts. This applies to games in which the high hand wins. There are variations in which the high up card may bring in – this might apply in a low-ball game or split game. Betting limit is set to the low limit of the table.
- Fourth Street – After the first round of betting the play continues with a fourth card dealt face up.
- 2nd Betting Round – Usually the player with the best hand of the two exposed cards starts the betting. Betting is now set to the high limit of the table.
- 5th Street – Play continues with a fifth card face-up.
- 3rd Betting Round – same as the 2nd betting round, with the high limit being mandatory.
- 6th Street – a sixth card is dealt face-up.
- 4th Betting Round – Same as 2nd and 3rd betting rounds. Each remaining player now holds 6 cards.
- The River – The last card is dealt face down.
- 5th Betting Round – One more round of betting takes place (same rules as in round 4). It is here that we see the fundamental difference between Hold’em and 7-card stud – each player has three “hole” cards and four “up” cards.
- The Showdown – After the 5th betting round has taken place, it is time to determine the winner. The last player to have placed a bet or raised shows their hand first and the highest ranking five-card hand takes the pot.
Because each player gets a full hand of seven cards, this version of the game must usually be limited to seven players. If there are 8 or more players, the deal continues one card at a time and additional cards can only be dealt if some players drop out of the hand. These cards may be reshuffled and dealt to the remaining players.
With just these few basics, almost any group of friends or family members can have a great time playing 7-card stud. Experienced players make their decision to stay after three or four cards, in most cases. For example, the best players will drop out immediately if they don’t have three cards to a flush or straight, or a pair with an Ace or King – in the first three cards! More advanced 7-card stud play is possible with help from such pros as David Sklansky, Mason Malmuth and others.
The game is still included in many major tournaments and poker rooms worldwide.