Stud: Introduction

“If scientific reasoning were limited to the logical processes of arithmetic, we should not get very far in our understanding of the physical world. One might as well attempt to grasp the game of poker entirely by the use of the mathematics of probability.” – Vannevar Bush

When I was a student at Berkeley, every night in the dorms we either played bridge or seven-card stud. Seven-card stud was poker. Today, of course, hold’em gets most of the publicity in the poker world. However, seven-card stud is still a popular game and can be a good game to both play and make money in. This is the first of twelve introductory lessons on seven-card stud.

General Rules of Poker

All poker games, be it Seven Card Stud, Texas Hold’em, or Omaha High/Low, follow the general rules of poker. If you’ve never played poker before, or if you have any doubts about the rules of poker, please read Lou Krieger’s first four lessons. Lou does an excellent job describing the general rules of poker. In these lessons we’ll assume that you know the general rules of poker.

Materials: You will find it useful to have a deck of cards for these lessons. Also, if you do not already keep a log of your poker results, you should purchase a small notebook (that can fit in a pocket) at an office supply or drug store.

Specifics of Seven Card Stud

Seven-card stud is dealt from a standard 52-card deck. Games are usually eight-handed. A professional dealer sits at the back center of the table (a computer facsimile if you’re playing online), with the players sitting around the remainder of the table. Each player antes (a small forced bet) in front of them. The dealer then deals out the first of two down cards to each player (beginning with the one seat, the seat just to the left of the dealer), followed by the second down card, and, finally, followed by one up card. Typically, in a $10/$20 limit seven-card stud game, the ante might be $1, with a forced bring-in of $3.

For example, player 1 has as his up-card the 2, player 2 has the J, player 3 has the 5, player 4 has the Q, player 5 has the A, player 6 has the 2, player 7 has the A and player 8 has the 10. The lowest up-card (by suit) must bring-in (start) the action. Player 6 must bring-in the action either for the forced bet of $3 or he may complete the bet to $10. Assume he brings in the action for $3. The other players then, in turn (clockwise around the table) may either call the $3, fold, or complete the bet to $10. Assume player 7 calls the $3, players 8 and 1 fold, player 2 calls, players 3 and 4 fold, player 5 completes to $10, and players 6, 7, and 2 call. This first betting round is called third street.

The dealer will scoop the bets into the middle, burn a card, and then deal a second up card to each player left in the pot (fourth street). Let’s assume that the hands become:

Player 2: J8, Player 5: A4, Player 6: 22, and Player 7: A9. Normally on fourth street the bets are at the lower limit (here, $10); however, if there is an open pair showing you may bet or raise at the higher limit. Once there is a bet or raise at the higher limit future raises must be at the higher limit. On fourth street (and all other betting rounds) the highest hand showing bets first. Thus, in our example, player 6 can check, bet $10 or bet $20. Assume he checks. Player 7 elects to bet $10 and player 2 folds. Player 5 can fold, call the $10, raise to $20, or raise to $30. Assume he raises to $30 and players 6 and 7 call.

The dealer will scoop the bets into the middle, burn a card, and then deal a third up card to each player left in the pot (fifth street). Let’s assume that the hands become:

Player 5: A49, Player 6: 22K, and Player 7: A94. Player 6, the high hand on board, can either bet $20 or check. Player 6 checks, player 7 checks, and player 5 bets $20. The other players could raise (in increments of $20); however, player 6 folds and player 7 calls.

The dealer will scoop the bets into the middle, burn a card, and then deal a fourth up card to each player left in the pot (sixth street). Let’s assume that the hands become:

Player 5: A497 and Player 7: A947. When there are two equivalent high hands showing, the left-most hand (e.g. player 5) will act first. Assume player 5 bets $20 and player 7 calls.

The dealer will scoop the bets into the middle, burn a card, and then deal a third down card to each player left in the pot (seventh street). Player 5 will act first (the player who acts first on sixth street will act first on seventh street if he is still in the hand). Assume he bets and player 7 calls. Player 5 shows his hand: (AQQ)A497 — two pair (Aces and Queens with a 9 kicker). Player 7 shows his hand: (JJJ)A947 — three Jacks with an Ace and 9 as kickers. Player 7 is awarded the pot. As in hold’em, the winning hand is the best five-card hand formed from each player’s seven cards. (Note: parentheses are used to indicate the down cards in stud.)

The ability to remember cards played is very important in seven-card stud. For example, if you have four cards to a flush but almost all of the cards of your suit have been played, you may need to fold your hand.

Seven-card stud is quite popular on the east coast but rather unpopular on the west coast. I’m a resident of Southern California and play in the local cardrooms. On a typical day here in Southern California, there are 80 hold’em games, 10 Omaha games, and four stud games going. However, I noticed when visiting Atlantic City last year that the hold’em to stud ratio is about fifty-fifty.

Seven card stud games are available in very low limits ($1 to $5 spread limit games are popular throughout the United States). This allows new players to learn the game without costing a lot of money.

Why Play Seven Card Stud?

To make money, of course. When I go into a cardroom I attempt to play in the best game I can (that is, the game with the highest expected value – winning percentage – that’s available). Sometimes that’s Omaha, but many times it’s hold’em or stud. The more games that are in your arsenal, the more likely you are to find a good game.

Other reasons to play Stud include:
  • Many players chase too many pots, usually with poor starting cards that chase too many draws. Stud rewards patience.
  • If you can read players you will prosper in stud. Knowing if a player has two pair, or is just chasing a flush draw, is vital.
  • If you have a good memory for the cards that have been played, you will have an advantage over many of your opponents in stud.
  • There’s a lot more room for steals and semi-bluffs than Omaha.

Why Not To Play Seven Card Stud

Doyle Brunson describes no limit Texas hold’em as “hours of boredom followed by minutes of sheer terror.” Plagiarizing his quote, I could describe seven-card stud as “hours of boredom followed by minutes of boredom.” Hand selection is vital in seven-card stud. If you are dealt
(58)3 you will most likely be folding (or be stuck with the bring-in). When you get a long series of trash hands you’re forced to muck hand after hand. Other reasons not to play seven-card stud include:

  • You live in California. The game selection for seven-card stud is, to be honest, limited. Good games exist, but they are few and far between.
  • You have a bad memory for cards. This is a huge detriment to playing stud – the cards that have been played have a tremendous impact on each hand.
  • There’s a lot less room for steals and semi-bluffs than hold’em. (As you can tell, there are more moves in stud than in Omaha but fewer than hold’em.)


Stud is an excellent game and can also be a quite profitable one to play. Over the next 11 lessons we will look at how to become a winning stud player. In the next lesson, we will examine necessary traits of the winning stud player.