Stud: Winning Traits
“Happiness is nothing more than good health and a bad memory.” – Albert Schweitzer
Texas hold’em has, as its’ base, seven-card stud. However, the traits of the winning stud player are not identical with those of the winning hold’em player. Certain skills are more important in stud than in hold’em and vice versa.
In hold’em, the Board is always visible. Your opponents’ cards are not visible (except in the rare instance of an exposed card). You don’t have to remember what cards have been played. The successful seven-card stud player, though, must be able to remember mucked cards. Stud in a public cardroom is usually played eight-handed. On seventh street usually the game will be two, three, or four handed. Knowing what cards are not available (for you and your opponents) gives the player with a good memory a big advantage. In their book Championship Stud, Dr. Max Stern and Tom McEvoy call seven-card stud a game of live cards. I agree completely. If you can’t remember if the cards you or your opponent needs are live, how can you know where you stand?
Reading your Opponents
This is probably the most important skill for a player to have in Texas hold’em. It’s also important in stud. How do your opponents play made hands, like a straight or a flush? Do they always make the double-bet with an open pair on fourth street? Do they ante steal? Will your opponents fold to scare cards? While it would be nice to be able to teach this skill through reading a lesson, the reality is that if you carefully observe your opponents you should be able to discern some of the whys in how they act.
Starting Hand Selection
If I was playing seven-card stud against you, and I started with
(A♣ A♦ )Q♦ and you started with (K♣ K♦ )J♦ , which of us do you think will win more often? Of course I would – I’m starting with the higher pair. If you regularly play hands that are poor, or regularly take unimproved forced bring-in hands voluntarily to fifth street, you will be a losing player. There are many drawing hands you should play, but to be a winner you must be able to get away from them. For example, assume you start with (K♦ Q♦ )J♦ , while one opponent has (??)10♠ and another opponent has (??)8♣ . On fourth street you catch the 3♣ , and your opponents hands are now (??)10♠ Q♠ and (??)8♣ A♦ . On fifth street you catch the 2♥ , while your opponents hands become (??)10♠ Q♠ Q♥ and (??)8♣ A♦ 8♥ . In this situation, continuing to sixth street with your hand is not a good choice.
The most vital skill for Omaha is patience. It’s also important for Stud because of a rule I invented some time ago. The more cards you are dealt in a game the fewer hands you should play. Thus, you’ll play more hands in Texas hold’em (two cards dealt to each player) than stud (three cards) and Omaha (four cards). For example, in limit hold’em assume you’re dealt 10♥ 10♦ . That’s definitely a playable hand. Let’s add a card for Stud: now you’re dealt (10♥ 10♦ )4♣ . That looks like a playable hand, although you’d prefer the 4 be a 9 (or the club be a diamond or a heart). Now let’s add yet another card for an Omaha starting hand: 10♥ 10♦ 4♣ K♠ . That’s not a playable hand in any form of Omaha.
The rule works because in any game you want all of your hand combinations, if possible, to be working together. In hold’em, this means pairs, suited connectors, connectors, and one or two gap hands. The same thing is true in stud – three of a kind (being rolled-up) is the best possible stud starting hand. Three unrelated cards – say a deuce, seven and King of three different suits – is, in general, an unplayable hand.
All good poker players know the odds, or the statistics, behind their plays. Do you have the right pot odds to continue with your draw(s)? Knowing the math behind your odds, and your opponents’ odds, aids in making correct decisions. We will look at pot odds in Lesson 8.
Characteristics of Low-Limit Stud Games
Stud is played at all limits, from $1/$5 spread limit to $100/$200 (and higher). The lowest fixed limit games I’ve seen on the West Coast are $2/$4 and $3/$6. Other common limits include $4/$8, $5/$10, $6/$12 and $10/$20.
The lowest spread limit games are often played without an ante. Thus, the games reward extremely tight play. Almost all of the fixed limit games have antes, ranging from 25¢ at $2/$4 to $1 at $10/$20.
The very low limit games are full of rocks. As you move up in limits, you will see some better players. There’s no point in stealing antes when there are no antes; however, in a $10/$20 game an ante steal will net $11 in a full game (the eight antes and the $3 forced bring-in). Ante stealing will be covered in Lesson 5. For now just remember that in all stud games the action begins by just trying to win the antes.
Many low limit stud players are recreational and think only about their hands. You might be showing 8♥ 2♥ J♣ 5♥ and they may ignore the threat of a flush! However, in the higher low limit games (such as $6/$12 and $10/$20) you will find players capable of making moves.
Other Stud Games
While this series will cover only seven-card stud (for high), there are other stud games played in cardrooms. Here are brief descriptions of them:
Stud Hi/Lo (Seven-Card Stud Eight or Better / Stud 8)
The game I played in college was Seven Card Stud Hi/Lo. It’s a split game like Omaha and the principles are similar to Omaha – you want hands that have a potential to scoop the pot. An ideal starting hand would be three suited connected wheel cards, such as 2♦ 3♦ 4♦ . There are few low-limit stud high/low games spread; the lowest in my local cardroom is $20/$40 (a decidedly middle limit game). A perfect low hand is A2345 (suits are irrelevant). In order to have a low hand you must have five different cards numbered eight or lower.
Razz is seven-card stud for low; a perfect hand is A2345. The highest up-card is forced to start the action on third street. The game is not often played and almost never at low limits; in the last year I’ve seen it once in my local cardroom (at a $200/$400 limit).
Deuce to Seven
Another form of seven-card stud for low; however Aces are always high and flushes and straights count against you. A perfect low is 2♦ 3♥ 4♠ 5♦ 7♥ . This is a tricky game, usually played no-limit; the WSOP Deuce to Seven event might be the toughest event to win in poker.
Similar to ‘regular’ seven-card stud, except that fourth and fifth street are dealt together. There is one less betting round than in regular seven-card stud. The game is often played pot-limit, and can be an action game. I’ve seen it dealt in side games at a few major tournaments.
In the next lesson we will start looking at third street by examining big starting hands and pairs.