The key to a winning Seven Card Stud strategy is hand selection. There are other important factors like position and the quality of players you are up against though. This article will focus on hand selection but will also touch base on other general strategic concepts. In Texas Hold'em you can practically base your hand selection off one of the many hand range charts found online, this is not possible with 7 Card Stud poker. Determining the strength and potential of two cards is easy, add another card and it becomes unclear. When you add that to the inherent complexity of 7 Card Stud it becomes even more difficult. I will list some common starting hands that most Stud poker players tend to play on a regular basis.
Pairs - Type 1 & Type 2
There are two types of paired starting hands in 7 Card Stud. The first is a pair that includes one of your hole cards and your upcard. In most situations you should always stay in the hand at least until 5th street when you get dealt a pair, even if it is lower than the pair another player is representing and betting on. The second type of pair is a pocket pair and it is considerably better than the one mentioned above. This is because the other players will assume you have a pair of whatever your upcard happens to be. These pairs can lead to two profitable scenarios. The first is getting 3 of a kind. If you have (33) - 6-J-3 the other players will assume you have a pair of sixes or at the most two pair. Appearances are everything in 7 Card Stud.
The other situation also uses appearances to your advantage. If you have (33) - 6 and get another six on 4th, 5th or 6th street the other players will automatically assume you have trips, especially if you have been betting or calling others' bets. You might not scare everyone out of the hand every time but this scenario is +EV in most cases.
Drawing Hands - Type 1 & Type 2
There are two types of drawing hands in 7 Card Stud as well. The first is a straight draw and the second is a flush draw.
- Straight Draw - (8h-9s) - 10d
- Flush Draw - Three cards of the same suit
Statistically speaking, you have slightly better odds of catching your flush than the straight with the starting hands listed above. How you play these hands depends on:
- The action before you
- The competition
In most cases I will play either of these hands until 5th street. If there are any raises and my hand is not improving I will fold. Another factor that will prompt me to fold is the statistical chances of catching my hand. This is what separates the novice Stud poker player from the expert Stud poker player. Remembering dead cards and playing accordingly is very important in 7 Card Stud. Dead cards are the other players' upcards, even the ones that folded. Here is an example:
If there are two players with a 9 showing and one that already folded my odds of catching the inside straight are reduced by 75%. This is why it is always important to remember folded cards in 7 Card Stud.
Sometimes this can play a role in hand selection as well. If I have (7-9)-7 and the other two sevens are showing on the table I might want to fold against a hand like (X-X)- K, if that player raises.