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Last time we had a squiz (that’s Australian slang for “a quick look”) at some strategies and tactics for playing Texas hold ’em. This time we’ll do the same for seven-card stud.

 

As in hold ’em, the most important thing you can do in seven-card stud is choose the right hands to play. In most low-limit stud games, your opponents will be much too liberal, too loose in their starting requirements. If you just make your starting requirements more rigorous than theirs, you can consistently make money on the margin.

 

Seven-card stud, as you know, starts out the deal with two cards down and one card up to every player. The best possible starting hand, then, would be three aces, followed closely by any other three-of-a kind. This hand is always playable, and should probably be brought in for a raise.

 

Maybe you’re thinking that you should slow-play your monster hands, and maybe – in certain circumstances – you should. But in low-limit stud it doesn’t play to get too cute, and let your already-too-loose opponents draw out on you. Good rule of thumb in stud, as in all of poker: When you get the goods, bet the goods.

 

So bang away with your trips, rolled up, but recognize that this sort of super-premium hand will come along only rarely. Much more frequently, you’ll see a starting hand consisting of pairs, either concealed (both of the down-cards comprising the pair) or split or open (your up card, or door card, matching one of your hole cards). Generally speaking, hidden pairs are stronger than split pairs, and high pairs are stronger than low pairs. All paired hands can be played in certain circumstances if your cards are live.

 

Suppose you have a concealed pair of tens with a jack showing. You look around the table at your other six or seven opponents, and don’t see any tens or jacks among the exposed up-cards. Your tens and jack, then, are said to be live, because you still have a live chance of catching matching cards on subsequent rounds. Obviously if your opponents all held tens and jacks, you would have no hope of improving to three of a kind or two pair. That’s the time to fold!

 

Seven-card stud, you will find, is a game of live cards. Sometimes you have a premium holding, but all the cards you’d need to catch are already present and accounted for. Sadly, your cards are not live and you must fold.

 

In addition to playing starting hands containing Slot Online pairs, you can play starting hands consisting of three to a straight or three to a flush – the higher their rank, the better. But again, the live-cards rule applies. If you start out with three spades, but you see four spades out against you on the board, you are drawing slim. Save your bets for when you have the best of it; specifically when your cards are live.

 

The final group of cards you can start with is three unrelated high cards – A, Q, J, for example. Your hand can improve two ways: to high pairs or maybe to a straight. This is not a terribly strong holding, however; it’s gonna need a lot of help! So only play it if you can get in cheaply, and get away from it if you don’t improve right away.

 

Let’s talk about improvement. After the first three cards are dealt, there’s a round of betting. Then the dealer tosses everyone a fourth card. Did you improve? Did you catch a fourth card to your straight or flush? Did you match your pair cards or your kicker? If you improved, you can continue to play. If you did not improve, you should seriously consider folding right then and there, especially if one or two other players did improve, and they come out swinging with big bets.

 

This is so crucially important in stud: If you don’t get better, you must get out! Otherwise, you’ll find yourself chasing other players who have improved, and you’ll chase and chase and chase, and only rarely catch up.

 

Here’s a great way to think about stud: Every hand is a race, where the best hand after seven cards is said to be the winner of the race. You can give yourself a big head start by only choosing to begin the race when you have superior cards. And you can do yourself a huge (money-saving) favor by dropping out of those races where your head start falls away because you failed to improve. Be the leader, rather than the chaser; that’s how you win a race around here!

 

It’s crucially important to remember which cards have been exposed and which cards have been folded. This impacts not only your hand, but also your opponents’ holdings. If your opponent is clearly on a flush draw, for example, and you know that most of his suited cards have already fallen on other hands, you can calculate that his chances of making that flush are fairly slim. The odds are in your favor, and you’re in a perfect position to punish your foes!

 

So if you play seven-card stud, you have to pay close attention to all the cards you see. Practice at home memorizing the up-cards, so that your memory will serve you well in the heat of combat. And don’t confuse facts with wishful thinking! If you know that you need a four to complete your straight, and there’s only one four left in the deck, don’t delude yourself into thinking that you’re going to hit that one-outer or case card. Get away from the hand as fast as you can, and plan to attach the pot more vigorously when the cards, and the odds are in your favor.

 

There’s a terrific book on seven-card stud that will tell you everything you need to know about breaking in to the stud scene. It’s called 7 CARD STUD: THE WAITING GAME by George Percy. Read this slender book and you’ll be ready to knock ’em dead in most low-limit games. Short of that, remember these three things: 1. Have stringent starting requirements. 2. Your cards must be live. 3. Get better or get out.

 

Now go out there and knock ’em dead.