Stud poker is any type of poker where players make use of both upcards (cards that are dealt face-up) and downcards (also known as “hole cards”; any card that is concealed from other players) to build the strongest hand, according to standard poker hand rankings. While Five- and Seven-Card Stud are the best known and most played varieties, there are a ton of different types of Stud poker to learn and enjoy.
How do you play Stud poker, how can you improve your game, and what are some of the different types you can try?
How to Play Stud Poker
Five- and Seven-Card Stud are functionally the same game, with Seven-Card Stud giving players a few more options than Five-Card. As Seven-Card Stud is the more popular version, this section will detail how to play it, though we’ll also note any changes to make when playing Five-Card Stud. No matter which version you’re playing, the goal is the same: construct the highest-ranking hand as you can using five cards.
Step 1 - The Ante
All players contribute an initial bet, known as the Ante. There are three main types of bets in Stud poker: the Big Bet, the Small Bet, and the Ante. The Big Bet is typically twice the value of the Small Bet, with the Ante being 10% of the Big Bet. If the Big Bet in your game is $1, the Small Bet would be 50 cents, and the Ante would be 10 cents.
Step 2 - The Deal
Each player is dealt two face-down cards and one face-up card. The upcard is also known as a “door card”. In Five-Card Stud, players are dealt one face-down card and one face-up card. The player with the lowest door card makes the “bring in”, or first bet, and this kicks off the first round of betting.
Step 3 - Fourth Street
Most rounds of Stud poker are known as “streets”. In Seven-Card Stud, this is where players would be dealt their fourth card. In Five-Card Stud, players receive their third card, so this step is known as Third Street.
Before dealing every subsequent round of cards, the dealer should discard or “burn” the top card of the deck.
Regardless of the type of Stud poker you’re playing, cards dealt during the street rounds are door cards. Following the extra card being dealt, there is another round of betting.
Step 4 - Fifth Street
Players are dealt another door card, after which there is a round of betting.
Step 5 - Sixth Street
Players are dealt another door card, followed by another round of betting. In Five-Card Stud, this would be Fifth Street, meaning it would be the final card to be dealt. There would be one final round of betting before the game goes to Showdown, if necessary.
Step 6 - The River
In the River (also known as Seventh Street), players are dealt one final hole card, giving them four door cards and three hole cards with which to construct the highest ranking poker hand they can. After the last card is dealt, there is one final round of betting. In Five-Card Stud, this phase is omitted.
Step 7 - The Showdown
If there is still more than one player in the game, the Showdown is where hands are revealed, with the highest ranked poker hand winning. Among the remaining players, the one who was the first bettor or last one to raise shows their hand first.
Tips for Playing Stud Poker
Pay Attention to Door Cards (and Burn Cards)
One of the biggest differences between Stud poker and other types is that you have a significant amount of information about the hands of other players at your disposal. By paying attention to which cards other players have as door cards and which cards have been burned, you can make more informed decisions about whether you should press on, play aggressively, or fold.
Not only should you play as much Stud poker as possible to better learn the game, you should also strive to keep chasing the pot when you do play. Because players are dealt more cards over the course of the game - and in the case of Seven-Card Stud, they don’t need to use every card they’re dealt - you should play any hand that can improve.
Know the Odds
Probability tells us that getting three cards in any one suit or sequence is unlikely from the outset. If you can’t improve your hand in any meaningful way after receiving a couple of extra cards, you might want to consider folding. Similarly, if you have a strong high card after the initial deal, you should aim to stay in the game for as long as you can.
Stud Poker Variations
Razz poker is an interesting take on stud poker that doesn’t rely on traditional hand rankings. Instead of trying to assemble the best hand, Razz poker has players trying to assemble the lowest hand. Razz poker is played virtually identically to Seven-Card Stud poker, so if you enjoy the latter, you’ll likely have a ton of fun with the former.
Caribbean Stud Poker
One of the most popular Stud poker variants is Caribbean Stud Poker. Caribbean Stud is exceptionally unique in that it is not played against other players; instead, it is played at a land-based or online casino against the house.
Based on Five-Card Stud, the game begins with players making Ante bets. The dealer and all players then receive five face-down cards, with the dealer revealing one of their cards. Players can choose to either play or fold; if they play, they have to raise, making another wager that is twice the size of their initial Ante bet. After the betting has been decided, all cards are revealed.
The dealer qualifies only if their hand contains an Ace and a King, a pair, or is otherwise a high-ranked poker hand. If the hand doesn’t quality, the ante bets win even money and the raise bets push. If the hand qualifies, the dealer compares their hand to all of the player hands, with payouts based on the strength of their hand if they are able to beat the dealer’s. If they tie with the dealer, the bets push.
Caribbean Stud Poker pays out as follows:
Mississippi Stud Poker
Similar to Caribbean Stud Poker, Mississippi Stud is played at a casino against the house. However, what makes Mississippi Stud unique is that it is not played against a dealer’s hand; instead, it is played against a payout table, where the money won depends on the cards a player has in their hand.
Mississippi Stud Poker pays out as follows:
Stud Poker FAQ
What is stud in poker?
Stud poker is a type of poker, with several different variations, where players use a combination of upcards (face-up cards) and downcards or “hole cards” (face-down cards) to construct the best poker hand. Seven-card Stud poker was previously the most-played type of poker in the United States, before it was overtaken by Texas Hold'em poker in the mid-2000s.
Why do they call it stud poker?
Stud poker was originally known as Stud horse poker, though there is no recorded reason as to why. Allegedly, the game got its name just after the Civil War, in a saloon in Ohio, where legend has it a player was so sure of their hand that they were willing to bet their horse.
What’s the difference between draw poker and stud poker?
The difference between Five Card Draw poker and Stud poker is in which cards are available for everyone to see. In draw poker, only players can see what they have in their hands, while in stud poker, all cards are visible to all players except for a player's downcards or "hole cards". This adds an extra layer of strategy; since most cards are visible, players have more information they can use when betting and playing.
Is stud poker legal?
Stud poker is legal to play in the United States and Canada. However, the method by which it can be played (i.e. in-person or online) and even the rules under which it can be played may vary according to a state or province's specific laws. Surprisingly, Stud poker used to be illegal to play in California, as playing any poker game where cards were dealt face-up was against the law.
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