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Seven Card Stud

Looking to learn how to play seven-card stud poker? Let our handy guide break things down.

In days past, Seven Card Stud was the most widely enjoyed poker variant in casinos nationwide. While its popularity has suffered at the hands of Texas Hold’em and the glitz of the professional circuit, it remains a stalwart in some casinos and home games, as well as finding its place online. The game sees each player dealt up to seven cards, in a mixture of face-up and face-down formats, before the final showdown.

Given that there can be up to eight seats at the table, some rounds can quickly exhaust the deck — in which case common or community cards are dealt face up for all remaining players to make their hand. Compared with other variants, Seven Card Stud relies on players having a strong working knowledge of poker hands as they play, with each round of betting commenced by the player with the best face-up hand.

How Seven Card Stud Works

The game starts with each player being dealt two cards face down, with a third card dealt face up. The lowest-ranking card on show starts the betting in round 1 with a buy-in, moving round the table to the left as each in turn places their bets. Players immediately to the left of the buy-in cannot check, unlike in other variants where blinds are posted — every player must call to stay in the game.

After the first round of betting is complete, players are each dealt another card face up. The player with the best up hand at this stage commences the second round of betting. This pattern continues until players have a total of four up cards, plus their two face-down cards. At this stage, a final face-down card is dealt to each player, along with a final round of betting before the showdown. Players then show the best hand they can make from five of their total seven cards, with the winning hand taking the pot.

Knowledge is Power

In Seven Card Stud, players have the advantage of seeing a number of up cards with each round of betting. As players fold, you can see certain cards fold out the game, knowing they are no longer in play — great information for assessing the potential strength of the hidden cards in your opponents’ hands.

For example, if a player is sitting with a pair of queens, and another two players fold with queens as up cards, you know four of a kind is off the table. As distinguished from draw poker and other game variants, this knowledge forms the basis of playing strategy, making it possible to play the percentages in your favour — assuming you can remember the cards that have been discarded.

Similarly, if a player could make a great hand from their up cards bar one or two, you can use your knowledge of other hands to calculate quick percentages on the fly. For example, say your opponent could complete a straight with a 7. Looking around the table, two 7s are showing face up. You then know that there are only two 7s remaining undisclosed, which could be on the table or in the deck.

You can use this information to calculate the likely probability of a player discovering the 7 they need, by working out the number of cards unknown and the number of known cards that are not a 7 — so if 24 cards are on the table in a game of four players, plus you know your own hidden cards, you could be looking at a 2 in 27 chance of 7s being dealt to any player, or roughly a 1.85 percent chance of the player who needs it getting dealt the 7, or already holding it in their hand.

In practise, you need to be arithmetically agile to work this out as you go. But even if you can get a feel for rough odds in your head as you play, this can be a big help in informing your betting decisions as the game moves through each round.