Seven-Card Stud Starting Hands (Part 1)
To players just learning the game, Seven-Card Stud can seem to be something of an enigma. This is especially true of players who are transitioning from playing games with community cards. In Stud, players need to analyze their starting hands in relation to their opponent’s exposed cards. In Holdem and other community card games, no information is given about opponents’ hands at all.
This guide will help you adjust to the game of Stud by outlining the different types of starting hands, and how to play them.
Three of a kind is the best 7 Card Stud hand you can be dealt. This doesn’t happen very often but when it does you need to play them with care. Trips will win unimproved the majority of the time. A player holding trips has a lot of options when it comes to how to play them.
A lot of newer stud players are unsure of whether trips should be raised or slowplayed. There is no clear cut way to play the hand- it all depends on the table dynamic. At a very passive table, ripe with lots of calling station type players, raising is generally a good option. Passive players don’t fold, and you want to bloat the pot as quickly as you can. If on the other hand, a table is playing very tight, slowplaying might be a better option. Showing too much aggression on early streets will tip off nitty players to the strength of your hand, and you won’t get any value from betting at all.
The chances of you being dealt trips are 424:1- you won’t get to play them very often. This means that every single time you are dealt three of a kind, every little betting decision is critical. When played correctly according to table dynamics, trips can be massively profitable hands. If played incorrectly however, you will sacrifice a ton of potential profit.
In stud, the distinction between being dealt a premium pair (TT+) and a low pair (22-99) is much more defined than in community card games like Holdem. In shared board games, any pair preflop generally has a decent equity edge against the field. In Stud however, a player holding a pair on third street can be up against any number of potential hands that are either already better, or that can easily become better after a few streets.
That said, premium pairs will be a favorite on third street a majority of the time. Play premium pairs fast and furious- the fewer opponents you are up against, the better, so narrow down the field early. For every extra player in the pot, the odds of your pair holding up to the end of the hand decrease significantly.
Medium and Low Pairs
A medium pair is any pair from 7’s through 9’s, and a low pair is any pair 6’s or less. If you are dealt either a small or medium pair, your best bet is to play your hand conservatively. The Stud strategy you use for these hands will vary depending on several factors.
A good guideline is this: Raise 9’s if none of your opponents shows a higher board card than yours. With pretty much all other low and medium pairs, a call on third street is the best play, but only if your kicker is acceptably high. The goal with small and medium pair hands is to draw to trips or two pair, and a two pair hand with two small or medium pairs is essentially useless. A small two pair hand will often be beat by a higher two pair- overvaluing small two pair hands is a huge leak for a lot of players.
As an example, you would be better off playing [5-5]A than you would be playing [7-7]8. Not only does your ace in the first hand represent a potentially big hand, it can possibly make a big two pair.
When deciding how to play a small or medium pair hand, take deception value into consideration. The less obvious your pair, the more valuable it will be on future streets. You are better off playing a pair that is hidden rather than split, and obviously the higher the kicker the better. For example, you would rather play [6-6]A than [6-A]6; in the event that you were to spike a 6 to make trips, the first hand offers a great deal of deception value, whereas paired 6’s on the board with the second hand would slow down your action significantly.
Three to a Straight Flush
Three to a straight flush is the best drawing hand you can be dealt in Seven-Card Stud. As with most drawing hands, your goal with three to a straight flush should be to play smart and conservative until you hit.
If two of your cards are live (or better yet, all 3), and all are bigger than any of your opponents’ exposed cards, you can raise. Otherwise, calling is generally a safe play unless there is significant before your turn to act. High pair value adds a lot to the worth of a straight flush draw hand.
As a general rule, the bigger the cards, the better. When you play a broadway straight flush draw, not only can you make a possible straight flush, flush, or straight, but strong pairs as well. With lower ranked cards, not only do all of your draws become somewhat more vulnerable, your pair value decreases drastically. Play conservatively with small card draws, and do not overvalue them- doing so will cost you money.
Read part two of Seven-Card Stud Starting Hands