Five Card Stud: Rules & Strategies

Five Card Stud is the oldest form of stud poker originating from the period of American Civil War. For a long time, it was the game of choice, especially in home games and poker games played in backrooms of bars and saloons. With the arrival of new stud variations as well as games like Texas Hold'em and Omaha, the game had lost a lot of its popularity but it is still found in some casinos and played by the players who have been around poker for a while. While it is an exciting poker variation, it doesn't feature many betting opportunities (streets), which is probably why it was pushed aside by new poker variants offering more action.

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How to play: Five Card Stud rules explained

If you’ve ever played any form of stud poker, you can probably guess that this particular poker variation, like the rest, is played with a mix of hidden and face-up cards dealt to each player. We’ll now quickly explain Five Card Stud rules and you’ll be ready to jump straight into action after reading this as the game isn’t all that complicated to learn.

Dealing cards

A round of Five Card Stud begins with everyone being dealt two cards from the deck. The deal begins with the first player seated to the left of the dealer and continues clockwise. In the first round, everyone is dealt one card face down followed by the second card dealt face up. After this, the first betting round starts, which we’ll explain in the moment.

Once the first round of betting is done, another card is dealt face up. Players have an opportunity to bet again, followed by another face-up card dealt to everyone still involved in the hand. Finally, the fifth and the final card is dealt to all still active players followed by the final round of betting. So, by the end of the deal, all players remaining will have five cards in front of them, with the first card being in the hole (face down) and the remaining four facing up.

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Five Card Stud betting rules

Like most other stud poker and draw poker variations, Five Card Stud poker is usually played with a fixed (limit) betting structure and antes instead of blinds. This means that there are fixed rules in place in terms of how much exactly players are allowed to bet and raise on any betting street.

The game begins with everyone seated at the table posting an ante. This is a predefined amount that’s usually 10 percent of the small bet. Then, once everyone has received their initial two cards, the one showing the smallest card will have to post the bring in. The bring in is typically a quarter of the small bet.

The first betting round begins with the player posting the bring in. They can choose to post the bring in or complete (matching the amount of the small bet). The action then continues with the first player left to the bring in, who can fold, call the bet in front of them, or raise themselves, if the bring in player decided to complete.

Once the third card is dealt from the deck, the next betting round starts with the player showing the best combination. The small bet is still in place unless someone is showing a pair, in which case they are allowed to kick off the betting with the big bet (twice the amount of the small bet).

On the fourth and fifth street, the big bet will be in play. The action still starts with the player showing the best combination possible at the moment and continues clockwise. On all streets, betting is usually capped to three raises per street except for the heads up pots (with just two active players), where the betting cap is usually waived.

Awarding the pot: the showdown

After all the betting is done on the fifth street, if there are two or more players still active in the pot, they’ll reveal their hands to determine the winner. All players will turn over their face-down card and the player showing the best possible combination will win the entire pot. If two or more players have the exact same winning poker hand, they’ll split the pot equally between them.

Five Card Stud hands rankings

To determine the winner, the standard ranking system for high poker variations is used. It is the same system that’s used in Hold’em, Omaha, and many other popular formats so players should have no difficulties understanding this part. Since only five cards are dealt, players can use all five of them to make the best hand.

Five Card Stud hand rankings begin with the high card (the lowest) and go all the way up to Royal Flush (the highest). In between, there are poker hands like two pair, three of a kind, straights, flushes, full houses, quads, and, of course, straight flushes. In the event where players have the exact same hand, like the same pair or two pair, the kicker card is used to determine the winner of the pot. This is the highest single card that’s not a part of the winning combination – i.e. a pair of Queens with 5, 7, and A on the side beats a pair of Queens with 10, J, and K on the side.

Suits play no role in determining the strength of Five Card Stud hands. They are used only to resolve the tie for the bring in when two or more players have the same lowest card showing. In this case, the lowest suit is clubs, followed by diamonds, hearts, and spades.

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Five Card Stud strategy

Five Card Stud poker is a poker variation with a lot of information readily available to players. With four cards showing, you’ll be able to figure out a lot about your opponents’ likely holdings. Because of this, you’ll sometimes know you have the winner or that you definitely can’t win the hand at the showdown, so you’ll have to decide whether it makes sense to bet and try to win that way.

Keeping track of folded cards becomes even more important in this poker variation than it is in a variation like Seven Card Stud. If you always know what cards from the deck are no longer in play, you’ll sometimes be able to tell with absolute certainty that an opponent is bluffing as they’re representing a poker hand they can’t have.

This is especially important in poker games with weak players who won’t be keeping track themselves. Since they don’t know you have the vital information and they haven’t been paying attention, they’ll still try to bluff you and win the pot without any chance of succeeding. This is such a big part of Five Card Stud play that getting it down right can make a huge difference for your overall success at the tables.

Five Card Stud FAQ

Five Card Stud is the oldest variation of stud poker around, originating from the time of American Civil War. For a while, it was the most-played poker variation around although it never really picked up that much traction in casinos and was more played in home games around the US.

This poker variant is played with a standard deck of cards with no wilds (jokers), like many other stud and draw variations. All players are dealt five cards, with the first card being face down and the rest are dealt face up. After every round of dealing, there is a betting round in between. Usually, the game uses a limit betting structure and antes and bring in instead of blinds, found in some draw games as well.

Although the poker variation may not be hugely popular in the live setting and in brick and mortar casinos, many online poker sties still offer a chance to play from the comfort of your own home. You can find quite a few rooms still offering the game, especially in the cash game format across different stakes.

When compared to other poker variants around today, like Pot Limit Omaha or No Limit Hold’em, this one is actually much simpler to play well. You have access to a lot of information about your opponent’s hands so this removes a lot of guesswork from the equation.

If there is one tip that you should always have in your mind when playing this poker format it is to pay attention to discarded cards. Knowing what cards are no longer in the deck and what cards your opponents absolutely can’t have can give you a tremendous advantage in the game.

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Classic Five Card Stud may not be the game of choice at many casinos these days (just like Five Card Draw poker) but you can still find and enjoy the game in home settings and online. Many of our recommended poker sites spread Five Card Stud cash games and tournaments so you’ll be able to hone your skills and enjoy the play across various stakes. We believe that every player should be able to play the game they enjoy and if this is the one for you, go ahead and pick the room that provides the service you’re looking for. Have a blast and run that bankroll up in the process!
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