Seven Card Stud: Rules & Strategies

Seven Card Stud is one of the oldest poker variations, which also used to be the most popular choice of players in casinos and card rooms across the globe before the arrival of Texas Hold’em. Played with seven cards dealt to each player (like the name suggests), the game provides plenty of action and requires a lot of strategic thinking and paying attention to opponents’ folded cards to have a better idea of possible combinations others might be chasing as well as your odds of making a hand you’re after. Although the game is no longer as popular as it used to be some twenty odd years ago, it is still played quite often, especially as a part of the rotation in games such as HORSE.

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How to play Seven Card Stud

When it comes to Seven Card Stud rules, they aren't too complicated and it doesn't take long to learn the basics of the game. If you're interested in finding out how to play this classic poker variation, this short and quick guide should give you all the information you need.

The setup

The game is usually played with up to eight players seated at the same table. This is because of the number of cards in the standard deck of cards and playing with more than eight players at the table would be too much. No jokers are used in any official variation of the game although you might find them in some home poker games.

The deal

In Seven Card Stud poker, the deal begins with the first player seated to the immediate left of the designated dealer receiving their first card face down. The deal continues clockwise, with every player receiving one card face down. This is followed by another face down card dealt to each player and, finally, third card is dealt to all players in the same fashion, but this time face up. The first two face-down cards are usually referred to as hole cards.

After each betting round is completed, the dealer will deal another card to all players still active in the hand. The first player to receive the card on subsequent streets is the player initiating the betting. Cards on the fourth, fifth, and sixth streets are dealt face up, while the final, seventh street card, is dealt face down. So, by the end of the hand, there are three concealed cards (face down) and four face up cards.

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Seven Card Stud betting structure

In most casinos and home games, Stud poker is played as a limit game with a fixed betting structure. At the start of the hand, all players will place a mandatory ante into the pot. Then, after the initial three cards are dealt, the player showing the lowest card (deuces are lowest, aces are high), will be required to post a Seven Card Stud bring in, which is usually the size of the ante. The ante is typically set at ten percent of the small bet.

The player acting first (the bring in) can just post the bring in or they can complete, putting in the full small bet. The next player to act (going clockwise from the bring in) can either call (matching whatever bet the original player made), fold (giving up the hand) or raise. In limit games, raises are made in fixed increments of one extra small bet on top and are usually capped at three per betting round.

From the fifth street (fifth card dealt) onwards, the big bet comes into play, which is double the amount of the small bet. On the fifth, sixth, and seventh street, the minimum amount players can bet is the big bet amount. When there is a player showing a pair on the board on the fourth street, they can also, if they want to, start the betting with the big bet. In all other cases, the small bet is used.

Showdown: determining the winner

Once all betting is done and if there are more than one players still active in the hand, the showdown happens. Players will turn over their hands and the winner of the pot will be determined based on who has the best hands according to hand rankings described in the next section. The player with the best hand wins the pot. If two or players have the identical best hand, the pot is split equally between them.

Seven Card Stud poker hand rankings

The strength of Seven Card Stud hands is determined using standard rules for high poker variations so players who have experience with any form of live or free online poker should have no problems with this part. The important thing to keep in mind is that although players are dealt seven cards, they must use five and five only to make their best hand.

  • In Stud, hands are ranked as follows (from best to worst)
  • Royal flush: five cards of the same suite, from 10 to A (10, J, Q, K, A)
  • Straight flush: five cards of the same suit in a sequence
  • Quads or four of a kind: four cards of the same face value
  • Boat (full house): Three cards of the same value + two different cards of the same value (KKK 99)
  • Flush: Five cards of the same suite
  • Straight: Five cards in a sequence (6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
  • Trips (three of a kind): Three cards of the same face value (ranking)
  • Two pair: two cards of the same value + two different cards of the same value
  • One pair: two cards of the same value
  • A high card: no pair

When two or more players have the same hand, for example an Ace high flush, they will always tie. Suits are never used to determine the winner. The only time that suits come into play is when two players are showing the same lowest card when determining the winner. In that case, suits are ranked in alphabetical order from the lowest to the highest (clubs, diamonds, hearts, spades).

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Seven Card Stud strategy

Like every other poker variation, there is a lot to playing a good game of Stud. We can’t even begin to scratch the surface of all the intricacies of the game in this article but we can give you a few solid tips for Seven Card Stud to give you the push in the right direction. If you like this poker variation, there are many resources out there that can help take you to the next level.

The most important thing to pay attention to is how you select your starting hands. Getting involved with too many hands can be a very costly mistake and it is quite common with new players. To start with, stick to good draws (three of the same suite, three straight cards) as well as hands with solid potential, like pocket pairs in the hole and trips.

Paying attention to what other players have discarded is also a key part of Seven Card Stud strategy. This will require some training to get better but try to stay alert and focused on what’s going on around you. Knowing that some cards are no longer in play will help you figure out your Seven Card Stud odds much better.

Keep in mind that, unlike Texas Hold’em or Omaha, this is a fixed limit game. This means you’ll require to play more hands after the third street. Keep track of how your opponent’s hand is developing and when you realize that you’re likely beaten, don’t try to go against the odds. Fold and move on to the next hand.

Seven Card Stud FAQs

The Seven Card Stud meaning indicates it is a poker variation played with seven cards dealt to each player. Every player receives three cards face down and four cards face up. There are up to five betting rounds (streets) and the game is usually played using the limit betting structure.

The game originated from the USA where it developed in the late 1800s during the Civil War. It developed from other stud poker variations and quickly became the game of choice for many players. From the 1900s onwards, this poker variant gained a lot of popularity, spreading across casinos all over the globe, becoming the most dominant poker variation for decades.

You can play the game in a casino, poker room, or in a home setting. You need just a standard deck of cards and some chips and you are good to go. Use our guide to rules to get you started and see how it goes for you. Or, play in a casino setting and you’ll have all the guidance you need if there are any rules you might be unclear about.

Yes, there are many online poker rooms offering Seven Card Stud games. You’ll find many different stakes on cash tables and tournaments and you can even learn the ropes playing on play money tables. Simply pick a site you like, sign up, and get started.

While this isn’t the most complicated of poker variations, learning to play well will definitely require some time and effort. Use our strategy tips to get you started and build on that knowledge if you find you like the game.

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Join Seven Card Stud action online

Although the game may not be as popular in the poker world as it used to be, you’ll find there are many great poker rooms still offering cash games and tournaments featuring this poker variation. If you’re looking to play Seven Card Stud online check out our poker room comparison and see if there is one or few that catch your attention. Many of them will even give you a generous bonus to get you started in style and give your bankroll a proper boost. How high you want to play and whether you prefer cash games or poker tournaments is entirely up to you.
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