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Texas Holdem Poker


by: Lou Krieger

How well you play your first three cards in seven-card stud poker is one of the keys to success in that game. It’s no mystery. Successful play demands an awareness of whether the cards that will improve your hand are still alive. You also need to anticipate what players acting after you might do, based on their door cards.

These same considerations hold true for 7-stud/8. But that’s where the road forks. In seven-card stud the next major decision point is fifth street — buy a card there and you’ve bought a through-ticket to the river. Seven-card stud pundits do not usually offer much salient advice about play on fourth street. It’s almost as though you’re expected to play it on autopilot.

That fourth card is critical when you’re playing seven-card stud eight-or-better high-low split. Misunderstanding its importance is a strategic blunder of major proportions. If you play properly, most of the time you will be playing low cards. You're hoping to make a low hand that can become a high hand too. You will generally avoid starting hands that contain pairs, except for hands like A-A/2. Most of the time you will play low draws.

This is so important I’ll emphasize it again. If you play 7-stud/8 correctly, most of the time you’ll be starting with three low cards — and it is these three low cards that make fourth street so very critical. If you start with three low cards, you’ll still need to catch two cards lower than a nine ¾ that do not pair your hand ¾ out of the next four cards dealt to you, in order to make a low hand. That’s a fair chance. In order to succeed, half of your next four cards must be small.

Suppose you catch a high card on fourth street, or a card that pairs you. If you’re not the only one going low, even a card like an eight can spell trouble. To have a chance at half the pot, two-thirds of your remaining cards must not pair you, and make yours the best low hand. It’s not easy. Catch a brick on fourth street and you’ll usually find four dragons raising their fire-breathing heads.

First, you have substantially reduced your chances of making a low hand. Catch a brick and two of the next three cards must be low for you to even have a chance at half the pot. Moreover, you can’t possibly make your hand until sixth street. Even when you do make it, you’ll have one less round of betting to jam the pot if you are lucky enough to find yourself competing against two or more opponents who are slugging it out for the high side.

Second, if you catch a high card and someone else going low catches a small one, he is now far ahead in the race. He needs just one low card out of the final three he will be dealt to complete his hand. You, on the other hand, need to catch two low cards out of the next three to even compete in the race ¾ and there’s no guarantee yours will be the best low hand. If your opponent makes his low first, you can expect a raise anytime there is a bet. A skillful opponent will make it expensive for you to stick around and attempt to draw out on him.

Third, you might catch a low card that pairs one of your hole cards. Yes, it’s true: You do have a start at a high hand, but it’s a marginal one. There is one saving grace, however. An opponent who is also going low will not know you paired. If he catches a brick he’ll probably fold if you bet or raise prior to his turn to act. Even if you can eliminate him, however, you’ll still need to either make a low hand to escape with half the pot, or contend with other opponents who are going high.

Suppose you started with a terrific low hand, like 5-4/3 and catch an 8 on fourth street. This is not nearly as bad as catching a banana, since you have a four-card low, but how will you feel about your hand if you look over and see that one of your opponents is showing a 6-5 and another a 4-3? The only way you have the best low hand on fourth street is if both your opponents have at least one banana in the pocket. Then they have to catch two cards lower than an 8 to beat you, while you only need one to guarantee yourself a low hand.

Catching an eight on fourth street can sometimes be a blessing. This is true whenever you are the only one going low and you are up against two or more opponents who are obviously going high. If you have the only low hand, how good it is no longer matters. It only matters that you make it. In fact, the worst possible low ¾ an eight-high straight ¾ would be comforting indeed if you were lucky enough to make it on fifth street, and could punish the high hands with no risk whatsoever.

An eight is not necessarily a bad card. But it can be a disaster if you are chasing with the second best low and yours is a hand that can only split the pot. When that happens, you have been snagged by the trap ¾ and can expect to be jammed by both the high and low sides. Occasionally a hand appearing to be a better low might really be two small hidden pairs and your eight low will win half the pot, but that is the exception, not the rule.

Hidden hands are terrific in 7/stud/8 specifically because they’re rather rare birds. When you think someone is going low, they usually are. Most of the time that you draw for half the pot with a hand that appears to be taking the worst of it, you will lose money for your efforts. It’s that simple, that sad, and that true.

If you’ve started out with three perfect cards, remember this: Regardless of how good they looked on third street, you might have to release your hand if fourth street is fickle and tosses a banana in your direction.

In seven-card stud, you can often defer your go/no-go decision until fifth street. In 7-stud/8, however, you need to make very careful decisions on fourth street ¾ and if you have to pack it in, don’t hesitate for a moment, and don’t give into the temptation to throw good money after bad. At the end of the day it just won’t pay off.

7 Card Stud Articles by Lou Krieger

This is where you can find all articles relating to 7 Card Stud.

Introduction to 7 Card Stud - Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4 / Part 5 / Part 6 / Part 7

An Ace and an Action Button - 7 Card Stud is often played with an Action Button learn more.

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