When you play 7-card stud eight-or-better, high-low split, (7-stud/8)
the game is frequently played with an action button. Whenever a pot
is scooped and exceeds some predetermined amount, the winner has to
post an “action bet” on the next hand. It’s not a
kill-pot since it does not double the stakes; it is simply a blind raise
to increase the action on the following hand. Players who act before
the action button cannot complete the bring-in. Instead, they can only
call the bring-in if they intend to play. Once the action button has
raised, and the action gets back to them, they are free to call —
or raise — the action bet.
In a $20-$40 game, the bring-in is five dollars, and the action button’s
forced raise is twenty dollars. This structure has definite strategic
implications when you see scare-cards call the bring-in for five dollars
and it’s your turn to act. If there’s an ace that has called
the five dollar bring-in, and you are not prepared to call a double
raise to forty dollars once the action button’s blind raise is
played and the ace acts again, do not play your hand. When an ace calls
the bring-in for five dollars and there’s a forced raise behind
him, you can be almost certain the ace will reraise and make it $40
to go. If you have a three card eight — or even a rough seven
— this really isn’t the kind of holding you want when confronting
a double bet and are looking at an ace out against you.
There are better opportunities to invest your money. In these circumstances,
take your three-card rag low and dump it as quickly as you can. If there
was no action button, and you could take another card off the deck for
five dollars — it’s usually worth a call. If the aces catches
a banana on fourth street and you catch a baby, you can afford to play
since you now have the best low draw. Having caught a banana on fourth
street, the ace now needs to catch two low cards out of the next three
to win the low end of the pot, while you only need to catch one.
But calling a five dollar bet is a lot different than calling $40.
Like most things involving money, poker is often a question of getting
the best bang for your buck, and paying $40 to draw against the most
powerful card in the deck is a bad bargain. The fact that you’ll
see many people do just this doesn’t make it correct; it merely
makes it a good game — and if your opponents exhibit this behavior
on a regular basis, you should win your share of their money in 7-stud/8.
If you are playing against skilled 7-stud/8 players, you also need
to consider the hands they might have when calling a five dollar bring-in
with an ace already in action. A skilled player recognizes the power
of an ace, and if he calls, you can be sure he also has a rather strong
holding. When this happens, and you suspect that player of going low,
you need to have a very good low draw in order to contest this pot.
Not only do you have to overcome the ace if he is going low, you now
have to overcome another low draw who figures to have a very powerful
holding, such as three cards to a six low, or a two-way hand, like 7-6-5
or 7-4-3 suited.
Seven-stud/8 can be a frustrating game. It takes patience to wait for
good starting hands — they don’t come around all that often
— and not every player exhibits this quality all the time. This
game takes patience and discipline to play successfully. Three cards
to a low don’t come around very frequently, and discipline is
required to throw them away when you don’t appear to have a shot
at the high end and appear to be up against a superior low draw.
In fact, the inability to release second best low draws is a major
leak in many 7-stud/8 players’ games. You would be surprised how
often you see three or even four players continuing on with a low draw
when it is quite obvious that they are not drawing at the best low.
For them to win, the other low draws all have to bust, and that’s
a long-shot at best. While you won’t see too many players continue
on with their low draw if they catch a banana or two, these same players
will continue along in a hand even when they strongly suspect that theirs
is not the best low. This doesn’t make too much sense when you
stop to think about it. After all, a second or third best low is not
much better than missing your low altogether. While every now and then
you’ll appear to be up against two better looking lows, only to
find that they paired twice and are now high hands — but that
does not happen often enough to make calling with the third best low
anywhere near a profitable play.
It may seem paradoxical, but this game also requires a willingness
to gamble. In fact, the road to losing days at 7-stud/8 is often littered
with four-card lows that caught bananas on fifth, sixth, and seventh
street, and two pair high hands that are scooped when a low hand backs
into a straight or flush and scoops the pot.
There’s more to playing 7-stud/8 than meets the eye. Unless one
is patient, willing to release three-card lows that do not look like
the best low or do not offer some scooping potential, and has a willingness
to gamble under the right conditions, you might be better off in the
long run playing a high-only game, such as 7-stud or hold’em.
But if you have the discipline coupled with a willingness to gamble
under the right conditions, this is a game with a lot of opportunity.
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