While Texas Hold’em is the most popular game in the world right now, and at most online poker sites, it was not always this way. In fact, up until about 10 or 15 years ago the king of the hill was 7-Card Stud. This game has been played everywhere, from the real cash card rooms of Monte Carlo to the American old West. There is still a fair amount of interest in this game, both from old timers who remember playing years ago as well as a new breed who recognize the value of having another option at their online poker rooms in 2023 and beyond.
There are a number of interesting quirks and things to remember when playing Stud poker sites. First, it should be noted, there are a few different varieties. You will have poker sites that offer both 7-Card Stud and 7-Card Stud Hi Lo (see our other guide for this game). There is also 5-Card Stud, which seems to be pretty rarely offered in 2023 at most real money online poker sites. Be that as it may, a fair amount of the strategies laid out here will be transferable to some of these other forms, although this online poker guide will concentrate on the game of 7-Card Stud (high version).
For those familiar with playing Texas Hold’em at many of the best top rated online poker sites, the first thing to get used to with Stud is that there are no blinds. Instead, every player will make a small bet up front before the deal begins, called an ante. If the hand is folded, that ante is lost. Play begins with each player receiving two cards in the hole, or face down (just as in Hold’em), and a single card face up (also called third street). The cards are dealt one at a time, but the first round of betting begins after players have received their first upcard. The player with the lowest upcard has to make a bring-in bet (or fold). The betting then continues clockwise.
The play then continues with each player receiving a fourth, fifth, and sixth card face up. There is a betting round in between each card being dealt, with the player holding the strongest hand based on their upcards starting and continuing in a clockwise direction. Finally, a seventh card is dealt to each remaining player, face down, and the final betting round commences. Incidentally, the player who began the betting during the previous round is also going to start the betting after receiving their seventh card, since it will not be seen.
After all the betting has been finished the showdown comes. Players at these online poker rooms will make their best five card hand and the winner takes the entire pot. On the very rare occasion of a tie, the pot would be evenly split between the two winners.
Given that Stud poker is very different from most other games, there are some special tips to remember when playing real cash games. Most of these tips will carry over for tournament play as well, but this is primarily geared towards real money players at poker online sites.
For starters, you absolutely must be very selective about which starting hands you will play. In fact, looking at all of the online poker rooms out there, most beginning players make the huge mistake of being in way too many hands after third street. Always try and play only those hands which give you the best chance of winning. In order to judge this, you will need to arm yourself with a bit of knowledge of poker odds, how to calculate pot odds, and the advice listed below in the Stud starting hands criteria section.
Always play the players at your online poker sites. In other words, this is as much a game of psychology as it about who holds the best cards. Since online poker is a game of imperfect information, you are always trying to figure out what other players hold based on their tendencies and indications. So, learn how to assess your opposition as quickly as possible. Look at who plays inferior hands, simply looking for some action. Learn who folds at any sign of aggression, who is betting based on a drawing chance, who is bluffing, who could possibly be bluffed, who calls bets with weak hands, and who might actually be a darn good player and be assessing you in exactly the same way!
Here is a very simple tip that will save you a lot of money and make you some nice cash at the same time. In most cases with Stud at online poker sites, it is correct to either fold your hand or raise. This is especially true early on when you might be looking to get rid of as many opponents as possible. Of course, there can be times when you want to trap someone or try to draw them in.
Develop your memory and remember every card you see. Know the upcards from players who have folded. This will be very instrumental in helping you to figure your 'outs' or how many cards will help to improve your hand, or the 'outs' for your opponent(s). Plus, it will also go a long way in helping you to calculate both pot odds and true odds for making a hand. There are memory games and exercises you can do to help improve in this area, but generally just more play helps the most.
When you have strong draws, always consider raising. The situation at the poker room is also important, for example, if you have four to a flush and are waiting for your sixth card (i.e. sixth street) to show, how that raise will affect others is determined by your upcards. If three of those visible cards are suited, than you are probably more likely to get people folding at your raise than if both of your down cards were suited.
The biggest and most important decisions when playing Stud at online poker rooms will be made on third street. At least decisions that affect your bottom line and overall profitability (or lack thereof). You simply must be able to decide whether or not you have a good enough hand for the situation in order to play. If you are in pot with multiple players, drawing hands like three to a flush or straight (and combinations) play well. In short-handed pots, big pairs play well.
Before actually stating some specific starting hands advice and criteria for these poker sites, remember that everything is situational. Because of this, always ask yourself questions before making a quick decision. For example:
Yes, based on answer to those questions above, it might be correct to throw away the best current hand. Maybe you have pocket Queens and an up 10, but there are two other queens and another ten scattered around the board. Even if you look like the best current hand, there isn't much likelihood of improving much from this point, given your dead cards...so the right move is to fold. This goes back to some of the online poker tips above: keep watching the cards and know your outs. Having said that, it could still be played if you were in the right situation: being short-handed and looking to just steal the antes.
Here is a look at the best starting hands that should be played for Stud games at online poker sites. Obviously, three of a kind is tops for third street. Big pairs are nice as well, being even stronger when they are hidden as hole cards making them even more deceptive and difficult for your opponents to figure out. Remember the importance of the kicker, as well. Big suited connectors that give you three to a straight flush are next on the list of premium starting hands. Then comes the medium pairs and medium suited connectors (i.e. 8's through 10's). Finally, big suited semi-connectors, where you might have one open (A-Q-J suited).
When playing beyond third and fourth streets, the situation and your own betting position (as well as that of your opponent's) becomes more and more important. There is less hard and fast advice that can really be given here, other than you need to pay attention to what is going on. You will also really need to know online poker site odds and how to calculate pot odds to determine if a potential call or raise actually offers you good value or not.
Remember all of the strategy tips laid out above. Never play with a hand that only promises to be second best and if you have the top hand, then really force the issue. Playing online poker means making your opposition have hard decisions and choices to make, instead of yourself.
Although a few of the most typical beginner mistakes when playing Stud at online poker rooms will not be surprising, go ahead and look through all of them anyway. For example, playing too many starting hands in third street and beyond is fairly obvious. So might be not paying attention to which cards are dead and/or out. So is not folding when you only have a moderate hand and a weak draw. But, you might be a little surprised to find that beginners also don't raise enough. If you have a premium opening hand, it is generally correct to go ahead and raise. Not doing so will allow too many drawing hands to continue playing, and one of them might get lucky now and again.
Then are a few mistakes which are a little less obvious, but can still really sink your Stud game at most of the best, top poker sites. For example, drawing for cards that will still only give you the second best hand or maybe even paying exclusive attention to your own game without focusing on your opposition. You need to always know as many of your opponent's tendencies as possible and what those left in the pot are likely to do. Not being aggressive enough on third, fourth, and fifth street has sort of already been implied, but it still bears saying again.
Calling mistakes are often common among beginners at online poker sites in every game, but especially Stud. Calling all the way to the river is a huge mistake that will really sink your game and destroy your bankroll. When you have the best hand, you should almost always be raising instead of simply calling. You need to make people pay to see and to get the most value possible from you winners.