If you are new to the poker world, you might think that Texas Hold ‘Em has always been the most popular poker game in the world.
And while Texas Hold ‘Em is certainly the king of poker games now, as the game attracts millions of players and is played all around the world, that wasn’t always the case, as Hold ‘Em is actually the new kid on the block when it comes to casino poker. Prior to the poker boom in the early 2000s that was driven by the expansion of online poker and the World Series of Poker, 7 Card Stud was the game that was played in most casino and home poker games.
Stud poker has been around for a long time and while the game’s popularity pales in comparison to Texas Hold ‘Em nowadays, that isn’t necessarily because it is the better game.
Let’s jump right into it with a history of what I see as the greatest poker game of all time, 7 card stud!
The History Of 7 Card Stud Poker
Stud poker was the first variation of poker that saw widespread play in the United States. The roots of stud poker go back to the early days of the country, as it was common to see Civil War soldiers play cards in their downtime and the game is an American as apple pie.
Early stud games were mostly 5 card games, but those games quickly gave way to the much more complex, and far more exciting, 7 card version shortly thereafter. The game first caught on down south and made its way across the nation on Mississippi riverboat gambling ships. Before long, 7 card stud was being played in casinos and kitchen poker games all around the country and the world. As legalized gambling started to expand across the nation, 7 card stud poker came with it, as the first poker game that most players ever experienced in a casino.
In modern-day casinos, you still can find 7 card stud games, particularly down south and on the east coast, but the game has been overtaken by Texas Hold ‘Em as the most popular poker variant. But if you think that Texas Hold ‘Em took over because it is a better game, you are dead wrong!
Why Hold ‘Em Over Stud?
Casinos are in the business of making money. Poker is never going to be a game where the casino makes a lot of money, as they have no stake in the game, as they just take a small fee for running the game, and the players play against each other, not the house.
As casinos looked for ways to make more money off of their poker tables, they tried to find ways to get additional players at each table, speed the game up, and make it easier for new players to learn, to attract more beginners to the tables. With Texas Hold ‘Em, they were able to do all of those things as you can fit 10 players at a Hold ‘Em table, rather than 8 at a stud table.
Hold ‘Em was a much faster game than stud, as players share the board cards, making the game move quickly, which increased the house rake. And as the game was much simpler than stud poker, new players weren’t as intimidated to give the game a try.
The game was named Texas Hold ‘Em because the road gamblers of that era would win so much money from the cowboy poker players in Texas, that they named the game after the Lonestar State!
At the time, the established poker players of that era hated Texas Hold ‘Em as it was a dumbed-down version of the game that they loved. But with casinos pushing the game hard, as it made them more money, and new players flocking to it, as the game was so easy to learn, the popularity of the game exploded.
Eventually, all of the “new blood” beginning players would end at the Hold ‘Em table, not the stud table, and even the stud players that didn’t like it, had no choice but to play the new variant, as the action at the stud tables was drying up.
When you are playing cards for a living, you have to go where the action is, and the action had all moved to Texas Hold ‘Em, signaling the death of 7 card stud as the nation’s top poker game.
How To Play 7 Card Stud Poker
Stud poker is a very simple game in terms of how it is played. The first thing that happens when playing 7 card stud is that all players will ante. Many of you out there may be used to blinds when playing Texas Hold ‘Em or Omaha, but in 7 card stud, every player must ante prior to the start of the hand to get dealt in.
In 7 card stud, all players will get dealt 2 cards down (hole cards) and 1 card up (board cards) to start each hand. The player with the lowest card showing will then be forced to make what is known as a bring-in bet. This is a forced bet that starts the action.
From there, players will then follow in turn, clockwise, with each player having the option to call the bring-in, raise the bet, or fold. After that betting round, all remaining players will then get 1 additional face-up card, followed by a betting round. The hand with the highest rank showing will lead the betting round on all subsequent betting rounds, or streets, as they are known in the industry.
7th street is followed by one final betting round and then the hands are shown down, with the highest-ranking 5 card poker hand winning the pot.
7 Card Stud Tips For Beginners
Now that you know how to play 7 card stud, we are going to teach you how to play it well! Knowing 7 card stud rules is important, but knowing the proper strategy to use at the table is what will separate you from the rest of the players in the game. Below you will find my top 5 tips for how to win when playing 7 card stud poker!
A wise man once said that it costs nothing to pay attention, and in 7 card stud, you need to have a laser focus on the game at all times.
But where the best players excel, is that they make sure to take note of every single exposed card, even from players that folded on 3rd street and never put a chip into the pot.
This information is free to everyone, but you would be shocked to know how few players are able to remember exactly what everyone had from earlier in the hand. If I could only give you 1 tip today on how to win more money when playing 7 card stud, it would be to pay attention!
Tight Is Right
7 Card stud hands take longer to develop than other poker variants. In Texas Hold ‘Em for example, you get to see 70% of the entire hand by the flop. But in stud, after your initial 3 card starting hand, your cards only come out 1 at a time.
If you are trying to hopefully suck out on a longshot draw, you are going to have to pay to do it multiple times. That makes playing tight even more important at a stud table. Your opponents will get more opportunities to punish you for loose play, so you want to make sure that if you are getting involved in a hand, you have strong holdings from the get-go.
If you play a loose style of poker at a 7 card stud table you are going to get eaten alive! Folding most of your hands isn’t the most exciting thing to do at a poker table, but you won’t ever find a long-term winning stud poker player that plays more hands than they fold, particularly early in the hand.
Don’t Play From Behind
This next tip builds on our last tip of playing a tight style. Many times, in 7 card stud, you will have a very good hand, that just isn’t quite as good as your opponent’s holdings. If you find yourself in spots like this, you have to be able to find a way to not get married to your hand and fold.
But if you see a player with a king showing raise and then another player with an ace showing reraise, you can be sure at least 1 of them has a pair bigger than yours.
It might feel like your pair of queens isn’t that far behind their pair of kings or aces, but you have to take into account that while you could absolutely improve your hand to a hand good enough to beat them, that they too have the same odds of improving their hand.
7 card stud is a methodical game, where you have to choose your spots wisely and if you find yourself playing from behind trying to catch up, you are never going to be able to win consistently.
Don’t Give Any Free Cards
7 card stud poker is nearly always played as limit poker, not no limit. The amount that you can win on each betting street is capped, which means that you have to take advantage of every opportunity you can to extract value from your opponents.
In the previous example where we talked about not playing from behind, if you find yourself on the other side of that, and it is you that has the better hand, you must charge them full price to try and draw out on you.
Giving away free cards when you are in the lead is a mortal sin in 7 card stud and you have to make sure that if you have the best hand, you are hammering the pot with bets and raises.
When Not To Fold
This final tip isn’t as straightforward as some of the other tips, but it is one that has won me a lot of money playing 7 card stud over the years. If you are playing a hand that is heads up on 6th street and you are calling based on the current strength of your hand, and not on a draw, you should nearly always call down on 7th street.
Many times, you will be getting 10-1 or more odds from the pot on a call, which means that if you call and lose 80% of the time, that a call is still the mathematically correct play as it will show long term positive expected value.
I know that might be a little bit complicated of an explanation, but to put it simply, if you have any chance of winning, and the pot is big enough, you never want to fold for just 1 bet. Now, you have to be careful that you aren’t just spewing money and playing too loose, as that is a recipe for disaster. The way to do that is by making your tough folds on 6th street, not 7th. With only 1 card to come, you are highly unlikely to improve your hand and if you feel that you are behind, you should fold prior to getting your last card.
But if you think you have the best hand and it is worth a call on 6th street, you need to pay off on 7th street as well. If you are calling on 6th and folding on 7th, that is a very easy to exploit strategy, and you are going to get bluffed far too often. Play tight on 6th, and loose on 7th, and watch the chips pile up in front of you!
If you ask me, 7 card stud is the single greatest poker game ever invented. And while the stud tables in casinos have dried up in some parts of the country, one place where the action is still great for 7 card stud poker, is online!
If you are looking to give online 7 card stud a try, you need to make sure that you check out TheSportsGeek’s poker for beginner’s page, where we give you exclusive deals at all of the top online poker sites! Thanks for reading and good luck at the tables!