Learning Poker: The Ultimate Guide to the Rules of Seven-Card Stud
If you've ever played stud poker, chances are you've played Seven-Card Stud. This is the most popular stud poker game, and also a popular poker game in its own right. If you're used to playing Hold'em games like Texas Hold'em or Omaha, however, this game might be a bit of an adjustment for you. As you will see, the rules and betting structure of Seven-Card Stud differ quite a bit from Hold'em style games.
The Basic Principles of Seven-Card Stud
This game can be played with anywhere from two to eight players. The basic principle of Seven-Card Stud is simple: each player is dealt a total of seven cards, and the player who can make the best five-card hand out of their seven cards is the winner. Unlike some poker games, there are no Community cards in Seven-Card Stud, meaning that every player is dealt their seven cards individually. However, while the cards are dealt individually, some are dealt face up so the other players can see them, while others are dealt face down. Another difference between Seven-Card Stud and Hold'em style poker games is that the game involves "antes" rather than "blinds," meaning that every player at the table must put some money in the pot before a hand can begin.
All Games Are Limit Games
In some other poker games like Omaha and 32 Card Draw, you will be given the option to choose between Limit, Pot Limit, and No Limit game types. In Seven-Card Stud, however, all games are played as Limit poker. This means that there is a set minimum and maximum raise limit for all hands in this game. These limits are always agreed upon in advance. Limits are set in a split structure. Let’s use 5/10 as an example. In a 5/10 Limit game, all bets in the first two rounds must be equal to $5, and all bets in the last three rounds must be equal to $10. In addition, players are only allowed a maximum of three raises per betting round.
Hand, Suit, and Card Orders
Seven-Card Stud uses traditional high poker hand rankings. In descending order from highest to lowest, they are: royal flush, straight flush, four of a kind, full house, flush, straight, three of a kind, two pair, one pair, and high cards. Suits are ranked high to low as follows: spades, diamonds, hearts, and clubs. Aces are high in this game.
Starting the Game: "Anteing Up"
When playing Seven-Card Stud, there is no need to select a dealer, as none of the players in this game act as the dealer. Instead, there is a non-playing dealer who stays consistent throughout the whole game. Once all of the players are gathered at the table, the game can begin. Every hand begins with each player posting an "ante." This will usually be equal to one fifth of the minimum bet amount (so for a 5/10 Limit game, the ante in the first two rounds would be $1, and the ante in the last three rounds would be $2). Once all antes are posted, the hand begins.
The First Deal: "Third Street"
The first round begins with each player being dealt three cards, two face down and one face up. This last card is called the "Third Street," and determines which player must make a "bring-in" bet. The player with the lowest face up Third Street card is the player who must place the bring-in bet. This bet will usually be set at either half of the minimum bet amount, or the full minimum bet amount. If there are two players with equal Third Street cards, the player with the lowest suit ranking will be the bring-in.
The First Betting Round
When the bring-in is posted, the first betting round begins. Players can now choose to fold, check, or bet. If a player wants to leave the hand at this point, they can fold. If they want to pass the bet on to the next player, they can check. If they want to bet, they can do so according to the set limits of the game. Once all bets are equal, or if no one bets in the round, then play moves on to the next round. Note, however, that if no one else raises the bet after the bring-in, then the bring-in cannot bet again until the next round.
"Fourth Street" and Double Betting
After the first betting round concludes, another face up card, called the "Fourth Street," is dealt. This time, the player with the highest value in their two exposed cards combined is the first player to act, which means that they have the choice to fold, check, or bet. The action then moves clockwise around the table until all bets are equal again. In a situation where a player's two exposed cards form a pair, that player can place a "double bet," meaning that they can bet either the minimum or the maximum bet limit. If this player decides to make the "big bet" based on the maximum bet limit, then the big bet is opened up to the rest of the table for the remainder of the round, and all other players must match this bet in order to stay in the hand.
"Fifth Street" and "Sixth Street"
Once again, after all bets are equal, another card is dealt. This card, called "Fifth Street," is again dealt face up. As this is the third betting round, the minimum bet limit is now set at the higher of the two split limit levels. Betting then continues with the player with the highest-ranking exposed cards acting first. When all bets are equal again, the "Sixth Street" card is dealt, and betting ensues just as it did in the Fifth Street round.
The "River" and the "Showdown"
The final card to be dealt is called the "River." This card is dealt face down. After this, a final round of betting ensues, proceeding just as it did in the previous two rounds. When all bets are equal again, the "Showdown" begins with the last player to raise in the last round of betting. If no one raised during the last round, the first remaining player to the left of the dealer shows their cards first. Moving clockwise around the table, each player then has the option to either show their hand, or "muck" it if they don't want the other players to see it. The winner is the player with the best five-card hand.
Variation: Seven-Card Stud High/Low
Another option with Seven-Card Stud is to play the High/Low variation of the game. In this variation, the pot is split evenly at the end of each game between the player with the best high hand and the player with the best low hand. In order to qualify for a low hand, a player must hold an 8 low or better. If no player holds a low hand, then the player with the high hand takes the whole pot. If two players hold identically ranking hands, then the pot will be split evenly between those two players. If you can master Seven-Card Stud, then you're well on you're way to mastering stud poker. This is a very popular game that many players around the world enjoy. If you're used to Hold'em games and you're ready for a completely different kind of poker, this could be the perfect game for you.