Stud is one of the most demanding Poker games. There are a lot
of cards on the table, each street demands a different approach,
and the betting can move from modest to sweat-breaking in minutes.
It's a skill, memory and strategy game that can be exhilarating,
punishing and even humiliating. Our strategy guide will help you
enjoy more of the former and suffer less of the latter.
As mentioned in our Stud Rules section, the minimum Buy-In is
typically 10-times the low limit, or $20 for a $2-$4 game. But
playing with the minimum is not recommended. Using the 40-times
recommendation, the player should buy in with a minimum of $80
for the $2-$4 games, $320 for the $8-$16 games, and $400 for the
can always play with less, but the chances are you won't have
enough to see you through to the point where you've got a feel
for the other players and can bring your skills to bear. If you're
underfunded you'll be nervous and therefore at a disadvantage
right off the top.
Choosing a Game
Stud games are defined by their betting limits. The low stakes
online games are usually $2-$4 while the higher games are typically
$8-$16 or $10-$20. I've seen land casino Stud at $100-$200 or
higher, but these stakes are very rare on the web.
game's betting limits tell the Stud player pretty much everything
they need to know about the nature of the game, the expectations
of the players, and the size of the bankroll you should have before
you sit in.
As mentioned in the Rules Section the usual Ante in the lower-end
games is 10% of the low betting limit. When the betting limits
climb so does this percentage, up to 25% or so. These higher percentage
Antes actually change the nature of the game. The proportionally
larger pot makes it worthwhile to come in strong in an attempt
to "steal" the Antes.
games, different strategies
When stealing the Ante becomes a worthwhile proposition, the speed
and intensity of play also increases, which in turn requires a
shift in playing strategy. Stud players traditionally find it
difficult to make the transition to the higher betting limits
precisely because of this change.
It should come as no surprise that the big games attract the big
players. A rookie can and will get eaten alive by the sharks at
the $100-$200 tables without learning much in the process. What's
the point of that? Remember, Stud is a skill game and overestimating
yours will cost you money.
Playing the Cards
A major part of any winning player's strategy has to be card memory
and card analysis. Studying what's on the table and what it could
mean is critical in Stud. You must observe the upcards in each
street and ask yourself:
it help or hurt your chances?
does it help or hurt the receiving player's chances?
does it help or hurt the other player's chances?
Three of a Kind (a.k.a Trips, "a set") is the best opening
hand in 7-Card Stud and the higher the rank the better. They can
often win you the round without improvement and leave you great
flexibility in your betting and positioning in the coming streets.
anyone at the table knew you held Trips right off, they'd almost
certainly Fold. The usual recommendation is to take it slow and
hide what you've got. Bet modestly, Check or Call as necessary,
until you're in the high streets (5-7th) where you can drag more
money into the pot.
want to keep as many players in as long as possible because you're
probably going to beat them. This is called the "slow play"
and is designed to maximize the pot.
you're holding a set of "scare cards" (Aces or Kings),
or highest door card, keep in mind that everyone is expecting
you to Raise, so if you don't they're going to wonder what's up.
With anything other than the scare cards there's no need to bother.
"the turn" (fourth street) you continue to play modestly,
keeping the other players in.
you hit fifth it's time to make the others pay to stay. If they're
still in at the fifth, the chances are that they'll want to see
the "river" (seventh street) and won't be scared off
by the steeper action you provide.
ever, watch the opponents cards watching for anything that could
honestly threaten your potential win.
After Trips, a High Pair (10s or better) is the best starting
hand you could hope for. If the paired cards are in the hole (face
down) that's even better: open cards are worth less since the
others can see or surmise what you've got. This is a solid position
for an opening Bet or Raise or even a re-Raise if you hold highest
door, J or better.
be afraid of strong betting in third and fourth streets because
you want to eliminate as many players as possible while it's cheap
to do so. You still need to improve on your hand so you don't
want anyone to pull cards for free.
there are better door cards on the table--you've got holed Queens
and there's a King and Ace on the table--it's probably wise to
leave it at a single Raise. If it's two Aces, for example, on
the table then don't hesitate since it's already looking like
a broken threat.
you door card is reasonable, say a 10 or Jack, and the High Pair
is buried you're in an ideal situation. Your Raise will look like
you're moving on the Paired 10s, for example, and the other players
will respond accordingly. You're in an excellent position to pull
them in deeper in the later streets.
fifth the remaining hands that do not have an obvious strong position
(non-paired opens) are probably draw hands. Raise in order to
knock them out.
and seventh: if you're not beaten by the open cards and you've
improved on the Pair, Raise. Otherwise you have to consider Folding,
or at least Check along if there's no Raises to match and nothing
on the table looks threatening.
Three to a Flush
Three cards to a Flush is a "drawing" hand: you need
cards to make anything worthwhile. That said, it's worth a Raise,
but how much money you can put behind it without giving yourself
away is largely determined by your door card.
your doorcard is Faces or Aces (A, K, Q, J), then the Raise will
look like you're backing a high Pair. If your door leads, following
a Raise and re-Raise will probably pass without being suspected.
"head" cards, highest of the held cards, also affect
how you play the hand. Assuming you don't have High door as above,
you want J or better in the Flush to justify the betting. This
way you're drawing to both the Flush and a High Pair to balance
you've got a weak door or no High cards you need to get to fourth
street as cheaply as possible since you're facing 5 to 1 odds
against completing your hand. Consider mucking if any of the cards
you need are "dead" (in another player's hand).
Fourth street brings you a fourth for the Flush you're facing
1.5 to 1 against completing, which is good odds at this point
and worth a Raise. Consider mucking if two or more of the cards
you need are "dead" or if you've got no High Pair possibilities
as an out.
street: you must have that fourth to the Flush by this point in
order to justify further betting. If you get it, and especially
if there's a High Pair out, consider raising. The odds are still
reasonable that you'll complete (2 to 1 against).
the sixth the odds are swinging against you at 4 to 1 to complete.
You can only justify staying in if it's cheap and there's still
some chance of an out. Otherwise muck.
Three to a Straight
Again, we're talking about a draw hand, and this one's a lot tougher
to complete than the 3-Card Flush. If you've got two or three
High cards, you've got a chance at a High Pair as an out. This
hand can sustain a Raise or even a re-Raise if it's an Outside
Straight (can be completed from either end). But don't let A-K-Q
fool you: that's an Inside Straight (only open at one end) and
is better played for it's Pairing possibilities.
the round it's doubly important to study the other players cards
for anything that could kill your Straight. If any one of the
cards you could use is dead, it seriously detracts from your completion
fourth street you want another (consecutive) card in your Straight.
If you don't get it, Fold unless all of your cards beat the up
cards. If you've still got an Outside Straight you're facing 1.3
to 1 odds against completing and this is worth continuing to play.
If you draw a fourth to the Straight and it leaves you with an
Inside Straight consider folding unless you're holding the two
highest up cards.
fifth street you're facing 2 to 1 odds against completing. If
you still have two of the highest up cards then it's worth Check
or Call to continue to the sixth. Otherwise Fold. Four to a Straight
is tempting to chase, but it's not nearly as good a bet as it
sixth street you're facing 5 to 1 odds and there's no justification
to continue unless all necessary cards are still "live"
(in play, not "dead"). If your open cards still lead,
it's worth a Raise. Muck if you're facing a double Raise.
There are a million hands is Stud and probably just as many ways
to advise a player on their playing strategy. From all I've seen
and read I'd say that it boils down to two options: Bull or Bear.
This player is conservative, plays "tight", takes the
risks only when there's something to back it up. In this play
style the streets largely determine the player's action.
third street the tight player has a simple choice, do they have
the goods? If they're holding Trips, three to either a Flush or
Straight, a high Pair (10s or better) or, at the very least, two
of the highest cards (A-K) they bet. Otherwise they Fold without
a second thought.
fourth street it's a question of whether they've improved their
initial hand, still appear to lead and have a solid chance of
bringing it home. At this point only Trips, four to a Flush or
Straight, Two Pair and no visible competition justify a bet. Otherwise
the hand is over and nothing significant has been risked.
rest of the round is the expensive streets and the tight player
must believe they are holding the "nuts", the winning
hand. If they're still trying to draw that hand, they'll only
continue if it's cheap to do so, the cards they need are still
alive (not showing), and the upcards pose no significant threat.
Otherwise, they're gone.
tight is about risk minimization. Nothing is ventured without
the cards to back it up. If the betting gets too steep, Fold.
If the cards are going against you, Fold. If you're running out
of time and still don't have the cinch hand, Fold.
Bullish, aggressive play, is almost the opposite. What you have
in your hand is important, but it's equally important to assess
how your cards appear to the other players. The bullish player
manipulates their opponents expectations as much as they managing
their own cards. And they push the game, following a "Raise
or Fold" policy, forcing the other players to pay up or muck
key to bullish play, in addition to knowing your game as well
as the tight player does, is careful card analysis. It's a never-ending
game of "how do my cards appear to him?", "am I
supporting that perception with my actions?", "is he
falling for it?", "can I use his expectations to get
more money on the table?".
tricky? It is! Bullish players make Stud the roller-coaster ride
that it is and they demand the most of a player's powers of observation,
card analysis, and psychological deception
Is it better to be a "rock", play ultra-conservatively
and only risk your money when you've got the nuts. Or is it best
to play aggressively, only Fold or Raise, almost never Check,
and force the other players to pony up or muck out?
the beginning player might think that tight play is the shrewd
approach, it's not necessarily so. First, you'll get the reputation
of being a "rock" and few people enjoy playing with
someone who is tight-fisted and super cautious. Worse, you're
probably going to lose. When the other players can predict your
card decisions they've got an huge advantage and that will put
your money in their pocket.
play is favored among professional players. By choosing the "Raise
or Fold" policy, they force more money out onto the table.
And since their style is far less predictable they have more room
to maneuver, more ways to attack, more opportunities to use your
expectations against you. Bullish play and solid card skills wins
Reading the Players
Anything that gives a player's feelings or intentions away is
called a "tell" and learning to read these is a key
component of Poker play. Obviously when you play online, you're
don't have direct access to this information, so the dynamics
of the game change a bit. But there can still be ways to gain
this type of information.
chat box that appears in most online Poker games can be a dead
give-away. I've been in games where players would jump on the
chat box as soon as they read their cards and had a good hand.
They're happy and they want to share their good feelings with
others. A shrewd Poker player absorbs this information and uses
it to gain a playing edge.
also seen players who would jump on and cuss the cards whenever
he thought he'd received something good: he's trying to lull the
other players into thinking they've got him beat. Same story:
use what you know about his playing style to beat him and take
To Bluff or not to Bluff?
do's and don't of bluffing could fill a small book on their own,
but here are a few of the most important things to keep in mind:
avoid bluffing heavy winners: they can afford to Call and usually
beginners are often desperate to know what you've got and will
Call just for the sake of knowing.
experienced players play a cagey game, are studying your actions
more closely, and are often easier to bluff.
ask yourself how good your cards might look to the other players.
Don't bluff without at least a little something in your hand to
make it look threatening.