Cards to Play
Even more than in some other poker games, knowing when to fold is important in Seven-Card Stud. Generally, it takes a big hand to win, so folding early if the cards don’t favour you is the better part of valour.
The best starting hand you can possibly be dealt in Seven-Card Stud is trips (three-of-a-kind). If this occurs, you can bet, raise and re-raise with near impunity, and hope to improve your hand to four-of-a-kind or a full house. For any other starting hand, more caution is needed.
Seven-Card Stud: Cards to Play at Third Street
At third street, you should generally fold unless you’re holding a pair with a high-ranked side card or your hand has good potential to turn into a very strong hand through a draw. For example, if you can hope to draw cards that will give you a straight or a flush, it’s worth staying in the game.
If you’re holding a big pair (10s or higher), no other player has an exposed card of the same rank, and a player before you places a bet, it’s a good time to raise and even to re-raise – provided the player who placed the bet doesn’t have an exposed card of a higher rank than yours. In this case, you can hope to improve your hand to three or four-of-a-kind. Also, raising may intimidate other players into folding, giving you a better chance of winning the pot even if you don’t have luck on the draw.
Seven-Card Stud: Cards to Play at Fifth Street
Because the bets typically double at fifth street, players who don’t fold now generally continue playing right through to the river. Unless you have an excellent hand (a high pair or better), it’s wise to fold – failing to do this could be a very expensive mistake.
If your decision to continue playing at this point is based on the hope that you’ll draw one or more cards that will give you a winning hand – for example, cards that will give you four-of-a-kind or complete a straight or a flush – it’s important that you were observing the game carefully. As well as checking that a card you’re hoping for doesn’t feature among another player’s exposed cards, you should be certain that it hasn’t already been discarded by another player who folded.