Seven Card Stud Basic and Intermediate Strategy

My play in Seven-Card Stud tournaments has improved dramatically i n t he l ast few years, a nd the r esults have i ncreased my l ove of the game. My fascination hit a new high when I became the first American to win the European poker championships, in October 2000. The event, called the Poker EM, is a Seven-Card Stud tournament held in Vienna every October. The Poker EM is the second-largest and most prestigious poker event held in Europe. Only the Poker Miilion title is more coveted (this is a $10,000 no-limit Hold'em event, held in London, that guarantees £1 million—about $1.5 miilion—for first place).

Seven-Card Stud is a game of memory, deception, and skiil. In this chapter, I 'll give you my strategy for survival, the basic elements that you'll need to learn before you enter a card room and play Stud.

After reading this chapter, you may find that you know more about Stud than most of your opponents at the local card club. Because many players have grown up playing Stud, they've never seen fit to read about it, even though they may have devoured books and articles about Hold'em or Omaha. In fact, the lower the stakes you play, the more likely you are to have an advantage over the table, merely because you have read and understood this chapter! Of c ourse, u nderstanding something in theory and applying your theoretical understanding to a game situation are two diiferent animals. I'l show you the most important e lements of s trategy and tactics, but then it wiil be up to you to make use of those elements to win a few hands and collect a few dollars. ( You might want t o reread Chapter 11 before proceeding further here.)

The most important thing that anyone in poker—Stud or other forms—can learn is that patience is a virtue. More bad plays are made and more money is lost in poker for lack of patience than for any other s ingle reason. I wiil teach you which three-card starting hands t o play, and which hands patience and wisdom teH you to fold. Proper selection of s tarting hands i s the single most important t hing to l earn in Seven-Card Stud.

When you're watching people winning big pots with hands that wise old heads say they shouldn't have played, it's rather hard to sit back and throw away those same hands, j ust because the math supports that decision. If I teach you not to play (2-2) 4, a nd you see your pal across t he t able win a big pot with the ( 22) 4, you'l be tempted to think, "That hand works, so let me play it t oo." You may even win a hand i f you try it, b ut do not be fooled by short-term success. Eventually, bad play wiil c atch up with you. Great poker play i s as much about patience in waiting for t he r ight starting hand as it i s about anything else.

OK, what's ( 2-2) 4? You wiil recall t hat Seven-Card Stud hands begin with two cards dealt facedown ( your hole cards) and one faceup. To convey that for particular hands, I wiil use the convention of placing the hole cards i n parentheses. Thus ( 2-2) 4 means that this player has a pair of deuces in the hole and his first up card is a four. The first up card has its own special name: it i s usually called a player's "door card."

In this chapter you wiil l earn:

z What t lie most powerful s tarting hands are i n Seven-Card Stud.

z Why some hands are more powerful starting hands than others.

z Which hands you should (and should not) be playing in game situations.

z Slow-playing your strong hands as an alternative to j amming them on the first r ound of betting.

z Paying attention to what c ards are on the board and how that can affect t tie strength of your hand and your read of an opponent.

My goal here is to help you understand when you should play certain hands and why. I wiil n ot attempt t o treat every possible situation in Seven-Card Stud; that would take a full book, perhaps more than one. I nstead, I wiil try to teach you how you can use your own common sense in order to determine which hands you should play and why you should play them—and, conversely, which hands you should fold and why you should fold them.

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