What Are the Most Powerful Starting Hands in Stud

In Texas Hold'em, you wiil r ecall, I presented a l ist of t he t op ten hands. But in Seven-Card Stud, things are different. The most powerful starting hand in Seven-Card Stud is three aces, which I wiil be indicating as (A-A) A, followed by ( K-K) K, ( Q-Q) Q, (J-J) J , and so on; when you start with three of a kind in Stud, you are said, in poker s lang, to be "rolled-up."

The next most powerful hand is a pair of concealed aces, such as ( A-A) 5, followed by one concealed ace and one unconcealed ace, such as ( A-5) A. The reason that the concealed aces (or indeed any concealed pairs) are more powerful than the unconcealed aces is that the concealed pair i s more deceptive: n o one wiil think you have a hand as powerful a s aces.

Next on my list of powerful hands i s a pair of kings—first concealed, followed by unconcealed. Then we have a pair of queens, pair of j acks, pair of tens, and (A-K) Q suited ("suited" means that all three of your cards are in the same suit). The poker legend John Bonetti ranks (A-K) Q suited ahead of (J-J) 10. So our l ist of powerful s tarting hands begins with rolled-up trips ( three of a kind), moves on to high pairs, and then moves on to high suited connectors l ike [-[V - V . All these are premium starting hands in Seven-Card Stud.

The premium starting hands, t hen, are:

  1. Three of a kind or "rolled-up" trips, b eginning with (A-A) A, then (K-K) K, and so on.
  2. High pairs, concealed or unconcealed, starting with aces and moving down to j acks.
  3. High suited connectors, s uch as (V_-'V) \ and (

Strong and medium strength starting hands are:

4 . Medium-rank pairs like 8-8 through 10-10 and or medium suited connectors, such as

5. High suited semiconnectors, s uch as 0-0.

Now that you understand what the most powerful Stud hands l ook l ike, l et's move on down the l ist and compare a couple of the more modest hands to help you think about which hands are more powerful. Which would you rather have, (

) I f you understand why I prefer the first hand, you'll have come a long way t oward starting to t hink l ike a good Seven-Card Stud player, rather than remaining someone who has s imply memorized a l ist of s tarting hands.

The hand (\- Vj contains three overcards above the eights of t he other hand. This means t hat i f I hit a ten, j ack, o r queen (and unless I see more sitting around the table, nine of these are stiil available: three tens, three j acks, and three queens), I wiil be a pretty strong favorite to win this hand. By contrast, the hand

) \ has an equal chance t o catch one of the three remaining queens, and a chance to catch one of the two remaining eights t o make trips. But t ake note that I 'm comparing these two hands ' 'in a vacuum," not taking into account the visible queen in the hand with the concealed eights.

The contrast between the two doesn't end there, though.

Although much of t he strength of t he hand (\ - V) does c ome from the high cards that can make high pairs, I could also catch cards that c ould make me a flush or a straight or even a straight flush. I f I look around the table and don't see many nines or kings (the cards that would give me an open-end straight draw), the hand's potential grows stronger. It grows stronger stiil if I don't see many eights or aces ( the cards that would complete the straight i f I caught a nine or king). But what I 'm really keeping my eyes open for are clubs (a flush beats a straight, after all). There are 10 clubs left in the deck after we take my three out of consideration. I f no one else has a club for a door card, my chances of making a flush have improved. But if I see four other players who show a club, I can consider my chance of making a flush rather remote.

Al this might s eem tedious or technical, but if you're not prepared to analyze hands to this extent, y ou won't ever be s eri-ous about Stud. Besides, it wiil take only a dozen seconds to assimilate all t his information.

Here's another c omparison for you. Which hand would you

5 6 7 — — — prefer, ( ___-___) vQr ( V — ) ^ If you've pondered categories 4

and 5 above, you already have your answer, because a medium pair l ike nines makes category 4, but a low straight flush isn't listed. I agree: g ive me the pair of nines ( (

because the straight flush cards are all l ower than the pair of nines. Most of

the value in the hand (








comes from the potential for comes from the potential for straight and flush, and although it l ooks pretty, t he hand is s tiil a long way from making a straight or flush. How about (

even though it's not suited, because I could make a straight or a pair of tens, j acks, or queens; and even if none of that happens, I could stiil beat a measly pair of twos with some random event like hitting a three on fourth street and then another three on fifth street.

Although you may feel t hat when it comes t o getting good starting cards, you're more or less at the mercy of Lady Luck, you should realize that you can make your starting hand seem a bit more powerful than it actually is through aggression, or weaken it through passivity. The hand that's doing the betting always has the edge, because the other hand may fold rather than contest its bet.

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