Seden Stud in Depth

When playing Seven-Stud/8, conventional wisdom suggests that you begin with a low hand and try to scoop the pot by making a high hand, too. That's a lot easier than starting with high cards and hoping to make a low one. The objective of this game is to scoop pots — not split them — so it's important to play hands that have two-way potential. Most of the time, that means starting with low cards.

Beyond third street

Choosing to continue beyond third street means that your next key decision point occurs on the very next betting round. If you hope to make a low hand but catch a high card on fourth street, it severely diminishes your chances of completing your hand. If you catch a fourth low card, however, you stand a good chance of succeeding.

If you catch a good card on fourth street and an opponent (who also has what looks like a low draw) catches a high card, then you can raise if someone bets. That tactic makes it very difficult for any opponent to call once he sees two low cards on your board. If you can chase other low draws out of the pot, it no longer matters how good your low is, as long as it is the only ' low hand in the battle.

If you make the only low hand, you can raise whenever someone bets — and you can do so with the complete assurance that half of all the money going into that pot will soon be yours. This nifty but rare situation is called freerolling — where you hold the best possible low hand and there is no cost or risk to drawing for the high hand.

Calling on fifth street in Seven-Stud/8 does not necessarily represent the same commitment to the hand that it does in Seven-Card Stud. If you have a low draw and catch a bad card on sixth street while an opponent catches a very good one, it can be correct to release your hand in the face of a bet.

But if you have a high hand and are still active on fifth street, the pot is generally big enough to continue to the end.

When everyone has tout cards showing

If you find yourself up against a few opponents on third street with 2s, 3s, 4s, 5s, or 6s showing, you can usually be certain they are also going low. When one of your opponents has an ace as his door card (the first card dealt face up), he could be going high or low, or have a two-way hand like A-2/A. (The two cards to the left of the slash were dealt face down. The card to the right was dealt face up.) With a low door card other than an ace, you can safely assume that most of your opponents also will have two other low cards.

The following scenario can be a real dilemma: If you start with three low cards and three opponents also call with low board cards, you can assume that there are probably 12 cards between and ace and an 8 already out. If that's the case, it means that 12 out of the 32 low cards, or 38 percent of all the low cards in the deck, have already been dealt.

To illustrate some important concepts, imagine the following:

No aces are showing, c" You hold three good low cards, c" Three of your opponents also appear to be going low. c" A player showing a king also calls.

It's obvious why the king is in the pot — he's going high. Four of you are trying for the low side, and one or two may have two-way hands. Approximately 20 low cards remain in the deck — more, if some of your opponents are poor players who will play weak hands like 3-J/2, and fewer, if others folded hands like 3-7/10. You'll never know for sure, but you are in the ballpark.

Suppose you started with 3-4/5. Catching another 3, 4, or 5 is not what you are hoping for. An 8 gives you four cards to a low — but against three other opponents heading in the same direction yours is probably the worst four-card low of the lot.

Either a 2 or a 6 is a perfect catch. With either of those cards you have a good low draw along with an open-ended straight draw for high. An ace is a terrific low card — in addition, it provides an inside draw to a wheel. Catching a 7 keeps you in the hunt by providing a good-but-not-great four-card low, along with an inside straight draw for high.

Your opponent with the high hand is in a good situation at this point. Not only does the distribution of high versus low cards help her, she is not really hurt if she holds a big pair and catches a low card. In fact, that's one low card her opponents can't catch. Moreover, if she catches high cards she may make two pair or trips, assuming she started with a big pair and a big, live side card.

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Frustrations can mount in Seven-Stud/8, particularly when you start with three good low cards and catch a face card or a bad low card and have to abandon your hand. That's the nature of the game. The frustration factor in Seven-Stud/8 causes many players to play almost any starting hand, and that's when they lose money. Even experienced players occasionally lose patience after waiting for good starting hands that they have to release once they've caught a bad card or two on subsequent betting rounds.

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