stud poker depends on mathematics and self-discipline. The
average winning hand is the lowest among all games of poker—a pair of
kings or a pair of aces. Overhead is almost non-existent; there is
almost never an ante, and you do not have to bet unless you have the
high card showing on the first round. As a result you can sit in the
game for literally hours and hardly spend a penny, waiting for a good
hand to come along. The winnings almost always go to the players who
are conservative at the start and bold when they think they have the
poker offers some classic questions, which are easy enough to
The idea that you should not play unless you can
beat the board—unless you have
a better hand than any hand showing, at the stage at which you make the bet. I
regret to say that this
precept is almost entirely true. It is devastatingly boring, but it is true. You are unlikely to win in a
stud game unless you bet only
when you can beat anything showing. In all other cases, you should get out of the pot.
The question of which is better, an ace in the
hole (assuming no other ace
showing) or a low pair, say up to fives or sixes. The low pair is much better. If the ace
itself is not paired, you have
the better hand at the start. You are even more likely to improve the pair than the holder of the
ace is to pair the ace.
much depends on how you play a low pair after the first round or two. Probably the best method is
to raise on the second round
and see how many stay in. From the number who stay in, you can judge the possibility that you
are up against other low pairs
or high hole cards. From the next round of cards, you can judge the possibility that any of the
high hole cards has paired.
poker players are often prejudiced against low pairs back to back
because they have lost so much on them. They have not lost by sticking
around in the first place—that is when they get their killings if they
improve—but by sticking around after it is apparent that some other
player in the game has paired and has a higher pair. For example, a
pair of fives unimproved is a bad fourth-round play against a strong
player who showed an eight on the first round and has drawn an ace or
king later and who bets strongly. He probably has you beaten at this
point, and if he has you beaten at this point you are
going to lose in the long run
by bucking him.
one invariable rule of stud poker is not to stay against a pair
showing unless you already have a higher pair. The num¬ber of "over"
cards is of no consequence whatsoever. If he has you beaten at that
point, he figures to have you beaten at the end and he also has an
advantage that you cannot possibly have —he can have a cinch hand and
you cannot. If there is an open pair showing, be very wary of staying
even when you have a higher pair. Stop first to consider the
possibility that he was paired back to back at the start. This will
depend upon your appraisal of the player and his habits, and also on
the number of aces that have shown (or of cards higher than the high
showing card at the start, as for example when the high showing card
at the start was a queen and no kings have shown). A stud poker player
must have the courage to get out on the highest showing hand when all
the indications are that some concealed hand is better at this point
than his hand is.
Don't stay on
straight or flush possibilities, unless by pure accident
you find yourself with a possible straight or flush with one card yet
to come and the pot offers you better than 5 to 1 odds for staying in.
the standard precepts of the game is, "Never bet into a possible
cinch hand." If you observed this rule you would sacrifice much of your
potential winnings. Stud poker is more a game of figuring than any
other kind of poker. The opponent may show a possible cinch, such as a
possible straight or flush, but you must consider the hole cards on
which he might have stayed in so long. You must form your judgment on
the hole card he may have, rather than on the entire number of possible
hole cards there are for him. You then think about whether any of his
possible hole cards will cause him to call a bet on a losing hand. When
you think you probably can win and also that he may call on a losing
hand, you must bet. For example, you have queens up and he probably has
tens up but he may have three sixes, as in this case:
stud. You raised on the second round and took the lead on the
third round. At the final round only one opponent has stayed with you.
You have: Q down; 9, Q, 5, 5.
Opponent has: ? down; 10, 6, 8, 6.
has a six in the hole he knows he has a cinch hand.
is high and checks. You must bet your queens up, despite his
possible cinch. It is too unlikely that he played at the start with a
six in the hole and a ten up. His most likely hands are tens up or
merely the sixes he shows, perhaps with an ace or other high hole card.
But with either of these hands he can beat your showing fives and with
tens up he can beat the nines up that you are likely to have. He will
probably call a bet and you will lose much of your potential winnings
if you do not give him an opportunity to do so.
you must bluff in such cases (when you have represented a
hand that is probably two pair, but do not actually have them); and
occasionally the opponent will reraise as a bluff and you must trust
your judgment of his style to decide whether or not to call. All that
is part of the game.
stud poker you must look at every card dealt and every card folded
and must remember them. They affect the chances that any particular
opponent has a particular hole card. For example, two aces have shown
and folded. You are against one opponent who catches an ace as his last
card. You have two kings. You must ask yourself whether he would have
continued to stay with an ace when the other two aces had already
shown. If he is a very good player, figure him for an early pair and
not aces paired on the last card. If he is a poor player, you might
worry. But you cannot have any idea if you did not see and take note of
those aces that folded. Incidentally, this is an oversimplified case;
your success is going to depend on how many of the sixes and nines and
queens you see, as well as the aces. Everybody notices aces.
to play on the first round. The average winning hand is two kings
or two aces. Many pots are won on less (such as ace high) and many pots
require more, as the upcards will reveal; but it is a basic principle
to stay only when the odds against making two kings or better are less
than the odds offered by the pot. The following are minimum plays on
the first round.
Ace in the hole; but if another ace is showing,
the upcard should be a nine or
King in the hole, when no ace is showing. If an
ace or an other king is
showing, the upcard must be jack or queen and
no more than one other player can show a queen or jack (as the case may
great fallacy is in staying on a hole card such as jack simply
because it is high—that is, in the occasional deals when all the
original upcards are low. For example, the first upcards in an
eight-handed game are 2, 8, 7, 10, 8, 5, 10, 6. You have the seven up
and a jack in the hole. You can "beat the board" but it is a bad play.
The odds are 13 to 1 that another player has you beaten.
Raising in five-card stud. There are
two arguments against raising
early in a stud game. Once you have raised, you will be expected to
take the lead from that time on, and you will get only minimum calls
from the other players—unless one of them knows he has you beaten and
raises back, in which case you are stuck with the odds against you and
much of your money in the pot. The second of the two arguments against
an early raise is that in most stud games the limit is higher on the
last card, and if you can only raise once you might as well wait until
your raise will win you the most money.
despite these arguments, one must frequently raise early in a stud
game. Following are some of the reasons for an early raise:
Assuming that you will soon be spotted as a tight
player, the other players will
figure you for an ace or a pair anyway. You might as well make them pay to stay
around with you, and
furthermore a policy of raising will open the way to a number of bluffs that will steal small pots at
the beginning. Furthermore,
since you are known to play conservatively, an early raise on a pair will put you in a very good
position later if you happen
to catch a showing ace. A higher pair than yours may very well fold.
If you are in good position (last man from the
high hand) you may sometimes
raise on the third card (the second upcard) to give yourself a free ride on the
fourth card (the third upcard).
After your early raise, everyone may check to you the next time and you can see your last card free. No
doubt you would have had to
call at least the minimum bet anyway, to see that last card, and you might have been confronted
with one or more raises.
Occasionally when you have the second-best hand
you may raise to drive the
best hand out. This is a first-round raise. An ace that is forced high will not
infrequently drop. If a couple of hands with small cards showing have
stayed in against the ace, your
raise on such a combination as K-Q may drive the ace out and leave you
with a better chance to make a higher pair than either of the other
these cases a primary object is to vary your game. There are two
basic ways to keep the opponents guessing in poker. One is to play
different kinds of hands in the same way; the other is to play the same
kind of hand in different ways. If you are going to play only good
hands in stud poker, then you have to play them in different ways so
that you cannot be too easily figured.
is one general exception to the principle of early raising. If
the game is wide open, in which the other players bet and raise very
freely, there is seldom an occasion for you to raise early. On every
round, someone else is pretty sure to bet. The pot will be built up
without your help. You might just as well wait until the end and make
pretty sure you are going to win before you start putting unnecessary
chips into the pot.
play of an open pair. When you have the only open pair, every other
player in the game is at a great disadvantage. You may have a cinch
high at the moment and if so it is pretty sure to stand up. Therefore
the policy among most stud players is always to bet the maximum on an
open pair and make the opponents pay through the nose if they want to
try to draw out on it.
most fairly good stud games, no one is going to stay against an open
pair unless he has a higher pair or unless (on the next-to-last card)
he has a straight or flush possibility. Even the straight or flush
possibility is a pretty bad gamble unless the pot is already big; the
pot should offer 5 to 1 odds unless at least three cards in the
possible straight or flush are over the showing pair, and even then the
pot should offer at least 4 to 1 odds.
In general, I
subscribe to the idea of betting the maximum on the open
pair, because only such a policy can maintain your chance of making a
real killing when you actually do have three of a kind or two pair at
the time your open pair shows. Never¬theless, discretion is sometimes
the better part of valor. If you know there are likely to be a couple
of higher pairs out (and sometimes you can tell this from the previous
action) and if you know you aren't going to scare anybody out, you are
simply betting a losing hand. If the other players are of the kind who
bet or raise on their higher pairs against your open pair,
you are risking the loss of a considerable amount of money. In such
cases it is no disgrace even to check the open pair; it is stubbornness
never to do so. And, of course, you can still mix up your game by
checking occasionally when the open pair has actually given you a cinch
event, you are under no obligation to bet the open pair on the
last round. That is usually the time when you bet only when you do have
the winning hand and when you figure the other players to be too smart
to bet into you.
playing against an open pair: You know, of course, that it is
always dangerous. I am speaking only of the times when you have a
higher pair, concealed of course. Only a losing player bets because he
has a number of "over" cards which if paired will beat the showing
pair. Except as a bluff, such hands should be dropped. In most cases,
the higher pair must not be dropped, but it is losing play to raise on
it. The only time you raise is when you are alone with the open pair,
you have a lower limit before the last card, and you want to coax the
open pair into checking to you on the last card. A bet by the only pair
on the last round puts every other player on a terrible spot. There are
few more effective bluffs against good players, because everyone knows
that when a tight player gets a pair showing there is a very good
chance that he has two pair or better.
other cards. It takes a pretty good stud player to watch all
the cards and draw the proper conclusions from them. Every player,
however, can watch for the cards that most affect his hand. Sometimes
simple observation leads you to some valuable conclusions. Suppose you
have neither the temparament nor the aptitude for concentration to
watch and remember every card, but you have observed the cards in
general and have noticed that a lot of spades have shown. If you have a
doubtful play on a spade four-flush for the last card, this observation
will cause you to drop fast. If you have noticed an absence of showing
spades, the fact might persuade you to stay in on the four-flush when
otherwise you might have dropped it.
more important is to watch every card that pairs one of your
cards. The appearance of those cards has a tremendous effect on your
chances. For example, if you have an ace in the hole and no other ace
has shown, the odds are 4 to 1 against your pairing it eventually; if
one ace has shown, the odds go up to more than 6 to 1 against you. If
two other aces have shown, for all practical purposes your
ace is valueless except as a