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Seven-Card Stud

In this game the average winning hand is a fair three of a kind, such as three eights or three tens. There are quite a few straights and flushes. The worst mistakes made by the average player are: staying on a low pair, such as fours or fives; and staying more than one round on a straight or flush possibility.

If there is another principal mistake, it probably is in playing a two-pair hand too strongly—unless you get your two pair on the first four cards, in which case the odds are only about 21/2 to 1 against filling.
The nature of the game is such that there is a lot of difference between a concealed low pair and a split low pair. (A concealed low pair is, for example, two fours down and a king up; a split low pair is a four and king down and a four up.) Of course, your chance of improving is the same in both cases, but your chance of getting a big pot is far better with the concealed pair.

In seven-card stud it is quite easy to have a full house with no pairs showing, and when you have such a hand a player with a straight or flush is very likely to bet into you, raise you, and ultimately call you, and you will win a big pot. With a split pair, if you make three of a kind early you show a pair and the other players are automatically on guard. If the case card of that rank doesn't soon show, the other players must even keep in mind the danger that you have four of a kind, and while this may put you in a good bluffing position occasionally, that is far less important than the fact that it will prevent your getting any action.

Legitimate plays in this game, on the first three cards (two down, one up) are roughly as follows: Any three cards of the same suit. Any three cards in sequence as good as 10-9-8. Any high pair, nines or better. Any concealed low pair. Occasionally, A-K in the hole if not more than one card of either rank (one ace, or one king, but not one of each) has shown.

The entire key to the game comes when the fourth card has been dealt, so that you have two up and two down. At this point much depends, as it always must in any stud game, on what cards have shown around the table; but the following general principles should be observed.

An unimproved low pair should be dropped. The only exception is the case in which the other two cards include an ace or a king and queen and in which not more than one of each of these ranks has shown. By a low pair here, I mean eights or lower.

A straight possibility should be dropped unless you have drawn a near card (as for example, a king or seven to a J-10-9) or unless you have paired. However, if two essential cards have shown, such as two eights or two queens in the case noted, the hand should be dropped.

A flush possibility should be dropped if the fourth card has not matched it, unless most of the cards of the same suit have not shown; or unless the flush cards are very high, including ace and king or queen; or the fourth card has paired the hand.

A high pair, queens or higher, should be played unless there is a great deal of action in the betting, with two players raising.

A pair should not be played against a higher open pair unless the hand offers also a straight or flush possibility.

Neither two pair nor a low three of a kind justifies a raise against a high open pair. However, if no pair is showing then two pair or better in the first four cards calls for a maximum bet or a raise. The principle is not much different from that of draw poker. The odds against filling are only to 1 and rare will be the cases in which the pot offers smaller odds than that. The hand is probably the best at the moment. The bet or raise will drive out hands that might have improved.

The best two pairs to have at such a time are near cards, such as 10-8 down and 10-8 up. Opponents may then figure that the raise was made on some such combination as J-10-9-8. If later you fill and also get a card that looks as though it may have made you a straight, you may get a tremendous play from a flush and win a big pot.

The raise on such a two-pair hand is especially effective because any double-ended straight or any four-flush made in the first four cards is worth a maximum bet or raise and two or more reraises if the opportunity arises (only one reraise against an open pair that raises back). It is about even that you will fill the straight or flush in the next three cards and the odds are or better to 1 that you will win if you do.
Stubbornness and overoptimism are the main hazards to the player of seven-card stud. Very rare are the hands that can win without improvement.

You might almost say that nothing less than a high three of a kind in the first three cards are likely to
win without improvement. The winning player must stay at the start when he has a good draw but must drop fast if he has not improved by at least the fifth card. To stick around with aces, against three or four other players, is futile. Hands run so high in this game that one of the other players almost surely has a better hand. In every form of poker, one cannot remember too often that the best hand going in figures to be the best hand coming out.

The tactics of betting and raising in seven-card stud are almost exactly the same as in five-card stud; the only difference is that one can seldom be nearly so sure of having the winning hand, because with three cards down at the end the hidden combinations are almost innumerable. Early raises are about the same in one game as in the other. Bets and raises on the last card are somewhat more dangerous in seven-card stud. Bluffing is less effective on the last card because it is so hard to know when a player may have a legitimate call, regardless of what he has represented in the past.
 
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