Dating back to the mid-1800’s, 7 Card Stud is a style of poker has been around a long time and was easily the most common form of poker into the 1980s when Texas Hold'em took over the number one spot. It is thought to have originated in America’s Mid-West, but it's very different to Texas Hold'em.
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What is 7 Card Stud?
For starters, instead of 5 community cards, each player receives their own individual board (consisting of up to 7 cards!) For this reason, only a maximum of eight players can play at a Stud table at any given time. However, like Hold’em, the best five-card poker hand still wins the pot. So, even though 7 Card Stud features 7 cards dealt to each player by the river, only 5 cards on a player's individual board can be used to make the best 5-card hand.
Also, 7 Card Stud is normally played in a fixed-limit format where the smaller bet is wagered for the first two betting rounds, and the larger bet is wagered for the last three betting rounds (on the fifth, sixth, and seventh cards). If there is an open pair on the fourth card, any player has the option of upping the stakes to the larger bet.
Now that we’ve touched on the basics, here’s our simple and easy-to-follow guide on 7 Card Stud to get you started.
How to Play Seven Card Stud
Bring-ins and Antes
Seven Card Stud does not include any blinds. Instead, players have to pay an ante at the start of every new hand. Each player is dealt 2 cards face-down (downcards) and 1 card face-up (upcard). There is a forced bet called a “bring-in”. The player with the worst upcard (the 2 of clubs is the worst possible), at the start of each hand, must post this compulsory bet.
First Betting Round – Third Street
Firstly, an ante is collected from each player and then the first 2 cards (technically 1st and 2nd Streets) are dealt face-down; a third card – called 3rd Street – is dealt face-up. The bring-in (player with worst upcard) is first to act, and they must put in the minimum bet or “complete” to the lower limit stake. Action continues around the table with players being able to fold, complete or raise (if there is a prior completion).
Note that the completion is not considered a raise. For example, in a $10/$20 the lowcard (bring-in) opens for $5. If the next player increases the bet to $15 (completes the bet), up to three raises are then allowable.
Second Betting Round – Fourth Street
During 4th Street, another card is dealt face up to each active player. The table stakes are still set at the lower limit. Good news for the bring-in: First to act is no longer the player with the worst upcard! The player with the best upcards gets that honour. Action continues clockwise around the table with players being able to check, bet, call, raise (capped at 4 x table stakes in a limit format) or fold – depending on the prior action.
Third Betting Round – Fifth Street
On 5th Street, the minimum bet is raised to the upper table stakes limit. Time to start building the pot! This card is also dealt face-up. Again, first to act is the player with the best upcards. Action continues around the table with players being able to check, bet, call, raise (capped at 4 x table stakes) or fold – depending on the previous action.
Fourth Betting Round – Sixth Street
By the time 6th Street is dealt, each player remaining active in the hand should have 4 cards face-up, and two face-down (“in the hole”). First to act is still the player with the best cards/ hand showing. Players can check, bet, call, raise (capped at 4 x upper table stakes) or fold – depending on the prior action. But, if you don't have the makings of a hand by now, we suggest you might want to fold.
Fifth Betting Round – Seventh Street
During the 5th betting round (also called the River), players are still able to check, bet, call, raise or fold. Now it's time for the Showdown, as long as 2 or more players remain. At this stage, the player with the best 5-card hand, according to the standard hand ranking system, will win the pot.
Note that a hand with more than seven cards is dead. A hand with less than seven cards at the showdown is also considered dead. There is an exception where any player missing a seventh card may have the hand ruled live.
Also, if there are more players left on the river than cards in the deck, the does not burn, so that each player can receive a fresh card. A common or community card will be dealt face-up in the centre of the table for all active players in the hand to use. The player who is now high using the common card starts the action in the last round.
Even though 7 Card Stud features7 cards dealt to each player by the river, at showdown, only 5 cards on a player's individual board can be used to make the best 5-card hand. The hand rankings are exactly the same as in Texas Hold'em, with a Royal Flush being the best possible hand and High Card being the worst.
Not that, suits don't count in the Stud Poker Hand Ranking system except for deciding the bring-in, where Clubs are the worst, Diamonds are third, Hearts are second best and Spades rank top.
Seven Card Stud Overview
In a game of 7 Card Stud, each player must pay and ante before being dealt two cards face-down and one card face-up. Over four betting rounds, 4 more cards are dealt with 3 face-up and the last card being dealt face-down.
At showdown, the best 5-card hand wins the pot. Most 7 Card Stud games are in a limit format with a smaller bet wagered on 3rd and 4th street that doubles on 5th, 6th and 7th street. There is also a bring-in bet that is akin to a blind that the player with the worst upcard on 3rd street must pay.
If there is an open pair on fourth street, any player has the option of betting double the smaller bet.
7 Card Stud Rules of the Game
- Before the cards are dealt, if either the first or second hole card is accidentally exposed by the dealer, then the third card will be dealt face-down. If both hole cards are dealt up, the hand is ruled dead, and antes will be returned to the player.
- The first round of betting starts with a forced bet – called the bring-in – and is determined by the lowest upcard by suit. In the following betting rounds, the high hand gets to act first, and a tie is broken by who first received their cards.
- The bring-in player can decide to “complete” to the lower stake bet.
- By increasing the bring-in to the lower stake bet, a player is not raising – this is referred to as “completing” the bet in 7 Card Stud games.
- In all fixed-limit 7 Card Stud games, with an open pair on fourth street, any player has the option of betting the upper limit in addition to completing the bet.
- If a hand is folded when there is no bet, that seat will continue to receive cards until the hand is “killed” because of a bet. This rule is so that a folded hand won’t affect the cards dealt to the next players in the hand.
- The dealer is in charge of announcing the low card, the high hand, all raises, and all pairs.
- In live play, if there are not enough cards left in the deck to give every active player on the river a card, the last card is mixed with the burn cards. The dealer then uses this “revised” deck to deliver players their final river cards. If there are not as many cards as players remaining, the dealer does not burn, so that each player can receive a fresh card. If it is determined that there will not be enough cards for all the remaining players, then a community card is used. The dealer will burn a card and turn one card face-up that all players can use as their river card.
- A hand with more than seven cards – no matter who is at fault - is ruled dead. Part of the game of 7 Card Stud is being able to follow the action closely to ensure that your board is correct and the number of cards you receive is also right. A hand with less than seven cards at the showdown is also considered dead. The one exception to this rule is where a player is missing a seventh card; they may have the hand ruled live.
7 Card Stud Hand Deal
In a full ring $2/$4 Seven Card Stud game of 8 players, everyone pays their $0.50 ante. Each player then receives two downcards and one upcard:
Seat 2 shows the worst upcard – 2♦, therefore, they must place the forced bet of $1 – more commonly known as the bring-in. They have the option to bring-in for the minimum or complete to the lower stake ($2). Seat 2 decides to place the bring-in.
Action moves in a clockwise fashion, and Seat 3 on the left of Seat 2 is first to fold. Seats, 3,4,5,6 and 7 also fold. Seat 8 completes to $2. Seat 1 calls and Seat 2 folds.
We are heads-up to 4th Street. Seat 8’s upcard is [K♠]. Seat 1’s upcard is [A♦].
When the fourth card is dealt, Seat 1 is still high when dealt a 2♣. Seat 8 receives a J♠. Seat 1 is first to act on this street with the best hand showing – ace-high. They check-call Seat 8’s bet of $2.
On 5th Street, Seat 1 gets dealt a K♦ and Seat 8 receives a 9♠. Seat 1 checks again and Seat 8 bets the upper limit of $4. Seat 1 calls.
On the next card, 6th Street, Seat 1 is dealt a 2♥ and checks once more. Seat 8 receives a J♦ and bets $4. Seat 1 raises to $8 and Seat 8 calls.
On 7th Street, both players are dealt a card each face down. Seat 1 leads out $4. Seat 8 raises and Seat 1 just calls. Seat 8 shows [8♠ Q♠ K♠ J♠ 9♠ J♦10♠]. Seat 1 shows [K♣ J♣ A♦ 2♣ K♦ 2♥ 3♠].
Player 8’s jack-high Straight Flush takes down the pot.
Other Stud Variants
Stud Hi-Lo is a variation of 7 Card Stud where the best high hand takes half the pot, and the best low hand takes the other half. If there is no qualifying low hand (8 through Ace), the high hand scoops the lot.
The rules and betting rounds in the Hi-Lo version of Stud are the same as the Hi - the one is the Low, meaning that two or more possible hands can win the pot on the river.
Razz is one of the more popular Stud variations and, in fact, is played in many World Series of Poker tournaments. It is simply Seven Card Stud played exclusively for the Low unlike 7 Card Stud or Stud Hi-Lo, and it is a game that is played in dealers’ choice cash games, as well.
Caribbean Stud Poker is also a very common form of Stud but, instead of being played in a poker card room, it is played in a casino. Each player is dealt five cards face down while the dealer is dealt five cards with one face up and the rest face down. Just like in casino blackjack the objective of the game is simply to beat the dealer.