Before the rise of no-limit hold 'em over the past 15 to 20 years, 7-Card Stud was the game of choice for poker players. It's still a popular game with thousands of players across the country, and it’s especially popular in the eastern United States. It’s also featured in mixed games like HOSE, HORSE and 8-Game. It's fun to play, too, especially if you're not a big fan of doing math. Give it a try – you might find 7-Card Stud to be right up your alley.
Bring It In
Seven-card stud is commonly played as a limit game with antes, featuring up to eight people at a table. The object of the game is to form the highest-ranking poker hand, using five of the seven cards each player will eventually be dealt (so long as the player doesn’t fold). Each player starts with two cards face down and one card face up. There are no blinds; instead, the player with the lowest upcard opens the betting. In case of a tie, suits come into play, ranked in alphabetical order from lowest (clubs) to highest (spades). The player with the low card has the option of making the small bring-in or the regular-sized opening bet.
Once the bring-in is made, the next player to the left can raise, call or fold, and play goes around the table until the first round (aka Third Street) is complete. Then each player is dealt another card face-up, and the action on Fourth Street begins with the same player who made the bring-in bet. Repeat the process for Fifth and Sixth Street. On Seventh Street, also known as the river, each player is dealt his final card face-down. There are no community cards, except in that rare event when all eight players see the river, in which case the seventh card is dealt face-up in the middle of the table for everyone to use.
Highs and Lows
There are many variants of 7-Card Stud, including Mississippi Stud, Chicago and Razz, but the most popular of these is 7-Card Stud Hi-Low, aka Stud Eights or Better, aka Stud 8 Hi/Lo. This is a split-pot game where players try to make a high hand and/or a low hand, with Aces considered high or low. Straights or flushes do not spoil your low hand. If nobody makes a low, the high hand scoops the pot at showdown. If a player makes both the high and the low, she scoops the pot. If one player makes a high and another the low, chop it up.
Because there are fewer unknowns in this game compared to Texas hold 'em, a relatively simple strategy can carry you far. Take notice of which upcards have been dealt – if you're holding an ace, but there are three other aces showing already, you're not going to make your pair. It’s the same if you have three to a flush and everyone else has your suit. Once you've got that down pat, it's mostly just a matter of how the cards come out. Check out our online guidebook for more 7-Card Stud rules and strategies.