Introduction to Seven-Card Stud

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Before Texas Hold’em took the Poker world by storm and became the game of choice in casinos, tournaments, and online poker rooms, the most popular cash card game was “Seven-Card Stud.” It belongs to the category of games known as “open poker” because some of the player’s cards are dealt face up, while others remain face down, so-called “hole cards,” until the final showdown that concludes each hand. Seven-Card Stud evolved from the five-card version, which also spawned six-card and eight-card variations.

Seven-Card Stud is played with a standard 52-card poker deck. Up to seven cards are dealt to each player, thus limiting participation to a maximum of seven at a single table. In informal games, the deal rotates among the players clockwise. At organised poker rooms or tournaments, a dedicated dealer is employed by the house and receives a small commission called the “rake” from each pot to pay for the venue and the dealer’s services. In this case, a marker called the “button” is passed clockwise among the players to indicate from which position each deal is made.

To begin a game of Seven-Card Stud, the dealer shuffles the deck and offers it to a player to “cut”—i.e., separate into two piles, with the uppermost portion being placed under the lower one. Each player must then make an “ante,” a small opening wager, the amount of which is established before play begins. Only those players who “ante up” are eligible to receive cards; all others are said to “sit out” the round.

Three cards are dealt to each active player: two down and one up. Players look at their hole cards, careful not to show them to others, and them place them on the table face down. A betting interval follows, usually initiated by the first player to the left of the button, who is said to be “under the gun.” In some versions, the player with the highest card showing bets first; in case of a tie, the first player who received the highest card initiates the betting.

Some Seven-Card Stud games limit the number of raises after the bet to three. Others set no restrictions. There may be minimums required to bet or raise, too, or maximums such as “pot limit.” In some games, no player is allowed to “check” (make no play) initially and then raise later in the round after another has opened the betting by increasing the size of the pot by at least the required minimum. It is the player’s responsibility to become familiar with the House Rules prior to participating.

At the start of the first betting round, players have the option to check, bet, or “fold” (quit the hand). Once any player has bet, the remaining players get the opportunity to “call” by matching the bet, “raise” by increasing the amount bet, or fold. Betting continues until all but one player folds and claims the pot or else the last bet or raise has been called by all of the remaining players.

This process now is repeated three more times, once after each new card dealt face up. Players who fold receive no more cards thereafter. Those who remain active through the fourth betting interval receive their seventh and last card pace down. Only after the final betting interval do they reveal their hole cards in a “showdown,” displaying the highest-ranking five-card poker hand that can be made out of the seven cards. The best hand wins the pot, as per basic poker rules.

To remember the number of cards dealt down and up, beginning players are taught to think “2-for-1,” a mnemonic for 2 down, 4 up, and 1 down. Many variations of Seven-Card Stud are played throughout the world. They include Mississippi Stud with no betting between the fourth and fifth cards dealt; Four Flush in which four suited cards beats a pair, and Hi-Lo, where the best and worst poker hands split the pot. In some games the initial ante is replaced by a “bring in,” requiring the player with the lowest ranking card showing to open the betting with at least a minimum wager.

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