Starting Hands for 7 Card Stud

7 Stud Starting Hands

In this first lesson I'm going to list the starting hands that you should consider playing in 7 card stud. We have to start somewhere in our educational process, and I guess that's as good a place as any. But understand, every situation in seven stud is so variable-sensitive that some of the best hands should not be played past the first round, and some mediocre hands can quickly become chip magnets just based on the exposed cards, the player tendencies, and the betting action.

"Live cards" are cards that have not been exposed and, for all intents and purposes, remain in the deck to potentially be drawn. Seven card stud is a game about live cards and you must always consider how many of the cards you need for your hand are exposed before deciding how, or whether or not to proceed with a hand.

General Starting Hands

There are only a few categories of hands that you should ever consider playing in 7- Stud. I'm just going to present a brief list of them. We'll get into more detail about these starting hands in the next article of this three part series.

1) Rolled up. When you have three aces, you have "rolled up aces." When you have any three cards "rolled up" you will definitely be playing the hand, usually to the end. Starting with a set is one of the few times I like to slow play out of the gate. With some good hands, I will attempt to just call the "bring- in" and look for a re-raise. When I start with three of a kind, I will usually just call the "bring- in" and then just smooth call any raise. You don't mind hands drawing against you inexpensively in the case of starting with a set because the negative effect of letting your opponent have a cheap or free card to try to hit a flush or straight is more than made up for by the times that he will hit his draw only to be beaten by your full house.

2) Pairs. Not all pairs are worth playing in 7-Stud. You should usually only start with wired (buried) eights or better with a weak kicker or split nines or better. You can generally also play any wired pair with an ace kicker, provided your wired pair cards and your other three aces are all live. You don't always need an ace kicker to play small wired pairs. If you have (22) Q and there are no kings or aces showing you can consider playing. In order to play a small pair with a non ace kicker all of your cards have to be live. That means there should be none of your wired pair cards or kickers exposed. If you have (44) J and there are no exposed Jacks, fours, queens, kings or aces showing, you might consider playing. There are a lot of factors that determine whether you should be willing to play small pairs, but this is a general guideline. Just realize that it is sometimes correct to fold wired jacks and it is sometimes correct to play wired twos with medium weak kicker. Ideally, though, you want to play with wired eights or split nines or better or a small wired pair with an ace kicker.

3) Three flushes. If you're going to play with a three flush you usually want to have three high cards, say three cards nine or better. You won't usually want to play your three flush when there are more than two of your suite showing (in an eight handed game). You can play smaller cards to a flush if they are connected or semi-connected cards. I'll play suited one gap hands like (9h8h) 6 as long as my straight cards are live and there are two or less of my suite exposed and none of my 9's, 8's, or 6's are exposed. If my hand is a true three card straight flush such as (7h6h) 5h, I'm not as picky about my 7's, 6's, and 5's being live. Even if one of my fives or sixes is out the hand still has a lot of draw potential; you're essentially playing two draws for the price of one.

4) Three big cards. You can usually call at least the first bet with AKQ and can also get away with playing a hand like KQT or AKJ if you have at least two of the same suite. This is especially true if the cards you need to make straights, pairs, or your flush are live.

5) Three to a straight flush. As long as there are not more than two of your flush cards out it is OK to start with three to a straight flush JT9 or better. You can also play with 3 cards to a low straight flush if you have a lot of live straight cards and there are 2 or fewer of your flush cards showing. In the case of low straight flush hands a lot will depend on the betting action before me and the number of players to act after me. Small straight flushes are very tricky hands to play. It might be best to leave them alone until you become fairly confident with your 7-stud skills.

You should typically fold all other hands. The key to playing 7 card stud is, as in most poker games, patience. You have to play very tight and very aggressive, folding hands that do not have a great deal of potential. Especially in low limit 7-stud, when many players are willing to play every hand to showdown, you will need to only play premium hands and be prepared to ram and jam the pot whenever you are in a hand. The trick to seven stud is to always start with the best hand or the best draw. That means sometimes raising with wired 6's and sometimes folding wired jacks. Until next time, Good "luck!"

♣ Continued at: Playing Third Street in 7 Card Stud

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