Playing Third Street in 7 Card Stud
To recap, remember that the only hands you should usually play as a beginner (unless, of course you have to "bring it in") are…
1) Rolled up hands. (Three of a kind)
2) Pairs. Big split or wired pairs, medium wired pairs, and small wired pairs with good kickers.
3) 3 big cards. AKQ, AKJ, KQJ. (You should also play any three cards ten and higher when you have all live cards, and or two to a live flush.)
4) 3 to a straight flush. Only with large cards or a lot of live cards.
There are special circumstances that allow you to profitably play some other hands. A small wired pair with a medium or even a low kicker could be worth a call if all of your cards are live and your table is relatively passive. It would be impossible to list every single situation and every possible hand, so the strategy I recommend for beginner and intermediate players is one that is relatively tight. Just playing better starting cards than your opponents will allow you to slowly grow, or at least preserve, your bankroll while you learn the subtleties of the game. Eventually, as you become more and more proficient, you will start to understand when a particular situation might allow you to deviate from your normal starting hand requirements.
The best way to win money at 7- Stud is to consistently start with the best hand or the best draw. You have to be able to fold strong hands when you have good reason to believe that they are beat. You also have to be able to push with mediocre hands when they are likely to be the best hand in play. Every seven card stud situation is different. In order to succeed at the game you will have to be able to accurately assess the strength of your starting hand based on certain relevant criteria. You have to make educated guesses as to what hands you might be up against based on the cards that are visible and the betting action. Even though (QsJd) Qh is a very good starting hand in general, you have to be able to throw it away when it rates to be up against a better hand. If you start with (QJ) Q and a player completes the bring-in in front of you with an ace showing only to be raised by a player with a king showing, there is almost no chance your hand is ahead. You should throw it away.
You always have to consider how "live" your hand is before you can accurately gauge its relative strength. If you start with (9h9d) 8h and there are no 8's, 9's, or hearts showing at an eight-player table, it is wise to continue even when a player showing a king completes and is called by a player with an ace. Live cards translate into potential. It is very often OK to "take two cards off" with a buried pair as long as your hand has a lot of potential. What I mean is this: the betting will not double until you've had a chance to look at two more cards. That means that you have good implied odds for hitting hidden sets and powerful draws. I will usually call a bet on third and another on fourth street with a hand like (9h9d) 8h trying to make two pair, three of a kind, or a flush draw with a pair before the bet size doubles. Likewise I will often take two off chasing straight flush draws as long as the pair, straight, and flush cards that fit my hand are mostly live and as long as the price is reasonable (I'm not suggesting you cold call a three bet with buried two's and a weak kicker). It's often a profitable play to chase after a hidden set before the bets double because it will be hard for your opponent(s) to put you on three of a kind when you set your buried pair. You can chase speculative live hands before the bets double because you stand to make a great return when you do hit your hand and the bet size increases. A hidden set is a very strong hand in seven stud for two reasons. The first reason is that two pair is the statistically average winning hand at a table of eight. The second reason is that a hidden set is very often paid off by inferior hands.
Another factor to consider when trying to gauge the relative strength of your starting hand in 7- Stud is the likely action that you will encounter. Drawing hands like three to a straight flush play best in multi- player pots. Especially against weak players who raise too little and call too much. One thing to consider when deciding whether or not to call a completed bring-in or a raise with a speculative hand is the number of players you are likely to have in the pot with you. If a player showing a 4 "brings it in", a player with an ace showing completes, and a player with a king up raises, it is unlikely that you will be playing in a multi-player pot. When you are thinking of speculating with a hand like (JdTd)9h it is improbable that you will end up getting the price you need to chase your draws, even if all of your outs are live. If, however, the 4 brings it in and the bring-in is completed by a player showing a 7 and called by another player showing a K, it is worth calling as long as you have a lot of live cards.
You should always examine all of your potential outs when checking for live cards. In the example above (JdTd)9h, I would examine the number of diamonds, jacks, tens, nines, and even queens and eights (for straights) that are out to get a feel for the potential my hand has. Never fall into the trap of "going for" a certain hand. You should be looking at all possibilities. If you start with (AcKc)Tc you don't want to think of the hand in terms of "going for a club flush". You might notice a lot of clubs exposed on the next street and abandon the hand after you draw a jack, not noticing that there are no exposed queens, kings, aces, or tens. That would probably be a mistake. Sometimes, when you're looking to make a flush you make a straight or aces up. You might be "trying" to make a straight and accidentally hit a runner-runner flush. That's why the best drawing hands in 7- Stud are often the ones that have the most cards "working together" with the most live cards available.
The mathematics at work in this game can almost take the form of an art rather than a science. Great 7- Stud players often learn to play the game by "feel". It's not that there isn't solid math at the core of the game; it's just that the amount of variables involved sometimes make a situation very difficult to quantify in exact terms. Even with a strong math background there is just no substitute for experience in this game. I hope you're starting to understand how many levels there are to 7- Stud. As difficult as it can be to become proficient at the game you have to remember that the more difficult a game is, the more of an edge the better player tends to have. Until next time, Good "Luck!"
♣ Continued at: 7-Stud Poker: Fourth Street & Beyond
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