7 Card Stud - Starting Hand Selection
As with any poker game, the most important moment of each hand is right after the first deal. This is where you make your decision to play this hand or surrender your ante. Way too many players get attached to their antes. Remember, antes are cheap and you can afford quite a few of them. 7th street losses will put you out of the game.
Heres my list of playable hands in 7 stud at third street (after the first deal)
Rolled up Trips
Thats 3 of a kind, dealt from the get-go. This hand will probably win, with no help from the other streets. Generally you want to slow play until the more expensive streets when the bets double. Then you make them pay for staying in. Be careful though. You don't want too many draw hands staying in, risking the chance that someone will hit their flush or straight.
A pair of 10's or better. What to do with these cards? Raise, raise, raise! Too many novices make the mistake of slow-playing good pairs, allowing too many people to limp in. The more people limping equals a greater chance that someone else will hit 2 pair or better. Of course you still have to show caution here. If you're dealt a pair of jacks, with one of your jacks showing and put in a raise in middle position, and a strong player behind you has a King showing as his door card and re-raises, you might be in trouble, facing a pair of kings. Use discretion, and when you figure you have 2nd best pair, your best bet is to swallow your pride and fold. Just don't become so predictable that everyone with a high door card re-raises you, knowing that you'll fold. Watch your opponents and learn who the bluffers are, then bust them bluffing a few times. It'll cure them.
Finally, I must repeat, top pairs lose value quickly the more people that stay in. The ideal situation would be you with your pair of aces, against one other person on a draw hand. You have him beat and he's praying for a card. The odds are that most of these situations, you'll win. So bet when you have a top pair, and drive out as many others as possible.
Three to a Flush
I have seen so many people be dealt 3 to a flush, and then start betting like its a full house. Remember, even though this hand can turn into a major winner, it is still only a draw hand that has to have help to win. You must consider a couple of things when trying to determine the strength of a 3 to a flush dealing. First, whats the high card? If youre dealt an Ace, 10, and 3, of hearts, its a really nice flush draw. If you make your draw, chances that someone else would have a flush with ace high are very very small. Plus, with a high card ace, even if you don't make your flush, you have a chance of pairing your Ace, which can win for you. Secondly, the strength of your flush draw is determined by how many other of your suite is showing in your opponents hands. Using the same example, if you see 3 or more hearts in your opponents hand on 3rd street, odds are getting smaller fast that you'll hit your flush, making it even more important to have a high card to give you another out. If several opponents raise, you're probably better served by folding.
How to bet 3 to a flush? Your chance of making your flush are still not huge, even with 3 already in hand. You have to play "pot odds" here. You want as many people staying in as possible to ensure a larger pot. And on the flip side, you want to get in as cheaply as possible. In this situation, I'm hoping to limp in until i get 4 to a flush by 5th street, or pair my high card Ace. I'll talk more about how I play flush draws in a later post.
3 to a Straight
This is three to an outside straight, ie you have 9-10-J. I'm not a big fan of "belly buster" straights, such as 8-9-J. A belly buster, you need one particular card to help you, (a 10 in this case) and there are only 4 of those. An outside straight on the other hand, such as 9-10-J, both 8 and Q help you. Thats 8 total cards, and double the chances. Just as in a flush draw, your strength is determined by your high card, and how many of the cards you need showing in your opponents hand. Some general rules for straight chasing are:
1. Outside straights only, unless you're getting in for practically free.
2. Only straights with a "paint" card. This gives you more "outs"...not only do you have a chance at your straight draw, but you can pair a high card.
3. Just as a flush draw, you're an outside chance at winning, even being dealt 3 to a straight. You want to get in cheap, and have as many others playing as possible to create pot odds worth the gamble.
Pairs, 9's and lower, I routinely toss out unless they meet some basic conditions. I have to have a good "kicker", ie. a pair of 9's with an Ace kicker might be very well worth playing. You have a shot at two pair, aces and 9's, as well as the prayer for 3 of a kind 9's. If you decide to play them, be on the lookout for either your high card or your trips card in an opponents hand. If you see one of them, its time to dump your hand. Using the example above, as soon as I see another ace or 9, I'm out. Yes, I might see a miracle, but odds are I won't, and a good poker player always plays the odds.
Basically, these smaller pairs can serve two good purposes. One, if you play them at times, it will help you keep from getting a reputation as a "Rock". Second, they can make good bluff hands in late position where almost everyone has folded. If your high paint "kicker" is showing, your remaining one or two opponents may figure you to have that high pair, and fold. And even if they don't bite on your bluff, you at least have something to fall back on, and a shot at winning outright, if you get your 2nd pair or trips.
Let me, however, rephrase for those in doubt. If you consistently play small pairs, and especially small pairs with small kickers, you'll lose at 7 card stud.
Other hands not mentioned above
...are pretty much all trash. If you just have to play that K-10-7, do it with "demo" chips. An exception might be the occasional situation where you have Ace-King-10, or two other high paint cards. But even here, only play when you can get in for next to nothing, and dump 'em at the first sign of trouble.