5 Card Stud

published on 07/18/08 at 9:40 am

Although it is one of the earliest forms of Stud Poker, 5-Card Stud is not played in casinos or official tournaments these days (the WSOP doesn’t feature it either). It is still fairly popular during social events, amongst friends, and in Finland where a special variant called “Soko” is played. Because it is no longer played officially, its rules are also fairly flexible.

Like 7-Card Stud, 5-Card Stud begins with the deal. Each player receives 2 cards from the dealer, one of them face-up and one of them face down. Stud is not generally played with blinds, and 5-Card Stud is no exception. When played with bring-ins, the player with the lowest face-card needs to bring it in. Sometimes, it is the player with the highest face-card who acts first. When the lowest (or highest) cards are tied, suits are used as tie-breaker.

Betting (low limit) continues in a clock-wise direction. Players may elect to call, raise or fold. Those who remain in the hand move on to third street. Third street is another face-up card which is followed by betting again. On third street, it is the player with the highest face-up partial poker hand who has to begin the action. Fourth street is another face-up card. The action is begun by the player with the best 3-card poker hand he/she can make with the 3 face-up cards. High limit betting commences followed by 5th street, or the river. 5th street is yet another face-up card. The player with the best 4-card poker hand begins the action, as betting is done on the high limit again.

After the last round of betting is complete, the showdown follows, and the player who makes the best 5-card hand with the 5 cards dealt to him/her (4 face-cards and the initial hole card) wins the pot. If everyone folds around to a player at any time in a hand, he/she automatically takes down the pot.

There are a few problems that 5-Card Stud’s play presents, and because of which it is not accepted in casinos or in official high-profile tournaments. I’m not even 100% sure there are any online poker rooms out there which feature this game.

Because there is just one hole card, and exactly 80% of each player’s hand is visible to his/her opponents, game-play becomes extremely predictable. Even average players can easily read their opponents’ hole cards and they’ll fold in time, ignore any bluffs or they’ll just keep pushing forth, depending on what the situation asks for.

One has to be extremely lucky or has to face a complete numskull to be able to drag him along and make him pay in this game. For this reason, when played among hardened professionals, the game degenerates into a see-saw of winning and giving up pots that tends to even up over time denying each player a definitive edge.

Each of the players only get 5 cards too, there are no discards, no supplementary cards or community cards, so they’re pretty much stuck with what they start out on. Winning hands also tend to stay in the one pair – two pairs range this way.

This is why 5-Card Stud may be a good game to play amongst friends, but it is definitely not suited for professional play.

To mend the above presented issues, variations have been made on the game-system. In some cases, the card dealt on 5th street is also a hole card. That gives players 2 hole cards and thus only 60% of their eventual showdown hand will be visible to their opponents.

In some cases the first two cards dealt to players are both face down. While they do manage to add some more suspense to the game, these rather desperate attempts to get a long-broken cart rolling will probably do little to nudge 5-Card Stud back into the big international competitions. Winning hand values are still going to be low, and players’ options narrow when it comes to making their hands.

Apparently, as long as there are only 5 cards used in a game of Stud, the resulting game-play is going to be impossible to alter through any other means.

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