Starting hands in 7 Card Stud

published on 07/07/08 at 8:20 am

Regardless of what you may hear or read in some poker articles, starting hand selection is a very important part of overall poker strategy. Whether it’s Holdem, Omaha or Stud we’re talking about, you should pay attention to your starting hands in order to avoid the no 1 beginners’ mistake: playing too many hands.

Starting hand selection is even more important in Omaha and Stud than in Holdem, because the nature of Texas Holdem offers bad players who play too many hands a fighting chance, unlike Omaha and Stud. Schooling is another extremely frustrating factor which is only present in Holdem, further reducing the importance of starting hand selection there.

The plague of playing too many hands is present in 7-Card Stud too. Some players grow too attached to their antes and often attempt to defend them through hell or high water. If you’re one of these players, forget about going to great lengths to defend your ante. The antes are small and you can afford to lose many of them while waiting for a good starting hand. The big losses do not occur on account of the antes, but rather on hands players chase onto late streets on rags.

The deal contains 3 cards in Stud, two of them face down and one face up. That’s a pretty big percentage of your eventual showdown hand, so it is indeed worthy of your undivided attention.

Let’s look at a few starting hands and how you should play them.

You’re dealt trips from the get-go. This is a very tricky situation. On one hand, you’ve happened upon a monster that has the potential to win the pot, even if all later streets miss you. On the other hand, you’ve got a bit of a dilemma. A set is certainly worth slow-playing for value, but you do not want to allow too many drawing hands to see later streets to keep your trips protected. This is where the ability to read your opponents comes in handy.

You’re dealt a high pair. This is one of the more sensitive situations. To take such a hand to victory requires a more thorough understanding of the game, and calls upon several skills. For a manically tight player, a high pair (whether it’s entirely in the pocket or hanging out half-way) means trouble. He’ll have to do something he hates: he’ll have to raise on them. Because it’s not exactly a dominating hand, a high pair (10s or above) needs serious protection. The more people limp along with you the more value you lose on it.

The main problem with these pairs is that they’re easily outdrawn, and if you get something like a pair of Qs or Js, an opponent holding a higher pair (Kings or rockets) will have you beat from the get-go.

Look out for re-raisers and pay attention to their upcards. If your pair of Qs is re-raised by someone with an A, you’d do better to get out of his/her way. This is another issue with high pairs: you need to raise to get a read. Make sure you do not become too predictable folding when smelling a higher pair than yours. People will latch on to your mindset and they will begin to bluff you.

Getting a partial flush is something people are generally just crazy about. They love the suited cards, and they treat them as if they were a guaranteed ticket to a large pot. Remember though, in Stud, correctly assessing the odds on a flush draw is a tricky business. First of all, you need to consider your highest card. If you have an A-high draw, it’s ok. K-high or Q-high is pretty good too. Remember that out of the 13 same suited cards, you already hold 3 in your hand. If some of the other players’ face-cards are same suited too, you need to subtract them from your number of outs. Having a high card in your flush draw might come in extremely handy in such situations as it may pair up, and thus it gives you some pretty good additional outs.

Because your number of outs might take a hit, you need to crank up the pot odds as much as possible in order to make a call profitable. The more people stay in the pot, the better off you are, and if you’re allowed to get some more cards cheap, then you’re doing fine.

If the pot odds are ruined by people folding or by a large raise in front of you, you’re better off folding this one though, especially if your outs don’t look too rosy either.

Remember, whichever is your favorite poker variant, signing up to a rakeback deal always makes a lot of sense. Rakeback instantly boosts your EV, without any further efforts required on your part.

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