Long before the poker world became consumed by no limit Texas Hold’em, card rooms throughout Las Vegas largely spread Seven-Card Stud as the default game of choice. Seven-Card Stud removes community board cards from the equation. Instead, players begin with two hole cards turned face down, along with a single card exposed for the rest of the table to see.
From there, four subsequent “streets” of action take place, with players checking, betting, calling, raising, or folding based on their current hand strength. Seven-Card Stud gameplay ensures that four out of seven cards in your hand are dealt face up during the hand. On the seventh and final street, the last card comes face down. As a Seven-Card Stud player, your job expands significantly beyond the skillset needed to excel in community card games like Hold’em or Omaha.
Despite the fact that Seven-Card Stud is a limit betting game, its reputation as a conservative poker pursuit is misleading. In fact, a Seven-Card Stud game with active players can easily produce an average pot size that exceeds what you’d find at a no limit Hold’em table.
That’s because players can place bets on third street (or directly after the initial deal), fourth street (after receiving a fourth card), fifth street, sixth street, and seventh street. With five streets to wager on, rather than the four in Hold’em, even a limit Seven-Card Stud game is capable of generating significant amounts of action from hand to hand.
Home poker games would be well-served by adding Seven-Card Stud to the rotation. It makes for the perfect alternative to a Texas Hold’em heavy affair. You don’t have to replace the beloved two-card tango either, you can always opt for a one week per month system or play a Seven-Card Stud cash game after your usual Texas Hold’em tournament.
However you choose to integrate Seven-Card Stud into your regular home game, you won’t be sorry. The list below highlights seven of the best reasons why the Las Vegas classic of Seven-Card Stud is a great way to supplement your home game mix.
1 – Easy to Learn the Basic Rules, Gameplay, and Strategy
At first glance, transitioning from Texas Hold’em to Seven-Card Stud might seem like an exercise in futility, what with the vastly different gameplay structures employed by the variants.
But upon closer inspection, removing community board cards in lieu of personalized seven-card slates is really the only significant shift your home game guests need to embrace. After all, aside from the lack of community cards, Seven-Card Stud is still a poker game that plays out according to the same basic tenets as Texas Hold’em.
The same standard 52-card deck of cards is in play. The same traditional poker hand ranking system is used, so one pair beats a high-card hand, two pair beats one pair, three of a kind beats two pair, and so on up the ladder until a royal flush beats a straight flush. And the same system of checking, betting, calling, raising, and folding is employed before a final showdown.
If you’re a Seven-Card Stud rookie yourself, head here for a full rundown of the standard rules provided by Bicycle brand playing cards.
If you’re a more visual learner, check out this short Seven-Card Stud tutorial video:
2 – You Can Break up the Monotony of a Texas Hold’em-Only Table
Another reason to consider spreading Seven-Card Stud at your next home game is to add a bit of variety to the experience.
As much as I love a nice night spent grinding up a stack in real money Texas Hold’em, I’ll be the first to admit the game can border on the boring from time to time. Indeed, as veteran pro and former WSOP Main Event world champion Tom McEvoy once famously observed, Hold’em is defined by “hours and hours of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror.”
For all the talk of all-in moments and brutal bad beats on the river, No Limit Texas Hold’em actually offers a very mild gameplay experience. When only a handful of possible starting hands qualify as playable, and missing the flop turns even playable preflop hands into trash, you can easily go several orbits around the table without participating in a meaningful pot.
Obviously, that dynamic changes in the home game arena, where casual players are more prone to loose plays, chasing draws, and calling down on the river. Nonetheless, if you and your home game guests take poker at all seriously, most Texas Holdem hands will follow a clockwork procedure in which a single preflop reraise or continuation bet on the flop takes the pot down right then and there.
When you play Seven-Card Stud, on the other hand, the game’s limit betting structure and lack of community cards combine to make the early stages of every hand fair game. In other words, without the threat of a huge jam all-in to force you off a hand, everybody can feel free to take their cards to fourth street at the very least before bowing out.
If you find yourself growing tired of “fold-fests” in your normal Texas Hold’em game, why not try Seven-Card Stud to increase the table’s rate of hand-to-hand action?
3 – It’s a True Test of Poker Talent That Rewards Skill Over Luck
One of the most common complaints voiced around the average home game poker table concerns bad beats delivered by even worse players.
Thanks to the unique structure of Texas Hold’em, even the game’s best preflop starting hand of pocket aces is only be an 80% equity favorite over an inferior pocket pair. Pick up a sweet starting hand like ace-king suited (also known as “big slick”), and you’ll only enjoy 70% equity against a dominated holding like king-queen.
These close equity spots are what makes Texas Hold’em, and especially the no limit variety, so incredibly exciting at any given moment. The flop, turn, and river can each deliver long shot cards that completely upend the hand, sending the favorite into the muck while pushing the pot to a previously overmatched and outgunned player.
Many poker beginners find this element of Texas Hold’em to be off-putting, as playing perfectly is never enough to secure a sure winner. An unlucky runout always lurks in the shadows, threatening to pair the board and gift your opponent an unlikely full house to crush your flush, or even to “counterfeit” your flopped two pair to give a single pair an unlikely score.
Seven-Card Stud is still poker, so short-term swings in luck certainly do play a role, but that role is severely diminished when community cards are removed from the equation. When you’re playing a singular hand, one that can’t be impacted by unforeseen developments on the board, the player remains largely in control of their own fate.
Of course, a four-flush by fourth street can still “brick out” and miss despite holding a likelihood to complete. Starting with premium hands like a “rolled up” three of a kind, or a pair in the hole plus the same rank up on the deal, doesn’t always ensure victory, as the deck’s random deal can still send a superior hand to your opponent.
But if fading bad beats on every turn of the cards has you pulling your hair out, switching to Seven-Card Stud will make your home game feel like a much fairer form of poker.
4 – You Can Play Poker Like the Legendary Pros of Yesteryear
Way back in 1978, when Doyle Brunson published his seminal poker strategy book “Super / System: A Course in Power Poker,” old Texas Dolly devoted just as many pages to Seven-Card Stud as he did Texas Hold’em.
That’s because players of Brunson’s vintage learned poker primarily by playing Seven-Card Stud and its related offshoots. Beginning with the now extinct game of Five-Card Stud, then the Seven-Card high-hand variety, and finally the various split-pot and low-hand versions you’ll learn about in the next section, Brunson and his fellow “Texas Road Gamblers” toured the nation taking on all comers in heated Seven-Card Stud sessions.
The game may not be at the peak of popularity among poker pros any longer, but you can still pay tribute to Brunson and his fellow legends of the game by hosting a regular Seven-Card Stud home game. To really take things to the next level, I usually don my trust cowboy hat and boots, while chomping on an unlit cigar as I try to bully and intimidate the table just like the 86-year-old Brunson still does to this day.
5 – It’s One of Several Interesting Ways to Play Stud Poker
Speaking of variations, Seven-Card Stud using a high hand to win is just one form of the game to consider.
You can also try Seven-Card Stud Hi-Lo Eight or Better, which allows the pot to be split up between the best high hand and the best qualifying low hand (any five cards ranked 8 or lower).
Razz is a form of poker which flips the script on Seven-Card Stud high, so the game plays out identically until the showdown, when the worst hand tabled takes the whole pot.
Once you’ve mastered the intricacies of basic Seven-Card Stud, experimenting with these alternative formats is a great way to expand your home game’s horizons.
6 – You Can Become a Better All-Around Poker Player
Folks who play poker exclusively in the Texas Hold’em format are doing themselves quite the disservice, because that game rewards certain skillsets, like hand range analysis and calculating pot odds, over others.
7 – It’s an Easy Opportunity to Pad Your Profit Margins
As a home poker game host, I do realize that the fine line that must be walked. And that line is between providing your guests a good time and profiting at their expense.
But the poker table is a place for big boys and girls, so when somebody is willing to bring their bankroll to the fray, I’m always willing to try and win it. If you find yourself struggling to succeed in your normal Texas Hold’em home game, casually working in a few hands or sessions of Seven-Card Stud is a subtle way to level the playing field.
While your opponents are busy trying to pick up the basics, your previous experience should give you a major leg up over the competition in the early going.
I’ve always had an affinity for Seven-Card Stud, ever since my father taught me and my siblings the game all those years ago. That means my position on this page is a bit biased, but based on my prior experience introducing home game guests to the game, I can sincerely say every poker host should give it a go at the very least.
Poker people are always up for something new, and while Seven-Card Stud is one of the oldest forms you’ll ever find, it’ll surely be new to your home game players who came of age in the boom era of Texas Hold’em.