7 Card Stud Poker is a poker variation that stems from the stud poker family. Stud games typically start out with an ante instead of a blind. Think of an ante as a buy-in to every hand. It’s required that all players in a hand put up an ante, but unlike blinds, it doesn’t factor into a player’s bet, it just goes in to the pot. In other words, where a blind gets the action started, an ante just lines the pot.
A 7 Card Stud hand can accommodate as many as eight players. Each hand starts off with a three-card deal for every player. The first two cards dealt are face down, while the third card (a.k.a. the “door card”) is face up. Once the deal is complete, all players can look at their cards. The lowest card showing represents the position of the “bring in,” a bet that amounts to a fraction of the whole bet. This is the wager that motivates the action. Alternatively, the player in this position can also place a complete bet. If he does not choose to complete the bet, once the action returns to him, he can then finish his wager, raise, or fold. The betting rotation goes clockwise around the table until all players have acted. This round of betting is called “third street” in reference to the three cards that have already been dealt.
Once the first bet rotation is complete, the dealer burns, or discards, one card and deals all active players one more card face up; this round is fourth street. The following betting round is now different. The first bettor is designated by the highest ranking card shown or the highest combination of cards show (instead of the lowest card, as in the previous hand). The highest hand showing, at this point, would be AA. Should two players have the same high hand, the player closest to the dealer bets first. This player can bet or fold, and at this stage and for the rest of the hand, all players can wager the highest amount allowed for the game.
Fifth street and sixth street follow in the same manner with one burn card before each round is dealt. All players will then have four cards showing. Another card is burned and seventh street is dealt face down, so that all remaining players will have three cards concealed and four cards showing. The last betting round commences. Players still in the action and wishing to participate in a showdown must show all their cards at this point, beginning with the last player to bet showing his cards first, and then clockwise around the table. Otherwise they can muck or fold out of the hand. The player with the best ranked five-card poker hand wins it all.
7 Card Stud Hi/Lo
7 Card Stud Hi/Lo is also commonly referred to as 7 Card Stud Eights or Better. It is essentially the same game as 7 Card Stud; however, the difference is that there are two winning hands at the end of the hand instead of one, the high hand and the low hand. Thus, the pot is split in half between the highest top hand and lowest bottom hand. While this variation between 7 Card Stud and 7 Card Stud Hi/Lo may seem simple on the surface, it requires more contemplation and a different player mindset.
The reason this game is also called Eights or Better is because the high hand is only good with cards higher than 8; alternatively, the low hand is made with card values less than 8. The low hand can only win if there are five unpaired cards with face values under 8, including a low Ace. By the way, Aces count as both low and high cards in this game.
The best hand to have in this game is the “wheel” (A/2/3/4/5 suited). This hand will win both the low and high hands, thus “scooping the pot” or taking both halves of the split pot. If no eligible low hand is played, the highest hand will scoop the pot. In order to be successful at 7 Card Stud Hi/Lo, you’ll have to have a strong handle on poker hand rankings in both the low and high ends. It is a challenging game, but thrilling nonetheless, especially for those players who have all but mastered Texas Hold ‘em, Omaha, Omaha Hi/Lo, and other popular poker variations. Mastering 7 Card Stud Hi/Lo, though, does take patience and practice; it’s not a game you can just pick up, but a diligent attempt will be worth your while.