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“Ace in the Hole, All-a Time Broke” (Part 1) by Alan25main

November 10, 2020

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If you’re a fan of Texas Hold’em, but you’re looking to try your hand at Seven Card Stud, take caution. Don’t go in expecting to play the same way you do in Hold’em. Alan25main shares some key differences between these games.

“Ace in the hole, all-a time broke,” said no Hold’em player, ever. That came from a stud player.

Seven Card Stud is one of the oldest poker games that’s still played. A few Five card variations are older, but haven’t been remotely as popular for decades. As little as 30 years ago (1990s era), Seven stud was the dominant game occupying half or more of the tables in most casinos and card rooms nationwide.

In home games and clubs, seven stud (or one of its varieties) was usually the dominant game. Why? Because everyone knew the game in its dozens of varieties. Because it was fun and the players had to actually think about what to do. It takes a lot more time to process all the available information at stud compared to Hold’em.

What changed, you wonder? Hold’em happened. It’s simpler to understand, and faster to play. It also lends itself to computer analysis more easily. You only have two cards in your hand. Yes, you need to be able to read the board and figure out what your opponents are trying to do, but it’s a safe bet they’re using three or more of the board cards in almost every case. 

At stud, you need to study not just one board, but everyone’s individual boards plus remember how many critical cards have shown. Is a suit cheap (lots of them visible in multiple hands)? Or a rank? Are all the 5s or 10s accounted for so no one can make a straight? Might that raiser be holding trips right from the git? And, oh, yeah, there’s a fifth betting round, too. Don’t forget that one. And, of course, those numbers change every deal. Seven stud is much more complex to play than Hold’em.

Since “community cards” are rare at Stud games, and almost every opponent who reaches the end will have three hole cards. That means you may be only seeing two of the cards she’ll use to wallop you with.

I once folded Aces full at seven stud because I knew one of my opponents had to have four jacks (and he did). And he lost to a 6-high straight flush I didn’t dream was in the game. I thought that guy had four twos, because I could see three of them in his up cards and he was raising into three open jacks that were raising my open three aces. That fold saved me a lot of money. And yes, that was a heck of a hand. Weird things can and do happen when a player has three down cards and four more face up.

Good starting hands at Hold’em are easy to identify before the flop. A good start at seven stud may look like utter swill to an observer. A pair of Aces in the hand is a huge favorite at Hold’em, winning about 80% of the time against a single opponent. It’s only a favorite (about 55%) at stud against a single opponent, and it drops with every additional caller who sees cards.

What starting hands should you beware of? Any time your cards don’t work together more than one way. Any time your cards are “cheap,” meaning there are many showing in other hands. If you had a potential straight, but all four 5s are showing in other hands and you need one, it isn’t going to happen. Toss that hand into the muck.

In Hold’em, a good two pair hand is likely to win. At Seven Stud Hi/Lo, you’ll likely need strong trips or a low straight. Why is that? Because there are so many more possible combinations of five cards available to each player.

Note that just as in Omaha Hi/Lo compared to Omaha High, Seven Stud Hi/Lo hands average high hands will run much higher than in High only. Why? Because the garbage hands that would’ve folded at High only can–and will–now play, and some of them will connect to unlikely highs rather than lows. Oddly enough, the average winning low Seven stud hand in hi-lo is around a 7-5 low. Any 6-low is a likely winner, and a wheel is likely to scoop the whole pot. If you get into Razz, the low-only variant of seven stud, the average winner is a 7-6, so the “inflation factor” of playing split pot games applies to low-only as well as high-only.

Where did I get these “average winners?” From decades of first hand practical observation. At Hold’em, for example, I figure it to be a strong two pairs.

Continue on to Part 2 …