Not so long ago, stud poker (seven-card stud) was the most popular type of poker, even more so than Texas hold’em. Today, stud poker is often the top pick among hipsters, but it’s suitable for all types of players – as long as you know how to play. From explaining face-up and face-down cards to hand strengths, we’ve created an introduction that will bring you up to speed with this wonderful card game.
How do you play stud poker?
The defining feature of stud poker is that players are dealt a combination of face-up and face-down cards, which are handed out over multiple rounds of betting. The object of stud poker is to make the best hand using this combination of cards – the best hand will depend on the variant of stud poker that you are playing.
Stud poker usually involves up to eight players (a minimum of two) and the gameplay is often non-positional. This means that the first person to bet often changes from street to street (round to round). In most variations of the game, the gambler to open the betting is decided by who has the best opening hand from their face-up cards. The total number of cards dealt depends on the type of stud poker being played – for instance, in seven-card stud you are dealt a total of seven cards, while in five-card stud you are dealt a total of five cards.
The most popular type of stud poker is seven-card stud, a game that traces its roots back to the American Revolutionary War, fought between 1775–1783. Until the rise in popularity of Texas hold’em, seven-card was the most popular type of poker (between stud, draw, and community).
How do you play seven-card stud poker?
Seven-card stud features up to eight players and uses a single 52 card deck. This means there is a chance that players will run out of cards before the game finishes. In this scenario, one community card is dealt face-up and shared among the players still in the game. The players then add this card to their existing ones to make the best possible hand.
The winner in seven-card stud is the player with the best five-card hand after being dealt a total of seven.
There are seven defined parts to seven-card stud where players must act:
Players decide on the amount they pay for joining each hand.
Each person is dealt three cards (one face-up and two face-down). The action begins with the player who has the lowest face-up card, who pays the mandatory bet (also known as the bring in). Players can check, raise or fold once this has happened – this action continues throughout the other rounds.
All players are dealt another face-up card. The first to act in this round is the player whose two face-up cards make the best hand.
Players are dealt a further face-up card and the first to act is again the player whose exposed cards make the best hand.
Another face-up card is dealt to each person in the game. The player with the best hand from their face-up cards acts first once again.
A face-down card is dealt. As with previous streets, the player to act first is the one with the best face-up hand.
A showdown happens if more than one player remains after the seventh street. The last person to bet (or raise) shows their cards first. If no bet was made in the seventh street, then the player sitting in the lowest seat left in the game (for example, seat one) shows their cards first.
The winner is the person who makes the best five card hand from all seven they can play with. If there is a tie (two or more players possess hands with equal value) then the pot is divided among those players.
Strength of hands in seven-card stud & odds
Royal flush: 30,939:1
Straight flush: 3,589.6:1
Four of a kind: 594:1
Full house: 37.5:1
Straight: 20.6: 1
Three of a kind: 19.7:1
Two pair: 3.26:1
No pair: 0:1
How to play other popular versions of stud poker
Six-card stud is played in exactly the same way as the seven-card version of stud, with one exception – the final face-up round is not played.
A popular variant of stud poker (hence why it’s the “R” in HORSE), razz follows the principles of seven-card stud but ranks the hands ace-to-five low. This makes razz an example of lowball poker.
High-low stud uses a combination of winning hands, with the pot being split between the player who has the highest hand and the player with the lowest hand.
The most popular variant of high-low stud is eight-or-better. In games of eight-or-better, the low hand goes to the player with an eight-high hand or lower. If no-one has a hand that meets the low criteria then the highest hand wins the whole pot.
How hard is it for beginners to play stud poker?
The basics of stud poker are very straightforward – you’re dealt a combination of face-up and face-down cards and the person with the best (depending on the variant) value face-up hand leads the betting. The winner is the person who makes the best hand from their cards. This makes many of the variants of stud poker pretty simple for beginners to play, however, the level of difficulty really depends on the game you select.
Seven-card stud is considered the easiest variant of stud poker for beginners to play. This is because it uses the normal high ranking for poker hands, follows a defined pattern of play, and has a wealth of material (due to its popularity) on how to play the game.
Stud poker has been played in casinos and homes across the world for many years. While it’s no longer the most common type of poker (with community poker overtaking it during the latter part of the 20th century) it remains incredibly popular. So, once you’ve had your fill of the poker games available at the finest online casinos, consider heading to a land casino and giving stud poker a shot!