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First steps 7 Card Stud
Seven Card Stud was the most popular poker game, before Texas Hold’em became the ruling variant. The major difference between the two is probably the fact that there are no community cards in Seven Card Stud. Instead, every player is dealt seven cards – some of which face up, others face down. Since there are no blinds in Seven Card Stud, every player has to pay an obligatory amount of money, the so-called ‘ante’ in order to make sure that there is money in the pot. Altogether, there are five betting rounds in Seven Card Stud. Usually, up to eight players can take part in a game of Seven Card Stud (in some poker rooms nine players) and most of the time the game is played with fixed limit.
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Ante, 3rd Street, The first betting round
Before the game starts, each player has to pay the ante before the first cards are dealt. Without the ante there would be no money in the pot since there are no blinds in this variation of poker. After everyone has paid the ante, each player (beginning with the one to the left of the dealer) is dealt three cards, the first two face down and the third face up. Now the player with the lowest-ranking upcard has to pay the so-called ‘bring-in’ (should two players have the same lowest-ranking card, the cards’ suit is used to break the tie – clubs before diamonds, hearts and spades). As soon as the bring-in is paid, each player (starting with the player to the left of the bring-in) may fold, call or raise.
4th, 5th, 6th, 7th Street (River)
At the fourth street, every player is dealt another card face up. Now the player with the highest-ranking upcard has to start betting, should that player or more players have an open pair, the highest limit may already be bet here. Each player is dealt another card face up and again the player with the highest-ranking open hand has to start betting. Again each player is dealt another card face up and the player with the highest-ranking open hand has to start betting. At the 7th Street all players are dealt their last card – this time face down. In this case, the same player as in the round before has to start betting.
Since up to eight or nine people can take part in a game of Seven Card Stud and since there are only 52 cards in a poker deck, sometimes there are not enough cards for every player to be dealt his last card. In this case, the last card – the river – is dealt as a so-called common card, i.e. it is put face up in the centre of the table. Now this card counts as the seventh and last card for every player. In this case, the player whose turn it was to bet first in the precedent round has to start betting again (in the rare case of nine players being in the game, it may be necessary to deal the sixth card as a common card, as well).
The winning player is the one who has the best hand made up of five out of his seven cards. The player who bet last has to show his hand first.
If you do not like the cards you were dealt, you have the opportunity to discard (fold) them and thus leave the current round of the poker game. Should you be the big or small blind or should you have called someone’s bet already, you lose that money. Aside from that though, since you have folded, you cannot lose any more money during this round. If you want to keep your cards and stay in the game, you can, for example, check. This means that nobody before you has placed a bet yet and that you do not either. Now the player after you has the opportunity to check himself, or to bet. If any of the players in the round bets, you need to – as soon as it is your turn – decide whether you fold, call or raise. To call means that, in case a player before you has placed a bet, you bet the same amount as he does; you call his bet.
Bet and raise
If you find you have been dealt decent cards, you can bet a certain amount of money on your hand being the winning hand. If a player before you has already placed a bet, you can raise his bet. Depending on the betting structure the amounts you can bet or by which you may raise, are fixed.
Fixed limit: On a $ 5 / $ 10 table you may bet $ 5 in the first two betting rounds and up to $ 10 in the last two. In each round, players may bet once and raise three times (bet, raise, re-raise and again re-raise or ‘cap’). After three rounds of betting, the so-called cap is reached; this means that in this betting round, no more betting can be done. In this case the next card is dealt – or if it was the last round – the showdown begins.
No limit: Here the betting structure follows these rules: each player may bet all the money he has on the table, regardless of the size of the pot. As a rule, the minimum bet has to at least equal the amount of the big blind and if you decide to raise, your raise has to at least equal that of the player before you.
Pot limit: In a pot limit game a player may bet a sum between the minimum bet and the total size of the pot. In a $ 5 / $ 10 pot limit game the small blind is $ 5 and the big blind $ 10. The first player could call the big blind (i.e. $ 10 in this case) or raise to any amount up to the total pot size. The raise has to either equal or exceed the previous bet. So in this case, the maximum possible raise would be $ 25 ($ 5 small blind, $ 10 big blind and $ 10 the call) which means that player #3 may actually bet a total of $ 35. So should player #3 raise the pot limit, the total amount in the pot would then be $ 50.
Now if the next player (let’s say player #4) wants to go on playing, he must at least call the $ 35, i.e. the bet player #3 has made. Should player #4 want to raise (up) to the pot limit he would have to put $ 120 into the pot. That is the total pot size ($ 50) plus the maximum raise of $ 70 ($ 35 call + $ 35 raise). The number of betting rounds per hand is not limited and in each round calling and raising continues until every player has either called, or folded his card.
Usually in poker, players go ‘all-in,’ when they have a particularly good hand. This is because: when one or more other players call this move and the player who went all-in wins anyway, his winnings in this round increase considerably. Another possibility would be, that a player goes all-in to bluff and merely signal that he has a good hand, in order to make the other players fold and win himself the pot. Apart from the situation described above, players could also go all-in for the following reason: In case a player lacks the necessary amount of chips to call or finish a hand but would like to stay in the game anyway, they do not have to fold. The player can also go ‘all-in’ which means they bet all of their chips (even if they are not sufficient to cover the sum he would actually need to call) and can stay in the game without being able to act any further though. All the money that is in the pot up until the point when the player goes all-in is what the player can win. All money put into the pot after he went all-in is put in a separate pot (‘side pot’). Should the player who is all-in, win the showdown, he or she wins the main pot, whereas the side pot goes to the player with the second best hand. When a player goes all-in and his or her fellow players decide to call the bet, they must only call the sum the player bet.
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Seven Card Stud is a much older poker variant than Texas Hold’em, for example and in fact dates back to the American Civil War. At that time (mid 19th century), poker was generally growing in popularity new poker variants were created, such as Seven Card Stud. Until the incredible rise of Texas Hold’em during the 1970s, Seven Card Stud was by far the most popular game in casinos worldwide. Among professional poker players, it is said that the best Seven Card Stud player ever was David Reese, who died in December 2007.