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Just for a change, here are a few notes on one of the other variations of poker. Nowadays, Texas Hold'em is by far the most popular game, but 7 Card Stud used to hold that title in the not so distant past. When I started to play poker competitions in the casinos of England over 20 years ago, there would be twice as many 7 Card competitions as opposed to Hold'em competitions. Although it has steadily declined over the years, it is still often played, and I find it a very enjoyable change. So if you fancy having a bash on the 7 Card tables here are a few pointers.

Whilst trying to get everyone up to a reasonable level at Hold 'em, I have laboured on about starting hands. The reason for this is because most beginners at poker want to play every hand. When you are starting out, discipline is the most difficult attribute to master. Unfortunately, 7 Card Stud is similar. You really don't want to go to war without some decent armoury.

Again just like Hold'em the type of staring hands you can play varies considerably depending on the amount of players at the table.

If you are playing 8 handed then I would suggest you need:

a high pair of Kings or Aces
a medium pair with an ace kicker
three cards of the same suit including the ace
If you were playing 4 handed then I would suggest
any pair is playable
any three cards to a suit (providing they are 'live')
any three high running cards (providing they are 'live')
AK or AQ with any other card

And obviously if you are playing 5, 6 or 7 handed then you have to find a balance between the two examples. The importance of the ace kicker in the example one, and the ace within your flushing cards, is obviously that you may hit an Ace. A pair of Aces, or Aces up is very strong in 7 Card Stud. (When you are playing 8 handed, you have to be very careful with Kings, and Queens are very dangerous.) Often in 7 card you may start trying to make a flush or straight, but end up winning the pot with two pair. The chances of this happening depend on how 'live' your cards are:

7 Card has an interesting additional factor. You can see everyone's open card. This is valuable information concerning your hand as well.
If you can see that two of your opponents have an Ace showing, and you have one hidden, you know it's unlikely that either of them have a pair of Aces. More importantly though, there is much less of a chance of you pairing your ace. It is not 'live'.
If you have been dealt three spades, but you can see three of your opponents were dealt an open spade as well, the chances of you making a flush is greatly diminished. I don't play flush draws if I can see two others from the same suit dealt to my opponents.

Should you be dealt 10,J,Q, you may be trying to make a straight, but if you can't see any 10s,Js or Qs then you have a very 'live' hand, and could just as easily make a winning two pair or full house.

7 Card also has the same positional similarities to Hold'em. If you have been dealt a pair of Kings, but two of your opponents behind who haven't acted yet, are showing an open Ace, then you have to tread very carefully indeed. As your opponents have been dealt three cards as opposed to two cards to start, the chances of someone having Aces are far greater in 7 Card than Hold'em.

Where 7 Card becomes interesting though, is when the game progresses through the 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th cards. As the cards are dealt, you are constantly being fed information. The odds on your opponent having improved are there right in front of you. And of course the odds on your hand improving are changing depending on what cards you can see.
A typical starting hand may be J,J, Ace showing. You suspect your opponent may have a pair of Aces, but there are no open Jacks. It would be really nice to be dealt a Jack to match your hidden cards. There is no way your opponent can read you for three Jacks, and you will probably get paid all the way. It may well be correct to call on third and fourth street because you cant see any Jacks. But often you will then see one or both the remaining Jacks pop out being dealt to opponents on your right and left. Very frustrating, but it now makes your hand an easy pass. The chances of you making a winning hand have now shrunk enormously.
Likewise with your flush and straight draws. If your first four cards are 8,9,10,J but you can see two 7s and two Qs out, then you will be lucky to make your straight. Conversely, if you can't see any 7s or Qs, then you have to fancy your chances, and it is probably worth gambling against better hands.

Have a go, 7 Card Stud is fun.

See you next week folks,

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