How Good Is Your Hand – Drawing Hands
These are the starting hands that have the potential to make a winner, but do not constitute a made premium hand on the opening round.
You may have three to a straight (a three-straight, such as 7c-8d-9s), three to a flush (a three-flush, such as As-Ts-8s), or, on even more fortunate occasions, both (such as 8d-9d-Td). There are a number of things to take into consideration when playing these hands: your door card, your position, your opponents’ door cards, and the eventual strength of the hand you are trying to draw to.
Let us discuss these factors more in-depth.
First, your door card is of importance. If you have As-Ks-5s, your hand is better concealed with the five exposed than the ace. You can call a raise in this situation without giving anything away. With the ace exposed, your hand may seem stronger to your opponents than it actually is. This piece of information is valuable on its own, as well as in combination with the other three factors. Consider this scenario: you have Jc-8c-5c, drawing to a flush. However, by the time the action gets to you, there has already been a raise and a re-raise by players with higher door cards than your jack. Now you are out of position, having to call three bets to draw to a marginal hand, against at least two players who may already have you beat. Suddenly, your drawing hand seem much less enticing. If you had Ac-Qc-9c, however, it would be easier to play on, especially against opponents showing low door cards.
In order to discuss playing these hands on later streets, it is necessary to have knowledge of some more complex poker concepts, such as pot odds and reads.
These principles are beyond the scope of this article, and so will not be discussed here. Readers looking for more in-depth drawing hand strategy are encouraged to read more advanced texts beyond this series of articles.
How Good Is Your Hand – Junk Hands
Now that the playable starting hands have been discussed, there is one final category of starting hands that you will encounter in seven card stud: junk hands.
How good is your hand? These are hands that are unpaired, unsuited, disconnected, and with no cards high enough to make a very valuable pair. A junk hand might look something like Jc-7s-2h. In a low ante game, this hand should be thrown away every time you encounter it. In a higher ante game, however, you may be able to use these hands to steal the antes. This is often not only possible but necessary to avoid letting the antes drain your chip stack.
In order to make a steal play, you must be acting in late position, and you must sense weakness in the players who have acted before you. You want them to fold to any aggression you might show. Again, this is something of a sophisticated play and so will not be discussed at length here. Be aware, however, that it is a valuable part of poker, and the sooner you incorporate it into your game, the more substantial your profit margins will become.
The reason you would not do this in a low ante game is two fold.
One, the antes are too small to make it a profitable play.
Two, players at this level are generally not sophisticated enough to know to fold to your aggression, and the play may backfire.
You must also be aware of how often you (and the other players at the table, for that matter) try to bluff at poker. Bluffing too often is a common mistake made by novice players, and it will wind up costing you money.