Playing Premium Starting Hands
Poker is a game of decisions, and seven card stud is no exception. Throughout the course of a session, you will have to decide when to fold, when to bet, when to call, when your opponent really has the hand he is representing, and even when to leave the table.
After choosing a table and deciding to have a seat, the first key decision, after the deal, you will face is what to do with your starting hand – your pocket cards and door card, the first three cards you are dealt. Some starting hands are good, some are great, and some are junk. These traits are not static, either. A starting hand that may have been good in one spot may be awful in another, and vice-versa. The article discusses the two strongest types of starting hands, the premium hands: trips and premium pairs.
If, after getting dealt an ace door card, you happen to look down and see a pair of pocket aces to go along with it, congratulations: you have just been dealt the best starting hand in seven card stud. Any time you get this hand or any other set of rolled-up trips, you have a very powerful hand. The temptation may be to raise at every opportunity to try to get as much money in the middle as possible. For the most part, try to resist. If you immediately start raising through the roof, you may find everyone folding on the opening round, leaving you with only the antes and the bring-in bet to show for your monster hand.
Instead, you may try playing your hand more slowly for the first two streets or so. Call any bets on the opening round and on fourth street, letting other players bet your hand for you. This enables you to get a little money in the pot early. On fifth street, when playing seven card stud the betting doubles, pick up the pace. Start betting and raising, simultaneously getting more money in the pot (your pot) and getting some other players to fold, particularly those who might be drawing to hands that would beat you. Pay attention, howeverto the possible other hand rankings. If the guy whose hand has been looking more and more like a straight starts suddenly starts raising you on sixth street or the river, you may have to reconsider with your trips are still as strong as they were a few streets ago.
Premium pairs are pairs of tens or higher. Playing pairs in seven card stud can be significantly more complicated than trips, with more variables involved. The first of these variables is whether your pair is wired (your pocket cards are paired) or split (your door card matches one of your pocket cards). A wired pair is more powerful than a split pair, because it is better concealed, especially if it turns into trips later.
The biggest difference between trips and a premium pair on the opening round is that with a premium pair, you want to raise. You are trying to get as many players out of the hand as possible. Premium pairs play better against fewer players, so bet with impunity on third street. There are exceptions to this rule, of course. For instance, if you have split jacks, and one player raised in front of you with a queen door card and another player re-raised with a king showing, you might reconsider the strength of your hand.
On fifth street, your goal again should be to eliminate the competition. You want that guy across from you with the three-straight showing to get out of your way before he has a chance to make his hand. Do not allow a free card with just an unimproved premium pair on fifth street. The overarching theme here is that opposed to with trips, with a premium pair, you want to be playing against as few players as possible every step of the way. It may be tempting to try to sneakily build the pot by check-raising your pocket aces, but in seven card stud pocket aces is often not a winner by the time the river cards get dealt.