The better poker players prefer Stud to any other gamer in the poker family. They shun most game variations which use wild cards. Stud Poker permits a player to use much more strategy. When wild cards are added, the element of skill is greatly diminished and the element of chance greatly increased.
The best game of Stud, looking at it from a smart gambler’s view point, is one without an ante or dealer’s edge; but if the dealer does edge, the amount must be comparatively small (for example, in a $2 limit game, the dealer edges 25 cents). The reason is that the gambler likes to have some information to guide himself before betting. Gamblers do not like to money into the pot without seeing at least part of their hand; therefore the first two cards that are valued by the gambler and determine the betting.
Let us assume that at this point you have been dealt a hole card and your first upcard. This is the most important phase of any Stud game. You must decide the value of those cards, and you do it by considering the value of both your cards and the value of every other player’s upcard. Unfortunately there is no general rule that will cover this situation. As there is no general rule lets discuss what a smart gambler would do under all conditions.
First, if their hole card is lower that a ten spot, they fold (provided they do not hold a pair back to back), regardless of the value of their upcard. If it is an ace or a higher card and they are compelled to make the opening bet, they bet the minimum amount permitted.
Bear in mind that the chances of being dealt a pair or betting in five cards are approximately 1 in 2. Therefore, if three or four players remain until the showdown, the winning hand will almost without a doubt hold a pair or better. With this in mind, the smart gambler, failing to hold a pair, always has to have a higher-ranking card in the hole than any other player’s upcard. The smart gambler will figure that if they hold two cards lower than the upcard of one or more players and they have the possibility of pairing one of their low cards, each of their opponents also has the same possibility. And, if they or one of their opponents each pair a card, their hand is valueless, because their opponent paired a higher card. This gambler uses sound judgment.
So much for the first two cards. Now the first betting round has ended, each player has received his second upcard.
The smart gambler, if they see any other player’s two upcards paired, and if they fail to hold a pair, will on their turn, fold. The theory, a sound one, is “Never play a hand at the start which you know is lower than your opponents’.” In other words, do not chase a pair or a higher hand when the pot is small. If you were to play for the third upcard, you might be tempted to chase the money which you have in the pot. That is not good Poker playing.
It boils down to this; Play them tight, at least until you receive your third upcard.
Let us go back to the hole card and the first upcard. When your hole card has a ranking value of jack or better and your upcard is a ten or lower, this is worth a reasonable bet. That is, provided a jack is not showing as one of your opponent’s upcards. If this is the case, fold, because your chances or pairing that jack have been reduced 33 ⅓%.
Always bear in mind that an upcard paired has much less value that a hole card paired. The smart player will consider playing the hand in an attempt to pair their hole card rather than an open card or upcard.
The chances of pairing a hole card with a second upcard (Provided no player holds a card of the same denomination as their upcard) are deduced by checking the number of upcards, none of which can pair their hole card are 3 in 44 or 13 ⅔ to 1 against. And the chances of pairing either their hole card or their upcard, provided the upcards showing are not of the same denomination, are 6 to 1 against. So if the pot holds seven or more times the amount it will cost you to put in and draw that second upcard, it is worth the gamble. If the pot has less, it is not worth the risk.
Don’t be afraid to fold. Sure, every one likes the action; that is why you play Stud. But no one has found a Stud player who enjoys losing money. If you are afraid to fold and crave action when your hand doesn’t merit your playing, you must eventually lose.
If you fold your first two or three cards, you lose little or nothing, because the big betting is seldom under way at this point. Usually, a player holding a big pair back to back won’t raise at that time for fear that this will cause the other players to fold. And a player holding a weak hand doesn’t raise, because they are trying to better their hand with the second upcard.
If a player raises before drawing his second upcard, you must analyze the player who made the raise as well as the upcard they are holding. Have they been a winner up to this time? If they are, the chances are better than even that they are bluffing; a big-winning player frequently seems to go on a betting spree. Or are they a heavy loser? If they are, they may be trying to steal the pot or to change their streak of bad luck. If you hold a good hand at this time, play for the second upcard.
Whenever you have your hole card paired with one of your two upcards and another player has an open pair showing of a lower rank, it is worth a raise for two reasons; the first is to attempt to drive out the other players and possibly the holder of the pair; the second is to force the holder of the lower hand to indicate the value of their hand by either dropping or raising. The ultimate goal is of course, to get the most money possible into the pot with the fewest players remaining.
One of the stupidest plays in Stud is to play for a flush when holding only three cards of the flush. The chance of making the flush by drawing two cards depends on the number of cards of the same suit in the upcards. For example: in a five-handed game, with three cards of the same suite showing in your opponents upcards, the odds against making the flush are approximately 24 to 1.
When you are in a pot and have drawn your third upcard with one more to go, and an opponent has you beaten with their upcards and the pot is not especially big, fold. But if the pot is extra big and only a reasonable amount is required to bet to receive that last card, and if you believe your chances or winning that hand are good should you draw a certain card (and the card is still alive), then by all means play.
If you do not hold a cinch hand and are in doubt about you holding the winning hand, a check is the proper play. You must think about trying to save money on an uncertain hand. By checking you won’t play into a trap and give your opponent a chance to raise if they hold a cinch hand.
After you have received your last card at Stud, odds should no longer be considered. By this time you know whether you have a cinch hand or not. If you have it, bet the limit; don’t check in the hope that your opponent will bet and you can raise them. If they have a raise in mind, the chances are that they will raise anyway when you bet. If not, they probably will also check, and you are out money.
Never give an opponent and opportunity to see your hole card for free when holding a cinch hand.