Basic seven-card stud strategy looking at key decisions on fourth and fifth streets
|If you can get heads-up you stand less chance of being outdrawn and may often win the pot with only a high pair|
Previously I’ve looked at some basic seven-card stud strategy, focusing on decisions on third street. This is the most important decision point in a hand of stud, as it will usually lead to you putting in bets on future streets. However, the decisions you make after that are still ver y important and give good players the opportunity to outwit their opponents. In this article I will therefore look at how to continue your stud strategy on fourth and fifth streets.
The betting on fourth street (and in each subsequent round) begins with the best hand showing. You will still be betting at the smaller level ($10 in a $10/$20 game) so if you have already found a hand good enough to play on third street you are likely to continue for a small bet here.
However, one important rule to note is that if any player pairs his door card on fourth street, players can immediately bet either this amount or the larger amount. This is the most radical change of fortune that can happen on fourth street and if your opponent pairs their door card you should almost always fold, as they will usually have either trips or two pair. Of course, you may continue if you are beating trips, have a live four- card draw or two overpairs, or have a live big pair and suspect they don’t have trips.
When you pair your door card you should usually make the larger bet. However, if you have a very strong hand and suspect players will fold to a larger bet but call the smaller bet, you should keep them in with the smaller bet. You should also bet the smaller amount when you have not made trips but hope to make an opponent fold cheaply.
The other scary cards that you or an opponent can catch are an Ace or a straight-flush card, since these will often hit your down cards or make your hand appear threatening. When you only have a marginal hand or small to medium pair you should often fold if your opponent catches good and you catch bad. This is especially true if they now have two overcards to your pair and kicker, since you could be in very bad shape.
On the other hand, if you catch a scary card that does not help you, betting may still win the pot or set up a future bluff if your opponent catches bad. However, because you can only make the small bet, you should not bet if you are unlikely to achieve a fold and are unlikely to be ahead.
By contrast, when you have a very strong hand like a hidden high pair you may wish to slow-play or check-raise if it is well disguised and your opponent has caught a strong-looking card. Playing this way will cause players to misread your hand or win you extra bets.
Again, however, you must act according to the strength of your board cards and be aware that if you check and call your opponent may take a free card on fifth street. If you are in the bring-in and nobody raised on third street but you were dealt a very strong hand, you can slow-play in the hopes of catching the other players out later in the hand.
Another key goal on fourth and fifth streets is to try and knock other players out where possible. You can achieve this either by betting or by checking to another player who you think will bet. This is because if you can get heads-up you stand less chance of being outdrawn and may often win the pot with only one high pair or two low pairs.
On fifth street the bets double in stud games, so this is another key decision point in the hand. Calling here will often commit you to going to seventh street, meaning you’ll have to put in two or more big bets. For this reason you need to have a hand that is either likely to be winning or has a good chance to catch up against your opponent to continue.
For example, against a suspected big pair you would be happy to call with a small pair and more than one overcard to your opponent’s board, as you have reasonable equity. But with no kickers to hit you should fold; likewise when your opponent has a very scary board where even a made two pair may not win.
If you have a marginal hand on fifth street and want to continue you should be very careful to check that you are still drawing live. If some of the pair or draw cards you need are now out, this could sway your decision towards folding.
On the other hand, if you have been aggressive so far and have a reasonably scary board, you should usually bet fifth street if your opponent has caught bad. A call here commits him to going to seventh street most of the time, so you may be able to force a fold. You should also continue trying to knock players out by raising where possible to get heads- up, especially if you think you can force someone to fold a slightly better hand.
Of course, you should not be too aggressive with marginal hands against scary boards, as the other player will usually bet for you anyway and will rarely fold. You should not try to check- raise unless you are very sure your opponent will bet out if you check.
As the bets double on fifth street, you should exercise caution when calling or betting marginal hands. You either need to have a good chance of making your opponent fold or hold a hand that has good showdown value