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Stud Poker Strategy

Keeping Track of the Cards in Stud
by Daniel Johnson of

One of the biggest differences between seven card stud games and holdem games are the up-cards or the cards that are shown to the other players. In hold 'em or omaha the only up-cards are the community cards, ones that all players can use, but in stud games, up-cards are ones in players' hands. In fact you get to see four of the seven cards from the other players' hands, which can give you a good idea of what they are holding. It would seem to be pretty obvious that keeping track of the cards would be very important to success in these games, but you would be surprised how many people are either too lazy or completely forget to look.

Think about times when you were playing hold 'em and someone at the table accidently flashed a card or mucked a card that became exposed. When this happens it seems like everyone acts as if they've seen something extremely rare. They shout: What was that card? Everyone gets to see that card! Since it doesn't happen often, players take time to remember those exposed cards and that information greatly influences decision making processes. If people react that way to seeing just one card then why don't they take the time to look at all the up-cards in a stud game? If you are doing it and the other players aren't; you already have a huge edge.

Too many times I have seen players come into a pot with a King up and with two or even sometimes the other three kings also up in other players' hands. Stud games are the only games where we get the luxury of seeing into a player's holdings. It only makes sense that we would soak up all the free information that we could as poker players because in games like hold' em or omaha you have to pay to see and sometimes paying can cost you a lot.


Seven card stud all starts with hand selection. I would say that hand selection is more important in this game than in hold 'em because in hold 'em a skilled player can make more moves to get him or herself out of trouble with weak hands. In stud there's not a lot of folding going on. In ring games many players stick in to the end and many times they are making mistakes by doing so, but it's a limit game and weak players are always tempted to chase, even when most of their outs are long gone.

Since hand selection is so important, keeping track of the up-cards is just as important. You want to figure out what type of hand you are trying to make at the beginning of a stud hand, deduce what cards you will need and then look to see what's out there. So many players get sucked into starting hands like three suited cards, that sometimes they will call two or three raises not noticing five of their suit is already showing. Counting their three suited cards, that makes eight and with only five left, they still need two more to make a flush. Then those players end up chasing dead draws, literally searching for cards that aren't there. If only they glanced at the up cards every once in a while they could fold and saved all the precious bets they are about to lose.

It's also important to remember the cards that aren't relevant to your own hand. The reason is because you can pick off a lot of bluffs if you know what your opponent's don't have. For example, a player with a 5, 6, 7 and 9 showing is raising you but you have already seen three of the 8s and you have the case 8 in your hand. Now your two pair looks incredibly strong and you know for a fact that your opponent doesn't have the straight he/she is trying to represent. And the reason that he/she is trying to represent it, is probably because that person failed to realize that the bluff wasn't credible because they forgot to look for the 8s.

For some players it is hard to remember all the cards that were up and then folded. One technique I try to use to remember them is a systematic way of counting by going in order from 2-Ace. For example, I count all the deuces, then threes, fours and so on. That helps me to recall all the cards. So when I encounter a situation where I need to remember how many of a certain card was out, I can think back to the order. If you organize your counting in some fashion it should help you even if it's different from mine. Just come up with a system that works for you. Some players group cards to remember them, like all face cards are in a group and middle cards (6, 7, 8, and 9) are a separate group and so on. Some people even write down the cards when they play online.

If you want to be successful at anything in life, it takes hard work and practice. In poker it's no different. You have to put in the effort to be a great player and part of that is paying attention to every detail. Sometimes players get lazy, but that's when they made horrible and ultimately avoidable mistakes. It may sound simple, but keeping track of the up-cards is essential to winning in any stud type game and remember the folded up-cards is extremely important as well. I'm sure you'll find that not everyone is as in-tune with what's going on at the table as you will be and that will give you the edge you need to win.


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