In the game of seven card stud poker, correct opening hand selection plays a far more vital role than in Hold´em or Omaha. When you are dealt your hand, you are able to see a maximum of seven other open cards around the table, and this will help you to calculate the odds of finding the missing cards to complete a straight.
It will also show if (say) three kings have been evenly distributed and only one player continues through the betting who was dealt a king. Equally important to note is if there are an unequal distribution of the suits, as this may help or hinder any player chasing a flush.
As a rule of thumb, the following are the only hands which you should really consider getting involved with:-
Three of a kind – This is the strongest starting hand there can be, however you need to be conscious of the rank of your cards (ie 6´s) and the cards that have been dealt to your opponents. If you see another player catch an open double (which does not include a picture card), and then starts to raise, it is likely they have also got a set.
A pair of Jacks or better – Irrespective of whether both cards are hidden (wired) or one is open, you should proceed with this hand once accounting for how many Jacks (or better) you have seen in the open cards of other hands on the table. You should still bet passively until you catch the third card.
Nines or better (wired) – If both the cards which constitute your pair are hidden, this gives you a massive betting advantage if you collect a set or second pair in a later round of betting. If you can catch your second pair early, you may also be on for a full house, and you may want to consider betting into somebody chasing a flush or straight, if the odds of catching the fifth card look good.
Three suited cards – It is worth mentioning that flushes are not that good in Seven Card Stud, so you need to take into consideration the balance of the suits amongst the door cards before committing to a bet. If you have not caught the fourth suited card by the fifth street, your odds of you completing the flush will not represent value.
Three cards to a straight flush – A hand well worth playing, especially if you have high ranking cards amongst them. Look out for key cards landing in other players hands making your straight impossible for you to complete.
Three cards to a straight – Again, you need to think about the rank of the cards in your hand before you bet. As with low flushes, low straights are frequently beaten and you should only play these hands in you can build your straight from the outside, rather than relying on a specific number to fall in the middle.
With any other hand, you should fold, unless by matching the bring in it would leave you in a heads up situation and you can get to subsequent streets economically.
By playing only the strongest starting hands, keeping a careful eye on the open cards and the betting actions of your opponents, you should be able to plot a successful game.