Five Card Stud
Five Card Stud is a classic poker game, and it continues to be one of the favorite poker games around the world.
Five Card Stud Rules
Five-Card Stud is easy to learn. I will use a $2/$4 limit structure to describe the betting round that takes place in Five Card Stud.
Before any cards are dealt each player must put in a small ante. The ante is typically about $.25.
Players are dealt one face-down card (referred to as the “hole card”), and one face-up card (referred to as the “door card”). This is followed by the first round of betting. The first bet is referred to as the bring-in.
The player with the lowest showing door card must post “the bring-in”, a mandatory initial bet of usually half the smaller stake amount. In our $2/$/4 limit structure game the bring-in would be $1. In some online poker rooms the bring-in player has the option to increase this bet to the full small stake which in our example would be $2.
If two players are showing the same door card, the suit rankings decide which card is weakest. The ranks of the suits are (strongest to weakest): Spades, Hearts, Diamonds, and Clubs.
Play begins starting to the left of the bring-in. Betting begins to the bring-in player’s left, and continues clockwise. Each player at the table must call, raise or fold. The bring-in bet was $1 and the first raise completes the bring-in meaning that the next player needs to put $1 in the pot to stay in the game. This is known as completing the bring in and raises the stakes to the lower limit which in our example is $2. The players after the pot must either call the $2, raise $2 or fold.
After the betting is completed, the dealer then deals to one more face-up card. This round is known as Third Street. This is then followed by a second round of betting. On Third Street the highest showing hand opens the betting round. The bets on this round are $2 although some online poker rooms give a player the option to raise the bet to $4 (the higher stake) if that player has a pair showing.
Another face-up card is dealt to each player. This round is known as Fourth Street. The high hand opens the betting round. For these last two rounds, the bet amount is now the higher stake ($4 in our $2/$4 game).
The fourth and final face-up card is dealt to each player giving everyone that has not folded a total of five cards. Now the final betting round begins, and as before, the highest showing hand starts the betting. The river bets are still limited to the upper stake ($4 in our $2/$4 game).
Once the final round of betting has been completed the showdown takes place and the player with the highest five-card hand takes the pot.
Five Card Stud Strategy
A good sound Five Card Stud Strategy requires playing good starting hands along with a good amount of concentration and being aware of the cards that have been dealt to your opponents. If you can do these three things – play good starting hands, concentrate, be aware – then you should be able to develop into a good Five Card Stud player.
The most important decision you will make at the table will be deciding what starting hands to play. Good poker players are selective about the starting hands that they will play. Most new players tend to play far too many hands and end up losing money.
There are a couple of things that make a good starting hand a good starting hand. The first are the actual cards that you have been dealt. The second is the cards that your opponents have been dealt. Specifically the up card that they have been dealt.
As part of my recommended Five Card Stud Strategy you will base your decision to play the hand only after looking at your starting hand and after looking at your opponents up cards.
If you notice that cards that are important to your hand have already been dealt to your opponents you may want to consider folding and saving yourself money.
Also, just because you receive what you think is a good starting hand one time does not necessarily mean that the next time you receive that same exact hand that it will be just as good. For example, if you are dealt a pair of jacks you may notice that no other player has a jack showing or even a higher card. You can be sure that so far you have the best hand.
If the next time you are dealt a pair of jacks and notice that one of the other jacks have been dealt to one opponent and notice that others have higher cards showing, your hand is not as powerful this time around. This is why it is so important to take your opponents cards into account when playing your hand. You don’t want to put money into the pot trying for a hand that you will never be able to make or the hand that you already have will never be good enough to win.
Ok, now it is time to move on to specific starting hands.
The best starting hand that you will ever be able to start out with are a pair of aces. From there of course a pair of kings, queens, jacks… are all good starting hands. A pair is always a good starting hand especially if it is a high pair. But be sure to study your opponents cards to see if they have one of your cards or have a higher card showing. This will really tell you how strong your hand is.
Whenever I am fortunate enough to start out with a pair that I am confident is the best hand I like to start out betting. This gets more money into the pot and forces players with weaker hands to fold. By forcing players to fold you have fewer players that may draw a card on a later round that will beat you.
Playing flush and draws
Playing flush and straight draws can be difficult to hit since you are only going to receive five cards. As long as you are only calling a single bet on each round you can consider playing a flush or straight draw. If I play a flush or straight draw I do prefer that they consist of high cards as this also gives me the opportunity to hit for a high pair if I do miss my flush or straight.
If you feel that you are beat and it is unlikely that you will win the hand at any point I strongly recommend that you fold your hand. Calling bets just to stay in is a surefire way to lose money.
When you feel that you have little chance to win you are always better off folding and saving your money. Poker players that win money are the ones who know when to fold and save money. The key to winning money in poker is to minimize the amount of money on any hand that you lose and to maximize the amount of money that you win.
Being aware of what cards the other players have been dealt and what they are doing (betting, raising, calling) is very important when playing Five Card Stud. You need to pay attention and see if cards that are important to your hand have been dealt.
After every round you must try to figure out what each player has, did the last card that they receive help them, what are the cards that will improve your hand, is your hand good enough to win or what is the likelihood that you can make a hand that will win.
After the final card is dealt its time to figure out what your opponent has relative to your hand. Look at their up cards and see what the best possible hand that they could have is. If you are sure that you are beat fold. If not then you can at least call the final bet especially if there is only one player left in the hand. At this point you would only be risking one big bet (you’d risk $4 in a $2/$4 limit game) for the chance to win the entire pot.
Stud takes a lot of concentration but with a little practice you can be a winning player.