7-Card Stud 8 or Better (also known as 7-Card Stud High/Low) is a very popular poker game. There are three types of 7-Card Stud 8 or Better games played:
- Limit 7-Card Stud 8 or Better (when there are specific betting limits applied to each round of betting)
- Pot Limit 7-Card Stud 8 or Better (when, after the blinds are posted, players can wager any amount up to the total amount of money in the pot)
- No-Limit 7-Card Stud 8 or Better (when, after the blinds are posted, players can bet all of their chips at any time)
All of the betting scenarios given as examples below are specifically applicable to Limit 7-Card Stud 8 or Better poker. The other two versions of 7-Card Stud 8 or Better have different betting patterns.
7-Card Stud 8 or Better is comprised of five betting rounds, throughout which players receive a total of seven cards: three "down" cards and four "up" cards. Up cards in 7-Card Stud are NOT community cards as they are in flop games such as Omaha High and Texas Hold 'em. Out of these seven cards, players must make the best possible 5-card hand.
Each hand begins with all players posting the "ante" (a predetermined amount placed in the pot before any cards are dealt). An ante can be thought of as the "fee" for the right to play in each hand. The amount "anted up" is decided upon by the game's betting structure. For example, the ante at a $1/$2 table is usually 25 cents, while at a $3/$6 table, it is typically 50 cents.
After the antes have been posted, each player is dealt three cards (two "down" cards and one "up" card). The up card is also known as the "door card" or "third street." In the first betting round, the player holding the lowest up card must initiate the action with a "bring-in" bet; i.e., checking is unacceptable. If two or more players have the same lowest-ranking card, the person who "brings it in" is determined by suit, progressing from clubs (lowest), to diamonds, to hearts, to spades (highest).
Each player will now have the choice to call or raise the bet, or fold his/her cards. In a $1/$2 Limit 7-Card Stud game, each bet is $1 (the lower limit) in the first two rounds. If someone wishes to bet, the bet placed is for $1, no higher or lower. If another player wishes to raise the bet, $2 are placed in the pot, $1 to call and an extra bet of $1 (no more and no less) as the raise. There are a maximum of three raises per betting round.
After the first round of betting, another card is dealt face-up to each remaining active player (those who didn't fold on "third street"). This card is "fourth street" (the second round of betting). From "fourth street" on, the highest hand showing begins the action by checking or betting.
Upon completion of the betting on "fourth street," another card is dealt face-up to those players who remain active in the hand. This is called "fifth street." In a $1/$2 Limit 7-Card Stud game, each bet, beginning from "fifth street" until the hand's completion, is $2 (the upper limit), no higher, no lower. If another player wishes to raise the bet, $4 are placed in the pot: $2 to call and an extra bet of $2 (no more and no less) as the raise. The highest hand showing again starts the action by checking or betting.
Upon the completion of betting on "fifth street," another card is dealt face-up. This is "sixth street." Each active player should now have four cards up and two cards down. There is a fourth betting round after "sixth street" is dealt.
The final card is dealt down. The last card is also known as the "river card" or "seventh street." Then follows one last round of betting.
After the final round of betting, in order to determine a pot's winner, players need to ascertain who the best hand (high and low) belongs to. They do so in a "showdown." If players choose, they may concede the hand to the winner and "muck" (not reveal) their hole cards, so as not to indicate to their opponent(s) what their strategies were (or if they were bluffing). A winning hand can be made up of any five card combination of a player's seven cards.
As this is a "high/low" game, the pot is split between the player with the highest hand and the player with the lowest hand. However, the lowest hand must "qualify" for a split of the pot by having a high card of 8 or worse (an ace in a low hand would be considered the lowest card in the deck, rather than the highest), hence the name "7-Card Stud 8 or Better." Otherwise, the high hand "scoops the pot"' (takes the entire pot). There is no need for a high hand to "qualify." The highest active hand will win at least half the pot.
To qualify for the "low": It takes a five-card hand with different numerical values from ace through eight (with the Ace being the lowest) to qualify for the "low" half of the pot. The best "low" hand is A, 2, 3, 4, 5 (also known as the "wheel" or "bicycle"). The winning "low" hand goes to the player with the lowest high card. For example, a player with 2, 4, 5, 6, 7 would have a better "low" hand than someone with A, 2, 4, 6, 8. If two or more players "going for the low" have the same high card, the player with the second lowest card (or third, fourth, or fifth if necessary) in their hand wins.
Ties: In the case that two or more players "tie" for one side of the pot, they will split that half only into equally-divided portions. Online, if there is an odd chip, the winning player closest to the left of the button/dealer will receive it. In live poker games, an odd chip is traditionally given to the winner of the "high" or, alternatively, it is left in the pot for all players to compete for in the following hand. Ties for either the "high" side or "low" side of the pot are not uncommon in 7-Card Stud 8 or Better.
Important Things to Remember about 7-Card Stud 8 or Better
- Straights and Flushes do NOT count against a player when attempting to qualify for the best "low" hand.
- Players are permitted to use different 5-card combinations from among the four hole cards and five community/board cards to make winning "high" and "low" hands. For example, a player holding A, A, 2, 3 down and seeing a board of 4, 5, A, A, K has the "nuts" (best possible) bicycle "low," and a "high" of four aces with a king kicker.
- Players are also permitted to use the same 5-card combinations from among the four hole cards and five community/board cards to make both the "high" and "low" hands. For example, the bicycle Straight is the nuts "low," and might very likely also win the "high."
*In No-Limit and Pot-Limit 7-Card Stud or Better, there are some minor differences to the rules listed above as far as betting goes. They are listed below.
Betting Rules for Pot-Limit 7-Card Stud 8 or Better
Minimum raise: The amount of a raise must be at least as much as the previous bet or raise in the same round. For example, if the first player to act bets $100, raisers must raise at least another $100 (for a total bet of $200), unless they don't have enough chips to do so, in which case they are ruled to be "all-in."
Maximum raise: The total amount of the pot. The size of the pot is defined as the amount the active player must first call before raising plus all active bets on the table. For example, if $5 is currently in the pot and a player has bet $1, the next active player may raise up to $6. If he/she does so, then the next active player may raise up to $12. In the case that someone has gone "all-in," the main pot is considered dead when determining the total pot size, which is then only determined by the size of the side pot.
Betting Rules for No-Limit 7-Card Stud 8 or Better
Minimum raise: The amount of the raise must be at least as much as the previous bet or raise in the same round. For example, if the first player to act bets $100, raisers must raise at least another $100 (for a total bet of $200), unless they don't have enough chips to do so, in which case they are ruled to be "all-in."
Maximum raise: A player's entire stack (amount of chips on the table).
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