Third Street in Seven Stud by Perry Friedman

For those of you who are unfamiliar with seven-card stud, there are some betting quirks in the game that you should understand. During the opening round of betting (also called "third street"), the player with the lowest up card is forced to act first. There are two choices: Bet the "bring-in" amount (which is usually one-third of the full bet) or "complete" the bet (make it a full bet). If the player chooses to bet the bring-in amount, another player has the option of completing the bet. Note that this is not considered a raise, because it is only increasing the initial bet to one full bet. This means there is still a bet and three remaining raises allowed during the opening round.

You should almost never bring in for a completion in Stud Hi, except in very rare tournament situations. There are a number of reasons for this, including the need to conceal the strength of your hand and the desire to keep your options open later in the round.

If you make it a habit only to bring in for a completion when you have a good hand, an astute player will pick up on this and will steal from you every time you don’t complete the bring-in. Conversely, if you always complete the bet, you are throwing away money when you are forced in, which is usually when you have a bad hand since you already have the lowest up card.

Furthermore, bringing in for a completion limits your betting options. If you bring in for the minimum and someone else completes the bet, you can raise back for a full bet, whereas your opponent can only complete for a partial bet. You can also decide to slow play your hand if someone completes. Completing the bet exposes you to being raised back a full bet. By always bringing in for the minimum, you do not give away the strength of your hand and leave your options open on third street.

When playing in a live ring game, I will seldom even look at my down cards when I am the bring-in. Whether or not you look at your cards first is a matter of personal preference, but by not looking, you can’t give a tell. However, one of the important aspects of stud is being aware of what cards have already been dealt out to your opponents. If you decide not to look at your hole cards, you should still peruse the table and take inventory of what cards are already out.

For some people, cataloguing all the upcards may be a tedious and exhausting process, and they will prefer to look at their downcards first so that they immediately know which key cards will improve their hand, or if they even have a playable hand at all. The only flaw with this shortcut is that when you do have a playable hand, you need to be aware of what your key cards are and know which cards will help or hurt your opponents. I recommend getting in the habit of always mentally keeping track of all of the up cards.

In heads-up play, keeping track of the cards is much simpler; they are always there to see and you don’t need to remember who folded which cards. This makes it even less important to check your down cards before acting.

In online play, you will always be aware of your down cards, but you should still get in the practice of tracking your opponents’ cards. One way to keep the game interesting – and to work on your skills at the same time – is to track all the cards even when you are out of the hand. As the hand progresses, try to figure out what hands your opponents are likely playing. At the showdown, you can see how well your reading skills are coming along.

Stud can be a very enjoyable and interesting game, but it relies less on intuition and more on keeping your mind focused and your eyes open.

Perry Friedman