7 Stud 8 or better Strategy Guide for beginners
A Beginner’s guide to 7 stud 8 or better.
This guide is a pretty basic 7 stud 8 or better guide, geared mainly towards beginners who play low limit 7 stud 8 or better.
It is a pretty basic guide, I would recommend to anyone who plans to play this game seriously to read Ray Zee’s book about 7 stud 8 or better.
If you are unfamiliar with the rules of the games, then take a look here http://www.pokerstars.com/poker/games/stud/high-low/
Pay attention: Paying attention to the table is important in all forms of poker, but it is even most important in 7 stud then in holdem for example. Other then paying attention to get reads you must keep track of the exposed cards and folded cards, this is valuable information that affects most of the decisions you make in this game. You want to keep track of the cards that you need and on the cards that may help or hurt you opponents.
For example supposed on 6th street you hold KKQQJ3 rainbow, and villains shows 2367 and 27A7. The number of dead 4,5 and A can have a major affect on how you should play this hand.
Bluffing: 7 stud hi-lo split is not a game of big bluffs. By its nature you have people going for high and people going for low, and bluffing to get players in both directions to fold rarely succeeds.
Bluffing is mainly used for ante-stealing in position or to knock off players going your way with a better hand so that you can take ½ a pot down.
An example of bluffing is you hold 34A88, villain 1 holds shows 247 and villain 2 shows 3KK. Villain 2 checks, villain 1 bets and you raise, representing trip 8’s to knock off the open pair of kings.
At least in lower level other then blind stealing I don’t consider bluffing an important part of the arsenal as it is in other forms of poker. You make your money by having the best hands.
Reads: Reads are critical in 7 stud 8 or better. Other then the possible strength of the opponent hand you have to figure out if they are going high or low, and whether or not a card has helped them.
The problem mainly arises when a person shows a low board but have a potential for high, for example a flush draw, or has trips instead of low. Sadly I don’t have a lot to say about reads, this is one of the areas where experience is a key factor. However in this game people tend to play it in a pretty straight forward matter, they bet when the have a hand and check/call when they chase. Pay attention to the betting process of an opponent throughout the hand and you are ½ way there.
Main beginner mistakes: I think main beginner mistakes comes in a few forms:
Playing too many hands on 3rd street: I will touch this subject in starting hand selection
Not folding enough on 4th street: usually if you start with a good drawing hand and catch bad on 4th street you want to get out.
Chasing half pots with weak high hands that can easily be beaten: Way too often you will start with a good starting hand that does not improve. For example you start with ATA, you bet 3rd and get called by a low hand, catch a 5 on 4th and bet again vs villain with 2 low cards, catch bad on 5th with villain hitting a low and betting, and call the hand all the way to the river only to be beaten by 2 pair.
Chasing 2nd best hands in order to improve: 7 stud 8 is a game in which you want to have the best hand in one direction, or if you don’t have a good draw in both directions, you do not want to have the 2nd best hand in one direction and keep playing it.
For example if one villain is showing K8 and you are pretty sure he has another king in the hole, and another villain shows 42, and you have 4537, and on 5th the board is K86, 428, 4536T, you can definitely keep playing, but if you had 8536T you should fold.
Folding too much on 7th street: One of the big mistakes is folding on 7th when you can get half the pot, even with a weak hand, usually by 7th street the pot is big, so if you think there is even a small chance you will win the pot you should call.
For example supposed on 6th you have 356ATQ, with villain showing 4567, and on the river you caught a 5 and villain bets, you should call.
Not paying enough attention to position: There are many cases in this game when your hand is good enough to call a bet but not 2 or 3 bets, so when you are facing a bet you should ask yourself not only should I call it, but also how many people are left behind me and are they likely to raise. Also try to discern your position throughout the hand. If the person right before you has an open pair of Q for example, you probably will be 2nd to act throughout the day.
Stud 8 or better is a split game, in split games you usually make most of your profit from scooping hands, not from split hands. Split hands require you to invest a lot to win relatively little, so you want to play starting hands that can scoop the pot.
There are 2 ways to scoop hands that go to showdown – win both high and low hand of the pot or win the high side in a pot without a qualifying low.
This affects both your starting hands and the way you play your hands. If you play hands with only high potential you want to narrow the field as much as possible and force out all the potential low hands, and play heads up with an inferior high hand, or at most with a low hand that does not have a lot of str8/flush potential
With hands that have scooping potential the way you play depends a lot on the strength of your hand and the exposed cards, usually if you have a strong hand one way and a hand that may win the other way you want to play it aggressively to be able to pick up the other side by forcing out better draws. If you have a strong hand both ways you want the biggest pot, so it is sometimes correct to play less aggressively and keep the pot multiway.
A lot of value in this game comes from deceptive hands, hands that appear to go low but are actually strong high hands, because they will get you action from high hands and may get better low hands to fold.
When you play your hand you have to think not only on your cards as a whole, but also consider only your exposed cards and what your opponents put you on based on those cards.
3 of a kind: This is a very strong starting hand obviously, and I usually play it fast, or complete/reraise if I am in early position. People will rarely put you on trips on 3rd, and rightly so, because trips are very rare on 3rd.
If you have trips in the range of 2-7 people will put you on 3 low cards, if your trips are K-J people will put you on pair, if it is A then they fear both. If your trips are 8-T and you show strength the default assumption is high pocket pair in the hole.
When you start with trips play them aggressively and be ready to play it to showdown.
If you do not improve and on 5th/6th it seems there is a made low then slow down and move to check/call mode because the low is freerolling to beat you.
It is worth noting that a lot of the tough decisions in this game come in situations when you have a high hand and you are facing low cards, but do not know if it is a made low or a low draw with pair for example. In case it is a made low betting is a mistake since villain is freerolling to beat you, in case it is not a made low checking and giving a free card is a mistake. Other then experience and considering the exposed cards there is no ‘magical’ way to figure it out. I tend to bet in those situation, usually if it is a made low they will reraise.
Also pay attention to high cards that pair, if someone raises on 3rd with a Q showing and called your reraise with trip 8’s and pairs his door card on 4th/5th he probably has better trips, now you should either fold or check/call if the pot is large and your other cards are very live.
3 consecutive low to a straight flush: hands like 456s, 345s etc are great hands because they have a lot of potential to scoop both sides, I tend to play them fast if there are multiple lows out and play them slowly if I can play them vs multiple high hands, because often if I make the high hand it will be the best one.
3 lows with straight potential: Hands like 235, 457 are also very good starting hands, I will call raises with them on 3rd, but I usually will not raise with them unless I have a good chance to pick up the blinds and ante with a raise.
3 lows with an A: Hands like A37, A56 etc are also very strong hands, if the A is the door card I will usually raise with them, if the A is not the door card I may raise with them if the A’s are live and I believe I can knock off other low. You usually want to play them vs high hands that do not have an A as the door card, playing them vs a K showing who raises is great, because if you catch good on 4th the pair of K may fold, knowing he is probably fighting for ½ the pot only, but if he plays on you have a good chance of outdrawing him to high and scoop it.
With all the low hands, if you do not hit good on 4th street, you probably want to fold, especially if there are other hands going low that caught good. If you pair one of your hole cards and it appears that you have a good low hand you may want to bet it if other opponents seem to catch bad and there are no more then 2 other opponents, you may win the pot here, or win it on 5th if you hit good.
Pair of A with a low side card: I usually play it aggressively, with the exception of having the low card as the door card and facing one obvious high hand (for example Q showing), here I may just call 3rd and check-raise 4th for example, especially if I hit good on 4th.
Don’t get married to pocket A’s, usually if you do not improve by 5th you should consider dumping them if opponents shows strength and your side cards start to become dead, one pair rarely wins at showdown.
Pair of A with high side card: Since this is a hand with virtually no low potential I play it fast in 3rd street.
Unccordinated 3 suited low without an A: A hand like 862s is playable as long as your suite is very live (no more then 1 more suited card exposed), and the low is live, you want to see 4th for cheap and get out unless you catch good.
Uncoordinated low hands: Uncoordinated low hands like 247 are not good hands to play, you are playing to win half the pot, which is not a great idea.
The only cases I may play them is if I am against multiple high hands, or a hand with 8 as the door card, when there are no more low hands to act after me and my needed low cards are live, and even then if I catch bad on 4th I am out of the pot.
3 lows with an 8: stay away from hands like 468, 578 etc, they will cost you money long run. The only playable hands with an 8 are 3 low with an A when the A is live and there are not many other low hands in the pot.
678 is also a playable hand if you can get to heads up with high hands only, but again you want to catch good on 4th. The nice thing about 678 is that pretty much any card T or lower is improving your hand. If you play 678 you want the 5s to be very live and you want the 9s to be live also.
Low pairs: Low pairs are a tricky hand to play, and I truly believe that never playing them is not a bad thing, however I do play them from time to time.
In order to decide whether or not to play them you should consider the following:
1. Your position and the door cards behind you. If you play low pairs you want to see 4th street for cheap, so if you are in early position, or if you suspect a raise is coming behind you then fold. You can suspect a raise is coming behind you if there is a door ace, or the highest door card is yet to act.
2. How live your card is, you want your pair to be totally live, and your side card to be alive as well
3. Your side card. low pair with an A is good, low pair with another low card is also playable, and it is preferred that the low card will be suited straight to your pair, you also want the low cards to be live. K as the side card is OK if it is higher then any of the door cards.
4. The rank of your pair, a pair of 6th or 7th is much more playable then pair of 3s for example, because if you are heads up against another low hand it reduces the chance of the made low making a pair on the river to beat you.
5. Having the pair in the pocket is usually better then having them split, because if you make trips it is very disguised as a low hand.
You want to play these hands for cheap and get out if you do not improve much. Basically you need to catch good on 4th and 5th to have a playable hand.
If you make low 2 pair on 5th for example and you are against what seems like a high pair then ofcourse you want to continue playing, especially since it seems you are going low.
However you want to stay away from situations in which there is a low hand as well and the high pair is aggressive. In this sitations the high pair will bet thinking he has the best high hand, the low will reraise and you need to call a lot of bets with a very fragile hand.
High pairs: High pair (other then A’s of course) is a tough hand to play in this game, because it is usually the best hand on 3rd but can be easily outdrawn by a low hand, especially if the low hand has an A, which is often the case.
There is no shame in dumping pocket K on 3rd.
If you plan to play high pocket pair you want to do it only in the following conditions:
1. Your pair is higher then any of the door cards left to act after you.
2. Your pair and the side card are very live
3. You will not be up vs multiple low hands, which means that if there are a lot of low cards behind you then you should fold.
Pocket pairs do not play well in multiway pots.
If you do play them you want to play them fast early. You best case of course is playing vs other high hand with a lower door card.
If you are playing vs a low hand and the low caught good on 4th and 5th you want to get out unless you made at least 2 pair, and even then you want to go into check/call mode.
3 suited cards: 3 suited cards are sometimes playable and sometimes not. I discussed three suited low earlier, 3 suited with an A is a nice hand to play if you suite and aces are live.
3 suited card without an A, I will play 2 low + high if the suite is live, and I will play 3 suited to a str8 if the suite and str8 are very live, I will not play 3 suited with 2 high and a low.
3 str8 high cards: Don’t play it
3 Broadway: Don’t play it
One Final note: 7 stud 8 or better is a high variance game, because pots tend to be very big in this game, and you should be able to absorb those swings. It is a fun and action packed game, hope this guide will help at least some newcomers into this game.