A poker variant.

The Ante:
The game is usually played with an ante. At small limit games (usually $1-$5 spread limit) in a casino you'll find that there is no ante and only a bring-in is used to stimulate action. Most home games and higher limit games at the casino require an ante from each player before the cards are dealt.

The Deal:
Each player initially receives two cards face down, called hole cards, and one card face up. These are dealt clockwise one card at a time starting with the player immediately to the left of the dealer.

The bring-in:
In most games (especially at a casino), an additional bring-in bet is required of the player showing (face-up) the card with the lowest rank. (2 being lowest and ace highest). If two or more players have the same card then the one with the lowest suit is required to make the bring-in bet. (suit rank is the same as in Contract Bridge, from lowest to highest: clubs, diamonds, hearts, spades).

The action:
If there is a bring-in bet then the action starts with the player to left of that player. If there is not a bring-in then the action starts with the player with the highest ranking card exposed. The action proceeds clockwise around the table with each player having an opportunity to check (only if there has not been a bet or bring-in), call, raise, or fold. The action continues around the table clockwise until every player has either called all the bets and raises or folded their hands.

Continuing the deal and action:
Each player receives a fourth card card and a betting round ensues. The fifth and sixth cards proceed in the same manner with betting rounds after each. The seventh card is deal face down after which the final betting round begins. These betting rounds are often called "fourth street", "fifth street", etc..

Awarding the pot:
After the final betting round is completed the players expose all their cards (the "showdown"). The hand with the highest value claims the pot. Most casinos have a rule that says the player who made the last best or raise must expose his hand first, which gives the others involved in the hand an opportunity to muck their hands without showing them if they can't win. Other casinos just make the player immediately to the left of the deal expose their hand first. If two or more hands have the exact same value then all the tied hands receive equal shares of the pot.

Other variations of Seven Card Stud:

Commonly found in a casino:

Usually found only in home games:

(From Hoyle's Rules of Games, Third Revised & Updated Edition)

Desired Hand                 Holding         Odds Against
Full House or better  Three of a kind               1½ to 1
                        "  plus two odd cards        2 to 1
                        "  plus three odd cards      4 to 1
                      One pair plus one odd card    13 to 1
                      One pair plus two odd cards   19 to 1
                      One pair plus three odd cards 39 to 1
                      Two pairs                      4 to 1
                        "  plus one odd card         4 to 1
                        "  plus two odd cards       10 to 1
Flush                 Three of a suit               3½ to 1
                        "  plus one odd card         9 to 1
                        "  plus two odd cards       23 to 1
                      Four of a suit                1¼ to 1
                        "  plus one odd card        1¾ to 1
                        "  plus two odd cards       4¼ to 1
Straight              J 10 9                        4¼ to 1
                      J 10 9 2                       8 to 1
                      J 10 9 3 2                    20 to 1
                      J 10 9 8                   1 1/3 to 1
                      J 10 9 8 2                    2¼ to 1
                      J 10 9 7                      2¾ to 1
                      J 10 9 7 2                    4½ to 1
                      J 10 9 7 3 2                  10 to 1
                      K Q J                         6¾ to 1
                      K Q J 2                       12 to 1

What do all these numbers mean to you, the ordinary guy or gal who engages in the occasional friendly poker game with your friends? Well, the cardinal rule of poker is to compare the ratio of the pot to the bet, to what you think your odds of winning the hand are. On the other hand, you are probably not going to be doing extensive, accurate calculations when it comes time to either toss in some chips or toss in your cards. Looking at the odds, however, some general observations arise.

The first: Three clubs and a heart is not a flush. Three clubs and a heart is a longshot to become a flush. Unless you have a pair that beats any hand showing, or unless the pot is nine times the current bet, you'd best fold.

2: On the other hand, four of a suit has a lovely chance of becoming a flush, even if you get just one more card. Before you bet your shirt on that last card being a heart, though, make sure it looks like no one else is going to get a flush or full house, and that you don't bet more than a fourth of the amount in the pot.

3: A similar logic applies to straights, although they are a little less likely to be the winning hand. A sequence of three and a junk card isn't so bad, but don't bet a lot on it. A sequence of four is rather good, but keep in mind how many available cards will make it into a straight. An inside straight (J 10 9 7 on the chart) seems like a good bet if you have three cards coming to you, but its odds are much worse than a sequence of four.

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