Draws, Board Texture, and Up Cards in Stud

written by: James

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To be quite honest, I am not sure how many times I have sat down to play 7-card Stud just to stare in amazement witnessing players calling and capping betting rounds when it is quite obvious that they have very little to draw to. Having very little to draw to typically results in being second best if not worst on 7th street. It is very odd to me why players would risk so much money in a game where they lack any sort of knowledge in terms of strategy or even the simplest of fundamentals.

One of the more important fundamentals in Stud that I feel many people lack is utilizing information such as other player's 'up' cards. Up cards can provide players with lots of information that they can use to determine the strength of their hand and whether or not it is worth chasing certain draws.

Provided below are some example hands that should show the importance in reading other player's up cards and how to go about using that information into determining what hands you play and how far you will go with them.

How to Play Draws - Read Board Texture in Stud

Before we get into a few of our examples, there are a few concepts that are important to understand first.

Dead Cards

Dead cards in Stud are cards that you need as out but notice that they are in the hands of your opponents. Dead cards will ultimately decrease the value of your hand since you have fewer chances to make your draws.

Alive Cards

Alive cards are the exact opposite of dead cards. These cards are assumed to be still available to you as outs since you cannot seem them in anyone's up cards.

Example 1

• Your Hand: 3h-3s-[3c]-Ks | Opponent 1 Hand: x-x-[Kd]-3d

As you can see, we had an excellent starting hand with our 'rolled-up' trips but what needs to be in the back of your mind when you hit a three of a kind is that you want to cement the win by hitting your case card or by filling up on one of the later streets.

The issue here is that a few of your outs are dead. Your opponent has the case 3 and has one of the 3 remaining kings. This is also combined with the fact that you can go as far as assuming that Opponent 1 is on a K high flush draw as well meaning that you are drawing pretty slim.

Now, let's say 5th street came.

• Your Hand: 3h-3s-[3c]-Ks-Qs | Opponent 1 Hand: x-x-[Kd]-3d-2s

From here, one could assume that your hand is in the lead and quite possible it will stay that way. It is very unlikely that your opponent has anything better than a pair, two pair at the very best.

Let's look at 6th street, the last up card.

• Your Hand: 3h-3s-[3c]-Ks-Qs-As | Opponent 1 Hand: x-x-[Kd]-3d-2s-Qd

At this point, you have trips and a nut flush draw. Depending on the action that may have taken place it is odd that your opponent is even still in this hand. However, it is possible that he hit a flush draw. But I wouldn't let that deter you from playing your hand aggressively as you have 8 outs that you are aware of for a nut flush and 10 outs to a boat. This is hand should undoubtedly be yours.

Example 2

• Your Hand: Ad-Kh-[Ks] | Opponent 1 Hand: x-x-[As] | Opponent 2 Hand: x-x-[Kc]

In this situation here, you are pretty much caught between a rock and a hard place. You do have a pair of kings which is a great starting hand but most pairs do not hold up at showdown. So it is very important that you improve here.

However, improving here will be slightly difficult as you have very few outs and almost nothing to draw to. It is very unlikely that you will catch the case king and unless you do, it is very possible that you are beaten even before going to fourth street by Opponent 1 having an ace. 

Let's look at one more card and see how we improve.

• Your Hand: Ad-Kh-[Ks]-8c | Opponent 1 Hand: x-x-[As]-Ac | Opponent 2 Hand: x-x-[Kc]-10c

4th street was not very good to us. Opponent 1 has obviously pair his aces putting him ahead of our kings and Opponent 2 has shown signs up a straight and flush draw. As hard as this may be, this is a fold.

In my opinion, many players just do not want to believe that it is possible to have their hand beaten. In situations like what I outlined above, I'll see players chase until 7th street only to show that they had a pair of kings that was obviously beaten by aces. Sometimes they had a draw and other times they may have made two pair, but most times these will not hold up because your opponent is drawing as well and can easily make a better two pair or a draw of some kind. It is imperative that players learn how to fold when it is pretty clear that they are beat.

Example 3

• Your Hand: 9h-Jh-[10h] | Opponent 1: x-x-[Qh] | Opponent 2: x-x-[8h]

In our last example, I wanted to really drive home the importance of paying attention to up cards and using them to determine how far your should go in drawing to your hand.

As you can see, we have a nice opportunity here for a straight and maybe even a backdoor flush draw. At the same time, we have several outs right of the bat that are gone. We are already missing 2 outs out of 9 potential flush cards and 2 outs that are missing for a straight. While this seems like a great hand, it is already decreased in value.

Another thing to consider is what hole cards do your opponents have? For example, Opponent 2 has an 8 in the door. Would he really play with 8 high? No, probably not, he probably has a hidden pair or even a pair of 8's. If he had a pair of 8's, that is another out that is dead to you. Of course, you cannot assume you have more dead outs than you can see, but it is still something that you want to keep in the back of your mind when determining the strength of your own hand or draw.

Let's look at one more street.

• Your Hand: 9h-Jh-[10h]-Kd | Opponent 1: x-x-[Qh]-Qd | Opponent 2: x-x-[8h]-7h

Now, you have a very tempting draw. Any queen will give you a king high straight which very well can be the best hand at showdown. But as good as it looks, this hand is at the point where you need to consider letting it go.

The reason behind that is that Opponent 1 has 2 of your 4 needed queens. It is very unlikely that you will catch one of the two other queens on 5th, 6th or 7th street. Sure, it is possible but that is where most people lose a bunch of money, chasing draws where they have slim odds to hit. Many players would call any kind of bet in hopes to catch their gut-shot straight draw and most times, they will miss.

Another issue is that if you manage to catch an 8 on 5th street, you are missing most of your queens and now missing a 7 for a jack high straight.

Lastly, if there were any chances of a backdoor flush draw they are fading fast since you have 3 hearts and your opponents have 3 of the remaining 9. So there are only 6 more hearts for you to catch and you would have to catch 2 of them out of your next 3 cards.

Anyway, the bottom line here is that you are drawing pretty slim to any kind of hand whatsoever and it may be better to find another spot to invest in.

Draws - Players Up Cards in 7-Card Stud

I do realize that these 3 examples may be a bit exaggerated and that the outcome or decisions made may also vary depending on the betting that happens. But the point I wanted players to get out of this is that it is of the utmost importance to analyze an opponent's up cards and use those to help determine how strong your hand really is and from there decide whether to move on in the hand or wait for a better spot and fold. Being able to do this will ultimately separate the losing players from the winning players in 7-card Stud.