Seven card stud is still a very popular poker game, both in brick and mortar (B&M;) casinos and online cardrooms. To be able to beat this game against strong opponents, one has to take into account many things, such as the number of players and the ante.
In the lowest limits in B&M; casinos, there is usually no ante in the game; the lowest card brings it in with a small forced bet. This means that there is very little money in the pot, which should induce you to play tightly. At higher stakes games, the land-based casinos will introduce an ante, a token bet from every player before the hand is even dealt. This means that there is more money for which to fight, which will call for looser play.
In the online world, almost all seven card stud games have an ante. This is very good because it makes the game more enjoyable and easier to beat. With more money in the pot to start, you have to play a little looser than if there were no ante; however, you should still play tighter than most of your opponents.
The usual ante in the lower-end games is 10% of the lower betting limit (this is not true for the smallest games). When the betting limits climb so does this percentage, up to 25% or so. These higher percentage antes actually change the nature of the game. The proportionally larger pot makes it worthwhile to come in strong in an attempt to "steal" the antes.
The Number of Players
You should play more aggressively when there are fewer opponents. This is true for all forms of poker, but especially in any form of “open poker” like seven stud. A scary-looking board card will allow you to run over your opponents and help you steal a pot you otherwise would not have won.
Play the Board, Not Your Actual Cards
For example, say you have AK9T78 (underlined cards are your hole-cards). You have nothing- only an open-ended straight. However, in a short game, bet! You are representing a made hand, a straight, and it will be very difficult for your opponents to call you down with a lesser hand.
Another example is when you are fortunate to have JJJ292, a hidden full house on sixth street. Maybe you are even high on the board with your pair of deuces. If you have not played this hand too strongly so far, go for the check-raise!
Although you may think that there is no such thing as position in seven card stud, generally speaking, you want to sit close to the left of overly aggressive players (aka maniacs).This way, you will be able to see what the aggressive player does before it is your turn, and you will be able to re-raise and isolate the maniac in a pot.
Three of a kind is the best opening hand in seven stud. Trips can often win without improvement, and they leave you great flexibility in your betting on the coming streets.
Common wisdom tells us to play the trips slowly, but this is not the case when you are against unskilled opponents. An unskilled player will call you down all the way, so bet and protect your hand. Against skilled opponents, a little more deception is necessary, so you should often play your low trips slowly. If you have 888 and start to bet heavily against many overcards, skilled opponents will put you on a big, big hand. Check or call as necessary, until you're on the high streets (5-7th) where you can drag more money into the pot. On the other hand, if you have AAA or KKK, start firing those chips!
When holding a set of "scare cards" (aces or kings), or highest door card, keep in mind that everyone is expecting you to raise, so if you don't they're going to wonder what you are up to.
Third and Fifth Street
With the way the game is structured, there are two decision points that matter the most. The first one is on third street, where you make your decision of calling, folding or raising to play the pot. The next critical decision is on the fifth street, where the betting level typically doubles. Should you continue to play the hand? Very seldom should you call on third street and fold to a small bet on fourth street. The only time you should consider this is if your opponent pairs his door-card (i.e XX99) and you have a smaller pair yourself.
When you are aware of these two key decision points, you also know that your opponents are more likely to call a bet on fourth street. If you are stealing or bluffing, you may not want to bet on the fourth street, so that the pot remains fairly small. That way you can fire a double-sized bet on fifth street, which put your opponents at a tough decision. For them, since the pot not too big, it would be incorrect for them to chase.
Paying attention is key at seven card stud. Often, new players just call along, hoping to hit a good hand. They don’t realize that most of their flush cards are out on the board, and they will even keep drawing to a flush or straight when someone has trips showing (hence, very likely to have a full house). Never play more than one game at a time when you play seven stud. You will need to memorize all those cards out there and make adjustments for every exposed card.
A major part of any winning player's strategy has to be card memory and card analysis. Studying what's on the table and its significance is critical in seven stud. Ask yourself:
Does it help or hurt my chances?
Does it help or hurt the receiving player's chances?
Does it help or hurt the other players’ chances?
When You Pair Your Doorcard:
DBet! The advice is as simple as that. Let’s just say that you started with a somewhat shaky holding, aiming for a straight, with 987. On forth street you catch another 7, making your board look like 9877. A good opponent will be leery to call you down. He may easily believe you have a set of sevens by now. If a bet on fourth street does not help, bet again on fifth street. Keep notes of players who keep calling you down and try to become best friends with them. They will slowly lose all their money to you!