Anyone who has ever set foot into a casino has heard of the “stud poker.” This is a term used for numerous variations of poker in which players get a combination of up-cards and face-down cards.
Up-cards are those which can be seen. Cards that are dealt face down are the hole cards. These are the cards that players reveal during the showdown after all betting rounds are over. As you can imagine, hole cards have a huge impact on game strategy.
And that’s precisely where the charm of “stud” poker comes from. The combination of hole cards and face-up cards adds another layer of depth to the gameplay. First, depending on the number of competitors playing and their visible cards, you can statistically determine the odds of getting a specific card.
Secondly, it’s slightly easier to catch someone bluffing in a stud poker variant. Say, for instance, that your hole card is a Jack. You see three other face-up Jacks on the table. If someone is bluffing a straight, you can know for certain that they can’t possibly have the Jack, since all four are visible.
There are various “stud poker” games, with varying rules, betting rounds, and strategies. However, one of the major differences between studs and regular 5-card draw poker is that the rounds don’t progress clockwise. Instead, the player who acts first is determined according to the value of their face-up card/cards.
The stud poker was first known as “stud horse poker.” The term originated in the times of the Civil War and it is followed by the anecdote that occurred in a saloon somewhere in Ohio.
The story goes something like this. While playing draw poker, one war veteran got the three kings in his hand. Since he had put all of his money on the table, he left the saloon to return with a stallion which would be the additional betting collateral.
However, it didn’t take him long to realize that the remaining players had probably looked at his cards while he was gone. That was why he requested that each player turn their three cards face-up, lose two of them, and draw other two face-down. Under these new conditions, his “stud” became part of the betting. Whether he lost the horse or not stays the mystery.
Variants of stud games became very popular in the time of the American Revolutionary War. Then, during the American Civil War soldiers on both fronts started playing Five-Card Stud.
Not long after that, Seven-Card Stud rose to fame and took the place of Five-Card Stud.
Like many other forms of poker, Seven-Card Stud was created in the late 1800s. It originated somewhere in the Midwest, and it was most popular among the military.
In the 1900s, the popularity of Seven-Card Stud grew, making it the game of choice for most Americans. It was a dominant form in most of the casinos until the 1980s, when Texas Hold’em appeared. The older generation of gamblers, however, stayed faithful to their ways.
Together with Five-Card Stud, Seven-Card Stud formed the basis for the other stud poker games. At the beginning of the 20th century, another version of stud gained popularity. It is known as Razz or Seven-Card Stud Low. The other variants emerged after that.
As mentioned, Five-Card Stud is the oldest form of stud poker. Before the actual game begins, the participants place an ante. The first betting round begins with all players getting one hole card and one face-up card.
The player with the highest-value card begins the betting, and after that, another face-up card is dealt. By the end of the fourth betting round, each player will have five cards to make the hand and the one with the best hand will carry the pot home.
In Seven-Card Stud, each player initially receives three cards, two hidden hole cards, and one face-up. The first round of betting starts with the player who’s got the face-up card with the weakest value paying the bring-in. The betting continues clockwise, and the bring-in is considered open, meaning that other players cannot check; they can only call, fold, or raise.
In the event that two players have identical low-value card, the suits are used to “break the tie.” The suits are ranked in a reversed alphabetical order — spades, hearts, diamonds, and clubs. So for example, the ace of clubs will rank lower than the ace of diamonds.
After the first betting round, the dealer deals an additional face-up card to each player. For this and all subsequent betting rounds, the first player to act is the one with the highest cards.
In the final betting round, all players still in the game receive an additional face-down card. Since the hole cards do not impact the strength of the shown hands, the player who acted first in the last betting round goes first again.
Finally, during the showdown, all hole cards are revealed. The gambler with the best five-card hand out of the seven cards at their disposal wins the pot.
As mentioned, Razz is the polar opposite of the Seven-Card Stud. In this version of stud poker, the lowest hand wins the pot rather than the highest one. Therefore, the goal of Razz is to make the weakest possible 5-card hand out of the seven cards you receive.
For the purposes of this game, Ace always counts as 1 instead of 11 and is therefore the lowest value card. Following that logic, the best hand one could make in Razz is 5-4-3-2-A. This hand is known among Razz players as “Five high.” The slang for this hand you’ll often hear on the casino floor is “the wheel” or “the bicycle.”
High-Low Stud is a version of Seven-Card Stud, where the pot is split between the player who has the strongest hand and the one with the weakest. The game begins with all players paying the ante, which may differ from table to table.
The Hi-Lo stud begins on the third street. Each player is dealt three cards — two hole cards and one visible to everyone. The player with the lowest value card pays the bring-in and starts the action. Like in many other variants, betting continues clockwise until everyone gets a chance to act.
The game proceeds like the regular 7-card stud and the final card is dealt face-down. In the final round, the participating players end up with 4 exposed and three face-down cards. Now, the trick with hi-low is that the pot is split. So you have to account for both possibilities – players making up either the highest or the lowest ranked hand with their remaining three hole cards.
That said, the low hands must meet a specific requirement to qualify for splitting the pot. The most common rule is “eight or better.” This signifies that a qualifying low hand must consist of five unpaired cards, all of which are 8’s or lower. If no low hand meets these requirements, the highest ranked hand scoops up the entire pot.
The same rules apply to another variation of the high-low split known as the Stud Eight. The one difference is that there are no requirements for the qualifying low hand.
Mexican stud, Mexican poker, or Stud Loco is the variation of the Five Stud Poker in which each gambler initially gets two cards. The twist comes from the fact that players themselves choose which one to reveal and which one to keep hidden.
Moreover, the decision is anything but easy; the reason being that the card the players choose to keep hidden acts as the “wild card.” The game employs the standard stud betting structure, and there are a total of five streets. By the time for the showdown, each gambler will have four face-up cards and one wild card.
This is where the wild card comes into play. Both the hole card, as well as all exposed cards of identical value the player holds are wilds. This opens up opportunities for rather interesting hand combinations and makes it rather difficult for players to determine what their opponents are going for.
For instance, if a player gets dealt two nines at the start of the game, the worst possible hand they can end up with is three-of-a-kind (two wilds, plus any other card). Like in all studs, the best hand wins. However, since the game includes wilds, one could technically get the famed five of a kind hand in Mexican Stud!
In Caribbean Stud Poker the players are trying to beat the house. Apart from the ante, Caribbean Stud players have the option of making an additional $1 progressive side bet.
Another major distinction between the Caribbean and other variations of stud poker is that players get all five cards before wagering. All player cards are hidden, with the dealer exposing one of their five cards.
Players then have the option to either fold or raise. If a player chooses to raise, they must bet exactly twice the amount of the ante. After the betting, all cards are revealed. However, the outcome isn’t as simple as comparing your hand with the dealer’s.
In fact, there are quite a few rules the dealer’s hand must meet in order to qualify in the first place. First, they must have A+K among their five cards or higher (at least a pair) to even compete against the players.
Otherwise, every player who hasn’t folded automatically wins. Players will receive double the ante, while the raise will push. If the dealer qualifies and loses to a player, the player will win double the ante plus the amount of money according to the paytable.
The paytable may vary, but it’s typically printed on the tablecloth. For instance, in the U.S. variant of the Caribbean Stud, beating the dealer with a Royal Flush will award you with 100 times your side bet.
What is the “Stud” in Poker?
Looking through all of the stud poker variants, you might see the threads that connect all of them. As mentioned earlier, all of the stud poker versions have some combination of up-cards and down-cards.
The other thing that links them is the fact that participants will not get all the cards when the game begins. In most of the versions, gamblers receive one up-card after each round of betting and win the pot with the best hand of five cards.
Exception from this is the Carribean Stud, in which you get all five cards before the first betting round. That is why some don’t consider this game to be a stud.
So the stud is a rich collection of poker games that may vary in the number of cards and betting rounds. Their rules differ from one to the other, but all of them can bring gain if you know how to play your cards right.