5 Card Stud Poker Basics
5 Card Stud Poker is played with a standard pack of 52 cards and there can be anything from two up to eight players around a table. The aim of a hand is very simple, players are dealt up to five cards and must present the best hand possible using them.
There are no community cards involved in the game, so players can only make use of those cards that are dealt to them. At the end of a round, the player with the highest-ranking hand will take the entire pot.
The game is nearly always played in a Fixed Limit format. This means that at every stage of a hand, the amount that players may bet or raise is fixed. For example, in a €1/€2 game, in the first two betting rounds the bets must be raised increments at the low end of the stakes, i.e. €1, so the bet starts at €1, is raised to €2, re-raised to €3, and so on. From the second betting round onwards, the bets are raised in increments of the high end stakes of €2, i.e. bet €2, raise to €4, re-raise to €6, and so on.
How to Play 5 Card Stud Poker
As is standard in poker games, 5 Card Stud Poker makes use of a button to show who the theoretical dealer is at the start of each hand. This is important as it denotes the order that the cards are dealt. The player to the immediate left of the dealer receives the first card and therefore, those interested in positional tactics will want to be aware of this. With each hand, the button is moved one player to the left, so that players’ positions changes with each hand and no one is given an unfair advantage.
At the start of a hand, all players must place the Ante bet. This is very small, but it ensures that there will always be money in the pot to play for. You will find that the Ante bet varies from games to game, but typically it will be between 10% and 25% of the game’ low-end stakes. This means that in a €1/€2 game, the Ante will be between €0.10 and €0.25.
After the Ante bets have been placed, players are dealt two cards each, one face down and one face up. The face up card is called the “door card” and it determines who begins the betting round. The player with the lowest value door card then places the Bring In bet. Normally the Bring In bet is set at half of the game’s low-end stakes, therefore, in a €1/€2 game it would be €0.50.
Once the Bring In bet has been placed, the first betting round begins. It starts with the player to the immediate left of the Bring In player. Players have a number of options available to them:
- Call: If a player has already placed a bet, then it can be Called by placing a bet of the same size. In the first betting round, the Call bet is likely to be the same as the Bring In bet, unless another player has already Raised.
- Raise: You can increase the bet, or Raise it, by placing a Call bet and then a second additional bet of an equal amount. As explained, in a Fixed Limit game, the Raises are set at the low-end stake level in the first betting round and the high-end stake level in the remaining rounds.
- Fold: A player may fold and abandon their hand without placing any more bets. When folding, all cards should be kept face down so that the other players cannot see them.
When the betting returns to the Bring In player, that player may then Call the current bet by adding enough chips to the Bring In bet to equal the full amount, or they may Raise the bet. The betting round then continues until all players have bet the same amount.
Once the first betting round is over, players receive a third face up card, known as the Third Street. It is followed by another betting round that is begun by the player showing the highest value card. From this point, all bets are made in increments of the upper betting limit. Players have the same options as in the previous two rounds, with two more:
- Check: If no bets have yet been placed, players may remain in the hand without placing a bet and Checking. However, if a later player in the hand chooses to place a Bet, then all players who have Checked must match it or fold.
- Bet: The first person to place chips into the pot in a betting round is placing a bet.
Once again, betting continues until all players have placed equal bets or folded.
The game then continues with the fourth and fifth streets. Each of the three cards are dealt individually and there is a betting round after each.
- Fourth Street: Each player is dealt a fourth face up card that is followed by a round of betting that was the same as the last.
- Fifth Street: Each player is dealt a fifth face up card and another betting round takes place.
At this point, each player remaining in the hand should have one face down card and four face up cards. However, in order to make things more exciting, very often you will find games where the Fifth Street is dealt face down, so players have three cards showing and two hole cards.
If there are at least two players remaining in the hand then the Showdown begins. If at any point prior to this just one player remains in the hand (as everyone else has folded), then that player wins the entire pot without having to reveal any cards.
In the showdown, each remaining player reveals his/her cards and the hands are compared. The player with the best five-card hand wins the entire pot. If two or more players have the exact same winning hand, then the winners will split the pot. If the suit is applicable, such as in the case of a Flush, then the highest suit rank will win (suits are ranked alphabetically from Clubs to Spades).
5 Card Stud Poker Hand Rankings
It will not take you long to learn the rules of 5 Card Stud Poker. However, to play successfully, you need to be able to interpret the cards quickly and accurately. This means that you need to have a sense of what hand you may be headed towards from the moment you are dealt your first two cards. To begin with, this means that you need to be highly familiar with the standard poker hand rankings. From strongest to weakest they are as follows:
- Royal Flush – This is the strongest hand possible and it contains the cards 10, J, Q, K and A all from the same suit.
- Straight Flush – This is five cards in numerical order from the same suit; for example, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 of Clubs.
- Four of a Kind – This is a hand that contains four cards of same value, such as 3 Diamonds, 3 Clubs, 3 Spades, 3 Hearts.
- Full House – This is a hand that contains three of a kind together with a pair, for example, three 5s and two Jacks, the suit is irrelevant.
- Flush – This is a hand of five cards all from the same suit, for example, 4, 6, 8, 9 and Queen of Spades.
- Straight – This is five cards in numerical order, the suit is not important. For example, 4 Diamonds, 5 Clubs, 6 Hearts, 7 Spades, and 8 Diamonds.
- Three of a Kind – This is three cards of the same value and two unrelated cards. For example, 7 Clubs, 7 Diamonds, 7 Spades, 2 Spades and King Hearts.
- Two Pair – This is a hand that contains two individual pairs of cards and one unrelated card. For example, 6 Spades, 6 Hearts, 9 Diamonds, 9 Spades, 2 Hearts.
- Pair – This is a hand that contains two matching cards and three unrelated cards. For example, Jack Spades, Jack Clubs, 4 Diamonds, 6 Clubs, 8 Hearts.
- High Card – If a hand does not contain any of the above, then it is judged according to the highest value card in it.
Basic 5 Card Stud Poker Strategies
5 Card Stud Poker has far easier strategy than many other forms of the game. This is because you can see the vast majority of your opponents’ cards. For example, if you see that your opponents have pairs or better and you do not have an equal or better hand, then you know to fold as soon as possible and not waste any chips.
However, having one hidden card does allow for bluffing. For instance, if your hand appears strong but your facedown card does not complete a strong hand, then you could bet aggressively to make your opponents think that it does. This may force them all to fold so that you win the pot.
There is of course far more to this game’s strategy, but these are two excellent starting points and you will be able to develop further strategies as you become more familiar with the game.