The basic concept of Stud Poker games is that each player has a certain number of cards face-down and a certain number face-up. The face-down cards (or “cards in the hole”) are cards that only each player can see. The face-up cards, however, are the ones that all players at the table can see in each other player’s hand. In typical seven-card stud, each player by the end of the game has three cards face-down that nobody can see, and four cards face-up that the whole table to see. In typical five-card stud, each player has one card face-down and four cards face-up by the end of the game.
Stud poker games are normally played with either five or seven cards. In typical Seven Card Stud, as mentioned above, the cards in each player’s hand end up being two face-down, four face-up, and one face-down. In typical Five Card Stud, the cards in each player’s hand end up being one face-down, and four face-up. Of course, variations are endless.
It is rare that the dealer calls a wild card flat-out. “Kings are wild”, for example, would mean that if a player is dealt a King face-up, everybody can see it and be discouraged by it. Stipulations are almost always involved. For example, “Kings are wild if you get one dealt face-down” or otherwise said, “Kings are wild in the hole”. Common exceptions are Kings and Little Ones and Follow the Queen. Other stipulations could involve a player’s lowest card dealt face-down is wild, in which case if a player’s lowest card in the hole is a Three, and he also has a Three among his face-up cards, both Threes are wild. Again, it is best when a player’s wild cards require that they be face-down. That way, nobody knows who has a wild card in their hand until all is said and done.
High / Low
This is very common in Stud poker games. At the end of a High/Low game, the pot is split between the player with the best hand at the table and the player with the worst hand. This is a feature that can be added to just about any Stud poker games, in addition to a game’s other rules. It encourages more players to stay in the game longer, although the pot gets split two ways. Players also have the option of calling “pig”, that is presenting two different five card hands with their seven cards to attempt to win both High and Low. A player calling “pig” must have both the High and the Low or wins nothing; if, for example, a player wins the Low, but not the High, then that player wins nothing and the next best Low hand wins that half of the pot. The player who calls “pig” and wins both wins the entire pot.
The lowest hand at the table wins the pot. Depending on the House Rule where you’re playing, the perfect low hand varies. Some tables play that Straights and Flushes count against you (with the logic that a Straight or a Flush is a good regular poker hand, and therefore, a bad Lowball hand), other tables play that Aces cannot be low, while still other tables play that Straights and Flushes do not count against you, and Aces can be low. This would need to be established before the deal, either by the dealer or prevalent House Rule. If Straights do not count against you, then the perfect low would be a A-2-3-4-5. If Straights do count against you and Aces can be low, then the perfect low would be an A-2-3-4-6. If Straights do count against you and Aces cannot be low, then you’re playing a game called Kansas City Lowball, and the perfect low would be a 2-3-4-5-7. It is found that the most common form of Lowball involves the A-2-3-4-6 as the best low hand.
New York Stud
This variation, which can be added to any Stud poker games, adds the stipulation that an outside straight beats a pair. An outside straight being four of a player’s cards in numerical sequence, or four cards to a straight, this stipulation adds a new rank to the what-beats-what table. The outside straight beats a Pair, but loses to Two Pair. If, through the course of the game, a player has the outside straight showing face-up, that player bets over one who only has a pair showing.
This variation plays just like New York Stud, on top of which a fourflush beats an outside straight. A fourflush being four of a player’s cards of the same suit, or four cards to a flush, this stipulation adds two new ranks to the what-beats-what table. The outside straight beats a Pair, the fourflush beats an outside straight, but Two Pair beats a fourflush. A player with a fourflush showing bets over a player with an outside straight showing, who bets over a player with a Pair showing. Note: four cards to a Straight Flush is no better than a fourflush; in fact, it is nothing more than a fourflush.
This variation can also be added to any Stud game. To play Spanish poker, all of the Twos, Threes, Fours, Fives, and Sixes are removed from the deck. This is a total of 20 cards removed, leaving 32 cards that are played. Spanish five-card stud poker could be played at six people, but Spanish seven-card stud poker could be played by no more than four players, if only one deck is used.
Bet or Drop
This variation can also be added to any Stud game. The stipulation that it adds is that the player who opens the betting round by having the best hand showing, must open with at least the table’s minimum bet or fold. The option to ‘check’ or ‘pass’ is removed, as that player is required to open with at least a minimum bet. Typically, the dealer will announce a slight increase in the table’s minimum bet for purposes of this variation.
Also called Showdown, a less popular variation where ante is significantly higher, as there are no betting rounds. All cards are dealt face-up in sequence. The best hand wins. Typically used, on top of winning a set pot, to determine the first dealer of the night, or as a final quick game.