McHaffie: MCU lesson 044 / Seven-card stud

Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published in Poker Player newspaper in 2005.

This is part of a series by Diane McHaffie. She wasn’t a poker player when she began writing this series. These entries chronicle the lessons given to her personally by Mike Caro. Included in her remarkable  poker-learning odyssey are additional comments, tips, and observations from Mike Caro.

Diane McHaffie index.

Diane McHaffie is Director of Operations at Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy. She has traveled the world coordinating events and seminars in the interest of honest poker. You can write her online at

Diane McHaffie

Lessons from MCU

— With bonus content by Mike Caro (pending) —

Lesson 44: Seven-card stud

For at least the last quarter century, the most common form of poker in America has been seven-card stud. We seem to have lost track of its heritage. It’s still popular in many cardrooms and homes, although hold ’em reins as a spectator sport.

Mike says not to ignore seven-card stud. I had the opportunity to read the manuscript for the new Doyle Brunson’s Super/System 2 before it even went to press. There’s an enlightening chapter on seven-card stud by Doyle’s son, Todd Brunson, who has become one of the most feared and knowledgeable players in the world.

One of his points comes into play after the starting hands are dealt and two players show an ace against you. Imagine you have a pair of kings. Todd explains that you should be more concerned about facing a pair of aces than if you only saw one ace among your opponents’ door cards. (A door card is the last one of your three starting cards in seven-stud. It’s dealt face up; the other two are face down and remain secret.)

A little shocked

Now, some players are going to be a little shocked, because they’ll reason that when you see two aces, there are only two left to create a pair. If you only see one ace, then there are three left, and instinctively it seems more likely you’d be up against a pair of aces. But that is wrong. Todd is right.

You see, with two players, there are four chances in the hole to provide the other ace. When you have four chances to catch one of two remaining aces, it’s more likely that you’ll face a pair of aces. When you only see one ace, there are only two chances in the hole to catch one of three remaining aces. And even though there’s an extra ace that could pair the exposed one, there are only two hole cards to worry about. That means you should be less worried. (Mike points out that opponents could still have a pair of aces buried and, in fact, are a little more likely to, when you only see one ace exposed.)

I asked Mike, “Is the reason you should be less worried because four chances times just two aces equals eight, but two chances times three aces equals six? He said that’s not precisely correct conceptually, but its close enough and gets the idea across.

Doubly important

Mike said, “In seven-card stud, when you start with a pair, it’s doubly important to consider the door cards of the players surrounding you.”

So, if you have a pair of jacks and see just one ace against you, that’s less scary than if you see two aces. Of course, it’s better if you see no aces, kings, or queens, because that makes it less likely that bigger pairs than yours exist or could easily be made.

You wouldn’t want to see another jack out there either, because that narrows your chance of catching three-of-a-kind. In the case of two jacks, the least scary would be to see all cards ranking 10 or lower. Remember, if two players have the same higher card, that often puts you in more immediate jeopardy than if only one does, even though both players are unhappy about seeing their rank in an opposing hand.

Mike says if you see an ace and king among the door cards, that’s even scarier than two aces, because now there are two players with unrestricted chances of having a pair bigger than yours. So, while seeing two aces is scarier than seeing one ace, seeing two high cards of different ranks is scarier still. There is one redeeming thing about being up against two aces: It’s much less likely that you’ll end up losing to three aces. So, if you get lucky and make three of a kind, you’re more likely to win.

All these considerations in seven-stud seem complex at first, but they’re important. We’ll talk more about seven stud in the future, whenever Mike gives me a lesson geared to it. I hope you found this topic as interesting as I did.  — DM

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