"Each success only buys an admission ticket to a more difficult problem." - Henry Kissinger
On fourth street a stud hand begins to clarify itself. If you've started with a strong hand and you've improved, you're almost certainly in for the long run. On the other hand, if you started with trash (say you had the bring-in) and you haven't improved, you are almost certain to fold.
You had the bring-in with (7Q)2, and on fourth street picked up the 3 to give you a three-flush. Three other players saw fourth street; they now show 8J, K9, and 7T. The K9 bets and you're next to act. What should you do?
Fold. Who knows what you're up against - certainly, someone can beat your pair of deuces. Perhaps the K9 is also going for a spade draw. It doesn't matter - you're trailing on the hand. Even if you make two pair you are likely going to be trailing. Save your money for a better hand.
Assume you had the same hand, but instead of catching the 3 you caught the Q giving you a pair of Queens. Again, the K9 bets. Should you call or raise?
This is a much different situation. Your pair of Queens could be the best hand (if you are still in the hand on fourth street no one completed the action). No hand looks that threatening - I would raise and hope to knock out some of the draws. You will represent your actual hand. Of course, should the K9 have a pair of Kings you'll be trailing, but I think it's a worthwhile play.
Now, what if you catch the 7 on fourth street to give you a pair of sevens? Should you continue with the hand?
I probably would fold. You're probably trailing, and you have to ask yourself what the 7T has. If he also has a pair of sevens you're in a bad situation. Calling isn't that bad of a play but you still need to catch another high pair to win the pot. If you caught another deuce it's a clear fold.
Several different things can happen to your strong hands on fourth street. Your hand can improve, your draw(s) can improve, your draws may not catch on fourth street, and your hand could get weaker. We'll look at all of these cases.
1. A Strong Hand that Improves.
Assume you started with (A7)A, your cards are live, and you're up against three opponents: K, 2, J. On third street the 2 had the bring-in, you completed the bet, with the other players calling. On fourth street you catch the 7, the K gets the 8, the 2 catches the 9 and the J catches the 3. What should you do?
Your two pair is probably the best hand. (Yes, someone can be rolled up; when that happens you're going to lose a lot of chips unless you get a good read on that player.) In low limit poker you should bet your good hands and check (or fold) your weak hands most of the time. Bet - why let the drawers catch up?
2. A Strong Hand that doesn't Improve.
Assume the same hands and that the third street action is the same. However, while your opponents catch the same cards you didn't make two pair; instead, you caught the 4. What should you do? Your pair of aces is still likely the best hand. Bet.
However, assume that the J catches the J instead of the 3. Your lone pair of aces may now be trailing three Jacks. An important point to remember is that when an opponent pairs his door card (the up-card on third street), his most likely hand is three of a kind! Be wary.
An Interlude: The Double Bet on Fourth Street.
On fourth street if a pair is showing a player may bet at either the lower betting level or the higher betting level. Assume you're playing $5/$10 limit 7 card stud and there's an open pair. That player can check, bet $5 or bet $10. If he bets the lower limit you can raise either the lower limit or the higher limit. So the next player can make it $10 or $15. Once there is a bet at the higher betting limits all other raises must be at the higher limit. Almost all of the time when an open pair is showing I will bet (or raise) the higher limit.
Returning to the example hand, the pair of Jacks might have been going after a flush draw and caught a pair. If that's the case you're ahead on the hand. Given that if you make two pair you're likely to be a winner you should probably raise to limit the field. Even if everyone catches well and you don't I'd probably continue to fifth street with your pair of Aces - it's too good of a hand (although I'd probably just call the bet(s)).
3. Three Flushes/Straights that Don't Improve
Assume you started with (7K)T and only one other diamond was out. Your three remaining opponents show the 8, A (he completed the bet) and the T. You catch a brick, the 4, while the 8 picks up the 8, the A gets the J and the T picks up the J. The pair of 8's bets the maximum, the AJ raises, the JT calls and it's your turn to act. What do you do?
The very first advice I got playing poker was that if you have a three-flush or three-straight and you don't improve on fourth street, fold. Its still good advice today.
4. A Four Flush
Suppose the hands and actions are the same as in (3) above except that you pick up the 4 instead of the 4. What a difference a card makes - you're likely to stay for the entire hand (unless you believe someone's made a higher flush, a full house, etc.). You're probably going to be doing a bunch of calling so that the pot can be large when you make your flush.
5. Four to a Straight
As I mentioned in Lesson 4, I dislike straight draws in stud. However, assume you played (JQ)K and your opponents' hands (and fourth street cards) are as in (3) above. Assume you pick up the T. The betting is also the same as (3) above, so that you're facing a maximum bet and raise when it's your turn to act. What do you do?
There are no nines out; however, one Ace is out and it is likely that two are gone. Thus, you have six outs to make the straight. Even if you make the straight you can be beat (by a flush or full house). I would call with your hand - if you make the straight you will have deceptive value (a nine will not look like a straight). But I would be very wary. However, if, say, three nines were out it would be a clear fold. You would have at most four cards to make the straight (and probably just three). Given that the odds would not be with you, why continue with the hand?
Hopefully these examples have given you a flavor for fourth street. In the next lesson we'll look at fifth street when we have to consider scary boards (both good and bad).