"Surely there comes a time when counting the cost and paying the price aren't things to think about any more. All that matters is value - the ultimate value of what one does." - James Hilton
The last up-card in seven-card stud comes on sixth street. Your board and those of your opponents are now defined. Perhaps you know you're trailing by a ton (or are far ahead) on the hand. Those situations will not be covered in this lesson: if you're trailing fold and if you're far ahead get some money into the pot! More important are the close decisions - this is where the winning player gets a good portion of his or her edge.
You have (JJ)K592 while your opponents hold (??)9A88 and (??)22KT. The pair of eights bets, the pair of deuces calls and you must act. Your board is quite scary (especially if you have been betting) - you may have a made flush. Yet your opponents appear unaffected by this. Why?
Of course, they may have made hands. Perhaps the pair of eights already has a full house and doesn't care that you might have a flush. Or maybe they have two pair and aren't even noticing your flush. In fact, at the low levels most players consider their own hand and discount other players' holdings: they are using level one thinking.
You, though, should use level two thinking (at least) and consider your opponents. If you believe that your opponents have two pair (or trips) you have, in this case, a drawing hand with outs: two jacks and eight spades (ignoring up-cards on third street and folded hands). Whether you should continue with the hand is discussed in pot odds (below). For now, I have not given you enough information to make the decision though I have mentioned the factors that you should consider.
Now, let's reverse the hands. Suppose you hold (K9)K7Q7 while your opponent holds (??)T987. You have been betting throughout, and you believe your opponent has a buried pair. Your opponent's face grimaced when the 7 hit. Obviously, if your opponent has buried Jacks (or tens, nines or eights) you're in deep trouble. Assume, though, that he has buried Queens. He has ten outs on seventh street (two Queens, four Jacks and four sixes, ignoring folded hands). The last two times you've been in this situation (having a winning hand on sixth street but your opponent holding a draw) your opponent has made his hand so you're scared. You must bet and make your opponent pay to make his hand! He may or may not have the right price (of course, it's better if he doesn't) but you will, in this situation, win the pot more times than not so betting is clearly correct. That you have been rivered in the past is irrelevant: if you get your money in when you hold the best of it (and avoid doing the opposite) you are well on your way to being a winning player.
Suppose you hold (K9)K7Q7 while your opponent holds (?A)5342 (your opponent flashed the A for all at the table to see). You are playing in a $5/$10 limit stud game and there is $65 in the pot. You checked, of course, and your opponent bet his straight. Should you call? Assume that the remaining Kings and sevens are live and that 11 other up-cards have been folded.
You have four outs to win the hand: the two remaining Kings and sevens. There are 30 unknown cards in the deck (22 cards are known to you: your six, five of your opponents cards, and the 11 folded up-cards) giving you a 4/30 chance of winning the pot (13.33%).
Should you call $10 in order to have a chance to win $75? Definitely. The pot odds are 6.5 to 1 (take the reciprocal of the percentage chance, or 30/4, and subtract one to get the odds: 30/4 - 1 = 6.5 to 1) while the pot is giving you 75/10 (7.5 to 1): this is a clear call. Had there only been $40 at the end of fifth street you should fold, as you wouldn't have the right odds to call.
Pot odds are just one factor you should use in making your decisions. For example, suppose you have a four-straight while your opponent has a four-flush. A third opponent is showing a pair. Should you continue to draw?
Drawing dead is no fun; neither is drawing against another better draw and having your opponent make it. There is no 'right' answer here; you must evaluate each situation independently. Factors to use include (but are not limited to): pot odds, dead (and live) cards, your opponents' propensity to bluff, and your ability to bluff your opponents.
Ugly Boards. Suppose you hold the same example hand -- (K9)K7Q7 -- and your opponent has some ugly looking board such as (??)T329. You have been betting throughout (completing the action on third street) with your opponent calling. Your opponent has to figure you for a decent hand, especially when you make the pair of sevens on sixth street. You bet and to your surprise your opponent raises.
Don't just re-raise! Ask yourself, what is going on? Play back the hand, starting from third street. Remember the folded cards and the betting action.
Assume this is the action on the hand. On third street you completed the 2's bring-in, with three other callers (Q, 8, and 3; the 2 folds). On fourth street all three other opponents received fours: (4, 4, and 4 respectively). You bet, the Q4 and the T3 calling. On fifth street the Q4 got the 6 and folded to your bet. You know your remaining opponent is a good player. What do you think he holds?
You reject a straight or a flush draw - there are no flush draws and you can't imagine your aware opponent staying until sixth street to pick up (and raise with) a straight draw. Two pairs is possible, but he would be trailing your likely two pair. The most likely hand is trips: either he started with rolled-up tens or caught a third card to go with his buried pair. What should you do? Well, this hand is question one in the quiz (see below).
Most poker players consider hold'em a game for reading your opponents while stud is more of a betting game. This is not true. In order to be a very good stud player you must be able to read your opponents. Sometimes it's just a matter of looking beyond your own cards (such as in the example above) while other times you have to consider your opponents' betting pattern(s). Sometimes you need to know that when your opponent throws chips into the pot while raising when he doesn't say 'raise' he is bluffing (when he says 'raise' he always has the goods).
Unfortunately, this is a difficult topic to teach over the Internet. What I do suggest is that in your next session you focus on one specific player - ideally, a winning player who regularly plays in your game. Follow along with all of his actions rather than watching the television. Make surreptitious notes in your logbook about how he acts. Play back the hands that he's involved in. You should, at the end of the session, know a lot more about how he or she acts than you did when you started.
The next lesson covers seventh street. Should you bet your two pair against your opponents draw? Should you raise with your possible (but not probable) winning hand? These will be among the topics covered in the next lesson.