"It's a job that's never started that takes the longest to finish." - J.R.R. Tolkien
There are no more draws. No more hoping for that miracle card. No more prayers to be answered. You are either there or you're not. That's seventh street in stud. There's a 'rule' in stud that if you have voluntarily seen sixth street that you will call on seventh. It's an important rule that we will examine in this lesson. First, though, we will take a look at the times you believe you are going to win.
You're Winning the Hand
Suppose you hold (55)J5K7(J) against two opponents. You believe that your first opponent has been on a flush draw; his hand is (??)6T92(?). You're almost certain that you're second opponent has a straight: (??)QT9J(?). You have been checking to the second opponent who has bet every street. Should you bet or check?
While I disagree with the situation as I've presented it (I strongly dislike giving opponents the potential for free cards when they are drawing), you've managed to make your hand and you are the likely winner. Your decision comes down to a simple question: will your opponents consider your hand (level two thinking; see Lesson 8) or just look at their own cards? If they will raise when they make their hands then betting is clearly correct. If your bet may scare them into calling then it might be right to try for the check raise. Still, in low limit games I'm a strong proponent of not making fancy plays. You'll win the most money by simply betting your hands.
When You Might be Winning the Hand
Let's make a slight change to the hands. Suppose you hold (55)J5K7(4) against two opponents who hold (??)6T92(?) and
(??)JT93(?). You believe your first opponent has a flush draw while your second opponent has a straight draw. On seventh street you did not make your full house so if either of your opponents made their hands you will be a loser. You're still first to act and must decide what to do.
A simulation that I ran on PokerProbe shows that your hand will win the pot about 64% of the time. Thus, it would seem that a bet is justified based on results. However, an important question must be asked: will either of your opponents call you if they cannot win the hand? Aware opponents rarely call when they have no chance to win a pot.
This brings up a standard play in stud on seventh street, check and call. This is used in a situation like the above example: you have a good hand that will win much of the time while your opponent(s) have hands that may have improved to beat your hand. Additionally, it is clear to your opponent(s) that unless they have improved that calling your bet (had you bet) would have been pointless.
Let's look at another example. You had the bring-in with (7Q)2; your hand has improved to (7Q)2992 on sixth street. Your one opponent has (??)K835 on sixth street. A third player bet fifth street but folded when you bet sixth street. You believe that your opponent has either a pair of Kings or a flush draw, or possibly both. He calls your sixth street bet. Your hand does not improve on seventh street. Should you bet?
You should not bet. Your opponent will not call you unless he has a hand that can beat you: betting will not increase the amount of money you win. By checking there is even a chance that you will induce a bluff by your opponent when he does not make his hand.
What should you do if your opponent bets? In most cases you're forced to call because the pot is giving you the right odds. Yes, most of the time your opponent will have made his hand. However, some of the time he will be bluffing. Would you put (in a $5/$10 stud game) $10 into the pot when the pot has $180 when it is likely that your opponent has beat you? If your opponent would bluff 1 out of 17 times you should!
Some of the time when you improve your hand you should also check. In this case you are hoping your opponent will bet so that you can raise.
There is a situation where it is correct to fold rather than check and call. Suppose you are up against the tightest player at your club. The hands are as above and you do not improve on seventh street. Your opponent bets. If it is certain that he has you beat don't call - you would be throwing away the bet. This should only be done, though, against either extremely tight opponents or where there is a clear tell that indicates that you are beat.
You Miss All Your Draws
Suppose you have (JQ)KT72 and you're up against two opponents. Your first opponent has (??)2944 while your second opponent has
(??)T323. You raised the bring-in, with three players calling (the third player's cards are irrelevant). On fourth and fifth streets you bet with both of your opponents calling. On sixth street the pair of fours bets, the pair of threes call and you call. On seventh street you catch the 5, leaving you with King high. Both players check to you. Should you bet?
This is the analogue to the check and call situation presented above. Will bluffing work? It's not likely to in a low-limit game. Most of the time your opponents will call you. Presumably, both of your opponents have two pairs (otherwise, why were they staying in the hand against your bets). One or both of them may have improved. Bluffing will rarely work in this situation.
This does not mean that you should never bluff. Perhaps one in every twenty times this situation occurs (especially at middle-limit stud) you should bet. You may also want to bet against extremely tight opponents. However, against calling stations you should never bet - you would just be throwing your money away.
To summarize seventh street, if you believe you have the best hand you should bet; if you may have the best hand, check and call; if you know you will not win the hand you should check and fold.
The next lesson looks at raising and bluffing. Many low limit players do not raise enough and bluff too much. We will examine times when you should be raising but probably are not and why bluffing is a rare event in low-limit stud.