Starting Hands

You are what you eat...

Although the starting hands for Seven Card Stud and Stud hi-lo vary quite a bit, the basic truth in both cases is that your first three cards are a good indicator about how your hand will grow up.  If you start with 3 suited low cards in a high only stud game you're likely to end up (if all goes well) with a medium or low flush.  If you start with three suited high cards then you're drawing to an ace high flush.  In both the hi-lo and high only variations of Seven Card Stud (and for that matter any poker variant where the players are extremely loose) is to play strong multiway hands.

NOTE: Live Cards

In our descriptions below we will often talk about cards that are live.  This means that they have not appeared as the door card/up card for any of your opponents when the first three cards are dealt.  The ability to notice which cards have already appeared in your opponents hands is important and will be touched on many times in this site. Especially in a loose game this can give you a huge edge.

NOTE: Hi-Lo Split Games

Usually when we give alternate requirements below for a hi-lo game (for example three suited cards kings or higher in high only seven card stud or seven or lower in seven card stud hi-lo split) you can play both hands in the split game (the king or better OR the 7 or lower).  Keep in mind this general rule with hi-lo split stud, though, that the ace is by far the best card in the deck--much more so than in high only stud because it participates both in the high and low sides of the pot (and is the highest and lowest card simultaneously).  Although you can draw to a king high flush draw in a hi-lo game this is a much more marginal hand than in high-only seven card stud whereas drawing at an ace high flush is much stronger in hi-lo because you have backdoor outs to a low in addition to your flush draw (especially if one of your other cards is 8 or lower).

Starting Hand Types

Three of a kind (trips, being rolled up).

This is the best possible starting hand in seven card stud (high only or hi-lo). How you play this depends on the table. Against average players you should wait until 5th street to show aggression. If you are able to raise without losing people before 5th street then do so.

Seven of Diamonds Seven of Spades Seven of Hearts
Hole Cards Up Card

Hole Pairs (a pair in the first two cards which are dealt face down)

These are hidden pairs and as such are more powerful than split pairs shown before.  If a jack comes it won't be obvious that you are likely to have made trips. In extremely loose games we recommend playing hole pairs jacks or better, and only when your pair cards are live.

Jack of Clubs Jack of Diamonds King of Clubs
Hole Cards Up Card

Split Pairs (a pair with your door card)

Although not as strong as a high hole pair, a split pair is a good starting hand.  We recommend queens or better to continue playing your hand and only when your pair cards are live.

Queen of Hearts Seven of Spades Queen of Spades
Hole Cards Up Card

Suited and Connected (all three cards can participate in a straight and they are also suited)

These are strong multiway hands.  In a high only game play them if the highest card is a jack or better.  In a hi-lo game the highest card should be a queen or better or eight or lower.

Jack of Spades Nine of Spades Eight of Spades
Hole Cards Up Card

Connected and Double Suited (all three cards can participate in a straight and two cards are the same suit)

The two flush cards can add some extra value to your hand, but they play much like  a connected and rainbowed hand.  In a high only game the high card should be king or better.  In a high low game the high card should be seven or lower.

Jack of Clubs Ten of Diamonds King of Clubs
Hole Cards Up Card

Suited and not connected

This is a flush draw only hand.  In high only you want a king or better as your highest card.  In high low seven or lower.  Also be aware of other players door cards and generally dump this in three or more players have a card of your suit showing. Finally keep in mind that your kicker is also important so a AQ2 suited starting hand is much stronger than a A72 hand.

King of Hearts Six of Hearts Two of Hearts
Hole Cards Up Card

Connected and Rainbowed (all three cards can participate in a straight and three different suits)

In high only you need a king or higher as the highest card.  In hi-lo you need a six or lower as the highest card.

King of Hearts Queen of Clubs Jack of Diamonds
Hole Cards Up Card

Three Low Cards six or lower (hi-lo split)

This is a decent low draw, but only play it if your highest card is a six. Don't be tempted to chase a low draw when the best result you can really hope for is an 8 or 7-high low which is just the sort of hand that can get you stuck paying off bets on the expensive streets.

Ace of Diamonds Three of Hearts Six of Spades
Hole Cards Up Card

Total Crap (any hand not yet listed)

We're going to go out on a limb and recommend you don't play these.  Your opponents will, don't worry.

Seven of Diamonds Nine of Hearts King of Clubs
Hole Cards Up Card