Counting Cards

One thing that differentiates seven card stud from a game like Texas Holdem is fact that there's a lot more information available in the form of the face-up cards dealt during the course of a hand. This means that the people that are able to use the information about what up-cards have been dealt have a great advantage over those who don't (or those who are only slightly aware of what has already been dealt).

The concept of counting all the cards that have dealt can seem overwhelming especially at a loose table where many people will stay through the entire hand to the river. In an 8-handed game if all 8 players stay to the last card then 4 x 8 or 32 cards will be up-cards -- that's over half the entire deck that you will be given insight into so by the time the last card is dealt you should be able to estimate your actual outs with a much greater degree of certainty than you can in Holdem.

The big question is how can you do it? Most of us can barely remember a half dozen things at a time much less 32 up cards. There are two things that help:

1. You don't need to memorize cards for hands that have not been folded. As you practice keeping the cards in your head you should only worry about memorizing the ones that are folded as they are folded.

2. Since you are playing at very loose tables, hands won't be folded that often so the number of cards you need to keep in your head is limited.

Even though you'll only be dealing with a handful of folded cards that you actually need to memorize, it can still be very difficult at first to not only remember the rank and suit of every card that's folded but also to use that information in combination with the visible up cards on the table to figure out your (and your opponents) drawing odds to things like straights, flushes and lows and to do it fast enough to keep tempo with the game. For the most part this involves practice, practice, practice. You have consciously force yourself to note the cards as they are folded and then make your best attempt to use this information in real time. As you do this over and over you will get better at it until it because second nature.

Here are some more tips that can help you:

Back of Card Back of Card Three of Clubs Jack of Spades Ten of Hearts    
Hole Cards Up Card 4th Street 5th Street 6th Street River

You could remember the hand as "the three beat (clubbed) the jack who dug (spades) the ten he loved (hearts), or you could come up with a similar sounding phrase to the cards on the board and just remember the phrase. For example you can use the Number/Shape mnemonic to remember the cards by things that are shaped a similar way:

  1. Candle, spear, stick
  2. Swan (beak, curved neck, body)
  3. Bifocal glasses, or part of a "love heart"
  4. Sail of a yacht
  5. A meat hook, a sea-horse facing right
  6. A golf club
  7. A cliff edge
  8. An egg timer
  9. A balloon with a string attached, flying freely
  10. A hole

For the Ace you can use a triangle (or something that is triangular--use your imagination) and for the jack, king and queen they already represent easy to remember items (a boy, a man and a woman). For the suits you can use the obvious images of a baseball bat (club), a shovel (spade), a diamond (diamond) and a Valentines box of chocolates (this is just one example you should use images that stick with you personally), then you could remember the cards as "smashing glasses with a bat, a boy digging in the dirt, and a hole full of chocolates.

All this talk about poker is making me hungry.

Here's where you can find more information on improving your memory.