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Poker Strategy

Our poker strategy section will concentrate on the two most popular poker games in modern play. Seven-cards stud and Texas hold'em poker command most of the table space in North American casinos, and you have to have at least a little bit of strategy to join the fun.

Seven-card stud poker strategy

Considered a more difficult variation of poker than most, the strategy employed for seven-card stud can grow to be very complex. Seeing the game as a difficult variation however, simply means that you can truly master the game given enough dedication.

Part of the complexity lies in the fact that there can be a great number of cards spread around the table. Since you can see so many up-cards of other players, you have more information to take in, and base your decisions on. Though entire volumes could be written on the subject, we'll simply cover the basics of seven-card stud poker strategy here, giving you a hint of what successful players take into consideration.

The concept of live hands is an important one. Live hands are ones you expect could turn into something good; dead hands are ones you don't expect you'll be able to improve. You can base this evaluation on the open cards on the table. If you have a pair of kings and can see the other two kings in up-card hands around the table, you know you're not getting any more, and that part of your hand can't improve.

Kickers are side cards, apart from any pairs you may have, that don't have a match. In seven-card stud high cards can be very powerful. In many situations a tie is decided by your extra high card, so hanging onto one can be vital. If you have a low or middle valued pair, then keeping a high kicker that might match up can be a good investment.

Starting hands are perhaps the most important piece of information available to your seven-card stud poker strategy. You must decide weather to commit to your hand or not by the third card. Learning to play only good starting hands is something that takes practice, patience and discipline. To get you started, here's a little hint or two at what to look for:

Three of a kind: Well, not much to say but keep them. That's the best starting hand you can have. The odds of getting it is about 1 in 425 hands.

High Pair: A pair of ten or up cards is a great start, and barring anything unfortunate, it should carry you to the end of the round. You know just how valuable this is if you can see any other players with potential high matches.

Small and medium pairs: This is tricky. It can be dangerous to commit to a hand that only has a medium pair, especially if you don't have a high kicker. Also take into account weather you have a live pair or a dead pair.

Drawing hands: These are the hands that need to be improved through additional cards to be good enough to take the pot. Something like a three-card open ended straight, or a three-card flush in your first three cards would fall into this category. You can check to see if your flush or straight is a live hand or a dead hand by checking the up-cards on the table for the cards you know you need.

Nothing: Fold.

A good poker strategy lends on all of these things. You'll want to learn to scan all of the up-cards on the table in relation to your own hand. Drawing hands are better when you're at a full table because the pot will get bigger. The risk of the drawing hand stays the same, but the rewards are higher, to the point of justifying the risks of the drawing hand. You wont win very often, but when you do you'll win big.

High pairs play better against fewer players by the same reasoning. You want to drive out other players early on and hope nobody sticks around to improve their hand. Be aggressive and hope nobody calls your bluff.

Improving your poker strategy comes mainly from playing at the table with others. If seven-card stud isn't your casino's offering, try our strategy for Texas hold'em.