"Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect."
~Ralph Waldo Emerson~
Your money is on the table. Do you know what you're in for? Learn basic starting-hands and play strategies, and what to look for at a table to increase your win percentage. Winning poker hands is not about who has the luck. It's about who is able to out-play their opponents with their strategy.
It is important to remember to adjust the strategy you are using to your specific table. Constant adjustment and focus in this game is critical.
Strategy is adjusted for the following;
The following information is used to determine whether to play the cards you have in your hand at a full table or not. For the actual starting hand combinations and strategy, choose the link at the top that describes which game you would like to view the starting-hand strategy for.
Basic things to keep in mind:
In any seven card stud game there are some essential things that you will be focusing on when the starting hand (the first three cards dealt to each player) is dealt out. If you lose your focus on these things at any time, it could cost you the hand. If you weren't paying close enough attention to these things or were distracted during the deal, it is probably best to fold your hand immediately. You will probably not remember the cards specifically on later streets, however, you will generally have a 'feel' for if an opponent's hand is real or if it is a bluff.
When the starting hand is dealt and all the door cards are showing you will need to do this as quickly as possible before players start folding their hands:
Why do these things matter? Depending on what you have in your own hand, having general knowledge about the other cards on the table will determine whether you call, raise, or fold. If the cards in your hand combination are live, you will have a higher rate of success in achieving a winning end result.
Again, if cards have been folded around the table, and you have missed the opportunity to view those door cards, be inclined to fold unless you have a super-strong hand and nobody has yet raised the bring-in.
You are not only counting the cards for your own hand, you are counting cards and suits to determine what is live for other player's hands for later rounds as well.
If your cards are not live, then fold.
If you find on fifth street that you are chasing to make a hand against an aggressive better, it is best that you probably fold. Of course, you may not know this until show-down and you've lost. Use the experience of knowing when you are chasing cards for your hand against a player betting aggressively, that they probably already have a made hand. Then fold earlier next time. In the late streets they are highly unlikely to fold what they've invested into the pot when they've been betting aggressively.
Determining if you have a live flush combination:
If you have a three-flush starting hand, the other door cards you have viewed will determine the odds of you hitting your flush. You are counting how many of the cards on your table are of the same suit as your flush draw. In later rounds, for anyone else who is showing a flush-draw in their up-cards, you will need to know how live their flush is before continuing to bet or call.
A general rule of thumb to determine the odds of you hitting your flush at a full table is; if there are more than two players (excluding yourself) showing the suit you need to make your flush, consider your flush dead. If the table is short-handed you may call for one bet. Especially if you have other outs. If any cards that turn at fourth street that you need for your flush appear in other player's hands, really consider your flush a long-shot. At a short-handed table you may adjust the fourth street rule to suck-out a back-door flush, however the door-card suit-count rule should remain the same; consider the flush dead if there are more than two of the same suit you need in other players' hands.
Determining if you have a live straight combination:
If you have a combination in your starting hand to possibly hit a straight, you will be looking to see that the cards that you need to complete your straight are still live. In later rounds, for anyone else who is showing a straight draw, you will need to know how live their straight is. If you have a connector combination such as 789 and you see 5's, 6's, 10's, or J's around the table, consider your straight dead. Also consider that if you see other 7's, 8's and 9's at the table, the cards that you need to make pairs for this hand should be considered dead to your draw.
Two Pair Play:
If you have a combination in your hand where you can make two-pair, you want to see who's cards may be higher than yours. You will also be looking to see if the cards you need for pairs will still be live or if they are out of play.
The first player to raise the bring-in bet has a fairly strong combination. Most likely a pocket pair or split pair. The position that they raise from may determine if they are attempting to steal the pot or if they really have a hand to play.
Other notes to remember for low and medium stakes tables:
At low-stakes tables, players do not like to fold. Especially in card rooms. They'll bet and call just about anything, and being in a hand usually means you're going to end up in a heavy multi-way hand where there is a lot of action and money the winning pot is a very good amount. When nobody likes to fold and you are playing strong combinations, be aggressive. Don't fall into the trap where you're playing crappy combinations because other players at your table don't know how to fold and start with crappy combo's themselves. Use it to your advantage and play strong opening combinations with aggressive betting strategy and take the pot.
There are also tables where they will play crappy combos to the river calling all of your raises just for the hell of it, or maybe they caught something great on their crappy combo. This can be extremely frustrating and costly. Continuing to play tight and aggressively at a table like this will eventually get them to wake up and play better hands when the chips keep moving to your side of the table after you're winning show- downs and you've been playing strong consistently.
For online play, my experience is that the players at the table usually play pretty straight-up, with little bluffing and will fold in earlier rounds when they know the cards in their hand are beaten. The exception to this usually occurs during tournament play.
The longer you sit at a table with the same players, the more you get a feel for their strategy, what they raise and call with, and how easy or difficult it is for them to fold. Take mental notes about each player and adjust your strategy according to which players are in the hand with you. Bet aggressively to fold-out the weakest player(s). Have a made hand to call bets against another strong or aggressive player. Check and call or check and fold to players who are known for consistently having real hands and compare yours to theirs.
Be sure to read the advanced strategy section to see what you are up against with experienced and very loose players.
In any case, play courteously, and have fun!