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Seven-Card Stud Tournament Tactics

Introduction

Seven-card stud is one of the most demanding tournament games you can play. The Poker strategies you use to win in regular games don’t always work in tournaments, so you have to make some changes in your game plan.  In these Lesson, I will outline some plays that will help you wind up in the winner’s circle.

Your strategy in each phase of a tournament is influenced by four major factors: the size of your stack compared to your opponents’ stacks; the stage of the tournament (early, middle, late, or final table); your position in the hand (first to act, last to act, etc.); and how much time is left in the round.

For example, you might play a somewhat weaker starting hand more aggressively if you have a tall stack in the late stage and will be competing against only one opponent whose stack is short, especially if the antes will be increasing on the next round and if your board indicates that you will be last to act.

However, if you have a big hand very late in the tournament against an aggressive opponent who raises your opening bet and has a stack of chips that is equal to or greater than yours, you will most likely fold because tournament strategy suggests that you avoid big confrontations in the late stages.

EARLY STAGE

Generally speaking, players in the early rounds of seven-card stud tournaments play more conservatively than they do in their regular games.  They usually wait more patiently for a good starting hand and play cautiously on each street.  Although this is not always true, you can easily recognize opponents who are not following this policy because they call more opening bets to see poker fourth street, and they raise more often than their hands seem to warrant.

If most of your opponents are playing very tight, you can play somewhat more loosely and try to steal a few more antes. You will want to play a very solid game, although a bit looser than your tighter opponents. Conversely, if your adversaries are playing looser than ordinary, you should play a little tighter than they do.  As Roy has already suggested, solid aggressive  is your best approach.

The earlier a player raises, the more credit you should give him for having a good hand.  The majority of the time when a player raises with a pair, that pair will be the same as his doorcard.  But when an early-position player raises with a small card (such as a 4) showing, be cautious because he probably has a big hidden pair (tens or higher).

Playing flushes Suppose a player raises from an early position and you hold a three-flush.  For you to call, you need to have a rather large flush draw with no more than one or two of your suit showing on the board, and it would be even better to have one or two cards higher than the raiser’s doorcard.  So if you are fairly sure that you’ll be playing against a big pair, you should be drawing to hands that are both live and contain one or two overcards.

Be leery of playing small three-flushes in raised pots. If you can play for the minimum bet and your hand is live, you can see fourth street. When I am in late position with a small flush draw and hold higher cards than the forced bring-in bet, I may even raise.

But I will only do this when five people have passed and only one other player (in addition to the forced bring-in bettor) is left to act-and his upcard must be lower than mine because then he is less likely to reraise. If you play your flush draw past third street in these early stages, keep a close count of how many of your suit cards are exposed.

If you improve by catching another suited card on fourth street, you have close to an even-money chance of completing your flush (depending on how many of your suit cards are out).  Therefore, it is usually correct to continue playing the hand because the pot will often be paying a good enough price. Of course, you don’t necessarily have a through ticket to the river with a four-flush.

Other players may also be catching suited cards higher than yours, and someone may pair his doorcard, both of which are threats to your flush draw.  Most of the time, a player who pairs his doorcard has made trips if he started with a pair.  Few things are more devastating than completing your flush only to be beaten by a full house.

Suppose you have four cards to a flush on fourth street and your opponent bets into you.  Raise, especially if two additional players sitting in front of you have called the original bettor.  Good players will probably read you for a flush draw, but that’s okay because you still have a 45-50 percent chance of making your hand, depending on how many of your suit are showing.

The object of raising with your four flush is to get a free card on fifth street when the bets double and your opponents check to you, which is what you hope they will do.  Of course, if you improve to a pair that appears to be higher than your opponents, you can value bet instead of taking the free card because you have both a flush draw and a pair working.

This play works much better if your opponent has a king or queen showing on fourth street because unless you pair up or spike an ace, he will remain the first to act with his high board.  You must consider this factor before you decide whether to raise on fourth street.  Of course, if your opponent is a very aggressive player and is likely to reraise, you aren’t going to get the free fifth-street card your raise was intended to receive.

In this case, you are better off just calling.  The bottom line is a concept that Roy has hammered home in this book: You must have a good read on your adversary to determine whether a fourth street raise will work to your advantage.

Another time that you won’t to raise is when two or more players are left to act behind you, because your raise may cause them to fold. In this case, you are better off to just call because you want to have as many people in the pot as possible when you are drawing to a flush to improve your pot odds, and so that you can make as much money as possible if you make your flush.

However, raising when they are sitting between you and the first bettor is a different story because they have already committed one bet to the pot.  If the original bettor decides to reraise and they all fold, you have their dead money in the pot with the same chance of making your hand.  So you aren’t in bad shape, no matter what you do.  Furthermore, if you do make you hand, there often will be enough confusion in your opponents’ minds for them to pay you off.

Creating confusion.  Creating confusion is a valuable poker skill.  When your opponents are not able to put you on a proper hand, they often will call you with any type of reasonable hand.  So if you are able to disguise the strength of your hand, you will get a lot of calls just because your opponents are confused about what you are probably holding.

When you put in a raise with two suited cards showing against intelligent opponents, they will put you on a probable four-flush, especially when their doorcards are higher than either of your two upcards.

But even though your raise may tip them off to your flush draw, they still may be forced to continue playing with a reasonable hand because they are not sure exactly what you have.  This tiny bit of confusion on their part can add extra bets to your win when you make your hand.

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