Third Street Strategy


All right, before you blow a gasket, let’s get to the winning strategy what to do when you are actually sitting at the table with your money on the line. This is the moment. A stir of excitement as you enter the fray. An adrenaline rush. “Can I remember everything I’ve learned from Roy’s Course?” Yes, you can. So let’s get to learning it.

All strong, solid players agree: Your most important decision in seven card stud is whether to play after seeing your first three cards.

If you start weak, you’ll probably end up weak. If you start strong, your hand is that much stronger when it improves. The idea is to either start strong or with a hand that can become strong with the next card. A potential problem that is created when you improve a weak hand is that you will probably not become as strong as a player who started with a strong hand.

Also, when you do improve your weak starting hand, you may find yourself feeling committed to it for another round or two. This can become very expensive. As I am so fond of saying, “Your first mistake is the costly one.”  If you don’t make the first mistake for a dollar or two on third street, you can’t make a couple of $20 mistakes later in the hand. And third street is your first opportunity to make a mistake.

Before we can proceed, you’ll need to know the difference between fixed-limit and spread-limit games. Most poker games with limits of $3-$6 and up are fixed-limit games. You can bet or raise only a fixed amount, the lower of the two limits, up to fifth street. At fifth street and beyond, you can bet or raise only the amount of the upper limit of that game.

In spread-limit casino games, which are common at the $1-$5 level, you may bet any amount between the lower and upper limits at any time. In a $1-$5 game, you can bet or raise $1, $2, $3, $4, or $5. In a $2-$10 spread-limit game, you can bet or raise any amount between $2 and $10 at any time.


Let’s look at starting hands for seven card stud. We’ll begin with the hand you’re least likely to be dealt: trips. The odds are 424-to-1 against your getting any three-of-a-kind for your fir4st three cards, so they won’t show up very often… once in about every ten hours of play.

The nature of starting with trips is:They will either win you a stack,or a lose a stack or two.

When you start with any three-of-a-kind, the odds are good for making a full house: about 2-to-1. You also stand a good chance of winning without improvement. Now the question is whether to raise with these trips here on third street, or to just limp in with them.

The answer: It depends. At the low and medium limits which we are studying, your trips should be played slow if they’re big, fast if they’re small. If your trips are tens or higher, just call any bets. Now this next sentence is almost always a surprise to my students, and they often start disagreeing with me before I can make my explanation.

With three nines down through three deuces, raise! While these are strong hands, they are vulnerable –not only to straights and flushes, but also to higher trips. If you start with, let’s say, three fours and an opponent starts with a pair of sevens and then catches another seven, he has you locked up –especially if his starting sevens are hidden.

So raise. Narrow the field. Protect your trips. Get that pair of sevens out on third street. My students have often asked, “But isn’t a big set such as three kings also vulnerable to straights and flushes?” Yes, but a set is not vulnerable to three sevens. You have a lot more wins slow playing big trips and taking your chances against straights and flushes.

If you start with three kings, you’d love to have a player in with a pair of sevens and hope he makes three of them. Out of the three things that can happen, two are good for you. If you both fill, you win. If you both miss, you win. If your opponent fills but you don’t-bummer. Now add this:

When you hold any three-of-a-kind and the pot is raised ahead of you,tend to reraise. In spread-limitgames, make it the maximum.

Ideally, you will now play this hand against the raiser and possibly one other player. But this is not an automatic raise. Let’s say you’re in late position holding three fives here at third street. A jack raises and a king reraises. Do you put in another raise?

It depends on whether you want to announce the strength of your hand or lay in the weeds. When you reraise in that circumstance (showing a five), you are saying that you have either a hidden pair of aces or three fives. If I had seen one or two jacks of kings in the upcards of players of players who have folded, I would tend to raise to get more money in the pot, hoping the jack and king would both stay with me.

But if I haven’t seen any jacks or kings, their poker hands would be live and my three fives would be more vulnerable, so I would tend to not raise. My raise would be an attempt to knock out the jacks. It might, but the kings would stay. The player with the jacks (if he values his bankroll) would probably drop anyway just because of the reraise from the kings.

Another major consideration is the type of game you are playing in-tight or loose.

In a tight game, tend to raise less with trips at third street. In loose games, tend more toward raising in close decisions.

Generally, the smaller your trips, the more you’ll tend to raise for protection. As an aside and for your general information, playing at the higher limits, you would tend to raise with the big trips at third street because raising would look more natural.

For example, players in the big games tend to raise showing an ace, whether or not they have another one in the hole. And of course, they almost always raise with two aces. So if you know a player will raise with one ace or with two aces, but does not raise showing an ace, what could he have?

Of course-three aces. So not raising in the big limits showing an ace doesn’t look natural, and therefore arouses suspicion. File this information away for when you move up to play $50-$100.

When I recommend a third –street raise in a spread-limit game, I’m talking about a bet that is three-quarters the allowable maximum (for example, a raise of $3 in a $1-$5 game), unless your experience with your opponents indicates that a maximum bet is needed to narrow the field sufficiently.

A bonus you get with your third-street raise is this:  Anyone who calls your raise probably has a stronger than average starting hand-and so it will be easier for you to judge what that hand is.


I see a big problem in the play of many low and medium-limit poker players a little knowledge is dangerous thing. They see other players raising with big pairs on third street so they say, “I’ll do that, too.”  And they do it every time. And they don’t even know why they’re doing it.

With a high third-street pair,you will usually want to raise-usually, but not always.

Many players holding a high pair on third street always limp in (just call), hoping to keep other players in. incorrect! The more players drawing against your high pair, the higher the chances of your being outdrawn.

Your big pair is a favorite against a single straight or flush draw. Against several such draws, you are still a favorite against each of them Individually but collectively, You become an underdog.

So your third street raise with a big pair is for protection. You want to narrow the field and, ideally, play against one opponent with a smaller pair or a drawing hand. You wouldn’t be bad off if you had one of each. A note of caution. Before you go charging into a pot raising your hot big pair with chips splattering the table, stop and look-especially if you have 10s or jacks.

You’re looking to your left for players with three-street over cards. (To the right, too, but more on that later). If you’re about to raise with a pair of jacks, especially if they are split (one is down and the other is your upcard), check first to see how many overcards there are behind you (to your left) yet to act.

If there are two or more, I suggest just limping in. if one of the overcards raises, you can call if your jacks are hidden (both of them are in your downcards) and live (no other jacks are showing on the table), and if your kicker is higher than the raiser ’s doorcard (his first upcard)

With only one overcard behind you, go ahead and raise.

If you are reraised by an overcard, again you can call only if your jacks are hidden and live, and your kicker is bigger than the raiser ’s probable pair. The idea here is to avoid playing you pair straight-up against a bigger pair. But I like to take off a card if all my cards are live and my kicker is an overcard to his announced pair.

Playing a smaller pair against a bigger pair makes me an underdog. So why do it?  I will only do it if my pair is hidden. If my pair is split, no-no play. What’s the difference?  If my pair is split, my opponent will see the improvement when I catch the third jack and can easily read my hand. Less profit for me.

But if the pair is face down, my power is hidden when I catch the third jack. Calling the raise costs the same in each instance, but the implication at the start is that I will make more money with the hidden hand. I talked earlier about looking to your left for overcards before raising at third street. Here’s a caution for low-limit players, $1-$5 and under.

Check to the right also. Be aware of any overcards that have not raised. In these medium and lower-limit games, players often are not aware that they should  be protecting their big pairs.

The fact that an ace or a king just limped in does not mean that he doesn’t have a pair of that rank.

In the big games, players will often limp in with a big pair as a means of setting a trap. In the small games, they often just limp in with no particular strategy in mind (such as a trap). But the results can be the same. So don’t trap yourself into discounting the possibility that a player to your right holds a big pair just because he didn’t raise on third street.

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