How to Play Stud Poker

Stud poker can refer to any of several different poker variants, each of which can have slightly different rules. The most common and most popular Stud poker variant is Seven Card Stud, and so that is the one that we will focus on in this article on How to Play Stud Poker. The good news is that, once you have learned how to play Seven Card Stud, you’ll find it easy to adjust to any other stud poker variant that you choose to play.

In this article, we’ll explain all you need to know about how to get started with stud poker. You’ll learn about where to play and the poker hand rankings that are used in the game. We’ll give you a stage-by-stage breakdown of a typical game, and we’ll even throw in some stud poker tips and strategies that could help you to increase your chances of succeeding as a player.

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Where to Play Stud Poker

Before you learn how to play Stud Poker, it makes sense to first explore where the game can be played. The law regarding poker varies from state to state. For that reason, you should check our state pages to see what the situation is in your own area. 

If poker isn't legal anywhere then you will only be able to play the game for fun with a few friends. If poker betting is legal, you will have to visit either a land-based poker room or, ideally, an online poker room. The online option is the most convenient way to play Stud Poker. All of the main operators will give you plenty of opportunities to do so. Visit our online poker sites page to find out more, or check out the recommended poker rooms below.

Recommended Online Poker Rooms

Poker Hand Rankings

The poker hands that are used in Seven Card Stud are the same as in Texas Hold'em. If you are familiar with those you can skip this section. For those of you who are new to poker hands, here are the ones that can be made in this game, presented in order of ranking, from strongest to weakest. Note that A=Ace, K=King, Q=Queen, and J=Jack.

Royal Flush

The best possible hand in Seven Card Stud. You need a hand of 10-J-Q-K-A, with all cards having the same suit of clubs, diamonds, spades, or hearts.

Straight Flush

Five sequential cards which have the same suit. The highest card in the Straight Flush determines its strength. A 10-high would therefore beat a 7-high.

Four of a Kind

Four cards of the same rank, plus one spare, which is known as the kicker. The rank of the four matching cards determines its strength. 

Full House

A Full House is a Three of a Kind and a Pair. The rank of the Three of a Kind element determines the strength of the Full House. 


Five cards that have the same suit. The highest card in the hand determines its strength. 


This hand is made with five sequential cards but of different suits. The highest card in the hand determines its strength.

Three of a Kind

This hand comprises three cards of the same rank plus two kickers. The rank of the three matching cards determines its strength.

Two Pairs

A hand comprising two matching cards of one rank, two matching cards of another rank, and a kicker. The rank of the high pair determines its strength,


This hand has two matching cards of the same rank and three kickers. The rank of the Pair determines its strength.

High Card

The value of a hand that doesn't meet any of the above requirements is determined by the rank of its highest card.

How to Play Stud Poker

A typical game of Seven Card Stud can best be described as having eight main stages that progress from the posting of the ante to the final showdown. The aim of the game is for each player to make the strongest five-card poker hand possible from the seven that they will be dealt. Let's look at each stage in turn so that you can see how everything fits together.

Post the Ante

An ante is a forced bet that can be likened to the blinds in the game of Texas Hold'em. The big difference in Seven Card Stud is that every player who wants to participate in a hand will have to post an ante. If you don't post an ante, you won't receive any cards and you'll therefore have no chance of winning.

Third Street

Each player is dealt three cards. Two of them will be dealt face-down and the third will be dealt face-up. The two face-down cards are referred to as the hole cards and can only be viewed by the player who received them. There are no community cards in Seven Card Stud, but the third card is dealt face-up so that everyone at the table has some information to help them determine how to bet.

Bring-In and Betting

A bring-in is like the big blind in Texas Hold'em, in that it is posted by just one player. That player in Seven Card Stud is the one who has been dealt the lowest face-up card. A round of betting then takes place in a clockwise direction from the bring-in player. As in Hold'em, each player can choose to call, raise or fold.

Fourth Street and Betting

When the first round of betting is complete, a fourth card is dealt face-up to each player. Now the player with the highest exposed card will start another round of betting, with play proceeding in a clockwise direction.

Fifth Street and Betting

A fifth card is now dealt face-up to each player and another round of betting takes place. Again, the first player to act is the one who is showing the highest value card, with play then proceeding clockwise.

Sixth Street and Betting

The sixth street, as you've probably guessed, involves each player being dealt a sixth face-up card. Another round of betting takes place in a clockwise direction, starting with the player showing the highest value card.

Seventh Street and Betting

A seventh card is dealt to each player, but this time the card is dealt face-down so that it can't be seen by other players at the table. A final round of betting then takes place, starting with the player showing the highest exposed card.


It should be noted that not all Seven Card Stud hands reach the showdown stage. If so many players fold earlier in the game so that only one remains, that final player wins the pot automatically and the hand is over. However, if two or more players remain in the hand after the final round of betting, they proceed to the showdown. This is where they show their five-card poker hands so that the player with the strongest hand can take the pot. 

Practice Makes Crystal Clear

Reading about any poker game is never quite the same as actually playing it, so don't worry if all of the stages and betting rounds just described sound rather complex. Simply visit an online poker room, find a free play table (these use play chips instead of real money) and play a dozen or so hands. By the time you've done that, everything we've just explained will be crystal clear, and you'll be on your way.

Stud Poker Tips and Strategies

Knowing how to play stud poker is one thing, but giving yourself the best chance of becoming a successful player is quite another. You should therefore continue your education by studying the game in more depth and getting as much experience at the tables as you can. Here are some tips and strategies that you can consider using to get off to the best possible start:

Be Selective

The most important tip we can give you is to be selective about which hands you play. Simply playing every hand you are dealt isn't a good way to win pots. To maximize your chances, only play the strongest starting hands. You'll find suggested starting hands in many books on stud poker, and we strongly advise you to study a few of those, but essentially you should restrict yourself to playing when you have a Three of a Kind, a pair of Jacks or better, three sequential cards of the same suit, and so on. You can of course be rather less restrictive when you have more experience in the game.

Observe the Table

This is an obvious point to seasoned poker players, but you always need to observe the table and take exposed cards into consideration when deciding whether or how to play a hand. For example, if you have 8-9 in the hole with 10 exposed, and there are already four Jacks showing elsewhere at the table, you can forget aiming for a Queen-high straight.

Start Small

Don't jump right into high-stakes games where you have to put lots of money at risk on each hand. Instead, start at the free-play tables, then progress to micro stakes (a matter of cents per hand) and then small stakes, as your experience and confidence grow. And always remember, games get even more competitive at the higher staking levels, so if you can't win when playing for a few dollars, you aren't likely to fare much better when playing for hundreds.

How to Play Stud Poker FAQ

What is Stud Poker?
Stud poker can refer to any of several different poker variants, the most famous of which is Seven Card Stud. This used to be the most popular poker game in the world before the dramatic rise of Texas Hold'em.
How easy is it to learn to play Stud Poker?
Stud poker games are quite easy to learn, with most variants taking just a few minutes to understand. Of course, being able to play well takes time, so you should expect to spend some hours at the tables before you are able to win consistently.
What is the most popular Stud Poker game?
The most popular stud poker game is Seven Card Stud. Other popular variants include Five Card Stud and Caribbean Stud.
Where to play Stud Poker online?
Stud poker games can be played at almost all online poker rooms. However, online poker isn't available in every state, so you should check our state pages to see which operators are regulated to operate in your own location.

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