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January 29th, 2009
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Poker Lesson: Playing Fifth Street in Seven-Card Stud
Author: Keith Sexton
Fifth Street is the big decision point in Seven-Card Stud because that’s the critical juncture in the hand when you have to put in your first big bet. While it’s nice to have a made hand at this point, you don’t always need one to put in a raise on Fifth Street. If you have a big draw, that can be enough to warrant raising your opponent. Some players don’t think like this, and I believe that’s a costly mistake.
Here’s an example of a situation where I believe raising with a draw is the correct play. Let’s say your opponent is showing an Ace, and you have a 7 of diamonds up and a 6 and 7 of spades in the hole, giving you a pair of 7s. You and your opponent are the only players involved in the hand, and he opens with a raise. You call.
On the turn your opponent catches an offsuit Jack and bets. You catch the 9 of spades. You have a pretty nice hand at this point. Not only do you have a pair of 7s, but you also have three cards to a flush and three cards to a straight so there are a lot of cards you can catch that will give you a big draw. You definitely want to call in this spot.
On Fifth Street your opponent catches a 6 so now he has an Ace, Jack, and 6 showing. You catch the deuce of spades, which is a very interesting card. You now have a pair of 7s and four spades to a flush, but your opponent is unaware of how strong you are because one of your 7s and two of your spades are hidden.
Your opponent leads out with a bet once again. Now here’s the question. Should you simply call or should you raise? Even if your opponent has two Aces, I would prefer to have two 7s and four spades in this situation so you should be aggressive and put in a raise. You should do this for a couple of reasons. First, even if he does have a pair of Aces, you’re still the favorite. You are about a 58 percent favorite to win the hand so you’re getting the best of it right now.
The other reason you should raise is that it will get you a free card if you fail to hit your draw. Let’s say you go ahead and raise on Fifth Street, and your opponent calls. Since he called your raise, you can be pretty certain he has a pair that can beat your 7s. Then on Sixth Street he catches a 4 and you catch the 3 of diamonds, a card that doesn’t help your hand at all.
If your opponent is a weak player, he is probably going to check it to you because he’s going to be scared of that raise you put in on Fifth Street. If he does in fact check, then you succeeded in accomplishing exactly what you set out to do. You got extra money into the pot on Fifth Street when you had the best of it, and now that you missed your draw and don’t have the best of it anymore you’re happy to get a free card. Now you have one more shot at drawing out on him.
This is a clear example of why it pays to be aggressive on Fifth Street in Seven-Card Stud. Some players would just call in this situation, but I think that’s a big mistake. Being aggressive and sticking in a raise has two clear advantages over simply calling. It will get more money into the pot those times you do make your hand, and it will get you a free card those times you don’t. The bottom line is that you need to be aggressive when playing Seven-Card Stud because it’s the aggressive player who usually wins.
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