Five card stud is a relatively simple to learn poker variation. It offers two major distinctions between it and five card draw:
- all but one of your opponents' cards are visible to you at all times (and likewise your cards to them), and
- There are twice as many rounds of betting, allowing for a lot of mathematics, strategy, and good old-fashioned bluffing.
Play begins with the dealer dealing two cards to each player, one face down (the "hole" card) and one face up. If there is a bring-in bet at the table, the player with the lowest visible card - two being the lowest value, and the suits running in alphabetical order (Clubs, Diamonds, Hearts, Spades) - must place a preset ante into the pot. Otherwise, betting begins with the player with the highest visible card. Normal betting rules apply: you may either raise the previous player's bid, call his bid (equaling his bet), or fold your cards.
After the first round of betting is complete, the dealer deals a third card to each player, also face up, and the player with the highest visible hand now begins the action. A fourth and a fifth card are dealt with additional rounds of bidding. Finally, there is a showdown and the hole cards are turned over. The highest hand wins the pot, and the game continues.
The most obvious strategy in this game is look at the other players' cards. If you've got a 9 hole card and are showing 6 7 8, but you look out and see all four 5s and two 10s visible, guess what? Your odds of a straight are pretty darn small. Conversely, if a player has three kings showing, it's a pretty safe bet he has three of a kind. If you can't beat that (flush, straight, etc.), you might as well fold. One important thing to count is flush cards. A flush is when you have five cards of the same suit. If you have three hearts to a flush, and you look out into the crowd and only see two hearts flipped, there're a lot of hearts left in the deck, and there's a good chance you might get the flush.
One advantage (or disadvantage, depending on how you look at it) is that five card stud is a bit tougher to bluff successfully. Betting high when you have a fluff hand visible isn't going to make the guy with a pair of aces showing fold. On the other hand, you might have nothing on the third deal and suddenly pick up a pair on the fourth, and two pair on the fifth. Still, the wisest strategy in five card stud is to be patient, wait for a strong pocket card (king or ace) and an on-suit second card, cautiously bet until a good hand develops, and then take the pot.
In closing, remember the golden rule of gambling: Expect to lose. Don't go in with any more money than you feel comfortable losing. If you walk out at the end of the day with more than you started, consider yourself lucky. Happy gaming!