Basic stud poker provides the platform on which flashier modern games like Omaha and Texas Hold ‘Em are played. Traditionalists would go as far as to say that Five Card Stud is synonymous with the word poker, and that other variations don’t carry the credibility of the original stud game.
The uncomplicated five card showdown is played just like its seven card counterpart, but with a slightly different dealing sequence that ceases after five cards are dealt to each active player. The game was played by soldiers in the American Civil War, and shows itself in pop culture references like classic movie-poker scenes.
In the early seventies, the game became associated with long-time Vegas card room manager Bill Boyd. Boyd took the winning bracelets in WSOP five card stud tournaments from 1971-1974. The emergence of other games, and shifts in card playing appetites have tempered the popularity of classic five card poker.
The game makes guest appearances at high-profile modern tournaments, but it is no longer the bread and butter of the poker playing world. Casinos and home enthusiasts still promote five card stud poker on a smaller scale, and it can be found online as well.
Five Card Stud Online
Due to inconsistent interest in the game, not every online poker vendor specializes in five card stud. It is a niche game online, played by a loyal band of enthusiastic traditionalists, who enjoy the brisk tempo of stud poker, and its strategic nuances.
The game is played with a standard 52 card deck, which accommodates up to ten players per hand. Before any cards are dealt, each player is required to post a compulsory bet, called an ‘ante’. The ante provides an immediate stake for the hand, and gets some skin in the game for each player.
Online, most Five Card Stud games employ a ‘fixed limit’ betting structure, though ‘pot limit’ and ‘no limit’ games are also found. Upper and lower betting stakes are used to identify tables. For example, in a $5/$10 fixed limit game, the lower limit is used in the early betting rounds, and the higher limit applies to the final two bets of each hand.
Once antes have been posted, dealing commences with two cards being dealt to each player. The first card, or ‘hole card’ is dealt face down, while the second ‘up’ card is dealt face-up for all of the players to see. The cards are distributed according to standard poker form; in a clockwise direction, beginning with the player to the dealer’s left.
The Bring In
A ‘bring in’ is a compulsory bet that is imposed on one of the players at the table; usually in correlation with the value of his or her visible cards. In five card stud poker, the bring in bet is the responsibility of the player showing the weakest up card after the initial deal. The bring in amount is usually set lower than the standard bet for the table. For example, a game with a five dollar fixed bet for the first round of play might have a bring in of 2-3 dollars. The player charged with placing the bring in bet has the option to cover only the bring in amount, or to go ahead and place the entire fixed bet for the round.
First Betting Round
Following the bring in, as betting moves clockwise around the table, each player may fold, call or raise. ‘Completing a bet’ is a raise that brings the bet up to the standard fixed limit amount. Three raises are allowed during each betting round, including a player’s final raise, which is called the ‘cap’.
Third Street – Second round of betting
The second round of dealing sees each active player receive an additional ‘up’ card. Third street betting starts with a bet from the player displaying the strongest up cards, and continues in a clockwise direction until each player has folded or called the prevailing bet.
Fourth street mimics third, in that a single face-up card is distributed during the round. Betting again commences with the player with the strongest visible hand, who checks, bets or folds. Once every player has called the maximum bet, the deal turns to fifth street.
Fifth street denotes the fifth and final card in the round of stud poker. The card is dealt face-up, leaving each active player with four up cards and a single hole card. The final round of betting ensues, starting with the best visible hand, and subject to the table’s upper betting limit.
With 80% of each player’s cards in plain view, the strength of each hand is largely visible to the entire table. As a result, successful five card stud strategies revolve around presenting your hole card in a way that keeps the opposition guessing, and being able to project the potential power of your competitors’ hands.
If two players remain after the fifth street betting round, it is followed by a showdown in which players reveal their hands (a simple flip of their lone hole cards).
Five Card Stud Limit Games
Fixed limit games institute a split limit that carries one designated bet amount for the first two rounds, and another predetermined amount for the final two rounds of betting. Players decide only whether to participate further by calling the bet. The ‘big bet’ used in the later rounds of the game is frequently double the lower limit amount. Fixed limit games cap the number of individual raises for each round at three.
A looser betting structure is present in pot limit games, where bets and raises are unlimited in number, and players are allowed to bet as much as the full pot amount.
Five Card Stud Strategies
Unindoctrinated players falsely perceive five card stud to be an unsophisticated poker game. The opposite is true. Because of the transparent nature of the game (most of each player’s cards are visible to the opposition), strategic nuances rely on advanced poker savvy that guides other players’ perception of relative hand strength. And no matter how you slice the opposition’s up cards, a competent five-card stud player will keep you guessing about his or her hole card.