Antes, the Deal, and the Betting Structure, Oh My

Before the cards are dealt, each player posts an ante, which is a fraction of a bet. Each Poker game begins as a chase for the antes, so this money seeds the pot.

Players are then dealt two cards face down, along with one face up. The lowest exposed card is required to make a small bet of a predetermined denomination. This bet (and the person who makes this bet) is called the bring-in. If two or more players have an exposed card of the same rank, the determining factor is the alphabetical order of suits: clubs, diamonds, hearts, and spades.

Betting

The player to the immediate left of the bring-in has three options. He may fold his hand, call the bring-in, or raise to a full bet. In a $20–$40 game, the antes are usually $3 and the bring-in is $5. The player to the bring-in’s left can either fold, call the $5 bring-in bet, or raise to $20 — which constitutes a full bet.

If that player folds or calls the bring-in, the player to his immediate left has the same options. As soon as someone raises to a full bet, subsequent players must fold, call the full bet, or raise again.

Once betting has been equalized, a second card is dealt face-up, and another round of betting ensues. This time, however, it’s in increments of full bets. The player with the highest ranking board cards (cards that are face up) acts first.

If there are two high cards of the same suit, the order of the suit determines who acts first. The highest suit is spades, followed by hearts, then diamonds, and finally, clubs.

The first player to act may either check (a check, in actuality, is a bet of nothing) or bet. If a player has a pair showing (called an open pair), whether that pair resides in her hand or that of an opponent, she has the option to make a big bet in most cases. For example, in a $20–$40 game, the betting is still in increments of $20 on fourth street, except when there is an open pair. Then it’s the discretion of any bettor to open for either $20 or $40, with all bets and raises continuing in increments that are consistent with the bet. (If the first two cards dealt face up to Brenda in a $20–$40 Stud game were a pair of jacks, then she or anyone else involved in that hand can bet $40 instead of $20.) This rule allows someone with an open pair to protect her hand by making a larger wager.

Raising

Most casinos allow three or four raises per betting round, except when only two players contest the pot. In that case, there is no limit to the number of raises permitted.

In Stud, the order in which players act (called position) is determined by the cards showing on the board and can vary from round to round. With the exception of the first round of betting on third street, where the lowest ranked

card is required to bring it in, the highest hand on board acts first and has the option of checking or betting.

The highest hand could range anywhere from four-of-a-kind, to trips (three- of- a-kind), to two pair, to a single pair, or even the highest card, if no exposed pair is present.

Double bets

Betting usually doubles on fifth street, except if there’s a player on fourth street who holds a pair. When there is, anyone involved in the hand has the option of making a double bet, and those players still contesting the pot are dealt another exposed card. Sixth street is the same. The last card, called seventh street or the river, is dealt face down. At the river, active players have a hand made up of three closed and four exposed cards. The player who acted first on sixth street acts first on seventh street too.

Showdown

If more than one player is active after all the betting has been equalized, players turn their hands face up, making the best five-card hand from the seven cards they are holding, and the best hand wins in a showdown (see Figure 3-1).

Spread-limit games

Many low-stakes Seven-Card Stud games use spread limits rather than fixed limits. Many casinos will spread $1–$3 or $1–$4 Seven-Card Stud games. These games are usually played without an ante. The low card is required to bring it in for $1, and all bets and raises can be in increments from $1–$4 — with the provision that all raises be at least the amount of the previous bet. If someone bets $2 you can raise $2, $3, or $4 — but not $1. If the original bettor had wagered $4, you can fold, call his $4 bet, or raise to $8.

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