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15/01/2007 No. 9
he Guardian G2 Poker Column
Victoria Coren
Monday January 15, 2007

Omaha is so last year. I assume you spent the last month of 2006 playing it as per instruction, nice and tight, mopping up your friends' money like a slice of bread in gravy . . . but perhaps they are no longer dazzled by that big handful of hole cards. Maybe they've stopped gambling. Don't worry! We'll be sending them dizzy again soon, with the magnificent Omaha high-low split.

But first: seven-card stud. In stud variants, there are no communal cards (no flop), only individual hands. In seven-card, each player begins with two cards face down and one face up, for his exclusive use. There is a round of betting. Each player then receives a fourth exclusive card face up, followed by a betting round. The same happens with the fifth and sixth cards. The seventh cards are dealt face down, before a final round of betting.

As in hold 'em, you end up with seven cards from which to make your best five-card hand. But your first decision, on whether to play at all, is made on the basis of three "building blocks" rather than two. Three of a kind is obviously the best starting hand. You can play pairs, but you will usually need to improve (or bluff) to win. You can also play three cards that work together (flushing or straightening cards), but give up if you don't have a made hand or a big draw by "fifth street". Throw other hands away.

Because three of the seven cards are "dark", with only four cards visible in front of each player, seven-card stud has more surprises than hold 'em, with more bluffing than Omaha. You must constantly assess your opponents' draws, and remember which cards have been folded. It is logical to protect your made hands with big bets, and keep the pot small with your draws. But, as in all poker, you must sometimes act counterintuitively to keep 'em guessing.


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