In the course of a 5 Card Stud Poker
hand, all but one of each player's five cards are revealed for all participants to see. A player's 5 Card Stud Poker strategy must take into account the exposure ratio of this stud variant, combined with the limited opportunity for improvement upon each hand.
Key factors that should be considered in 5 Card Stud Poker strategy include attention to the visible cards of opponents, the mutable betting position, and all information that can be gleaned from keen observation of each individual. It is also recommended that players choose the hands they pay for wisely in order to conserve their chips for occasions to raise stronger hands.
With a mere five cards from which to organize the best possible poker hand ranking, straights and flushes are rarely seen in 5 Card Stud Poker games. Winning hands in Five Card Stud Poker generally tend to consist of pairs or three-of-a-kind. Even high-card can take the pot frequently in heads-up competition. Keeping this in mind will assist players in making more reasonable bets and raises.
As a 5 Card Stud Poker hand progresses, the best possible hand each player can form becomes increasingly clearer. In fact, a high pair or better showing in an opponent's exposed cards can provide a cue to fold if one's own best possible hand has already been beaten. Likewise, a player may determine that their own hand is stronger than any potential hand an opponent could possibly be holding.
Hand odds can also be calculated from observation of the visible cards. By counting the number of cards that would serve to improve upon the current hand (called outs), and comparing the number of outs to the number of unseen cards remaining, one can determine the odds that a hand will be improved by the next card. However, careful attention must be paid to every opponents' upturned cards for outs that have already hit the board in order to formulate an accurate probability. A player's hand odds (also referred to as "poker odds
") can be used in conjunction with the current pot odds in order to judge the statistical profitability of calling a bet.
Unlike poker forms that implement the use of blinds, the player who acts first in a 5 Card Stud Poker betting round is selected based on the value of their exposed cards - potentially changing from one player to another with each round. If played with a bring-in (a small forced bet utilized only in the first round of each hand in casino and online stud poker variants), the player to perform the inaugural action is the player with the worst (lowest) cards showing. In each subsequent round, the player with the best (highest) cards exposed acts first. If no bring-in is implemented (as is the case in most home Five Card Stud Poker games), then the initial betting round is lead by the best hand showing, as well.
The last player to act in a betting round tends to have the greatest advantage over the other players due to information accumulated from opponents' actions. Strategic players must take into account not only the fact that an opponent placed a bet or raised the stake, but also the player's potential hand strength based on all of the visible cards, and everything learned about that player's typical betting habits.
In an early betting position - among the first to act in a round - players are at a disadvantage, as their actions may be scrutinized and exploited by players in late position with seemingly strong cards revealed. Players in early position, without a truly formidable hand, are advised to bet conservatively.
A player can save their chips by playing only the starting hands that have better odds of winning. Any pair holds the potential to improve to a three-of-a-kind, and therefore warrants being played for at least one round. However, only a high pair is worth paying for more than once or twice, unless no other player shows a higher hand potential.
Two high cards make a decent starting hand as well, especially in short-handed 5 Card Stud Poker. An Ace with a decent kicker may be worth playing for one to two rounds to allow an opportunity to pair the Ace. However, a player exhibiting signs of a better hand than a pair of Aces would warrant folding the Ace-high starting hand by third street if it does not improve.
Straight and flush draws have an extremely low probability of occurring, and therefore can become quite expensive to chase. Conversely, if one can check all the way to fifth street, it may be possible to limp in with what would be an almost unbeatable Five Card Stud Poker hand ranking.
Players should pay close attention to the actions of opponents relative to their hand strength. Some players may choose to play a tight game, folding frequently until a sufficiently strong starting hand is acquired. Others may play to third or forth street regardless of the cards they are dealt, as long as the bet isn't raised beyond a certain limit. By observing the betting patterns of the other players, one can begin to establish recognition of each individual's habits.
Online 5 Card Stud Poker typically provides the ability to take notes at the poker table, as well as review recent hand histories
. Players who have not yet honed their observational skills are recommended to take advantage of these tools to help retain the details apprehended about specific players during 5 Card Stud Poker hands.
Bluffing requires that a player's board reflects the potential for a winning hand. If a bluff is suspected, it may be worthwhile in the long run to call the bet if it happens to be affordable. This will allow the observant player the opening to reveal an opponent's propensity for bluffing.