Poker: In fear of the ante

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The Independent Culture
A RECENT hand of Seven Card Stud fizzled out to a bizarre conclusion, writes David Spanier. It was a full table of nine players. One had dropped on card 4, two more on card 5, but the other six had hung on, with only eight cards left.

Everyone expected to be dealt card 6, with another round of betting, and that card 7 would then be dealt face up, in common. But the house ruled that the betting should stop and the two final cards should both be dealt face up. The reason given was that the last two cards in the deck should not be dealt out.

Clearly, no one had a hand worth betting on, so it did not matter too much, but how often can you expect to be dealt a premium starting hand in Seven Card Stud? The answer is you will catch the best hand - three aces wired - once in 5,525 deals. Playing an average of 30 hands an hour, 6 hours a day, you can expect trip aces once a month.

The probability of being dealt any three of a kind in your first three cards is more encouraging - once in 14 hours. A pair of aces as starters comes up about once in each 75 deals, which means you should catch aces about once every 21 2 hours. You should get a pair of some kind, deuces through aces, once in six deals. This is what makes Seven Card Stud such an active game. Two or three players usually have cards to bet on.

If you are not raising the opening bet fairly frequently, you are probably playing weakly. You don't have to wait for good cards. You can often bet a low pair with an ace or an overcard (a card higher than anything in sight), if no matching cards are showing.

For example, (A-2) 2 with no ace or deuce showing. Sitting in late position, (Q-3) 3 with no 3 or ace, king or queen in sight, has potential. The idea is to 'steal' the antes. Even three cards to a broken straight, with an overcard (say 9-10-K) or two cards to a flush with two overcards (x A-K suited) can occasionally be given a shot.

If you never bet the weaker hands, you can't expect to be called on the good hands. As the old saying has it, if you just wait for good cards, the antes will eat you to death.