Texas hold' em is more popular than 7-card stud-although luck plays more of a role in hold' em. Regardless of which game you prefer, there are certain similarities to keep in mind when deciding to play or fold. The First Cards dealt-play with an edge: You can't play any three cards in 7-card stud. Small pairs are playable in both games. But don't fall in love with them-particularly in stud-if you see your card in someone else's hand. That the advantage in 7-card stud-you can see some of your opponents' hands.
When playing Texas hold 'em, your position is more important than your starting hands. However, those who play "no-fold' em hold' em" before the flop frequently have an edge once the flop is exposed. For example, after a ragged flop, all you have are good two good cards, while their hand could make two pair or a straight.
Little kickers usually cost money and you will lose in situations where you and your opponent both have top pair. Two suited cards are only playable if they are high and have other outs-unless you luck-out and flop a flush.
After initial play, pay attention: If higher cards are betting in 7-card stud, it's best to fold-even when you have a pair. If you are working on a flush or straight and have no other outs, throw your hand away-particularly if others are betting their hands. It's more important to pay attention to what others are doing in both games. However, in stud, you can't play without noticing moves.
In hold' em, figure the pot odds before you call any bets after the flop. Only raise before the flop to get garbage hands out. Never raise just to make the pot bigger.
When to stay or fold: In 7-card stud, decide before fifth street whether to fold or stay to the river. If you have a high pair, it's time to get aggressive and narrow the field down. High pairs play better in head to head games. That's not true in hold' em. In a loose game of stud or hold' em, if you can be beaten on the river, count on it. In a tight game, make it hard for other players to beat you on the river. If there are high cards and two suited cards on the flop, expect that players are chasing flushes.
For both games of poker: If you are working on a straight or a flush, try to keep as many players in as you can. Straights and flushes play better to multi-way pots. It's not a good idea to slow play trips, unless you are sure your opponents can't outrun you. Some players make it easy to be outrun; others make it hard to be out-run.
Chasing is part of both games of poker. Just chase smart and not dumb. Betting is the other half of the game. You can bluff, semi-bluff, or bet the best hand. It's best to keep your opponents guessing when you do bet.
It's better to err by semi-bluffing than to be caught speeding with nothing. Don't believe aggressive or passive players, particularly if they change from one to the other.
It's best not to play tight in a loose game, and don't be loose in a tight game-particularly in 7-card stud. If you have a high pair, and there are suited cards on the flop, don't make it easy for people to stay. If there is no possibility of a flush or straight draw and you have high pair, make if easy for other players to stay in. If you flop two pair, be aggressive in your betting. If you flop a set, check to see if someone bets, then raise. Always play with at least two or three outs. Never play just with one out unless you have top pair and are in late position. Position is more important in hold' em than the cards you have.
If you lived your life the way you play poker, would you be better or worst off? Think about it!
Jim McKenna has been practicing psychotherapy for more than thirty-five years. His books include the acclaimed Beyond Tells: Power Poker Psychology, Beyond Bluffs: Master the Mysteries of Poker, and Beyond Traps: The Anatomy of Poker Success, all published by Kensington Press. Write to Jim@Jimmckenna-PhD.com.