In a typical structured-limit seven-card stud game, the number of hands you can enter a pot with depends on the size of the ante: The higher the ante, the more hands you are forced to play since it costs so much money to sit and wait for a hand.
In $1-$5 spread-limit seven-card stud, there is no ante. Does this mean, then, that the correct strategy is never play a hand unless you are rolled up with trips on third street! Well, not exactly. The spread-limit structure allows you such a cheap look at fourth street — ($1) compared to the maximum amount you can bet on later streets ($5) — that you can actually play a lot of hands on third street (since the potential size of the pot is laying you a very big price). The key to playing spread- limit seven-card stud well is determining just which hands fall into that group “a lot of hands on third street.”
In all stud games the biggest determinant of the value of your hand is whether or not your cards are live. In spread limit this is a much more important factor since in low spread-limit games pots tend to be more multi-way — and the more people in a pot, the more likely you will have to improve your hand to win. You can’t improve your hand if your cards are dead. The looser the structure of the game, the more the liveness of your hand matters.
As long as your hand is live and, thus, has the potential to develop into something big, you can enter pots with little caution for the $1 limp. For example, if the tens, eight’s, and fives are all live, the 6s 7d 9h is playable for $1. If you hit your perfect card, the eight, on fourth street, you have now developed a very big draw and one that will win the pot most of the time you hit the straight. But remember and beware: Playing a hand on third street for the $1 limp is a lot different than paying the potential $5 to continue after fourth street. If you only marginally improve your hand on fourth street, for example hitting a ten or five for an inside straight draw, you must now throw your hand away since the size of the pot is small (a maximum of $8 if the whole table is playing) compared to the size of the fourth street bet (usually $3-$5). If you get in for the cheap $1 limp on third street, then the pot is never going to be laying you the right price to draw to a marginal hand like the inside straight on fourth street.
Small pairs, especially with a straight-flush kicker, are also playable for the $1. For example, if you hold the 3d 3s 4s and the diamonds and threes are live, you can again play to try to hit a big card like the 3h or the 5s on fourth street (especially if the threes are concealed). But again, you must play with caution after this point: When you hit a four, making you two baby pair and you are against a lot of opponents, this holding will not win many multi-way pots. And, remember, the small pot on fourth street is not laying you a very big price to call $3 to $5. Either throw your hand away or, if you feel that a raise will either win the pot right there or thin out the field sufficiently to drastically increase your chances of winning the Slot Gacor pot without improving, raise on fourth street. Calling is almost never correct. Small three flushes with no over cards to the board are also playable for the $1 limp for the same reasons mentioned earlier. If your suit is live, your hand can develop into something big on fourth street if you hit perfect. And if you bust on fourth street, it is easy to throw your hand away.
With all these types of hands, if you limp into the pot for the $1 and someone raises $5 behind you, throw your hand away unless most of the players in front of you also call. You don’t want to get involved with a weak hand that only has the potential to develop into something big if you have to pay a lot of money to get to fourth street. The only value in the types of hands mentioned here is that you can play them cheaply in a spread-limit game, try to make a big draw, and win a big pot when you charge everyone $5 dollars on each betting round after you hit your hand, If you have to pay too much money to even see fourth street, then the implied odds are no longer good enough for you to continue with these hands.
Of course, there is an exception to this rule of only limping into the pot when you have a weak hand with lots of potential: When a lot of players have limped in, in front of you, it is correct to go ahead and raise the bet to $3. All the players who have limped in ahead of you will call your raise, so you know you are getting a good price on your bet. Your hand has a lot of potential, and you have now built the pot to a point where it will offer you a sufficient price to continue with your hand when you hit some of your better marginal cards on fourth street. More importantly, your opponents will have a tendency to check to you (when you are not high card) on fourth street if you have raised on third street. This means that when you hit your hand very marginally to very badly, you can check back — giving you two opportunities to improve.
Now that you know how to play weak hands with lots of potential, how do you play your very biggest hands, such as rolled up trips? First and foremost, do not raise the full $5 into the $1 bring in. Your opponents will most certainly fold and your goal is not to win $1 with hands as big as this. Make it $3 to go, just enough to entice your opponents into chasing you and building a big pot that you will win most of the time — including when you don’t improve. Even when there are lots of limpers in front of you, you should still not take the maximum raise since this will tend to limit the field. When your hand is this big, you want a lot of company.
If you have a big pair (a pair where there is no more than one unduplicated card on board higher than your pair), use a different strategy than you would with your very biggest hands. Slow playing a big pocket pair is very popular in small-limit stud games. Inexperienced players are always looking to trap all their opponents with a hand like this (treating a big pair as if it were trips). It’s a big mistake: Big pairs do not play well in large, multi-way pots. More often than not these inexperienced players end up trapping themselves.
Although a big pair is a strong hand, you will most likely have to improve in order to win a multi-way pot — unlike in the case of rolled up trips. Since big pairs do not play as well in these kinds of pots, your goal is to limit the field. Therefore, when there are many limpers in front of you, raise the maximum. This will cause most of your opponents to drop, leaving you in a heads-up or three-way pot — the ideal situation for this type of hand.
In spread-limit, the trick is to get in cheap, if you have a weak hand with potential, and entice your opponents into building up the pot, if you’ve got your very biggest hand. Keep your eye on costs. And profits.