Playing Fourth Street in Seven Card Stud

(This article is a follow up to "Seven Card Stud Starting Hand Strategy")

Fourth Street StrategyOn fourth street, you have seen more than half the cards you will receive and should now consider where the hand is going. Is your hand turning into something worthwhile or is it starting to fizzle to nothingness? There are three possible answers to this question:

Your Hand Is Going Nowhere

Your hand looked good in the beginning but your fourth card didn’t help or the board is starting to look threatening. In this situation, your best option is to check and fold. Even if you have some sort of back door draw, what are the odds that it will hit? Unless you get free cards, you shouldn’t play for back door draws.

The one shot you have left of winning the pot is to pull some sort of bluff. But before you go pulling any bluffs, realize that the conditions at the table need to be just right for your bluff to have a decent chance of success. Here are several factors you should consider before attempting a bluff

  • The number of players in the pot
  • The overall tightness/looseness of the players
  • The strength of your opponents’ up cards
  • The strength of your up cards
  • The size of the pot
  • Your table image

Generally, I recommend you only bluff when there are two or fewer players, those players are tight, and your up cards look better than their up cards. It is also important that you are perceived as a tight, rational player. The size of the pot is also important because the larger the pot, the less likely your opponents are to fold. Learn more about bluffing in Seven Card Stud.

Your Hand is Strong but Not Great

This is a common situation. You’ve made it to fourth street and you have a strong draw or something else like a decent two-pair or a high pair. The question now is whether you want to play the hand cautiously or jam the pot and get value for your hand. Like the answer to all questions in poker, it depends on several factors.

First, if you have a drawing hand, you should usually play the hand slowly and continue on only if you get the right odds to draw. There’s no sense in jamming the pot unless you think there’s a strong chance your opponents will fold. In small stakes games, this is rarely the case. Don’t forget to check your opponents’ up cards. You don’t want to continue drawing if the cards you need are already on the table.

The correct play for hands such as high pairs and two-pair depends on the action at the table, your opponents’ up cards and the strength of your hand. A bunch of big up cards and heavy betting action is a sign that you should get out of the hand as soon as possible.

In other cases, you’ll get the feeling that your opponents are weaker than you or are still chasing draws. Those are the perfect times for you to jam the pot. The goal here is two-fold: to charge your opponents to outdraw you and to get value for your hand.

You Have a Monster

Made flushes and straights aren’t possible on fourth street, so the only monsters here are three of a kind and four of a kind. With these hands, your goal is to make the pot as big as possible. There’s still a chance your opponents will outdraw your three of a kind but you also have a chance to improve to an even stronger hand.

In loose games, you should play your monster hands fast. If your opponents are going to call, you might as well start betting now. Not only do you get more value for your hand, but you also make the pot larger so that your opponents are more willing to call bigger bets on later streets.

In tight games, you will sometimes want to slow play your monster hand so that you can jam the pot with bigger bets on fifth, sixth and seventh street. With three of a kind, you have to be careful because your opponents may still draw out on you. With four of a kind, the only worry you have is chasing your opponents away.

Slow Playing vs. Fast Playing

If you are having a tough time deciding between slow playing a made hand and playing it fast, here’s a little tip that might help. Take a look at the table from your opponents’ point of view. For example, let’s say you see one opponent with an Ace and another opponent with a possible flush draw. If there are no other Aces or flush cards showing, your opponents will be more likely to call your bets because they may feel they still have a chance to improve.

Of course, other factors should come in to play as well, such as each opponent’s propensity to call, your table image, the strength of your hand and the overall feel of the table. But if you need a tie-breaker, you can use this tip to give you a helping hand. Just note that this tip might not always apply at lower limits because small stakes opponents tend to ignore their opponents’ up cards.

Now that you know about playing fourth street, learn how to play fifth street.

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