Ashley Adams has been playing poker since he learned it, literally, at his grandfather's knee 42 years ago. He's been a winning casino poker player for the past 11 years, playing primarily at Foxwoods Resort Casino but also in poker rooms all over the world. He has won at ring games and tournaments, at Stud, Stud8 and Hold Em, limit and no limit. He is the author of Winning 7-card Stud (Kensington, 2003) and over 100 articles about poker. He is due to publish Winning Baby No Limit Hold Em in 2006 and has recently been working with numerous charities on fundraising poker tournaments.
You wouldn't be too far wrong if you just never played 3-Straights. That's not to say that there isn't some profit in them if you play them correctly. There surely is money to be made with wise play. But for many players, too much is invested and not enough is reaped because they play them incorrectly. Let me try to give you some of the basic parameters for playing these tricky little hands.
First of all, nearly every list of playable Third Street hands lists 3-Straights. And, frankly, there are so few starting hands that are worth playing in 7-Card Stud, that impatient stud players often jump at the chance to just have something worth pursuing. "Yippee" they exclaim with their chips, "at last I can play". And so they do...poorly.
Keep in mind that you have to be very selective about 3-Straights. Unless the game has a very, very high ante structure or if the players are very, very loose, I wouldn't play any of these hands unless all three cards are in sequence. I would pass on any one or two gapped straights like -- or --. Pitch them right off the bat unless you're strictly on an ante steal in late position against a tight player. Oh, and try not to distract yourself by looking to see what you would have gotten if you stayed. Sure, sometimes you would have hit the perfect "tweener" that would have helped you. But hey, it still would only have been a 4-Straight. And half the time or so they don't even manage to make a real hand. Besides, worrying about what you would have gotten is a route down which madness lies. So beware!
Wait for three consecutive cards. But you can't play all of those hands either. You want high 3-Straights. At least as high as -- in nearly all situations. Against any aggressive opponents you want to avoid the --, -- and -- type hands. The reason is simple. If you don't hit the one of your perfect cards on Fourth Street you really have absolutely nothing. If, on the other hand, you start with something that has some high cards, like 9-10-J or higher, then at least you have a shot at making a Premium Pair on Fourth Street. You give yourself two ways to improve (much as I explained in my prior column on playing 3-Flushes).
You also want to play these hands against many opponents - passive ones if possible. This is because you want to have the best implied odds that you can. Implied odds means the money you expect to win if you win the hand versus the amount you must put in the hand. What you want is little pressure on you - checking ideally, and no more than a single bet - but as much reward as possible - meaning as many possible opponents. This too is very similar to the advice on 3-Flushes.
You also want to be sure that your 3-Straight is live. You don't want to play if more than one of your immediate Straight cards - the ones immediately before or after the 3-Card sequence you hold - are live. So, for example, if you have --, you don't want to play if more than one 9 or K is exposed. Similarly, you don't want to play if two or more of your secondary straight cards, or more than one primary and one secondary Straight card are gone. If you hold -- you won't play if you see a and a , or a and a or a and a .
Here's a 3-Straight you can play and a way to play it correctly.
You're dealt --. That's the first plus - it's three high cards. The bring in is to your left with a . He bets $5 in this $20/40 game with a $3.00 ante. Five players after him call the $5.00. None have an , , or . The next player, with a folds. It's up to you. This is heaven. You have six opponents, just the partial bring-in bet, all of your primary and all of your secondary Straight cards are live. And your call will kill the betting action for the round. You should gladly call the bet. Though you may be tempted to raise because of the ideal situation don't. Remember that you want to see Fourth Street cheaply.
Unlike 3-Flushes, you have to be at least slightly concerned about whether you might make your hand and still lose to a higher hand. If you make your Flush in a typical 7-Card Stud game you nearly always (though not always) win the pot. But that's not nearly as likely with a Straight. Straights lose, of course, to all Flushes. So if you believe you are against a Flush draw early on you often should not call a bet - especially if your opponent has a higher door card or if your cards are not very live. This is because even if you improve in either direction you still may be up against someone who improves to a better draw than you will have.
You want to avoid situations that are likely to see a double bet or that are likely to be heads up with you against a raiser. You have to anticipate what other players are likely to do sometimes before you decide to call. Remember, you want to get in cheaply, you want the hand to have a number of other players if possible, and you definitely don't want to go heads up against just one other player - especially an aggressive one.
Here's an example of what I mean. The bring-in with a 3c is to your immediate left. An Ah calls, a few players fold, and a Qs raises on your right. You have (--). Fold the hand. There's a good chance that the Ah is on a heart draw or that he is slow playing a pair of Aces and will re-raise when you call. You're likely to face a raise, few opponents, and possibly someone drawing to a Flush. Get out while you can get out cheaply.
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