As with any other poker game, the most important decision you will make is deciding to play after you see your starting cards. In seven card stud your starting three cards make up 42% of your final hand. The first thing you need to do after looking at your three cards is to look around the table at the up card of all the other players. Texas Holdem and Omaha use community cards so it is fairly easy to judge the relative strength of your starting hand. This is not the case with seven card stud because each player receives seven unique cards. Another player may be dealt a card that you need to make your hand a winner. If a card that you will need to improve your hand is showing, or the other players are showing superior cards then you might as well fold and save your self money.
The same three starting cards can be powerful in one hand and be completely unplayable in another hand. If you hold three suited cards but look around the board and see five cards of the same suit in your opponents hands then your chances of making a flush are greatly diminished. This is also true for a possible straight or even if you hold three big cards but see some of the same cards as your opponents up cards. So look at your starting three cards and then look around the table before making the decision to play. There are certain guidelines of sound starting hands that you should use as a base in choosing your starting hand.
The best starting hand you can have is three aces. Actually any time you have three of a kind you have a powerful hand. When you have a pair in the hole and it is matched by your door card (up card) this is known as being rolled-up. The odds of this happening are 424 to 1 so you wont see it too often. Besides three of a kind here are the other types of starting hands I would consider playing.
Three cards to a straight flush.
A big hidden pair.
A big open pair. This is one card down matched by one up.
Three high cards to a flush.
Three cards in sequence
Hidden middle or low pair with no matching card showing by others.
Three cards to a straight of flush.
Your goal is to start with the strongest starting hand or one that has the potential of being the best hand at the showdown. These guidelines may seem a little tight but a winning player is very selective about the hands they play. Again these are only guidelines that will be used as a starting point. If you see cards you need scattered around the table you wont even be able to continue with many of them.
If you have a big pair in your starting three cards you will want to play very aggressively by raising if there is a bet in front t of you. Your goal is to narrow the field to increase the chance that your big pair will hold up as the best hand. You want to make it very expensive for those players to continue with a drawing hand. Big pairs are best against a small field of players.
Remembering Folded Cards
In stud you also need to keep track of the cards that were folded by your opponents. You dont want to be chasing a card that is unavailable to you. The easiest way to do this is put them in order numerically either in ascending or descending order. For instance if four players folded a Queen, 9, 2 and ten (T) it is easier to remember if you put them in order as 2-9-Ten-Queen. You can keep track of the suits by a number and the suit such as 3 clubs or 2 hearts. Once you see more than three of a particular suit folded you can stop counting that suit as it will be pretty unlikely anyone is going to catch a flush in that suit.