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How to Play 5 Card Stud

Get an edge with these quick tips and basic strategies

Played with 4 up cards and 1 in the hole, 5 Card Stud is the oldest form of Stud poker.

Less common today than 7 Card Stud or Hold'em, it can be hard to find a game of 5 Card Stud either live or online - although the Scandinavian variant Soko can still be enjoyed on some poker sites.

5 Card Stud originated during the American Civil War in the 1860s.  It has even found fame on the silver screen being featured in iconic movie scenes with the likes of Steve McQueen and Dean Martin at the table.

5 Card Stud Poker
Game Complexity Simple
Type Stud Poker
Players 2-8

Gameplay of 5 Card Stud

  • Setting Up

    Setting Up

    • You'll need: Antes from each player.
    • 5 Card Stud can be played no limit, but fixed limit and pot limit are the most common structures online.
    • Deal each player 1 card face down and one card face up. This is 2nd street action.
    • Play begins with a forced "bring-in" bet where the lowest up card must bet. In the event of a tie, the lowest suit goes first - suits are ranked alphabetically, clubs (lowest), diamonds, hearts then spades (highest).
    • Action goes clockwise starting with the player left of the bring-in.  Raises are capped on each street at either 4 or 5 bets.
  • Action

    The Action

    • There are 5 betting rounds:  2nd street, 3rd street, 4th street, and 5th street.
    • On 3rd street all remaining players are dealt another up card. Action starts with the best high hand showing.
    • Action on 4th and 5th streets occur the same as 3rd street, except the bet is doubled.
  • Who's the Winner?

    Determining a Winner

    • Players who complete the last round of betting without folding show cards.
    • The player with the best 5-card hand wins.
    • The player who took the last aggressive action should flip up their down card first, revealing it to the table.

Basic Strategies of 5 Card Stud

  • 2nd Street

    Beginners should stick to playing high suited connectors and high pairs to start. Play tight and aggressive.

    Position is not as important in Stud as it is in Hold'em. The highest hand showing acts first on every street, so the order of play keeps changing.

    Take note of other players' door cards to see if your outs are live or dead. If you're drawing live, bet and raise with confidence.

  • 3rd Street

    On this street make a plan to continue or get out of the hand - the bet will double on 4th street so choose carefully.  

    Use the extra information from your opponents' up cards to see if your outs are still in the deck or not. If you're drawing thin, fold.

    Consider what your opponents are trying to represent by their betting action - if their outs are in other players' up cards, it may be a bluff.

  • 4th-5th Streets

    Betting doubles on 4th-5th streets. Bet if you have the initiative and your opponents are dealt an unhelpful up card.

    Straights and flushes have a very low probability of occurring compared to Hold'em - however if hit, are almost unbeatable.

    It's impossible for your opponent to hold a full house if they don't have two pairs or three of a kind showing on their up cards.

What You Need to Know About 5 Card Stud Starting Hands

  •  Good Starting Hands

    Play these hands:

    • Any high pair hand, the best hand being A-A.
    • Low pairs where your two cards are not on other players' boards.
    • Two high suited cards where your outs are not on other players' boards.
  •  Poor Starting Hands

    Never play these hands: 

    • Low, off suit, unconnected cards e.g. 2s-7d. It's impossible to make a straight.
    • Hands where most of your outs are on other players boards, e.g. 3c-3h with both other threes dead.
  •  Marginal Starting Hands

    Play these hands sparingly:

    • Medium suited and/or connected hands, e.g. 5h-7h and 9-T offsuit.
    • Paired hands where several players yet to act have higher door cards than your pair.
  •  Positional Hands

    Raise in late position when folded to you:

    • Complete with hands where all remaining door cards are lower than yours.
    • Represent a big hand to steal the antes or thin the field, and stay aggressive if villain bricks.

Do's and Don'ts for Better 5 Card Stud Play

  • Use Your Up Cards to Represent!

    Many players play tight, so by raising aggressively with high door cards you can run them over and pick up valuable antes, regardless of your hole card. It's hard to make a hand in Stud.

  • Avoid Weak Draws Without Pot Odds

    Chasing a low flush draw with unconnected cards with no straight potential as a backup, and no high cards to hit strong pairs, is a losing strategy in short-handed pots.

  • Remember the Up Cards

    Take a mental note of what up cards have been folded, and use all the information available to assist in your decision making.

5 Card Stud Poker Videos

  • 5 Card Stud:  Live Dealer Tutorial

    A dealer at the London International Cardroom talks us through the basics. 

    This Video Contains:

    1. Dealing the cards to three players.
    2. Flipping up hole cards on 5th street.
    3. General tips and information.
  • Stud on Film:  The Cincinatti Kid

    Steve McQueen goes all-in on a cooler hand in this 1965 classic.

    This Video Contains:  

    1. 4 up cards to a possible straight flush.
    2. No-limit action and a showdown on 5th street.
    3. 'Making the wrong move at the right time.'

Where Can I Play 5 Card Stud Online?