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How to Play Soko

Get an edge with these quick tips and basic strategies

Adding extra hand rankings to 5 Card Stud to drive action, it makes sense that Soko is a game favored by gamblers. 

It's tough to make a straight or flush in 5 Card Stud so in Soko 4 card straights and flushes count, making things a little easier. A 4 card straight beats a pair, and a 4 card flush is better still, but both lose to any 2 pair hand.

Everything else in this looser variant of 5 Card Stud is unchanged. Soko (Sökö in Finnish) is also known as Scandinavian Stud or Canadian Stud. In Finland the term is used to check ('I check' = 'minä sökötän'). 

Soko Poker
Game Complexity Intermediate
Type Stud Poker
Players 2-8

Gameplay of Soko

  • Setting Up

    Setting Up

    • You'll need: Antes from each player.
    • Soko can be played pot limit or no limit, but fixed limit is the most common structure online.
    • Deal each player 1 card face down and 1 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 acts first - suits are ranked alphabetically, clubs (lowest), diamonds, hearts then spades (highest).
    • Action goes clockwise beginning 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 occurs 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 Soko

  • 2nd Street

    New players should focus on playing high suited connectors e.g. Ah-Kh and big pairs to start. Play tight-aggressive.

    Position is not as important in Stud games. Since the highest hand showing acts first, the order of play can change on any street.

    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

    In Soko, play even more aggressively with pairs on 3rd than in 5 Card Stud, charging 3 card straights to draw.

    Make a plan on 3rd to continue or fold - bet sizes double on 4th street. Get out if you brick, e.g. with 9d-Td-2s and the Jd dead.

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

  • 4th-5th Streets

    A half pot bet on 4th is a good sizing to entice players to call with 4 card straight or flush draws, without proper odds.

    It's not possible to be up against a full house if villain doesn't have two pairs or three of a kind showing on their up cards.

    Bet strongly on 5th in Soko as players will often over-value 4 card straights and flushes, losing to your 2 pairs or better.

What You Need to Know About Soko Starting Hands

  •  Good Starting Hands

    Play these hands:

    • Any big pair, the best of course being A-A.
    • Low pairs where your two outs are not on other players' boards.
    • High suited cards where most of your outs are live.
  •  Poor Starting Hands

    Never play these hands: 

    • Low, unconnected unsuited cards e.g. 3h-8c. It's impossible to improve to a 5 card straight.
    • Hands where most of your outs are dead, e.g. 4d-4s with both other fours showing.
  •  Marginal Starting Hands

    Play these hands sparingly:

    • Mid suited and/or connected hands, e.g. 4s-6s and 8-9 offsuit.
    • Mid pairs when several players yet to act have higher door cards, or facing an early raise.
  •  Positional Hands

    Raise in late position first to act:

    • A live mid card and an Ace in the hole.
    • Complete with hands where all door cards after you are lower than yours.
    • Represent a big pair to steal the antes and thin the field, then stay aggressive if villains brick.

Do's and Don'ts for Better Soko Stud Play

  • Don't Slowplay Anything But The Nuts

    The addition of 4 card straights and flushes in Soko means it's easier for your big pairs to get outdrawn, so bet early and extract value. Only consider slowplaying e.g. K-K-K on a street or two. 

  • Don't Overplay 4 Card Hands

    Hands like As-Ks-Qs-Js look pretty, but remember you still lose to 2c-2d-3h-3s! Proceed carefully versus resistance and be prepared to make a laydown if you don't improve to a 5 card hand.

  • Check The River!

    With the best up cards showing, you'll only be called (or punished with a raise) if you're beat. It makes more sense to check and induce a bluff, check-raising when your hole card improves you to a lock on the hand. 

Soko (5 Card Stud) Poker Videos

  • Shuffle Up & Deal:  Live Dealer Tutorial

    A London cardroom dealer introduces the game and deals the cards.

    This Video Contains:

    1. Setting up the game for 3 players.
    2. Flipping up hole cards on 5th.
    3. General tips & tricks.
  • On the Silver Screen:  Steve McQueen

    All-in on a cooler hand in 1965 classic 'The Cincinnati Kid'.

    This Video Contains:  

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

Where Can I Play Soko Online?