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Seven Card Stud Eight-Or-Better: The Ante Structure And Stealing

by Kevin Haney |  Published: Jun 16, 2021

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Poker begins as a battle over the antes, and the structure of your Seven Card Stud Eight-or-Better (Stud 8) game has a direct impact on how your opponents will play, as well as many of your decisions at the table.

Structures are often categorized by comparing the size of ante to the lower betting limit, and the resulting percentage typically falls within a range of 10-25%. For example, a $10-$20 game with a $1 ante (10% structure) would be considered a low ante game, while $40-$80 with a $10 ante (25% structure) would be classified as high ante.

Somewhere in between would be a $20-$40 game with a $3 ante, where the ratio of the ante to the lower limit is 15%. If you are playing in this game, you could propose bumping the ante up to $5, which would eliminate dealing with the $1 chips and also change the game to a high 25% ante structure. You may encounter resistance from the other players and/or the card room may not allow it, but it is worth a try if the high ante game better suits your playing style.

In a higher ante game, you must play more holdings, attempt to steal the antes at a greater frequency, and aggressively defend against opponents trying to steal. In contrast, within a low ante game there is less stealing (and re-stealing) and players more often have the hands they are representing.

In a six-handed $40-$80 game with a $10 bring-in, a completion with a weak hand is risking $40 to win $70 and only needs to work 36% of the time to book an instant profit. In contrast, a steal-raise in a six handed $10-$20 game with a $3 bring-in is risking $10 to win $9, which corresponds to a higher required success rate of 53%.

Generally, there is less stealing in low ante games due to the less advantageous risk versus reward ratio, and also because the average players inhabiting them tend to be more passive.

Most players consider a 20% structure to be the sweet spot where there is a proper balance between loose and tight play, providing the best overall experience for the players. If the ante is too high, the game may seem like it is too much of a crapshoot, and if it is too low the action may be lacking. $75-$150 Stud with a $15 ante results in a 20% percentage, and is a popular structure spread in many card rooms.

In live games, the lower limits tend to be low and medium ante games, while the higher limits tend to have a large ante. There is some variation amongst the online sites, with some mix between large and small antes at the lower limits.

The structure of a game by itself does not indicate how profitable a game may be, as that depends on the lineup and the mistakes that they tend to make. It’s not hard to beat a low ante game where our opponents are too loose, but we can also achieve a good win rate in a high ante game if the players are too tight and fail to re-steal aggressively enough.

The rake is an issue at the lower limits. However, it can be overcome when your opponents are passive and going too far with their hands.

As it directly impacts the size of the pot, we must always be cognizant of the number of players at the table. The chart below depicts how often a steal must succeed to be instantly profitable based upon the ante structure and the number of players dealt into the hand:

As we can see, our steals must work more often when there are fewer dealt into the hand, and this aspect can sometimes slow the action in short-handed Stud 8 games. This is the main drawback of Stud variants, especially in mixed-game rotations as players will often choose to take their break during this round. In contrast, the flop games always have the same amount of money in the middle to fight over, regardless of the number of people dealt into the hand.

Stealing The Ante In Stud 8

When compared with Stud High or Razz, there is far less pure third street stealing in Stud 8 because the bring-in is usually a low card, which is one-third of a playable holding.

Suppose it is a six-handed $20-$40, $3 ante Stud High game, the bring-in is the 4Spade Suit, and we are last to act holding the (9Spade Suit KHeart Suit) 8Club Suit. In this situation, with three over cards to the four, we have an easy steal attempt. While our hand is weak, it still has 50% equity against the bring-in’s random holding. Our steal only has to work 47% of the time and it may be somewhat difficult for the 4Spade Suit to effectively defend at the necessary 53% frequency in order to deny us an instant profit.

The 4Spade Suit will only wake up with a pair in the hole, a three flush, or a pair of fours around 20% of the time. Good aggressive players may often re-raise holdings such as these and possibly other holdings that they choose to defend such as (AHeart Suit QHeart Suit) 4Spade Suit in attempt to deter us from opening up 100% of the time. However, with the superior up-card, the 8Club Suit has a small range advantage and is theoretically entitled to some profit.

When the game is Stud 8, the situation is very different, as the 4Spade Suit will also be able to successfully defend with three low cards along with all of the other holdings that can be played in Stud High. In addition, (9Spade Suit KHeart Suit) 8Club Suit is now a 43% equity underdog against the 4Spade Suit with two random cards in the hole.

The 4Spade Suit will have a clear defend at least 53% of the time:

Many opponents will also defend with other holdings such as (5Spade Suit QHeart Suit) 4Spade Suit, which will further reduce the frequency in which a steal is successful. In Stud 8, we usually require some semblance of a hand to fall back upon when the bring-in defends, and if our opponent will often defend by re-raising, we must be even more selective.

When there are more players to get through other than just the bring-in, there are going to be even fewer opportunities to steal the antes. Any low cards are threats to hold a hand that will play back at us and all high cards can wake up with big pairs. In future issues, we will discuss what types of hands are worthy of a steal, and also talk more in depth on effectively defending the bring-in. ♠

Kevin Haney is a former actuary of MetLife but left the corporate job to focus on his passions for poker and fitness. He is co-owner of Elite Fitness Club in Oceanport, NJ and is a certified personal trainer. With regards to poker he got his start way back in 2003 and particularly enjoys taking new players interested in mixed games under his wing and quickly making them proficient in all variants. If interested in learning more, playing mixed games online, or just saying hello he can be reached at haneyk612@gmail.com.