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Seven Card Stud Eight-Or-Better: Defending The Bring-In

by Kevin Haney |  Published: Dec 01, 2021


In Seven Card Stud Eight-Or-Better (Stud 8), the decision on whether or not to defend the bring-in is a function of our holding, the pot odds we are getting to call, and the relative strength of our opponent’s range.

Since the bring-in is often a low card that is one-third of a playable hand, there isn’t as much pure stealing in Stud 8 as there is in other stud variants. Aggressive players will still try to win more than their fair share of pots, however they will usually be in there with some semblance of a hand, even if it’s just a low card up with another baby in the hole.

In a six-handed $40-$80 game with a $10 ante and $10 bring-in, when defending we are calling $30 to win $110, translating to a target breakeven “hot/cold” equity of around 21%. And in this high-ante structure, a steal attempt is risking $40 in an attempt to win $70 and must get through around 36% of the time to auto-profit.

The risk-reward ratios are different with other structures; for example in a $10-$20 game with a $1 ante and $3 bring-in, the breakeven defending equity is 27%, while a steal attempt must get through 53% of the time. We should therefore defend our bring-in less often in low ante structures because we aren’t getting as good pot odds, and also because the other players won’t be stealing as often.

The position of the initial raiser also has a large impact on the range of hands you are up against. For example, a player with an ace up from early position is often playing a solid range of any pair, any three low cards, or a three flush whereas if they only have the bring-in to get through, they will usually be playing 100% of their hands.

Thinking About Playability And Realization Of Equity

The target equities for defending are only meant to be used as a guide and for comparing different structures; the hand doesn’t end on third street and we must consider the many different ways it can play out.

Suppose we are playing in the six-handed $40-$80 game with the $10 ante and bring-in the action with (9Spade Suit JHeart Suit) 2Club Suit. The action folds around to the player on your immediate right who completes with the ADiamond Suit and probably has any two cards in the hole. An equity simulator tells us that (9Spade Suit JHeart Suit) 2Club Suit has approximately 33% equity against an ace playing 100% of his range.

Since we only require 21% equity, does this mean we should be defending this hand and thus essentially every other holding in our range? The answer is of course not, and the reasons why we shouldn’t are somewhat evident. We have a severe playing disadvantage against the ace as it’s going to be difficult to realize our equity, and we also have some reverse implied odds.

It’s unlikely anyone needs to read an article to learn how to fold (9Spade Suit JHeart Suit) 2Club Suit, however, there are other hands and situations many players get involved in where they probably shouldn’t. For example, suppose instead we hold (6Diamond Suit 8Heart Suit) 2Club Suit and an ASpade Suit opens from first position that is playing the standard range any pair, any three low cards, or a three flush. Against this range we have approximately 38% equity; however, even though there is significant third street equity overlay, it would probably be a mistake to defend in this situation due to playability concerns.

Effectively realizing our equity is a big issue and we only need to look ahead to fourth street to understand why. On fourth street, unless we either pair or make four to a low we have zilch and must fold, and this gives our opponent quite a large advantage. And even when we pair, it’s not a great spot as we have some reverse implied odds and our opponent still has a scooping advantage against us.

The (6Diamond Suit 8Heart Suit) 2Club Suit is considered a “Razz hand” because it lacks an ace and also doesn’t have the ability to pick up any type of straight draw on the next street. These types of holdings aren’t worth very much in Stud 8, and perform poorly against legitimate completes even when we are partially invested and are guaranteed a heads-up pot.

Defending By Reraising

There are two overriding reasons to reraise when we have a strong hand in the bring-in, one is to get value from our holding and the other is for the sake of future hands where we wish to dissuade our opponent from generally opening super wide on third street. Of these two reasons, reraising to punish an opponent for playing too loose in the hope of influencing his future behavior is usually more prevalent as we aren’t typically pushing a big equity advantage.

If we rarely make our opponents put in multiple bets with weaker hands, they will remain emboldened to continue attacking with a large portion of their range and are correct to do so. However, they may respond to more frequent re-raising by tightening up and giving us more “walks.” In a high-ante structure, there is almost one big bet of dead money in the middle which is a decent hourly earn in any limit game and certainly worth fighting over.

Reraising also serves the purpose of making the pot larger and giving us insurance against catching badly on fourth street, which is particularly useful when our opponent may not have started out with a good hand. Suppose we bring-in the action with (5Heart Suit 4Heart Suit) 3Club Suit and the action folds around to the player on our immediate right who completes with the 4Spade Suit.

Let’s assume our opponent has a range of any pair, any three flush, any three low, or as a steal, simply just another low card in the hole. Against this range, (5Heart Suit 4Heart Suit) 3Club Suit has approximately 56% equity and is a clear reraise since it’s a strong two-way holding that plays very well on the later streets.

Sometimes we will catch a banana on fourth street and while calling in a small pot would still be correct with a strong underlying three card low, it is even more correct when we make the pot bigger on third street. However, when we catch a strong card and our opponent bricks out, he may be sitting there with a gem like (5Spade Suit JHeart Suit)4Spade Suit 9Club Suit and still needs to fold even though the pot was made larger.

In all stud variants, it’s relatively difficult to narrow down our opponent’s opening range so precisely since the down cards can get shuffled and you almost never know for sure what they started out with. Therefore, it’s useful to estimate your equity against several different range assumptions.

The chart below shows the estimated equities and a default response for several holdings against a steal position 4Spade Suit with three different opening ranges. A “tight steal” is considered to be any pair, any three low cards, or a three flush. The first column is the widest range and assumes your opponent is playing the tight range in addition to any hand with just another low card in the hole, while the middle column assumes the villain requires that the low card is specifically an ace.

As the chart indicates, we are reraising holdings that have a decent equity edge and play reasonably well on the later streets. In some cases, we may be slightly value-owning ourselves against tighter ranges, however, it’s not by a great deal and as previously discussed there are merits to getting aggressive on third street that extend past the current hand.

When a big card completes, it’s a different dynamic and even from a steal position many players will be opening a tight range consisting of any pair (including all wired pairs) or a three flush. Attempting to steal whenever they have an ace accompanied by another low card, e.g. (AClub Suit 5Heart Suit)KSpade Suit would also be standard.

The estimated equities against a KSpade Suit door card with these two ranges are as follows:

Here we should flat-call our entire defending range since we are equity underdogs with many of our holdings and it would be a mistake to only reraise on third street when we can beat a pair of kings.

In addition, splashing around on third street will not usually result in our opponent tightening up his range as he’s usually not fooling around with a big card showing. While our opponent can also have a hand like (QSpade Suit JHeart Suit) KSpade Suit, that’s still a real hand and doesn’t change the overall situation very much.

When defending the bring-in in Stud 8 we should continue on in the appropriate situations and in an aggressive manner when warranted; however, we don’t have to go too far out of our way to prevent our opponents from unduly profiting on their steal attempts.

Most players require some semblance of a hand and are entitled to some theoretical profit anyway when having the stronger up-card. However, if they are opening super-wide, the better response would be to reraise more hands that we would otherwise call with, as opposed to defending with really weak holdings. ♠

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