Five-Card Stud is a game in the Poker family, more specifically the Stud family. 5-Card Stud is the game that began the Stud genre of Poker, first rising to popularity in the Antebellum period of the United States, in the years leading up to the Civil War. After the conclusion of the Civil War, Poker games spread to the Western United States as settlers began what is now known as the “Wild West.”
Five-Card Stud, due to its time of inception and the height of its popularity, is seen as the definitive “Cowboy game.”
How to Play Five-Card Stud
Five-Card Stud, like all Poker variants, uses the standard Anglo-American 52-card deck. A Dealer is selected by the Players, and the unmodified deck is shuffled. Once the cards have been shuffled, each Player who wishes to participate must pay an Ante into the pot.
An Ante is simply a predetermined equally valued bet that is paid in by all Players who wish to be dealt cards.
As a gambling game, the wager for Five-Card Stud is normally monetary, in the form of Poker Chips, which have an associated cash value.
Once the Ante has been paid, each Player is dealt two cards. One is dealt face-down, and is only visible to the Player to whom it was dealt. The other is a face-up card, which is visible to all Players at the table.
Players then take turns, clockwise in order from the Dealer’s left, making their betting positions.
As in all Poker games, Players have four possible betting positions during a given game:
Players who do not feel confident in their cards may fold. Folding players surrender their Ante to the pot, as well as all rights to win any money from the pot, even if their cards would have won had they not folded. However, folding Players do not have to pay any additional funds into the pot in order to keep playing.
In order to continue participating in the game, and in order to have a right to earn potential winnings from the pot, Players must at least match the highest outstanding bet at the table. For example, if Player 1 bets 5, then Player 2 must bet at least 5 in order to keep participating. When they are making the first bet at the table, it is simply known as a bet. When matching the highest outstanding bet, this is known as a “call.”
Players are not required to only match, and may bet more than the previously highest bet. For example, Player 1 bets 5, so Player 2 raises 5. A raise automatically assumes that the previous bet is matched, with the “raise” being the difference between those two numbers. So even though Player 2 raises 5, this means they are betting 10 in total. Some variations of Five-card stud have a limit on how much Players may raise in a given betting round.
Players may check if they are the first person to take their turn, or if every other Player before their turn during that betting round has also checked. This means there is no outstanding bet, and so a check may still be made. A check is essentially a bet of 0, and as such a Player cannot check if there is an outstanding bet.
Betting Players pay their money into the total pot, the money which each participating player stands to win during the Showdown phase of the game.
- Once this first betting round is completed, Players will be dealt another face-up card, and follow another betting round.
- Another card will be dealt after that betting round.
- Then one more card is dealt, for each Player to have a total of five. Four face-up, and one face-down. There is a final betting phase, after which the showdown begins.
The Showdown is the most important moment in a game of 5-Card Stud Poker, wherein Players finally reveal their hidden face-down, or “hole” card, and show the full strength of their hand.
The Players who have not yet folded compare the melds their hands can form, and the Player with the highest value meld takes the total value of the pot.
- If two Players have the same meld, the meld with the highest ranking card within it is the winner.
- If Players both have melds that have cards of the same rank, then they will split the pot evenly as required.
Once the pot has been taken by one or more Players, cards are reshuffled, the Dealing position moves clockwise, and Players pay in a new Ante for a new game.
5 Card Stud Rules
We listed a summary of the official rules of the game below:
- Four cards are dealt face up, one card is dealt face down at the start of the game. Players are dealt 1 card after each betting phase, except for the beginning of the game, where Players are dealt two cards (one facedown, one face-up.)
- Some versions of the game limit the bets to increments, such as a basic bet of $5, with raises maxed out at double the value of the Ante.
- Players must match the highest outstanding bet at the table, or they must fold. If you wish to keep playing, then you will have to pay to match the other Players’ bets.
Five-Card Stud follows the traditional Poker Meld hierarchy, a table of which is provided below for reference:
|Royal/Straight Flush||9♦ 10♦ J♦ Q♦ K♦|
|Four-of-a-Kind||4♥ 4♣ 4♠ 4♦ 8♠|
|Full House||4♦ 4♣ 4♠ 3♥ 3♠|
|Flush||7♦ 8♦ 10♦ J♦ Q♦|
|Straight||2♥ 3♦ 4♣ 5♠ 6♠|
|Three-of-a-Kind||3♥ 3♦ 3♣ 5♣ 8♠|
|Two-Pair||4♦ 4♣ 3♥ 3♣ 6♣|
|Pair||2♥ 2♠ 8♦ 9♠ K♦|
|High-Card||3♥ 5♠ 8♣ 10♦ A♣|
Tips and Strategy
Most of your cards are visible to your opponent. This makes bluffing simultaneously easier and harder.
If, for example, your visible cards show all but one component of a straight, this is both an advantage and disadvantage.
It is an advantage because the likelihood of you having a straight is so high, about a 1 in 13 chance, and made even more likely the more cards that are dealt from the deck. This means showing such a strong visible hand almost guarantees all other Players will fold, unless they have a stronger hand (or are bluffing that they do).
However, this is also a disadvantage, as it will force you to either fold in the face of Players with stronger hands (flushes or higher) or Players who are bluffing that they do. Furthermore, it will be almost impossible to bait more money out of smart Players when you have such a strong visible hand.
- When bluffing, try to avoid having a tell. Do not, for example, always bluff on a raise. If you are called on that bluff, not only will you lose even more money than you would have if you had just folded, but other Players at the table will now know that you raise when bluffing, making it far more likely for them to call raises on your bluff.
As it is such an old game that has had such a widespread cultural influence, there are a number of variants based on Five-Card Stud. Here are a few of them:
Lowball Stud, like all Lowball variations of Poker, is a game that rewards players for having the worst traditional Poker hands, as opposed to the best seen in Highball Poker.
In Lowball stud, the best possible hand a Player can have is a 2-3-4-5-7, as it is the lowest value non-melded grouping of cards. In Lowball, imagine the Card Hierarchy table above, but inverted, with the worst melds on the table as the best melds in Lowball.
High/Low is a popular variation that’s made for many different Poker games. The rules and betting orders of Five-Card Stud High/Low are all the same as in the Highball variant.
The only difference is that after the Showdown, the Player with the lowest and highest ranking melds will then split the pot evenly. In order to qualify for the pot, low or high, a Player must not fold and instead continue to play throughout the whole game.
High/Low with a Buy
This is a fun combination of the Five-Card Stud and 5-Card Draw rules. In this variation, usually played as a personal rule in home games, Players are permitted to trade in one of their cards after paying a predetermined “buy” into the pot.
Players then discard their chosen card and are dealt a new card from the deck. If the traded-in card was face-up, it should be dealt face-up. If a Player trades in their hole card, then their new card will be dealt face-down.
A Finnish variation of Five-Card Stud, although it is sometimes known as California Stud. Sökö is the same as Five-Card Stud in all ways, except it adds two new melds to the Card Hierarchy: 4-straights, and 4-flushes.
As their name suggests, a 4-straight is 4 cards that form a straight, with the fifth card considered an outlier. The 4-flush is the same, with 4 cards that are all the same suit, with a fifth card as an outlier. In Sökö, the 4-straight and 4-flush are considered to be worth more than a pair, but worth less than a two-pair.
Telesina is a variant of Five-card Stud poker that originated in Italy. It differs from the traditional game by having an additional card dealt after the first three cards are revealed, and then another final fifth card dealt face down. It also has different betting rules than regular Five-card Stud.
What is the difference between Five-card stud, and Five-card draw?
In Five-Card Draw, Players keep all of their cards hidden at all times and are free to trade in their cards in order to draw new cards from the deck. Players in Five-Card stud are not permitted to redraw any of their cards, and 4 of their cards are dealt face-up such that other Players can see them.
What is the best hand in Five-card Stud Poker?
The best hand in Five-card Stud, like in most highball Poker games, is the Royal Flush. Although some games have five-of-a-kinds if they include Jokers, which are the best possible hands in those games, there are no Jokers in this game.
Is Ace Low or High in Five-card Stud?
Aces can be Played both high and low in Five-card Stud, meaning an Ace can either form part of a straight in Ace-2-3-4-5 or a Royal Flush in 10-J-Q-K-A. You may not wrap around, however, so K-Ace-2-3-4 is NOT a Straight.
How many cards do you need for a Straight?
As in all five-card Poker games, a Straight must be formed with all five cards in the hand. 4 cards in order with one outlier does not make a Straight, that is simply a junk hand.
What beats a Flush in Five-card Stud Poker?
Flushes are beaten in Five-card Stud poker by anything that beats a flush in the traditional Poker ranking. Use the table above as a helpful reference.
Do you need Jacks or better to open?
It depends. To open refers to “opening the pot”. Some variations of Poker are “limit” Poker, where Player’s bets are limited and that limit cannot be broken unless their 4 visible cards possess a pair of 10s, or better. Some play with Jacks or better, and some play Five-Card Stud without limits at all.