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5 Card Stud Rules | How to Play 5-Card Stud, Telesina & Soko

4 November 2008, By:
One of the earliest forms of poker ever documented, Five Card Stud is a great stand-by for any poker home game, large or small.

As far as poker rules go, it also one of the simplest poker variations to learn. But much like every other poker game, the optimal strategy can be complex and it can take a while to really get good at it.

Either way, if you give Five Card Stud (or its variations Telesina or Soko, aka California Stud) a go, we're sure you'll like it.

How to Play 5 Card Stud

Like it's more famous friend, 7 Card Stud, 5 Card Stud is an "open" game meaning players can see most of another player's hand.

In 7 Card Stud a player receives two "closed" hole cards followed by four "open" cards and a final face-down card. In 5-Card Stud each player receives one face-down hole card and then four "up" cards exposed for all to see.

In some variations of Five Card Stud the final card can also be dealt face-down to make it 2 hidden cards and 3 exposed cards for each player. 

5 card stud rules

5 Card Stud Rules - The Deal & Betting Rounds

Five-Card Stud is usually played as an ante game rather than a blinds game so each player must place their ante into the pot before the hand begins.

Once all the antes have been paid the dealer deals one card face down to each player and one card face up starting with the player directly to the dealer's left. The first betting round follows.

In most card rooms the player with the lowest card showing has to make the compulsory first bet (called the Bring In). In further betting rounds the player with the highest hand showing starts the betting. Some variations can also have the player showing the highest card having to pay the bring-in bet.

The bring bet is typically smaller than the ante or the small bet size for the game.

5 Card Stud Rules - Bet Sizes

Most 5 Card Stud games are played as Limit games with a small bet and big bet size eg. $1/$2. In the first betting round players are limited to the small bet size and in subsequent rounds can bet in increments of the big bet size.

The Bring In bet is usually smaller than the small bet size and players can either choose to match the bring bet or bet the full small bet size in the first betting round. In the second betting round big bets are allowed if any player has a pair (or better) showing. 

Only one bet and 3 subsequent raises are allowed in any betting round. A bring-in less than the small bet doesn't count as a bet in this case so three more full raises can be played.

5 Card Stud Rules - The Showdown

At the end of each hand, any players left in the hand reveal their hidden card(s) and the highest poker hand (according to standard poker hand rankings) wins the pot. 

5 Card Stud can also be played in a Hi-Lo variant where the pot is split between the highest and lowest hands.

How to Play Telesina Stud

Telesina is a trickier 5 Card Stud variant that uses a stripped-down deck and includes an element of community card games. If you're looking for something new to jazz up your traditional poker game, Telesina might be it.

telesina poker

Telesina plays for the most part like 5 Card Stud. Using a deck with the 2s through 6s removed, each player antes and then receives one card down and one card up.

The player with the highest card showing brings it in with a fraction of a standard bet (or a full bet if he chooses) and all players wishing to remain in the hand must call or raise.

Following this, a third card is dealt, this one face up, and the player with the highest hand showing may check or bet. Action continues clockwise around the table and remaining players see a fourth card, also face up.

Another round of betting and a fifth card is dealt face up, so players have one down card and four up.

The Vela

It's at this point where things get interesting. After the last round of betting, a community card ("the vela") is turned face up in the middle.

All players may use this card as part of their hand if they wish. There is a final round of betting and a showdown where the highest hand takes the pot.

Telesina Hand Ranking Variations

In Telesina flushes and full houses switch places in strength, so the third most powerful hand, after straight flush and four of a kind, is a flush. That's followed by a full house and then a straight. In addition, unlike in traditional poker, suits are used to break ties.

If players have an identical straight flush, flush or straight, the high suit wins. If both players have the same pair or two pair, the suit of the highest kicker determines the winner.

The order of suits, strongest to weakest, is:

  • Hearts
  • Diamonds
  • Clubs
  • Spades

How to Play Soko (aka Canadian Stud, California Stud or Scandinavian Stud)

Some may have heard of Soko before under the name Canadian Stud or California Stud. Others may now it as Scandinavian Stud as the term itself, "Sökö," is the name of the game in Finnish.

You may be completely unfamiliar with the game altogether but either way Soko is relatively simple to learn and can be a nice deviation from your typical Hold'em and Seven Card Stud games.

Soko Stud Rules

Soko is another 5-Card Stud variant, meaning that the game starts with everyone anteing a pre-determined amount and each player receiving one card down and one card up.


soko poker rules

The player with the lowest "up" card must then put in a forced bring-in bet, a standardized amount smaller than a full bet. The bring-in can put in a full bet if he chooses, but must at least put up the bring-in.

Action proceeds clockwise around the table and players may complete to a full bet, raise if the bet has already been completed, call or fold.

Players then receive another card face up. The player with the highest hand showing acts first and may bet or check. Subsequent players may check or bet if there has been no bet and call, raise or fold if there has been a bet.

If there is a pair showing, the betting limits are doubled. After the betting, players receive a fourth card, this one also face up, and now betting limits are doubled regardless of what is showing. There is another round of betting, another face up card, another round of betting, and a final face up card, so all players remaining have one card down and four up.

There is one final round of betting and the best poker hand wins the pot.

Differences Between Soko and Five Card Stud

The way Soko varies from traditional five-card stud is in the existence of "Canadian Straights/Flushes" or "Four Straights/Flushes."

This means that a player with four consecutive cards (ex: 4 5 6 7) has:

  • a "four straight," which beats a pair but loses to a four flush or better

A player with four cards of the same suit has a "four flush" which beats a four straight or a pair but loses to two pair or better.

Soko Stud Hand Rankings (Highest to Lowest)

  • straight flush
  • four of a kind
  • full house
  • flush
  • straight
  • three of a kind
  • two pair
  • 4-flush
  • 4-straight
  • pair
  • high card

Play 5-Card Stud Online Free

If you'd like to take a shot at playing some 5-Card Stud online your best bet is likely PokerStars as it has the most advanced software and the biggest selection of poker variations.

how to play 5 card stud

We can't guarantee Soko or Telesina are on the menu but 5-Card Stud definitely is. Games are available at either free or microstakes (under $1) so you can easily learn the game without having to invest very much at all.

To see what stakes of 5-Card Stud are currently being played at PokerStars, download the software from our review page here and access our $600 sign-up bonus:

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