Stud: Playing for fun and playing to win

stud-thumbnail-v1.jpgby Adam "STUDstood" Roberts

I am a consultant for PokerStars in the stud section. I oversee the 10-20 and 30-60 limit Stud high, Stud Hi/Lo, and Razz games. For those of you who do not know me, I have been a highly ranked player for many years, and have had success from 1991-2001 (the years I played) in live, high limit cash games and WSOP tournaments. You can generally find me competing in one or more of our Stud games, as well as in our weekly $215 buy-in Stud Hi/Lo tournament on Saturday at 1:45 PDT.

This week’s blog will cover and important choice: playing for recreation, playing to win, or playing for a living (with no other income).

Today I will cover those three different types of poker playing, whether it is online or live, and/or in cash games or tournaments.

You may be puzzled reading my first option, which is playing for fun or recreation as opposed to it being cut-and-dry that all players are there to win.

But it has been my experience that there are some players, at all limits, who are just looking to “gamble” or “blow off steam,” and using poker as a venue for that. Now, most people who use gambling for this type of escape do use other casinos games, such as blackjack, craps, roulette, sports betting, etc, as their recreation of choice, win or lose. But, don’t kid yourself; there are still many people who do this in poker as well.

I never could understand this concept. Maybe it has to do with me being a professional in poker, but I do not think so. I always felt that no matter what we do, we should do it well, and in any area of competition, which all forms of poker certainly are, play to win at all times, whether it is for money or not.

Nevertheless, this does not always happen with some people. So, if you are playing poker for "an earn,” or professionally, the most profitable players for you to compete against are the ones who are just sitting at the table “for fun or recreation,” and truly do not care whether or not they actually win or lose.

In fact, I have seen some of these type of players actually be able to play very well, but almost choose not to because it goes against the concept of what they are there to accomplish, which is truly gambling, and even trying to put as many “beats” on the other players as possible!

Usually, these types of players do not last too long, though. Three things tend to happen:

1) They go broke
2) They lose interest and find something else to gamble at
3) They wise up, improve their game, and try to win

Contrary to popular belief, I think that you will find more of these "recreational players” online than live. I say that because these types of players are more comfortable sitting behind the computer where the other players at their table cannot visually see them or make fun of their play. Trust me, it is way more benign reading an insult in the chat box as opposed to having to visually and verbally see and hear one coming from one or more players at the same table.

In addition to that, it is so much more convenient for someone to gamble online as opposed to traveling to casinos, even if you live in a city which offers one. So, when someone is “jonesing” to gamble, all they have to do these days is log on and press buttons, as opposed to even having to drive a relatively short distance to get to a local casino.

My advice to the players who in fact are “playing to win” and/or “for a living” is to be very nice to recreational gamblers, regardless of their behavior towards you. I find that most of the time these recreational players tend to be very cordial, and are just looking to “have a good time,” which is their perception of what they are doing.They generally do not seem to care if a beat is put on them, or how a hand is played. Sure, there are exceptions, to where some of these players, like others, do get belligerent on the chat, but that should be assuaged or ignored. They are the source of the profit for the good players; keep them happy!

With regards to the players who fall into the category of “trying to win,” I feel that these are the largest category of players you will find in all forms of poker.

They are people who have other incomes and use poker as a tool to make some extra money. These players tend to try hard to win, but know that in reality they can stop playing poker completely and not have it affect their lives or livelihoods.

In fact, I find that even most “professionals” who claim that poker is their sole income actually fall into this category. They have other income coming in from various sources which enable them to play poker, and claim that their poker earn is their sole income, even though it is not really the case.

The people who play poker for a living, to where they have no other income coming in from any source, are the ones who really have to follow the strict and stringent guidelines which I will cover in depth in my next blog.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this, and hope to see you at our tables.

Feel free to contact me with any questions, comments, or suggestions, at

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in Strategy