Stud: Preparing for the game

by Adam "STUDstood" Roberts

Game preparation is another topic we generally do not see covered or discussed in poker literature, yet it is an integral part of your poker package. What can you do when not at the table, to be best prepared to play well on the table?

For starters, you should keep impeccable records of your play. I personally use an Excel spreadsheet. Your records should include the amount of hours you play; the date and time of day for each session; the limit and type of game you play; your per-game and overall session results (if playing in multiple games online). Keeping accurate records gives you an objective picture of your success (or lack thereof) at each game, and at each limit. You may be surprised at what you will learn about how certain situations affect your results. You can also assess your “money management” and “when I should have quit” decisions.

If you follow a money management guideline, there may be times when you get stubborn and do not adhere to it. Keep a chart on how you did in your session after not following those guidelines. You may find that a certain aspect of your game should be adjusted. For example, you may be shocked at how dramatically your results drop off after a certain number of hours. Having accurate information on this subject gives you a real picture of what’s happening.

These types of records should also be kept for tax purposes. This applies whether you are a winning or a losing player. Tax laws vary from country to country, as do accounting requirements. For the most part, the IRS trusts Americans to file accurately, and to keep accurate records. But they obviously do not react well to false reporting, which can lead to criminal charges. With a sport such as poker, the only times any formal records are reported to the IRS are when forms are issued if you cash in a tournament. If you do get lucky enough to have a big win, you may be able to deduct losses to offset that win, but you will need accurate records to justify those deductions. If you are a poker professional, or only using this sport to make extra income, I would recommend hiring a CPA familiar with gambling issues.

On an unrelated topic, I have met many people in my 20 years in poker who have become friends.

From 2001-2004, I took a break from all gaming activity, and many of these people remained friends, showing me that our relationships were not just out of convenience.

As we developed closer bonds, I found it harder to compete against them in poker, even though we understood that our results and strategy “at the tables” would have nothing to do with our “off the felt” relationship.

Although as adults and consummate professionals we were successful at achieving this, I admit that it was hard for me. It came to where I did not want to compete against my friends in poker, especially to bluff them. I am not saying to not become friendly with your opponents, I am just pointing out that it may be hard for you to “play hard” against them if you do. And if you are not playing hard against your opponents, you are not maximizing every situation, and that will reduce your earn.

Online poker somewhat alleviates this potential problem because there is no “visual” attached; you don’t have to see you opponents and “look them in the eye,” especially after a “tough beat” one of you gave the other. This is a problem that’s particularly problematic in poker, as opposed to other sports.
Professional athletes do develop friendships, even though they are competing against each other for a lot of money and prestige. The major difference with athletics, as opposed to poker, is that professional athletes (in most sports) are getting paid a lot of guaranteed salary regardless of their results. I can assure you that makes it a lot easier for them to compete hard against each other and not let it affect their friendship.

In poker, there is no salary. The money you are playing for directly goes from one player to another. Therefore, it is possible that players who genuinely like each other can let poker activity affect their relationship. That’s just human nature. Some successful players have that “killer instinct” no matter what – no matter who they are playing. They can be among the most dangerous players.

“Ego” also needs to be taken into account here. That, too, can negatively affect people’s feelings towards each other in the poker world. Although you and your compadre may try to avoid playing in the same, often that’s not possible because of the limited times and days your favorite games are being spread. If that is the case, you will just have to do your best to alleviate any potential discomfort.

You also should be aware that opponents, who know that you and your friend(s) are playing in the same game, may be suspicious of potential or perceived collusion between the two (or more) of you. Your opponents may also have an issue if you are playing in the same game with someone who is either taking “a piece of your action” or fully staking you. It’s important, for your own integrity and the integrity of the game, to always play your hands hard, regardless of your friendship or financial arrangements.

When I have been in this position, I have made it clear to my opponents exactly which player in that game was staking me. Because of the potential added scrutiny, my sponsor and I also made sure that we played super hard against each other, even though it was a losing proposition for the sponsor.

If you perform well, you may be offered to be staked, or have someone want to take a piece of your action. This may or may not be good for you. There are many people who prefer playing strictly with their own money. They feel bad if they lose someone else’s money, and might even change their play (usually for the worse) because someone else has an interest in their results.

It can also be difficult to give up a portion of your winnings after a big winning session. Some people would rather play lower limits with their own bankroll, limited as it may be, as opposed to having an investor. They do not like the added pressure.

I have found, for me, that sponsorship has given me more opportunities.

If there is a great game at a higher limit (either a one-time deal or something more regular) but you don’t have the bankroll to play, a full or partial sponsor could enable you to play in these higher limit games. There will always be great higher limit games with bankroll requirements beyond your means, no matter how much money you have accumulated. If you can deal with the pressure, you can take advantage of these opportunities. I would not change my play because I am staked, and I would not feel bad if I lose a backer’s funds. He/she should not be staking you if he/she did not have the money to risk. If you feel that your potential backer cannot handle your losing, you should not accept the arrangement.

I would advise only getting involved with a sponsor who does not “micro-manage,” i.e., hover over you, question your strategy or results, etc. Unfortunately, many sponsors do this, and I would stay away from them. A backing arrangement is one of trust. You should trust your backer, and he/she should trust you. You each must be completely honest with each other; a poker player’s word is his bond. If you break your word, people will hear about it, and you will find it hard to ever be trusted again.

Next week we will continue on this topic, and cover different type of deals that are commonplace in the poker staking world.

In the meantime, you can find me in the $10/$20 and $30/$60 limit games in our Stud section, as well as in our weekly $215 buy-in tournaments. Please check the starting times of each of those events under Tourney > Special in the PokerStars lobby.

Feel free to contact me with any questions, suggestions or thoughts at
See you at the tables!

Feel free to contact me with any questions, suggestions or thoughts at See you at the tables!

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in Strategy