Stud: Reaching the poker peak

by Adam "STUDstood" Roberts

This week, I would like to move on to another topic in our quest to become -- and remain -- a high level poker player.

Game selection is a very important; game choices need to consistently be made correctly by every successful poker player.

I am not referring to just your choice of what limits to play in, i.e., $10/$20, $30/$60, etc. We have already covered that concept under the umbrella of bankroll. I am now strictly referring to which type of game to play, and at what point in time.

When (and where) I began playing professionally, Stud poker was the universal game of choice, and there were no online gaming options. Considering that I grew up playing Stud and all variations of it, combined with the fact that I had both an innate sense of how to play that game as well as some great teachers who took me under their wing, I was prepared to be successful soon after I began playing highly competitive poker.

As the years went by, other games such as Hold’em (limit and no limit), Omaha and its variants, multiple-games such as HORSE, as well as other new games, gradually usurped Stud as the game of choice. That does not mean that I do not get to play as much Stud poker as I used to. Stud and its variants, such as Razz and Stud Hi/Lo, are still spread in most live casinos, and are certainly a mainstay on Poker Stars.

But there are now far more types of games to choose from, especially online, and that means you have more options. You should try to get as adept as possible at as many games as possible; this will give you the opportunity to evaluate and decide amongst the many different types of games and limits available in your casino of choice. It will be virtually impossible for you to get to the highest level in all of these types of games, or maybe even in more than one type of game. But that should not discourage you from learning new games.

Personally, I do not play Hold’em as well as I play Stud. But, I do hold my own in Hold’em when I am playing HORSE; I got good enough to where I am not a target. I would not be able to earn enough in other games (besides Stud) to play them for a living, but I can play them well enough to survive and sometimes win.

Now, I tried to become as good a Hold’em player as Stud. But, regardless of how many lessons I took, or how many hours I put in playing Hold’em at low and medium limits, I just did not have the” feel” for that game as I did in Stud. That is what most likely will happen to you, too. I do not mean specifically in Hold’em versus Stud, but you will most likely be better in certain games than others, and sometimes it will be a drastic difference. If you’re not careful, this can be costly.

I say this because at some point you will have to choose which type of game(s) to compete in most seriously for money. If you are solely playing poker to have a good time and do not care about your results, feel free to play whatever type of game you enjoy and can afford, even if it is not the type of game you play the best.
But if you’re playing seriously, you need to study and play to find out where your strengths are. Books, lessons, and your “Friday night beer and poker marathon” may help you learn what game you play best, but you will not really be able to get a truly accurate read on which your best games will be until you begin playing them in “casino conditions”, whether live or online.

Notice that while I talked about your “best” game, I did not say your “most profitable” game. The game that can earn you the most money might be completely different. There will be times when you will have a higher expected hourly earn in your second or third best game, because of the players who are competing in that game at that time. If I’m facing a strong, difficult line-up in my “normal” $30/$60 Stud game, and there is a loose, wild line-up playing $10/$20 Hold’em, it is probably more profitable for me to play Hold’em at a lower limit that day, even though I’m less skilled at that game. Being able to recognize those opportunities when they come along, and being able to take advantage of them, is an important poker skill.

The “Hold’em boom” which has occurred over the past few years acts as a strong example. I know numerous excellent Stud players who no longer play their best (Stud) game, but instead have gotten adept enough at Hold’em to where they feel that it is now their most profitable game. They saw an influx of new, inexperienced Hold’em players, and have taken advantage of the opportunity for profit they presented.

Regardless of what your “best game” is, it’s a good idea to put in the hours to learn other types of games. Read books, watch television shows, videos, live action as a spectator, and play low limit poker so that you become more adept in multiple games and enjoy playing them. That way, when opportunities arise, you will be ready to exploit them.

Most “new players” tend to delve into no-limit Hold’em these days, due to the television exposure it receives both in tournaments and cash games. But there is no reason for you to “jump on the bandwagon”, at least not until you are sure that Hold’em is your best game. There are plenty of other options available with regards to types of games, limit vs. no limit, cash games vs. tournaments, etc. Smart players will explore all of the options available, to figure out what is best for them.

I will continue this topic in my next few blogs.

If you need to find me, I am usually in the $10/$20 and$ 30/$60 Stud, Stud Hi/Lo, and Razz games, as well as the weekly $215 buy-in tournaments, with guaranteed prize pools, we offer each weekend in all of those games.

Feel free to contact me at

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in Strategy