Stud: A little background

by Adam "STUDstood" Roberts

I would like to discuss the best ways to hone your game, to become a better poker player. But first, this week I'd like to fill you in a little on my own history, to give the discussion some context.

I think my poker career started out like many others, as a teenager getting together with other guys my age with a few pennies in our pockets and some time to kill. Growing up in Brooklyn didn't hurt -- my geographic area featured two great cultural pastimes, athletics and gambling. (Sometimes they were combined, LOL...)

At that age, I really had nowhere to turn for proper guidance. My parents neither played poker nor condoned my playing it, so I kind of had to "fly by the seat of my pants."

In those days, I was also an athlete and musician. Those were both time-consuming passions, which combined with academic responsibilities and trying to have a social life really left me with no time to have a regular job, like most of my other friends. Plus, my parents were poor and frugal.

So, early on I was relying on my gambling earnings to give me some spending money. In those days I did not only play poker. I hustled gin rummy and basketball, as well as betting small on sports and horses. In fact, I was not a very good poker player during that time.

As many of you can relate to, our poker games consisted of every type of game we could dream up, typical Friday night home game stuff with wild cards, spits, buys, etc. Even if I wanted to put in the time and effort to learn these games correctly, there was no information available to me on the strategy of "non-casino" games, and I don't think there is now, either. Most of those types of games have a much higher luck factor than standard casino games, making it even harder to figure them out mathematically.

What actually helped me most was that many of the players who I played against, who also were close to my age, were very smart guys, and to this day I feel that many of them could have become professional poker players had they chosen to. Instead, they all ended up other types of professionals, like doctors, lawyers, law enforcers, businessmen.

Back then, there were lots of discussions of how to correctly play hands, or at least what we thought was correct. This happened because of ego, even at our young ages. We all were looking to earn money, but our egos usurped that by making us try to prove to each other what strategy was correct.

Being that all these games were "board games", this didn't do much for me once I began playing in casino-sanctioned games, which were mostly Stud games at that time. But it was a good education in poker concepts.

By my mid-twenties, I still was not a good poker player, but I then began playing in a home game where many of the players were older and dealt "real poker," i.e., Stud, Stud Hi/Lo, Hold'em, Omaha, etc. It was at that point I realized that I had an innate feel for Stud and all its variants, but not the flop games.

Mind you, I still did not have any qualified teachers or mentors at this point. I just "knew" that stud poker was "my game," based on how much I liked its concepts, as well as feeling that I already understood the game fairly well as a beginner. And, I was winning.
I then got invited to the Rounders game in Manhattan. That was a $10/$20 limit Stud High game in which two tables got underway at 11 AM, six days per week, and usually lasted until midnight. At that point in my career, I was a small winning player.

But, it was that Rounders game which changed my life. As I mentioned in my last blog, some of the regulars at that game were not only good low- and mid-limit Stud players, but were also excellent teachers who saw my ability and felt that I had the potential to be "the next one" of a long line of excellent Stud players to come from New York City. I did not seek these men out. They voluntarily took me under their wings.

Four of their names stick out. Rudy Drautz (deceased), Abie "Wheels" Lichtenstein (deceased), Mike Green and Neil Enfield. Each of them used to ride with me to and from our apartments in Brooklyn and educate me. They also used to take me in the back room to discuss hand strategy during a session. With their tutoring, my earn went up drastically. This went on for one year.

I was grinding out a weekly earn at this limit, but knew that something was still missing. I wasn't sure what that "something" was though. I soon found out what that was, when I took my first trip to Las Vegas and Los Angeles to play poker in the casinos in those cities. I found that those games were played much "faster", and with more verve and panache, than what I was used to back in Manhattan. This actually better suited my innate style and feel for the game, but I also realized that the basics that my Rounders mentors had taught me applied in all limits and styles of play.

I just had to now figure out how to incorporate my own personality, along with these concepts, to become successful in this new (more volatile and exciting) style of play. We will continue this discussion next week.

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 weekend $215 buy-in tournaments for Stud games. 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!

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in Strategy