Stud: Game choice and popularity

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

Much like in cash games, the talent and ability of the players in higher buy-in tournament events increases. Therefore, there will be more better players, hence less "dead money," as they say.

Just like in higher limit cash games, there will also be some players that are less skilled who still enter bigger buy-in tournaments for the same reason they play in higher limit cash games, even though they are outmatched. That usually comes from wanting to say that they competed against the best players, or just want "the gamble," or seek the excitement of such a highly charged setting.

Although these types of players are underdogs in the higher buy-in events, I want to reiterate that on any given day, any one person can cash in or win any particular event, regardless of its buy-in amount or the caliber of the competition.

There is much debate on which type of games "play more real" in tournaments, meaning that there's less of the short-term "luck factor" the better poker players try to avoid.

Since I have only competed in events such as Stud, Stud Hi/Lo, Razz, and HORSE, I cannot accurately assess whether those type of events are "better bets" when it comes to the luck factor, as opposed to Hold'em and Omaha (of all types).

Before the No Limit Hold'em boom, I remember a lot of the pros saying that Hold'em gave them the best value because at that time so few people knew how play the game correctly, whether it was in cash games or tournaments. In fact, as recently as 2001 (the last year I competed regularly in casino cash games), I only remember one casino throughout Las Vegas or Los Angeles spreading any No Limit Hold'em games, and that was with $5/$10 blinds.

These days, poker rooms are filled with a plethora of No Limit Hold'em games with many different blind structures. Therefore, it only makes sense that their corresponding tournaments would eventually get tougher to win or even cash in, and that is just what has happened.

I would be surprised if the same pros who evaluated those No Limit Hold'em tournament events as having the most value less than a decade ago would still make that assessment today.

What I am getting at is that the more popular the game gets, it follows that the more events there will be, the more different buy-ins will be offered, the more players will enter each event , and the more prize money will be awarded . When there is more money to be won, more people will make a serious effort to learn that particular game. No Limit Hold'em has usurped all other games in every way, so tournaments have become tougher to win.

On the flip side, for the players who have been adept at other games, (Stud, Lowball, etc.), there have been less events offered, mostly because of the higher profitability for casinos to offer No Limit Hold'em events (and to a smaller extent, Limit Hold'em).

Nonetheless, because of the overall popularity of poker, there are still a great many options with regards to choosing tournament events that aren't Hold'em-related.

Now, the "tables have turned." Where in past people would enter Hold'em events almost as an afterthought, they now enter the other games the same way. Usually, that equates to more "dead money" in those other games, which is what the better players in those games are looking for, to get the most value for their buy-in. That's another reason to master more games.

On another note, many players have asked me which is better - playing against a small or a big field. I wish I had some "pearls of wisdom" to tell these people.

Personally, in conventional events (i.e., no re-buys, non-shootout, no added money) I prefer going against a bigger field. My reasoning is that if I am one of the betters players regardless of how many entrants there are, and if I am going to "get lucky" that day, it will not matter how many people I have to get though, and the payout for the win will be bigger. I also prefer a more top-heavy payout structure, as well as less places getting cash outs, for the same reason. These are just personal preferences, however. Some players prefer the opposite, and I don't feel that there is any "right or wrong" in either choice, mathematically or otherwise.

Another issue of contention among players is how often and at what increments the limits increase in tournaments. There is a bit more mathematics to this question, because it does stand to reason that the longer each structure lasts, and the less it goes up incrementally, the higher the edge will be for the better players.

I agree, but I also understand that we are talking about a very short period of time in the grand scheme of things, and the luck/skill ratio will only shift slightly with longer rounds. Is that extra small short-term edge worth the extra time it takes to play the event with longer rounds?

Personally, I have no strong preference. As we've discussed in a previous blog, you have to be both mentally and physically prepared to win every tournament event you enter, regardless of the type of game, buy-in, structure, potential length, etc. As long as you're ready to play your best game, every hand, those other factors are secondary.

One of the great things about online poker is that you can play a wide variety of tournaments of many kinds, every day. I hope you'll try all different games. This is especially exciting during an event like SCOOP, going on right now.

Until next time, 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