Stud: Quality over quantity

by Adam "STUDstood" Roberts

In today's blog, I will cover how to gather as much quality information as possible to enable you to become the best poker player you can be.

Note that I specifically said "quality information," as opposed to the quantity of information.

As poker has grown, there have been more and more books, videos, and seminars, as well as group and individual lessons, made available. Although it is nice to have so many options, this could be counterproductive to your needs. That's because not all of this information is of equal value, and at some point you will have to pick and choose which concepts work, and work best for you, in what game. It will be your job to sift through all of this information and weed out the irrelevant or useless material.

Although most of the media these days is mainly focused on Hold'em and all its variations (limit, pot limit, no limit, tournaments), there is still lots of information out there if you prefer learning other games.

I have been giving Stud poker lessons for many years, teaching beginners and advanced professionals. Many of my students have told me that the advanced play techniques that I've taught them were never discussed in any book, video or teaching course which they had taken. When I mathematically proved these plays, they were flabbergasted, and could not wait to incorporate them into their arsenals. I am not too sure if these "advanced concepts" are covered by anyone, anywhere. These are generally the concepts that may be able to "put you over the top," information which very few players know about, and even if they do, may not incorporate them properly.

Knowledge of a poker concept is not enough - you also need to know how to apply it, how to recognize the right time to apply it, and have the heart to "pull the trigger." Although this applies to any concept in poker, even the basics, I have found that the more advanced ones have a lot more probability for error and failure.

When you play a basic strategy situation "by the book," like playing Aces against Kings, when you lose it does not look like you are a sucker - you just took a bad beat. But many times with sophisticated plays, you will look foolish if it does not work. That is because most players, even the better ones, do not understand many of these plays. You have to be able to accept the incorrect "judgment" of your peers, when this happens. Not everyone can handle this; part of the reason they play is to earn the respect of their peers.

A few years ago, one of my students wanted to pay me to write a book on many of my stud poker concepts. Before deciding on whether to accept this offer, I spoke with some of my peers in the industry, who offered to pay me more NOT to write that book. They did that because the concepts I would have written about would have educated too many players in strategy that is just not available today.

How can you gain this knowledge? It won't be easy. You may be able to find a mentor or teacher to help you, but most likely you will have to do research on your own to pick and choose what concepts to incorporate, and piece it all together yourself. In this business, no one is giving out all of their "secrets." Poker tends to be a rather "cutthroat" business, so you will mostly have to find your way on your own.

How can you do that?

First, you have to learn the basics. Although some books and other media may be helpful and useful, I have found many of them to be inaccurate and even mathematically incorrect. (This can actually work to your advantage, since the players who are reading these books are actually learning the games incorrectly.) That doesn't mean that you shouldn't read, but you will then need to figure out which of the concepts you learn works, and will work well for you.

I got very lucky when I was a budding professional. I had some great teachers and mentors who asked nothing of me except to listen to them. For the most part, these were guys from the "Rounders" game, which was accurately depicted in the movie from 1998.

They were "old timers" who really understood the right way to play low- and mid-limit poker. They saw I had ability and affinity for the game, and that I was a "stand up" guy. They took me under their wings and taught me everything they knew, despite having to compete against me every day in that game, which was $10/$20 and $15/$30 limit Stud. Their theories were impeccable, as were their teaching techniques.

Unfortunately for them, they neither had the heart or bankroll to allow them to beat any game higher than $30/$60. But because of their giving me so much of their knowledge, plus my own innate ability, I was able to usurp them as the best players in this Rounders game rather quickly, within six months.

Since I did have "heart" and did not have some of their bad spending habits or general responsibilities (like supporting a family - I was a college student), I was able to move up to the $30/$60 limit rather quickly.

But as I moved up, I noticed that while the bad players were just as bad, the better players were much more skilled as the limits increased. The "style" of the game changed too; for starters, the aggressiveness was much higher, which was somewhat based on the higher ante ratio, as well as ego of the players.

I soon realized that every winner at the higher limit knew everything that I knew and much more. I knew that I needed new information, and had to find a way to get it.

We will cover that in my next blog.

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!

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

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in Strategy