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December 26, 2008 12:11 AM

Stud: Staking

by Adam "STUDstood" Roberts

This week, I want to continue the topic of staking.

Staking occurs both in cash games and tournaments. In both areas there should be strict guidelines followed to ensure that there is trust, as well as a fun and relaxed atmosphere for both people -- that's imperative. Game results may not pan out the way you anticipate, so there should be no hard feelings either way if that happens.

First, let's discuss cash ring games.

In this area, trust is most important, especially in live casinos, because there are no "official" records. At least in online cash games, a player can request per session records directly from the site, as well as hand histories, to back up his records. I like that idea, because there can be no discrepancies.

"Taking a piece" is also an option, and can often be better than full staking.
Before I got fully staked, I was playing $75/$150 Stud with my own bankroll. I noticed that there was a potentially more profitable daily $300/$600 half Stud, half Stud Hi/Lo game, which I wanted to play in. However, I neither had the adequate bankroll, nor had yet developed enough of a reputation as a winning, trustworthy player, so I did not have anyone to ask for full staking. I estimated that I would need $240,000 to play in this game. Although I was hoping to have gotten the full $240K up front, I soon realized that was not going to happen.

But there were people who were interested in taking a piece of my action at that limit. So, I put up 25%, $60K, which was the same amount as I would bankroll for playing $75/$150. I was able to raise the other 75%, $180K, from a handful of poker players who had competed against me in the $75/$150 games. I took my backers on their honor, and accepted $60K of that amount to get started, with a guarantee of the additional $120K if needed.

If I had lost at the start, and my backers did not keep their word, this would have meant that I would have actually put up 50% of the working bankroll, and $120K would have been too low an amount for me to have had a legitimate shot of winning at that limit. This scenario can happen whether you are being fully staked, or pieced out. That is why it is important to try and get backers who will keep their word, especially in the face of losing, which tends to make people lose confidence in your ability (and sometimes honesty).
Luckily, I was able to win right away, which assuaged my backers and gave me a reputation of being an honest, hard working poker player. This in turn enabled me to get full backing at a later date.

I would not be hesitant to ask people you trust to either take a piece of you, or fully stake you. If you are winning player, there are people, usually the poker players whom you're competed against, or sometimes people who do not play poker at all, who enjoy investing in other players. But I do not think you will be able to achieve this unless you have already proven yourself as a winning, hard working, and honest player. This will take time, but will usually happen at some point along the road.

This is one reason I like playing in the same game, limit and (if possible) time of day -- to get to know some of the other players. Some may end up wanting to back you in a higher limit game.

Continuing on the concept of "piecing out," if you are respected enough you may also be able to play for a bigger piece than you are putting up. For example, you invest 50%, and are only responsible for 40% of the losses, but get 60% of the profits.
I think it's important to make clear than you should not let your ego get involved in wanting to play in games higher than your own personal bankroll. Your investment in playing bigger games should still be within your means; the "risk of ruin" still goes up if you overextend yourself. While it may seem like a nice accolade to say that you are being "pieced out," I see no reason to do this unless you are considering playing in higher limit game which is potentially more profitable than the lower one which you are playing on your own. Don't let your ego push you into a bigger, less profitable game.
Again, I would come up with a game plan, decide what bankroll you feel is necessary, and try to secure as much of that amount up front from your backer(s). Only if you feel that you can trust your backers to come up with the remaining balance (if necessary) of their promised bankroll, would I play with the lower amount of money that they had already given to you.

I would also put all the terms and conditions of your deal with your backers in writing, and, if necessary notarize it. This contract should include a number of items, including:

  • The amount each of you are agreeing to invest and in what increments.
  • The type of game and limit you are going to play.
  • The percentage deal you are both agreeing to.
  • The minimum amount of hours you are going to play per week, month or year.
  • The money management guidelines you are going to adhere to.
  • The time frame or dollar amount of when you are going to split, if there is profit.
  • When you will be getting any additional stake money (if applicable or necessary).
  • Guidelines as to when you have to present your playing results to your backer.
  • Guidelines as to how involved your backer will be (watching you play, offering advice, etc.).
  • Consequences on both parties if the contract is breached. As a player, with a notarized contract which cannot be discharged with a bankruptcy, you may be able to take your backer to court if he/she does not fulfill his/her monetary obligations. As a backer, this can sometimes also be done.
  • If you are getting fully staked, as opposed to getting pieced out, what the working bankroll can be used for other than poker playing. (Expenses,for example.)
  • Getting fully staked should be your ultimate goal, and we will discuss that 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!

    December 19, 2008 10:06 AM

    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!

    December 12, 2008 10:49 AM

    Stud: Table demeanor

    by Adam "STUDstood" Roberts

    I would like to continue discussing the concept of table and game demeanor.

    Last week, I brought up the name Danny Robison, who I used to play a lot of high limit stud poker against. I considered him a great player, and one whom I also learned from.

    When I say “learned from,” I do not only mean strategy while playing. I also mean his game persona and demeanor at the poker table.

    I think it is important to learn from others, and even incorporate some of their habits. This not only applies to poker, but to virtually everything in life. But, since we are all individuals, we have to pick and choose what is best for ourselves. Our psyches and personalities have to be taken into consideration, as well as our physical makeup and the aura we give off to other people.

    David Heyden was another excellent stud player during those years. Like Danny, David was a big winning player. But David was Danny’s antithesis in virtually every aspect, both on and off the poker table.

    Whereas Danny was gregarious, slovenly, absent minded, and played “fast and loose,” David used to come into the poker room dressed in a suit and bowtie, with close-cropped salt and pepper hair, closely trimmed beard, and wearing horn-rimmed eyeglasses. While Danny would be chatting non-stop, David would rarely utter a word at the table.

    Even their eating habits were different. Danny was overweight and ate like a vacuum. David was slim, and would eat salads, drink tea, etc.

    All of their outward non-poker behavioral characteristics were reflected in their styles of play at the poker table.

    Danny played a lot of hands, aggressively. David was much more selective, and was more of a check and call player. Because of his style, Danny would get much more in-hand action, as well as getting paid off on a lot of hands which his opponents would lay down against other good players. That was very profitable for him. Conversely, David would not get the same type of action, but he usually won the hands he played, and he was also able to bluff hands, which was profitable for him as well. Danny could rarely get away with a bluff (though he might talk you out of calling).

    The bottom line is that both their completely different styles were profitable to them in different ways.

    Another aspect of David’s play intrigued me. Many of us who competed in the casinos have people “sweat” us, sit behind us while playing. Or, we’d be involved in conversations about who knows what topic while in the poker game. Danny thrived on distractions – he created them to try to put his opponents off their games.

    David never allowed himself to do that. He was “all business”, all the time.

    This is a very important thing to be aware of, whether you are playing in a live casino or online. Distractions can rarely be good for you. They cause you to make mistakes, and mistakes are costly. While playing online gives you even more ways to distract yourself, i.e., television, internet surfing, telephone, family, etc., it is also much easier to avoid all of those things. In casinos, there is only so much you can do to block out discussions at the table, the lights, the noise, the TVs, the cocktail waitresses, etc., which are constant.

    When you play online, you are completely in control of your environment, and have the ability to minimize distractions. I strongly recommend that you work in solitude, preferably in a room with some fresh air, that is well lit and quiet.

    You should also invest in high speed and quality internet services, as well as a high level computer, whether it is a laptop or desk top. I also recommend using a wireless mouse. It is easier to click, which may lessen your mistakes. Just be sure to keep the batteries fresh!

    I also have a 23”monitor swivel hinged on my wall directly above my 13” laptop computer. I use my monitor solely for online poker play. I split this screen into quads to enable me to play in up to three games concurrently and have the PokerStars lobby in the fourth quadrant. That way, I can keep an eye on what is going on in games that I am not in, without getting distracted from my own play.

    Turn off your phones. If you need to speak on the phone or take care of online business, either take a break from the poker game or quit and come back to play when you are free of all other commitments and distractions.

    Do not watch television or surf the internet while playing online poker.

    The higher the stakes you play, the more important it is to have a backup internet connection, which is through an entirely different provider. There’s little more frustrating to an internet player than having their ISP go dead in the middle of a key hand or a tournament. Even short disconnections can be frustrating and distracting, so having a backup is great for your peace of mind.

    Although you may be proud of your accomplishments as a poker player, and want to show off by letting family or friends watch you while playing, I recommend against it. The results can only be negative for you. Either you will make decisions that you normally would not because someone is watching, or you will get distracted while explaining your decisions. And of course you might find yourself getting involved in other discussions unrelated to the games. This recommendation applies regardless of what type of poker player you are, whether you are playing for fun, working as a professional or just trying to earn a little extra money.

    As important as these things are, I also advise you to never let your poker playing interfere with other aspects of your life, whether professional, personal, or financial. This means that when you are out with family or friends in a venue completely outside of the poker world, do not start thinking about or discussing what happened in your last poker session.

    And never take your poker frustrations out on other people.

    Poker is a social game, and you may find that you develop lasting friendships. It’s just important to have some perspective on these relationships. In a sense, you’re not just judging your opponents on the table, but also off the table.

    For example, I think that getting together with your poker peers to solely discuss poker play can be fun and potentially profitable. However, because this game is so “cutthroat,” many of our peers, who may also be good friends, do not want to discuss poker strategy because they do not want to give away their edge (perceived or otherwise) while playing against you.

    Discussion with friends can be helpful, but I think honest self-analysis is vital to improving your play and results. I suggest analyzing your whole “poker package”, i.e., money management, table demeanor, etc., the concepts we have been covering in these blogs. To this day, after many years of playing professionally, I will analyze my play and specific hands after a session. Unfortunately, that too often happens at 3 AM in a nightmare…..just kidding.

    Just as in other aspects of life, we have to hone our performance to enable us to reap the best results possible (monetarily and otherwise). We will continue on this topic nest 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 weekly $215 buy-in tournaments. Please check the starting times of each of those events for your geographic area under Tourney > Special in the PokerStars lobby.

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

    November 28, 2008 8:26 AM

    Stud: Game persona

    by Adam "STUDstood" Roberts

    This week, I would like to cover the concept of game persona, both on and off the table.

    When at the poker table, your game persona refers to how the other players feel about you, both personally and with regard to your playing ability. While this may include an assessment of your skills, many times it will also be affected by the aura you are giving off, intentionally or not. Some people, both in life and in poker, give off a certain type of energy which makes others form an immediate opinion about them. It’s important to be aware of your opponents and the persona they give off, and it’s equally important to be aware of the persona you are giving off to your opponents. To some extent, you can control your own persona, and how your opponents react to you.

    This may work in your favor, or not. Poker is often a game of perception vs. reality, so you can find ways to make your persona work to your advantage. In my opinion, it is always prudent to make it look like you are "live,” always willing to give action, even if you play poker very well. That way, you get more action.

    When I say “play poker very well”, I do not necessarily mean “very tight.” Tight play may limit your losses and make you an overall winning player, but it is the players who know how to play the most hands, with the highest skill, who are the biggest winners and the most dangerous players. These are the players who are
    most able to take their opponents out of their “comfort zone.”

    Sometimes they intentionally play this way in a certain situation, in order to confuse their opponents, but not always. Sometimes it is just their overall table persona. If you are able to pull this off, to give off a persona of an action player while playing solid, it can be extremely profitable.

    This play can best be done by knowing the math and probability of each hand (which include real odds, pot odds, and implied odds), as well as being able to read your opponents’ cards and style, to anticipate what he/she will do either on his/her own or based on what your move is.

    Over the years, I have seen many players (usually younger ones) attempt this style of play without actually understanding all the factors -- probability, statistics, and human concepts -- which must enter this equation. These players will inevitably fail. Sure, they might have had some short term success, which looks spectacular, but in the end, the math must catch up with them. Even if you do everything else correctly, on and off the table (i.e., bankroll and life management, which we’ve covered in previous blogs), if you do not play your cards optimally enough, often enough, eventually you must lose.

    The biggest talents in poker are the players who understand all of these concepts but make their opponents feel that they don’t. They make their foes want to play against them because they look “live.” Some players are able to project the opposite image, of a powerful opponent, and make their opponents want to try and beat them, to say they beat “the best.” Many World Champions report that their opponents will take shots at them; they play badly in order to try to win a pot and have a story to tell. Tough opponents can also cause opponents to play poorly simply out of fear.

    I have had the good fortune of having some great teachers during my poker career, especially when I was just getting started. One of them was a man named Danny Robison. For many years, Danny was considered the best Stud poker player in the world, and he revolutionized the wild style of play. Although it looked like he made a lot of “mistakes” , Danny’s play was head and shoulders above other excellent players.
    Danny used a seemingly reckless style of play to earn a lot of money playing Stud, but he added an additional tool to his arsenal – “the gift of gab,” both during and between hands. He had an innate gift. Because of it, Danny could have been the consummate salesman or even CEO of a big corporation, had he not gotten into poker. But Danny used his gifts to help increase his poker earn, by getting his opponents to act in ways that increased his profit.

    Danny could say things that would elicit a hug, whereas I could utter the same exact words and get punched in the face! He made his opponents happy to lose their money. This is a talent that cannot be learned; it’s a gift. I have seen people try it… and get punched in the face.

    What I am getting at is that in addition to understanding and studying actual mathematics, statistics, and probability, there are other aspects to table behavior and demeanor which may enable you to help increase your poker earn. But you should also understand that attempting some of this behavior, if you don’t have the right skill set, may be costly to you in many different ways.

    First, there is the money. Your swings will be larger playing a “fast and loose” style. Your decisions have to be “right” much more frequently when you play this way. Plus, when you are wrong in a decision, you tend to look bad, which emboldens your opponents. That may work against you, compounding your losses when you are “running bad.” It may also embarrass you. Can you handle that?

    When I give private lessons, sometimes I have taught students some more “advanced” concepts, which they loved and wanted to apply them immediately. Knowing these concepts is good, but applying them correctly is very difficult. Inevitably, they try them in the wrong situations. Or even when they recognize the right situations, they do not have the “heart” to incorporate them into their arsenal.

    I remember when I proudly told Danny that I was ready to “play like him.” He put his arm on my shoulder and said “Son, I am sorry to hear that.” When I asked him why, he replied that the only two people who ever told him that either committed suicide or were in a mental institution. I did my research and found that to be true!

    Luckily, neither has happened to me… yet.

    What I am getting at here is that there are many different ways to be successful, both in life and poker. I have seen equally great players use different styles in certain hands, and make them all work. You need to find what works for you. Don’t try to be someone you are not. Study the math, probability, and statistics. Study your opponents. Pay attention to everything around you in the poker room, on and off the table. Try things out, carefully, and build up your skills and courage. Find the “game persona” that works for you, maximizing your earn. Keep your opponents guessing.

    Next week we will continue on this subject, and delve into concepts such as game preparation, avoiding distractions on and off the poker table, etc.

    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 for your geographic area under Tourney > Special in the PokerStars lobby.

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

    November 21, 2008 9:17 AM

    Stud: More on game selection

    by Adam "STUDstood" Roberts

    I have been getting some positive feedback with regards to this game selection topic so I would like to continue with it.

    In addition to what we have already covered, other factors should be paid attention to when choosing which game(s) to compete in.

  • Do you prefer playing heads-up or short-handed?
  • There are many opportunities to do this, especially online. If and when the game you’re in fills up, quitting it and either joining a different short-handed game, or starting a heads-up game with someone else should not a problem, especially if you are able to play different game types and limits.

  • Does your playing style suit itself to heads-up, short-handed, or full games?
  • This is something only you will be able to determine, either by feel or results. Just remember that the “speed of the game” (both in actual hands dealt and the style of play), as well as the value of hands, differ as the amount of players in the game changes. One thing you do have to take into consideration is that heads-up and short-handed games may break down at a moment’s notice. If you are either stuck money in that game or on a positive “rush,”, you may not want that to happen. With full games, you can usually see when a game is in a precarious position to break down and then be able to act accordingly.

  • You usually have the option to start a short-handed game.

  • This way, you can get the seat you enjoy being in. This also may be prudent if you know that a certain “live one” is going to show up; your game is already going and will have open seats when this player arrives.

  • If you enjoy playing in multiple games online, it may be hard to play in short-handed or heads-up tables.
  • The concentration needed to play short games is tremendous, as opposed to playing in full games. Some people thrive on this, but others just can’t keep up. The type of game plays a part in this, too. For instance, although Stud is my best game, it is very hard for me to play in two Stud games at the same time, as opposed to Stud Hi/Lo or Razz, which take less concentration because of the style and structure of the game. In all of those games, there is also a premium on remembering the exposed cards, and the more Stud-style tables you play, the more difficult this is to do. Hold’em (whether limit, pot limit, or no limit) is better for playing in more games because remembering cards on each hand is not necessary.

  • Some players enjoy jumping from game to game, based on who is in the game at a given moment.
  • I try not to jump games just to seek out one player. You never know when that player is going to quit, who is going to join the game you just left, etc. I generally stay in the same game (or multiple games if I am online), because they are the most profitable for me. I know most of the regular players, and I have invested some time and energy in getting the feel for that particular game; every table change is like starting over. Plus, you never know who may show up.

  • If you know when your favorite game usually begins and ends, you may want to adjust your schedule to allow you to get in the most hours in that game.
  • This will sometimes be possible, and when it is, can help your profitability.

  • Do not berate the “live players”. In fact, try to be even nicer to them.
  • We covered this issue in a previous blog, but I want to reiterate it. Selecting a good game has little value if you yourself turn it into a bad one. Whether you are a professional or not, there is nothing a winning player can do that is worse than making a losing player feel uncomfortable, leading to him/her to either try and play better (to avoid being criticized or abused) or to quit your game completely. I will cover “game persona,” “table demeanor “and “gamesmanship” more in my next blog.

  • Try to not let your ego get in the way of who you are competing against
  • .

    You may want to try and play against the “best of the best,” even though you don’t have an edge in that spot. This is okay is if you are only playing poker for enjoyment. Playing with better players might help you improve your game (by watching their strategy at the table), but it will probably not be profitable, and if you are playing to win, you should avoid playing with better players.

    On the flip side, although you do want to play with inferior players, you should be sure that your game strategy against them does not become “personal,” where your own solid play veers off-line because of their poor play. Bad play and bad beats can put some people on tilt – don’t let it bother you.

    Thank you for reading my blogs, and for your feedback.

    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 for your geographic area under Tourney > Special in the PokerStars lobby.

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

    November 14, 2008 11:03 AM

    Stud: Picking the right game

    by Adam "STUDstood" Roberts

    A couple of weeks ago, I began discussing the concept of proper game selection. I would like to pick up where we had left off.

    Many factors go into determining which game might be the most profitable for you.
    In a previous blog, I recommended becoming adept at as many different poker games as possible, to enable you to have more options with regards to what type of game and limits to play.

    To continue on that topic, other issues will come into play as well.

    Personally, I prefer playing in the same limit and game as much as possible, especially if it is my best game.

    That way, I can accumulate enough hours playing with the same or similar players to know the idiosyncrasies of my opponents, and to give me an accurate feeling for my expected hourly earn. But, before playing the 2000+ hours I feel is needed to accurately determine what my earn will be in that specific game, I still will try to “handicap” games I am considering playing.

    Even if you do not know any of the players in the game you are considering, within the first few hours of playing, you should have some type of idea who the weaker and stronger players are at the table, as well as how the game is being played, i.e., fast (lots of aggressive raising) or slow (more of a passive “check and call” atmosphere). Depending on your particular skills and mindset, you can make a decision on whether to continue playing, or to try to find another game.

    Usually, if you play in a certain game/limit/location, you will know at least a couple of the players at the table. Right away, that may give you a read on the game, whether or not the game may be profitable for you. If you are friendly with some players in this game, you may even ask them whether the game is potentially profitable for you, as well as who the stronger and weaker players are.

    I also recommend taking notes on players. In a live casino this may be difficult, but in front of your computer, nobody will know that you are doing this. You can make these individual ratings as succinct or elaborate as you feel is necessary. This process helps clarify your thinking on those players, and acts as a quick reference in the future. Whenever you sit down to play, have this list handy, and sort it (maybe alphabetically) to where each person is easily found.

    Although I am not too familiar with online tracking systems, it is to my understanding that they are available to enable you to keep tabs on the opponents you have played with.

    Using myself as an example, my best games are Stud, Stud Hi/Lo and Razz. I also have played in HORSE games when I felt it was potentially profitable for me. Even with the recent boom in flop games, I am still able to find great Stud games at limits that are appropriate to my bankroll, but big enough for me to make a living, whether online or live.

    After playing thousands of hours both online and live, I feel that it is just as easy to get to know your opponents online, despite never physically seeing them, or in many cases, never actually ”knowing” their real identity. Some live casino players tell me that it is harder for them to “get a read” on their opponents when they play online. I do not find that to be the case. My reads on the types of hands they play, as well as what they will do while in a hand, seem to be just as accurate online despite me not being able to see them. Playing online should be treated the same way as if you’re playing live, when it comes to rating and reading your opponents.

    I always play in my best games, whether it is online or live. But, there are many times when I do have to choose between Stud high, Stud Hi/Lo or Razz, as well as $10/$20 or $30/$60 limits for me to play in. I don’t always immediately choose the bigger game – sometimes the smaller game is more profitable. It may surprise you that a game that is 1/3 as big “on paper” can have the same or even a higher per hour earn, but in some cases it’s true. First off, many times better players will be playing in higher limit games. Because of that, in a $30/$60 limit game, your expected earn might be $30 per hour, which is good. But, your earn may be just as high in a $10/$20 limit game, because your opponents might not be as skillful at that lower limit. Plus, you are risking less of your bankroll playing $10/$20 versus $30/$60.

    One added advantage of playing online is that you can see how big each average pot is when you are handicapping the games you are considering playing. This gives you a good read in itself. A good rule of thumb to follow while trying to find a good game is that an average pot size should be 5x above the maximum bet. This would translate into $300 for a $30/$60 limit game.

    The ante structure does play a part in evaluating a game. A $10/$20 limit game has a $1 ante, which is a 20:1 ratio to the max bet in that game; whereas a $30/$60 table has a $5 ante, which is a 12:1 ratio. The lower ante structure in the $10/$20 limit game makes it harder for that game to reach an average pot size of 5x the big bet ($100). That said, many people prefer playing in a smaller ante structure game because they feel that it suits their style of play and comfort level. Other players prefer the higher ante.

    You will generally find that the higher ante structure game is played “faster” because the pot is big enough before the cards are dealt to warrant more attempts at stealing antes, which can set off somewhat of a “steamroller” effect as to how the rest of the hand is played. Because of the mathematics of real, implied and pot odds, your play should change based on the ante structure.

    To go a bit deeper, when the antes are larger, there are more hands that it may be correct for you to play because the money already in the pot (which include the antes) and the money that you feel will be put into the pot, will be greater. The larger the pot, the more it becomes correct to play “drawing hands” as opposed to when the antes are substantially smaller. (You should be careful not to take this too far; it’s not an excuse to play recklessly.)

    Another thing to consider is that when the pots are bigger, the game will probably be “wilder”, which may give you bigger swings; you should be sure your bankroll can handle the swings. And just because the pots are bigger doesn’t necessarily mean that the players are worse. There are many ‘fast’ players who give the illusion that they are “live”, but in reality they are not.

    Online, you also have the option of playing in concurrent multiple games. If you are adept at many types of games and playing styles, and you are good at accurately handicapping the value of games, own a big enough monitor, and are comfortable playing in multiple games without making any costly mistakes, there is no reason for you not to play in games of different limits and textures, or even in two completely different types of games (i.e. Hold’em and Stud) at the same time.

    I will continue this important topic in my next few blogs.

    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 for your geographic area under Tourney > Special in the PokerStars lobby.

    Feel free to contact me at See you at the tables!

    November 7, 2008 10:01 AM

    Stud: A Stuey story

    by Adam "STUDstood" Roberts

    When beginning these blogs, I thought that I would strictly cover game-related strategy. Although I intend on doing that, someone in the $30/$60 Stud Hi/Lo game here suggested I write this blog. Even though it takes us away from what we have been covering, I felt it was relevant to our overall discussion.

    While playing in that game today, Stuey Ungar’s name came up and we began a chat dialogue about him. Since I had played some poker against Stuey from 1994-1997, I felt compelled to share two funny stories that I haven’t previously seen documented.

    The first one occurred in 1994, at Binion’s Horseshoe, during the WSOP.

    We were playing in a full $400/$800 limit Stud poker game. I was in the 7 seat, Stuie was in the 6 seat, and David Grey, another fine player, was sitting in the 8 seat.

    In addition to playing hard against each other in this game, we also decided to make a wager on who knew the most dialogue from the movie, “The Cincinnati Kid”.

    The three of us bet that we could all recite its full script by rote, line by line, with no mistakes. Each missed word would cost $1,000. We would take turns sentence by sentence.

    We did this for every word in every sentence throughout the whole movie, and nobody missed one.

    While this was occurring, on an empty poker table directly behind us, Danny Robison and Tommy Fisher were playing gin rummy against each other. They were both world class players. While Stuey, David and I were all reciting the movie script, Danny, with three cards remaining in the deck, knocked with three points. Tommy undercut him.

    Stuey, who unbeknownst to any of us was watching their game, yells out, “Danny, you should have thrown the three of spades”. Needless to say, Danny did have the three of spades, and that would have turned out to be a correct play for him to win that game.

    What was most incredible to me was that while we were playing $400/$800 Stud and reciting the movie script line by line, Stuey was able to follow that gin game card by card, only being able to see the discards on a table 20 feet away.

    Soon after, both their gin game and our poker game broke up.

    Danny, Stuey, and I decided to do another memory wager. We took a deck of cards and dealt 51 of them face up at high speed. We then all took a piece of paper and confidentially wrote down what each of us thought was the last down card that remained. We also bet $1,000 on ourselves.

    We did this memory exercise six times, and none of us ever got that last card wrong.

    The other more tragic, yet funny story happened shortly before Stuey’s death in 1997 at the premature age of 44.

    This incident happened at the Mirage casino.

    There were three games going on in their “top section.” Stuie was in one, I was in another, and Norman Berliner, a fine poker player in his own right, was competing in the third.

    I have not seen Norman for many years, but at least back then, he wore a long white beard, matching the long, flowing white hair on his head. Someone at his table stated that if ever there was to be a remake of the movie “The Ten Commandments”, Norman should play the character of Moses. Actually, the comment was mentioned more in the context that Norman should be the lead character in a “remake of Moses”.

    Stuey, who just had reconstructive surgery on his nasal cavity, may not have been in the best shape by that point, and was also quite self conscious of how people perceived his recent operation. Since that must have been on his mind, he somehow mistook that person’s comment to where it sounded like someone was making a “remake of NOSES”, and that Stuey should play the lead character. Well, all hell broke loose, and Stuey began throwing cards, chips and ashtrays -- basically anything he could get his hands on.

    Although this can be construed as a humorous story, what it really shows is that Stuey Ungar, a fine all around poker player and gambler, was unable to handle the numerous traps and pitfalls that are constantly faced by poker players, especially ones who attempt to do this for a living.

    Whether it was because of his flaws when alive, premature death, ability as a card player, vibrant personality, or a combination of all of those, Stuie has become even better known posthumously than when he was alive.

    There have been many other poker players, who though maybe not as well known as Stuey, have fallen into these same traps. Some of those traps are drug abuse, jeopardizing your bankroll in mathematically unfavorable type situations (in poker and otherwise), over-spending your bankroll, poor investment decisions, sexual promiscuity, leading an overall unstable life, etc. These traps and others are always lurking, ready to envelope us if we are not careful to avoid them.

    These pitfalls are not specific to poker. In any type of “win-lose” business, where creativity and correct split-second decision making are at a premium, and uncontrollable extenuating factors (such as luck) are at work, overly stressful situations can arise which, if we’re not careful, can make our thinking unclear and our actions irresponsible and frivolous. This applies both on and off the poker felt.

    In life, there are both avoidable and unavoidable negative situations. I can only recommend trying to stay away from the avoidable ones, especially when it comes to this type of business. If Stuey’s untimely death is to have any meaning, we should learn from his mistakes.

    Thank you for your feedback. Please keep those e-mails coming.

    In addition to spreading consistent games at the $10/$20 and $30/$60 limits in the Stud, Stud Hi/Lo, and Razz sections, every weekend we are now offering weekly $215 buy-in tournaments with guaranteed prize pools, in each of those games.

    Please check the Tourney > Special lobby to see when they begin in your time zone.

    Feel free to contact me at

    October 31, 2008 9:30 AM

    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

    October 24, 2008 9:52 AM

    Stud: Money management concluded

    by Adam "STUDstood" Roberts

    I would once again like to thank you all for your positive feedback on my blogs, as well as suggestions on what topics to cover and explain further.

    Our most recent discussion has been about various forms of money management, both on and off the poker tables. I would like to continue and conclude on that topic this week.

    One of the benefits of playing online, as opposed to in a live casino, is having the option to play in multiple games concurrently. The money management strategy I have offered so far applies to each individual session at one specific table. There would be no reason to change those “stop” guidelines whether on the upside or downside, if you are playing in multiple games.

    Nevertheless, as a multiple table player, there is also nothing wrong with having a “concurrent multiple game” stop limit, or even a “per day” or “24 hour” one as well.

    Although I do realize that playing poker can be looked at as one continuous game, I again recommend doing what is most comfortable for you when it comes to feeling good about your overall play and results. That may translate to using my “per session” money management suggestions, which we have previously covered, or using the concepts I just wrote about. Or you can use variations of them, or combine them.

    For instance, if you have been playing for a few hours and find yourself ahead in one game but stuck in another, you may want to apply the single game money management concepts to this multiple game setting, combined.

    Or, maybe you would set a loss limit on the downside for a 24 hour period, no matter how many sessions you play in that time frame, or whether you play single or concurrent multiple games. For example, you might set a loss limit of $4,000 per day at the $30/$60 limit, while continuing to use the 20x big bet stop gap “per session” on the down side during that time frame.

    Another option is to quit a certain game after achieving your goal either way (up or down) and immediately go to another game. If you have achieved this goal in a relatively short period of time, I see no reason for you not to do this. For instance, you played 2 hours and lost 20x the max bet. As long as you are still fresh and playing well, there is no reason not to go play in another game in the same limit, if it is available.

    The potential disaster to this type of strategy is that you may lose another 20x the max bet in the new game, etc. That is why you may want to have some type of overall loss limit over a time limit of a day or so.
    I also like to use a “positive expectation” figure for each of my sessions. That translates into how much I expect to make during that session based on the hours I have already put in during that session. For instance, I always come into a game looking to win at least 20x the big bet, while allowing myself that same amount as a maximum to lose.

    But, I also tend to lower those numbers as time goes on during each specific session. In other words, if I have already put in three hours in a game (which translates into at least six hours in a live casino game because of the amount of extra hands you are dealt online), I will probably lower my “per session expectation” to where I may quit a winner or loser of 5x the big bet, instead of allowing myself to get to 20x either way, like I did at the beginning of that specific session.

    I do this for two main reasons. The first is the as a human being, we are all susceptible to not being as sharp after a few hours of work as we probably were at the beginning of our session. This especially applies to a skill such as poker, since it requires so much more concentration than most other jobs. A lot of times we do not even realize that we are not as sharp any more after a certain time period.

    Regardless of your style of play, you will usually get a 20x the big bet “decision” either way within 2-3 hours online. If that hasn’t happened, then you may want to lower your limits on both ends.

    In addition to adding this type of limit so as not letting it affect your acuity at the table, it will also enable you to come back the next day or a few hours later totally fresh, as opposed to having gotten burnt out by putting in too many non-quality hours, especially if you ended up losing a big amount for that session after doing so. The point is to not let yourself get sucked into a bad situation, as letting yourself play for too long increases the likelihood of this happening. So set realistic limits, and when you reach them, quit.

    A number of you have asked me “How long can a streak last, both good and bad?” My friends, this is an eternal question which has no definitive answer. We have all obviously seen huge streaks, both good and bad, over a few hours, days, and even weeks, which we clearly remember and leaves us “scratching our heads” as to how it was possible. But it is possible.

    What’s most puzzling is when this streak plays the opposite of its expectation, like when a good player has a prolonged bad streak, or when a bad player “runs good” and wins for an extended period. Both things do happen in a random game, and there is no telling when they will start or end. That is why I have used the 2,000 hour minimum at a specific limit and game to determine what someone is “most likely” to average in his/her results in that limit and type of game.

    There is no particular mathematical reason I chose that number of hours. It may actually be a lot more, but certainly no less. The longer you play, the less “luck” plays into anyone’s results.

    I can clearly remember prolonged streaks (both good and bad) that defied any “normal” mathematical logic. While luck tends to even out over time, it may not, completely; witnessing these (as well as other natural phenomena unrelated to poker) has left me no other choice but to believe that there are some people who are just luckier or unluckier than others. While luck may not be “controlled” in any particular way, a “lifetime” may not be long enough for luck to “even out”; some people will just get luckier than others, in life and in poker. In my 20 years in this business, I have seen many extreme results for some players, on both the upside and downside.

    There are many excellent poker players who are out of action, even though they followed proper money guidelines both on and off the tables, and played their cards well. That is because they fall into that (estimated) 1- 2% group of poker players who are just ran too unlucky to win.

    On the flip side, I have seen other players win lots of money for long periods of time doing a lot of “incorrect” things, both on and off the table. They fall into the top (estimated) 1-2% of the “luck factor”.
    Most likely you will fall into the 98-99% of people who, if they follow the suggested guidelines, will have results that are within the statistical norm.

    An interesting side of this is that most people do not realize when they are getting inordinately lucky. They feel that is was their “skill” which enabled them to win. I call this the “Mr. Magoo Effect”; things just go well for them, no matter what they do. It’s important to not put too much value on the skill in short term winning, or to take short-term losses personally. Luck is part of the game.

    In addition to spreading consistent games at the $10/$20 and $30/$60 limits in the Stud, Stud Hi/Lo, and Razz sections, every weekend we are now offering weekly $215 buy-in tournaments with guaranteed prize pools, in each of those games.

    Please check the Tourney > Special lobby to see when they begin in your time zone.

    Feel free to contact me at

    October 10, 2008 9:35 AM

    Stud: Playing quality hours

    by Adam "STUDstood" Roberts

    In last week’s blog, we began to cover money management, specifically in “per session” situations. This week, I would like to address this important issue in broader terms.

    I am a big believer in playing as many “quality” hours as I can, as opposed to a larger “quantity” of hours.That’s a big reason why I adhere to the money management principles I discussed last week.

    Those quality hours should include the hours that you are on a positive run (which for me translates into any upswing of more than 10x the big bet in the game). During those hours, you should take as few breaks as possible away from the table, or sitting out.

    Although I do not recommend playing “looser” or using a strategy other than what you know and are comfortable with, while you’re winning (on a rush) you will have more of an intimidating persona at the table. This table image might help to decide if you want to try and bluff to win a hand; your persona might give your bluff more of a chance of working.

    If your rush is continuing over many sessions, (days, weeks, etc.), I would consider playing more poker to capitalize on my current image, but would still follow my per session money management guidelines which I covered last week (please also refer to some of my previous blogs with regards to changing limits).

    What about when a bad “rush” is happening? The opposite applies.

    To elaborate, when things are going bad in a game (and you are still within my game money management guidelines to keep playing that session) I recommend the following:

    Play tighter. Just like you may be intimidating while winning, you will look like a “target” while losing, no matter how well you or others think you are capable of playing.

    Don’t “steam”. It is human nature to get upset while losing, and this can affect your play. Many times you may not ever realize that this is happening. That is why you should……

    Take short breaks from the table. Sit out hands and take walks away from the table. Not to the point where you get your chips picked up and have to leave the game, but just to where your head clears and you will be back playing your “A” game when you return to the table. Further, if your table image is bad from a losing streak and you seem to be the target, walking away for a while can redirect your opponents’ attention away from you.

    Change seats. Is there any mathematical reason for this? No, but it sometimes works for me. If a player on your left is torturing you, then getting away from his right can actually help.

    Take extended breaks. When the losing continues for days, weeks, or more (it happens to every player), time off will only help. This applies regardless of what category of player you fall into (please see other previous blogs about this). When you’re “running bad”, your hours may not be of the "quality" that you are looking to maintain. There is also no way to determine when this negative rush may be over. When you feel ready to play with confidence again, just go back into the casino and try playing. You will know soon enough, lol…

    Tighten your budget. On a personal note; my biggest downfall through the years has been overspending money away from the poker table. This is a death wish for a poker player. When you are on a winning streak, which applies whether you are exceeding your per hour, day, month, etc. expectation, you tend to feel that it will never stop. This may entice you to overspend money, whether it be frivolity or otherwise. Remember, your winning streak will stop at some point. Trust me on this. When it does end, you will need to have that money you may have frittered away when you were winning, as well as the ability to reduce your spending even further.

    Play in less concurrent games. This is for online players only, obviously. I may devote a future blog on the topic of how to play in multiple online games concurrently. For now, I will say that when on a losing streak, you may want to consider not multi-tabling at all, both for bankroll considerations and to maintain concentration and focus.

    As always, I hope you have enjoyed reading my thoughts and opinions. You can usually find me in the $10/$20 and $30/$60 limit Stud, stud Hi/Lo, and Razz games on our site. We now offer $215 buy-in weekend tournaments (with guarantees) in those games as well. Please check the Tourney > Special lobby to find out when they start.

    Feel free to contact me at

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