Stud Hi Tournaments Is Luck Random
Lately I've found myself entering more $50 buy in tournaments, whether it be Stud, Omaha or Hold 'Em. Some of these, especially Stud, are small, often 30 to 40 people or less. There can be a lot of luck involved, as one bad hand can hurt your stack quite a bit when it comes late in a tournament. Your great starting hand can have you investing a bunch of chips in a pot, then it turns bad and you have to lay it down, abandoning a large chunk of those precious few chips you have left. Such is poker, especially Stud it seems. To my way of thinking, this element of the game is out of my control. Mostly, but not entirely perhaps! Do I thinks I can control luck' Kind of, yes. Okay, settle down and give me a little latitude here and I'll explain.
Because of the luck factor being a large variable in poker, I like to play those $50 buy-in tournaments. That way if I play well, but get unlucky, I haven't laid out hundreds only to have one bad hand rip the cash from my hands. If you are a starting Stud player, I recommend these to cut your Stud teeth, and I still like them now in any case.
Saturday night I sat down with my laptop, preparing for my favorite online Stud tournament, the $215 buy in Stud Hi-Lo Split on PokerStars. I signed on early, and stepped into a cash game, and also noticed a $50 buy in Stud Hi only tournament, so I entered. There were 32 entrants, top five got paid, with a top prize of $640. I played with discipline, following a Stud strategy I've developed over many years of playing the game.
I played cautiously, waiting for a secure hand and pushing hard with it, raising and betting as much as I could. More importantly, though, I didn't call or limp much at all. I didn't throw a lot of chips away on hands where I hoped help would come. I'm not going to go deeply into the strategy at this point, because that is not the point. I played a conservative game, including folding a lot of hands early in a hand that might have been winners if I played them further, but which seemed to be behind. My conservative play was key. Some wouldn't choose to play this way, but I often do. By playing only very strong starting hands, I feel like most of the time I start out ahead of my opponent. If he is going after a straight or a flush, I'll be able to see it more or less from the cards showing, and a lot of the time these hands don't come. But by playing a tight, conservative strategy with big starting hands, most of the time I was up against a pair that was smaller than mine, or similar at any rate. Now comes the luck factor. Sometimes I started with a hand like KKQ against JJ8. Some of the time I hit a second pair, and my opponent did also-which results in a big win for myself. Sometimes we both missed our second pairs, and I also would win. Sometimes my opponent hit his second pair and I drew blanks. Bad luck. I lost a hand I probably should've won. But that luck you get doesn't come in a void. By playing solidly, I put myself in a position to get 'lucky' and catch some cards. If I'm the guy with the JJ8, I need to get lucky, or I'm going to be done early.
I played conservatively for the first two hours, trying my best to make sure I was the KKQ guy, not the JJ8 guy. I was patient, letting the cards come to me, and waiting for less solid players to slide their chips to me after mucking their JJ8. I built a decent stack. As the third hour began, we were down to two shorthanded tables, with 6 on each table. I began to push more with weaker hands like 1099 against small stacks to try and get them out. I was gambling. I wasn't as concerned about having a premium hand, and I was prepared to accept the idea that I might be behind. But I had enough chips against a small stack that even if I was behind, I could hit my second pair. And, if I didn't, I had enough chips to take a small hit. I doubled up the same baby stack twice in five minutes that way, but also knocked others down and out. By playing solid early, I put myself in a position where I could afford gamble. I got lucky late, no doubt.
We were down to the final three, and all of our stacks were about the same but I was a little bit ahead. I had QQ7, and one of my opponents had been raising every time they had an ace door card. Maybe she had aces, and maybe she was only trying to make us think she had them so we would fold. I called her down, and hit my second pair. She had the aces, and didn't hit her second pair. It was a big pot, and I ended up taking a big lead.
I was able to put a lot of pressure on my two remaining opponents, as they started to stay out of my way. They weren't going to catch me very easily, so perhaps their focus became to finish second, so they didn't want to play a pot with me. Because of this, I was able to extend my lead, and I ended up winning the tournament easily. When my QQ7 beat my opponent's Aces, she had a few words for me and how lucky I am. Yes, I was. But I think I played in such a way that I gave myself a better chance to get 'lucky.' How many times have you said to yourself 'Man that guy is just so lucky all the time.' Can anyone just be extremely lucky all the time' Math and logic say no.
As I wrote this, I just got to the final table of that $215 buy in Stud Hi-Lo Split I mentioned earlier, and then I won that tournament also. Not a huge field, only 47 people, but a satisfying win. Have I been lucky' Sure, I played two Stud tournaments in one night and won them both. But then again I get 'lucky' at Stud quite a bit. More so than many others I play with daily perhaps. Curious, isn't it? Now go out there and make your own luck. Develop and implement a solid strategy, stick to it, be patient, and know that luck is not an entirely random thing after all.
note by gank: Jeff Henry is an extremely talented online poker pro.
Stud Hi Low Strategy
Stud Hi-Lo Tournament Tips part 1: Stud Hi Lo Recommended Starting Hands Chart
Early on in a Stud Hi Lo tournament, you should stick rather firmly to the strategy I gave you in previous articles, which applies to early tournament play and cash game play. You could add in calling the bring-in in a multi-way pot with pairs to see if you hit trips cheaply before the bets go up, but that's probably best tossed in the muck because with so many people in the hand, one of them is bound to hit a better high even if you do hit your trips, but I wouldn't say it's a terrible play.
Generally, the stakes are so low that people play a lot of hands deep, so your hand must be quite strong to win. Also, weaker players are still in, and chase big hands, so you need to have very secure winners to maximize your profit.
As the tournament progresses into late stages, those great two-way low hands like 345 become less desirable, and the big pairs become the hands you want to see. The stakes are higher, and you would be well advised to adjust. Early on, there will be many players in each pot and the stakes are relatively low, which makes it rewarding to play those low two-way hands. I still like those low hands late, but you can't play it too far if you don't continue to get cards that fit in with it.
Later, you will do well to play more of those big pairs. Big pairs already have a line on the high, whereas three to a nice low still needs help. If the pair pushes hard, and the low misses, he may not want to continue on to try and get his low when the price is high. He doesn't want to miss and dump his whole stack. Big pairs, played very aggressively, do well. No matter what you have, aggression tends to work well late.
With that high pair, if you're lucky, they'll fold, or miss, or only hit their low. Most times you'll have the high, and the only question will be do you get half, or scoop when they miss that low draw.
note by gank: Jeff Henry is an extremely talented online poker pro.
Stud Hi Low Strategy Part 2
Stud Hi-Lo Strategy Part 2 - Betting and Playing after Third Street
Alright, so you're comfortable with which starting hands to play. If you stick to my list, you should raise with any hand you play so as not to let the bring-in (the forced first partial bet for the person with the lowest door card) see a free fourth card. If there are any raises in front of you and you have one of listed hands, you could raise or just call and see what your fourth card is. I wouldn't say there is a rule for this, because it depends on the table. In time, you should get a feel for a table and an idea of whether you should re-raise to build a pot. Until then make it two bets with these hands, or three is fine also. Keep in mind you are giving information about your hand strength when you bet. In later articles, I will talk more about advanced strategy. For now, keep it simple until you get comfortable.
OK, so now you have made it to Fourth Street. Always keep in mind the information you gathered from seeing all the door cards, but here's a very solid general rule of thumb to follow:
-If you have four low cards, bet, raise and reraise. Its worth these bets, it's a strong hand, and you want to build the pot, even if you're only splitting it. -If you have three low cards and one brick (useless card for low hands), and you think someone else has four to a low, FOLD. This is because your odds of hitting your low are remote, and even if you do hit your low, it could be second best. -If you're playing three flush cards, and Fourth Street doesn't match the flush draw or a low draw, FOLD. Your odds of hitting your hand are more remote now, don't chase low probabilities. Do you really want to risk a lot of money on a small chance of hitting a very, very strong hand' -If you have two pair, I would check-raise. You are clearly going to be splitting the pot, (unless no one seems to have a low) so you want to build the pot for your split by allowing people to put in one bet before they know you're going to make it cost two or three. People hate to fold for two or three bets after already putting one in, whether it's the right play or not. -If you have four cards to a straight or flush, call, unless you're sure your opponent is playing a high pair. If so, you should raise. Push him out, and make him pay to keep going with his weak high, you have many outs.
Fifth Street is here, and you're still in' Nice hand! So far. But this is the critical card.
-If you have made your low, bet and raise. Even if you think someone else has a low also, they may not have a low yet, or their low may not be as good. In this case, you want to maximize the pot you may be splitting. If you're playing the starting hands I advocate, your lows will generally be better than the rest, because so many players play much more loosely than you do. If there is a high hand betting against other high hands like pairs, simply call. You don't want to push your profit payers out by making it too costly. On the other hand, if those people appear to be on a straight or flush draw, go ahead and raise because they will call for those draws anyway, maximize that profit. -If you have made a high hand, and there is no low, full speed ahead, max your betting. If there is a low, I would check-raise. Same thing here as Fourth Street. Once they have put in one bet they will put in one or two more, so maximize your part of the pot. -If you have one end locked up and a draw to a decent hand for the other half, full speed ahead, fill it up. If you miss, even if you're heads up, you haven't lost anything; you just get your chips back. And if you do scoop the whole pot, you have maximized it. It is also possible your opponent will fold if he thinks his best case scenario is risking chips for a best case scenario of a split. -If you have multiple draws, i.e. an open ended straight and low draw or a flush and low draw, raise to build the pot. -If you miss, you should probably check and fold, but keep an eye on what cards others just got. If it doesn't appear to fit, they may fold to a bet, and if they call, you can still make your hand. If you both appear to miss, you're still in the same position you were before Fifth Street. But keep in mind whoever has the high is much better off, because the low still needs help to qualify as a low.
Always keep mind what you see, and as with Hold 'Em, don't draw to a hand you think may be beat even if you hit it. Certainly play it defensively if you can't throw it away, don't raise.
For sixth and seventh Streets, it's easy. Get lucky, hit your draws. I hope you've decided to play some. Good luck. Stud Hi only is next on the menu, and then I'll go back and share some more advanced strategy for both.
note by gank: Jeff Henry is a close friend of Pro Poker School.
Learn Different Poker Games Because Poker is More then Holdem
Yeah, I think I might have said something last week along the lines of 'next week in my triple draw article'' and this obviously isn't a triple draw article! Like I said, I hate trying to stick to a plan. If I force something to be written, it'll be much less enjoyable to write and read than something I write that comes from the heart.
In fact, my writing process is very short. I write, edit and have an article done in an hour or two. Sometimes I write, come back later, and edit and finish. But overall, it doesn't take any more than sixty minutes in general. I think, considering how little time I spend on writing, I do a hell of a job.
Also, I would like to say that I am not as well-rounded at Stud as our resident Stud-expert Jeff Henry. But, I have had a lot of success at this game, and love short-handed play-which is exactly what I'm going to talk about.
Stud is a game of reading the boards. It sounds simple, but it requires a real knack for knowing people. I can figure out someone's intentions at the table within a few minutes and generally play accordingly. It takes a lot of table time to do this, but once you can efficiently figure out who plays what way, short-handed Stud is a lot less a game of your cards, and a game of your opponent's board.
For instance, when I play a typical passive short-handed Stud game, I'll typically open every single time I have the highest up-card. Obviously if I have a hand that's totally hopeless, like (23)Q and no flush draws, and I've been active, I'll lay it down. If I have any sort of hope for a hand, like (J9)K, even if it's a rainbow and maybe a queen or ten are dead, this is a huge hand and I will play it fast.
You can't look at this hand like you do a typical full-table Stud hand. In a ring game, this would be an auto-muck hand if you were in early position or your cards were dead. Even if another king was behind me, or an ace behind me, if it's a short-handed table I will raise every single time with a hand of this sort.
You're playing fast and representing hands you don't have, but your opponents usually won't have much either. Let's say you raise the deuce bring-in with your (J9)K and he has (28)2. Even if he does decide to look you up, you're about 46% to win this hand, without even having a pair yet. Even if a queen and jack are dead, meaning you have one less pair draw and one less straight card, you're 43%. Combine this with the chance your opponent folds, and you can see why this is an auto-raise hand short handed.
If you have any pair, any three straight and any three flush, short-handed rules dictate you raise. Against other aggressive opponents, small three straights are less playable. If you're straight cards are all live and you have something like a live two-flush to go with it, it might be a three-bet hand against an aggressive opponent. Just don't get carried away with (45)6 rainbow, because even if you make two small pair, it could cost you a lot of money.
One thing I keep in mind is I play Stud like Hold 'Em. This is a new concept, in my opinion. There was a day when a Hold 'Em player at the Stud table meant he would get cleaned up. But most recently, Scott Fischman and Brett 'Gank' Jungblut taught Cliff 'JohnnyBax' Josephy to play Stud much like he plays Hold 'Em.
Play hands like you have a Hold 'Em hand in the hole and a flop to play off of (your board). If you treat others hands the same way, and try and deduce what they could have in the hole to play their flop the way they are playing it, you'll actually play more efficiently. This especially is true in short-handed play, when your bets don't totally coincide with your board-much like in Hold 'Em, when you raise with A K and miss the board, yet bet when the flop is 2 4 9 rainbow.
Don't get into a habit of playing from behind. If you defend your bring-in because you feel you're small pair is the best hand, it's best to take the lead. What I like to do, is say I have (45)5 and a jack raises me, is to call, and then go for a check-raise no matter what cards fall on fourth street. Remember, they're not playing a full-ring game strategy, so you shouldn't either. If you think taking the lead on fourth will win the hand right there, then do so.
Also, one last little piece of advice. Two-straights and two-flushes might not look like much, but when you're in the heat of the battle, they can help out immensely. For instance, if you start with a small pair and a live two-flush, your pair might not ever improve, but you could suddenly get a four flush. A pair and a four flush is a huge hand, especially against a single pair. You can play these hands fast. Just always keep in mind how many cards help your hand, and compare that to what your opponent likely has (or is trying to represent). If you can logically figure your hand to be a favorite, take the lead!
Good luck out there. The best place to learn Stud is probably the small-stakes games on Party Poker, where you'll definitely get some loose action.
note by gank: Jon Eaton has expanded his poker game and you should too, try playing omaha, omaha hi/low, 7 card stud, and 7 card stud hi/low. Try triple draw, lowball, and even the old five card draw. You will be surprised how your no limit holdem game will improve, such as hand reading and pot odds calculations, when you start playing other games.