The Poker Blog -The Real Deal For The Hard-Core Poker Player

Ongoing poker reviews, news, and updates for all games of poker. Brought to you by the webmaster of StudStrategy.com for the hard-core poker player.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

The All-New Look

The site's make-over has been completed and is now easier to browse, with increased load-time speed and compatible for viewing in IE and Firefox.

It is still best viewed at 1024 x 768 resolution on a broadband connection.

More graphic tutorials are being added. First on the list is an elaboration of card-the counting strategy outlined in the Counting Cards and Suits article in our Tips & Tricks section of the site.

A new and expanded line of merchandise as well as updated, more sophisticated card counting trainer and strategy mouse pads will be available shortly.

Thank you to all of you who continually support StudStrategy.com

Friday, April 22, 2005

Responding to FAQ's

StudStrategy.com is in the process of undergoing a make-over which will make the site easier to navigate and will include several new articles about strategy and upcoming events related to seven card stud.

During this time, I have fallen behind on answering a few inquiries related to the game by players wanting advice on how their hands were played and what could have been done differently.

The question that I am asked the most when reviewing hand histories is whether or not one should have been in the hand in the first place.

What I see most often when reviewing the hand histories of the players I am helping is that position is often discounted or not taken seriously enough.

While there is currently an article on the site in regards to playing position, the complicated nature of the game requires me to write another article elaborating more details about position.

In a nutshell, position is a strong factor in this game, because it is highly likely that your position to act will change for each round of play. This is directly related to whether or not you would continue in a particular hand, and what action would be most appropriate for each round.

The following example comes from a stud hi-low hand history I was asked to review recently and is one example of how to factor position into determining what to do with your cards on the next street:

Player opens with: A 5 3

the next card dealt to the player is J. Player folds, and after rabbit hunting to see what his next card would have been on fifth street, sees that the card would have been a 2.

The player asked me if he was right to fold. Here is where position is important to consider and why.

In early position to act, yes fold. Otherwise catching a card that is needed becomes a chase.

In late position, with A53J, consider the following:

The number of players in front of you and what their cards are. If 4 players in front of you were dealt any of your outs (A,J,2,4) you should be inclined to fold.

Quite possibly, if you see that the four cards dealt in front of you were all cards of 9 and above, the odds for the low numbered cards left in the deck to fall into your hand increases. As long as your cards are still live or you have odds to hit and you are last to act, then we move on to the next consideration:

How many people are still in the hand? If you are in late position with live outs to a low and a straight and 4 people in front of you have called, would it be worth it for you to pay on a 'cheap street' to see one more card?

In late position you have the advantage of counting the cards in front of you to determine whether or not to stay in to see one more card.

The case at hand here is that A53 with live outs to scoop the entire pot whether or not the fourth street card was a brick makes the hand playable if your outs are live and there are enough people calling in front of you to justify it. If the pot is being built up by the several people in front of you when you have a high possibility of scooping, it is worth one more call.

"Position" isn't simply where you sit at a table, nor is it for knowing when it is your turn to act. Use your position at the table to read the cards around you and determine what odds you have to hit the hand you were looking to complete when you decided to play it. If you are contemplating whether or not to fold your hand, your position and ability to be able to read the cards that came in front of you can be used as a factor for determining whether or not to do so.

Saturday, July 31, 2004

What's Inside All-In Magazine?

I received the premier issue of All-In Magazine in the mail on Saturday. "The Magazine For The Poker Aficionado", lives up to that name in one area alone.

Quite comparable to the way Cigar Aficianado or even Vogue magazine will showcase their advertisements to the likes of high society, All-In Magazine did not fall short of including a pleasing photographic presentation on heavy-weight, high-gloss paper to its subscribers. Though I wouldn't consider putting it on the coffee table for show, the physical qualities of the magazine were impressive. The amount of content and diversity was not.

In its debuting issue, the magazine has feature articles written by world class poker professionals, Howard Lederer, Chris Ferguson, and Phil Gordon. There is also a feature article written by WPT Ladies Invitational Champion, Clonie Gowen.

If you are not familiar with the latest business venture going on amongst these players, they are a fraction of, "Team Full Tilt", of FullTiltPoker.com, which spared no expense for promoting their brand new card room on 7 pages of the 86 page magazine, including several not-too-obvious promo's by way of team photographs strategically placed on pages where FTP-specific ads did not exist. Between the articles, advertisements and photographs, All-In Magazine's debut issue splattered FTP team photos, ads, and plugged the card room's URL across approximately 19 pages of the magazine; just roughly over 20% of the entire magazine's available number of pages to turn.

The balance of the advertisements included companies such as Belvedere Vodka, who artfully displayed six back-to-back pages of their product. Crown Royal kept their presence a bit less conspicuous, however noticeable. If you notice that I'm mostly writing about the contents of this magazine because of its advertising, it would be safe to assume that the actual gaming-related content and number of articles to actually read were short and few. 33% of the magazine had pages dedicated to ads, and 20% of that 33% was dominated by FTP. Any genuine "poker aficionado" would be able to do the math and make the connections. It lacked content, and diverse content, at that.

The remaining percentage (minus the table of contents that spanned three pages of large print and wide line spacing), left room for some Q&A's, a spread featuring the WPT's Shana Hiatt, and WSOP 2004 Player Profiles to be splashed in. An interview with the Co-Director of the World Series of Poker tournaments was nearly as interesting as reading primary books such as, "See Spot Run". The first questions and comments from the interviewer to initiate a response from the co-director, were, "How's your game?", and, "So I guess business is good?" With the poker explosion obvious to even those that don't play poker, how is this question worth anyone's time? Very little depth with the interview questions, naturally left very little depth in the interviewee's responses as a result.

The line-spacing between each printed line seemed to be extended and the font text was enlarged. Large print and extensive spacing makes for a very obvious feeling that there was a struggle in their ability to furnish any substantial content. Where there was no advertising, they could have spared to include something a bit more visually stimulating on these pages. More photographs of Belvedere Vodka, maybe? The amount of white space throughout the content pages would have made any high school journalism teacher want to pull out what hair they had left. The layout in some areas was atrocious.

The magazine, at best, is amateurly done. With the exception that the producer of this magazine approved the expense of fine paper and nice photography as fluff, if the magazine's format is not abruptly overhauled, its longevity on the market will be short-lived. Or of course, it could change its name to, "FullTiltPoker Magazine" and see how it fares from there. No true poker aficionado would hold interest in the magazine for very long. New players to the game wanting to look the part have an amusing conversation piece for when friends come over and take a quick glance at the magazine on the table.


Wednesday, July 28, 2004

More Secrets of No Limit Hold 'Em

A review of Volume II of Howard Lederer's instructional series.

 
Earlier in the year I wrote a review of the first instructional video in Howard Lederer's, Secrets of No Limit Hold 'Em series. My review of this video included what to expect out of the video. I also paid out of pocket to buy in to different tournaments online to put Howard's strategy to the test, and reported the results

In addition to my own tests, another member of the forum I posted this information at originally, also paid out of pocket to put Howard's strategy to work with similar results and observations, and a positive outlook for improving his game. 

I received an email from Howard in April regarding my review of the first video in his series. He mentioned to me that he was pleased that I enjoyed his video, and that more advanced information was to come in the upcoming videos.

More Secrets of No Limit Hold 'Em, was released on June 1st, 2004. (Volume II of the series)
When I received Volume II and put it into the DVD player, I was not disappointed.

The DVD version comes with another copy of his starting hands chart. The quality of the chart and it's placement in the DVD as an insert made for much better keeping. A four-sided booklet was also included, and fit into the DVD case as an insert as well.

One of the pages of this booklet is titled, "Race Odds". The "Race Odds" chart is used specifically for intermediate players to understand how dominant their hand may or may not be percentage-wise against various types of other opening hands. This chart, as well as the original opening hand selection chart, is truly invaluable. By knowing the stats included on the race odds chart, it lends far more information to understanding where the hand you are playing with stands, when another player has called to see a flop.

A third chart in the booklet, titled, "Odds Chart", outlines the amount of outs hands have for specific types of draws, and their percentage-to-win on the flop and on the turn. With this chart you get an excellent feel for which types of hands you want to be involved in, especially in a no-limit ring game, and of course, also for no limit hold 'em tournaments. The fourth side of the booklet is a poker glossary, which was unexpected and also a very nice touch.

My thoughts on the video:


Unlike the first video, Volume II included options to be able to browse to specific sections without having to fast-forward. Howard stresses that before viewing this video, you must know the fundamentals he outlined in Volume I, to which I must agree. To see this video without seeing the first volume, would not be effective to understanding the concepts he is expanding on.

How far to loosen up on opening and playable hands when becoming short handed or short stacked, which was missing from the first video is now much more complete, as far as answers go.

He opens his lesson with discussion about factoring and adjusting fundamental strategies for late position play, and goes into playable late position hands that deviate from his chart. He also discusses the possibility of re-raising with these deviated hands in late position.

He later goes into bet strategy and limping, and the weight and power of suited connectors. Some very important information is brought to light in this section about playing AK and AA that should not be overlooked. In fact, I would recommend that a player take some very good notes from this section especially, including noting his thoughts about how to bet with AK and AA. This will potentially save a lot of grief for players who do not take down big pots with these hands on a regular basis.

Another very valuable section of information included in this video is what Howard refers to as, "flop texture".  This section is helpful at determining when to slow play a hand, when to aggressively protect a hand, and even possibly lay down a hand although it may be the best hand between yourself and an opponent. This section leads into bluff betting scare cards.

Later in the video there is more on betting and the size of bets that one should make considering conditions within a tournament game, specific and necessary tournament skills for winning play,  chip-stack management during a tournament, handling multi-way hands when one player is all-in, and more sophisticated player tells that go on at a live tournament table.

For any player that is experienced with tournaments: once again, Howard has produced an excellent video for advancement. I feel that the information in Volume II is suitable for use at NLHE ring table games and will prove to be successful.

For any player that is new to the game: I have yet to see an instructional poker video that will create success at no limit holdem at a faster pace than Howard is providing with his instruction.

If anyone else has seen this video, I would love for you to comment and share your observations.


Tuesday, July 27, 2004

A Classic Collectible

I'm fortunate enough to own a mint, first edition copy of, "7 Card Stud - The Waiting Game", written by George Percy, published in 1979.

Much like Doyle Brunson's Super System, the book at that time must have been a god-send for any poker player looking to improve their game by a large margin in a short period of time.

When I purchased the George Percy book last year, I tucked it away for safe keeping as a collectible. The book is out of print and is somewhat of a rare find.

The reviews I've read about George Percy's book seemed to have quite an effect on the people who have supposedly read it.  Sometimes friends of the author, the publishing house, or anyone involved directly with the parties who are making money, will write a review that builds the book up to be the greatest thing since sliced bread. It happens quite often on Amazon.com where a new book's initial reviews are all rated 5-stars (five being best), and later as the general public purchases and reviews the book, the truth begins to reveal itself; it wasn't even close to being as great as sliced bread, let alone the crumb of a crouton.

I decided I'd pull Percy's book out and do a review myself. This is what I have found:

Because this book is fairly rare to find, I can say with confidence that the reviews available online about this book were written from word-of-mouth, from a positive twist on its few finer points, or that for a great length of time it was really one of the only 7-card-stud-only strategy books available on the market and was therefore considered a wonderful tool. Mostly I would say that many of the reviews out there came from people who had not even read it.

The book fires out from the get-go that the reader is a losing player. Whether or not this is the case, I was turned off immediately by this approach. When I open a book to learn something I could metaphorically say to the book, "What do you have to teach me?", and I didn't take very well at all to being told, "You're a loser".

Trying to remain objective here, my review of this book is probably going to be contrary to most of the other reviews that have been written about it. Although the book is quite dated, I will come from the perspective of reading this book as both a player who could be new to the game, and also as a player who is experienced with 7 Card Stud strategy, odds and probabilities.

The book contains essential information on the mechanics of the game, and statistical odds and probabilities which have the mathematical formulas in print. It outlines a few situations that could possibly happen and how to deal with those situations. It also goes over a few things about casino play. Definitions of a Brush Man, Dealer, and Shill that any type of poker player would want to know before getting their feet wet in a casino. Too often in the book, the words are written in such a format; to do anything than other than the author says you should do, will make you a loser; Leaving no room for strategy expansion, playing the player vs. playing the cards or improving overall skill. I cannot even begin to stress how many sentences in this book point out that if you do not do xyz, you are a loser.

While the chapters get to the point on basics of play, the book contains a lot of unneccessary fluff. Quite a few pages listed in chart-form, every possible combination of a particular type of hand. Example 1:

Percy proceeded on several pages to take the time and list every possible full house, after explaining that there are 156 full houses that can be made out of a 52 card deck of Aces through Kings.

Full Houses

Aces Full
AAAKK
AAAQQ
AAAJJ
AAATT
AAA99
AAA88
AAA77
AAA66
AAA55
AAA44
AAA33
AAA22

Not only did he do this for aces full, he did it for each rank of cards down the line from aces full, to kings full, to queens full, all the way to 22233--deuces full. Later in the chapter he did the same thing listing all of the 493 possible Ace high flushes beginning with AKQJ9 (excluding the royal flush), AKQJ8, and so forth.

Wasted and unneccessary space to make the book go from 76 pages to 80? Who knows. It was quite ridiculous. I must admit I was tempted to look at each individual listing to see if there were any that were missed. Perhaps if there were ever a day that I felt like counting the spots on the ceiling, I'll pull out Percy's book instead and proofread these pages.

And now onto the strategy:

The book doesn't have much in the way of any defining strategy except what to open with, to play aggressively, and fold when you think you are beaten. The opening hand section is not necessarily specific to what other door cards are showing at the table. It is just a list of playable starting hands in general.

For a new player wanting to get their feet wet and play tightly against other players who are new or do not know the basic strategy of the game, the strategy that Percy provides will work. Basic opening hands, no bluffing, fold when you think that you are beaten, and he outlines the philosophies and attitudes you want to maintain to be a winning poker player.

The nuances about the strategies in this book encompass that one should play very tightly leading inevitably to becoming an overly predictable player. By no means would I recommend that a player who has decent experience with counting cards, suits and outs to use this strategy for very long, although it is a strategy that can be used to switch up the game. To use this strategy with other experienced players at the table can be very costly. Use Percy's strategy for extremely loose games, and games where you know that most of the players at the table are relatively new to 7 card stud.

For the experienced player, this book will have little relevance towards improving your game. The odds charts are a nice feature in the book, however these odds can be found just about anywhere.

At the end of the book he includes 30 Winning Poker Tips. I am exerpting just a few of these here. If any of them are new to you, I'd suggest you find a copy of this book right away:


  • Back good hands heavily.
  • If you're in every hand, you're a losing player.
  • A bet on a straight made early must be protected by a maximum bet - or a raise.
  • You are never too old to learn something new at a poker table.
  • Become a "reader" of other players and their hands at the table.

I'm sure you can imagine what the rest of the 25 winning poker tips from Percy look like.

Buy the book for kicks, if you're player who is very green to poker in general, or as a collectible as I did. I recommend that you do not buy the book for the purpose of expanding your knowledge of the game.




Monday, July 26, 2004

Full Tilt, Card Room Integrity, and Ogling Clientele

I was prompted to write the latest article about Choosing an Online Card Room over several experiences that I had with a new up-and-coming online card room.

Months ago, I was fortunate enough to be one of the beta-testers for FullTiltPoker.com. Within an hour of the software being available for download, I was at the tables with the entrepeneur card room and their support team, going over the software bugs they had going on doing beta-testing.

If you're not familiar with FullTiltPoker.com, I suggest you visit their website and give it a try.


During the first hours of beta testing sat a few of the world class players at a no limit hold em play chip table, along with developers and other site support members. There was a genuine feel of excitement for the future of the card room. And its progression over the months is definitely something to keep an eye on. By my own observation, I would call it the next, "Fisherman's Wharf", which I'll elaborate on a bit later. 

I'm not writing this article as a review of the site, per se. What I am writing it for is to bring to light just a few more things on what to look for at online card rooms before opting to put money into an account for gambling. Namely, more on integrity requirements, and getting a feel for clientele.

As it stands, FullTiltPoker.com's gaming software does not meet the integrity requirements outlined in the previous article about choosing an online card room.  The card room recently went live from the previous beta testing on real-money tables clearly before it was ready.

Putting money into a card room that is not up to standards of integrity including no hand history recall, extensive funds processing time, no record of real-money transactions processed, bugged email support, and no certificate of algorithm testing compliance for fair card distrubution, truly is taking a gamble.

That is not to say that this card room will not be successful and perhaps even eventually be the place to play, or that they are not working on these things. They are. However,  it is always wise to take a step back to see 'what is'.  The card room is still unprepared for real-money clients who wish to play seriously. I suspect that in the next several months when the bugs are all fixed they will have a fairly large regular base of players and it will be a fantastic place to play poker. For me, I have stepped aside for a bit from the real-money tables, waiting for the rest of the bugs to get worked out.

It's been a great time to sit with the pros and take a stab at having a story where I've played against professionals and even taken a nice chunk of their chipstack--to sit with spare bankroll that I've won from other card rooms to have a chance at putting a beat on a professional can be quite thrilling.  Alas, the fireworks do not last. Once the magic of sitting at a table with the pros for several nights wears off and the reality sets in that I play poker to make money and reinvest the winnings in higher limit games, my head officially comes out of the clouds, so-to-speak. Other than having the opportunity to play with the pros, tables that don't have pros sitting at them are just about empty. For right now, to play poker there with no hand histories and no funding transaction histories among other things, is to purely be gambling for recreational fun.

One of the things I mentioned in the previous article was getting a feel for the clientele. The card room appears to be the next "Fisherman's Wharf".  Very few sharks swim in these waters, with of course, the exception of the professional players and the experienced players who heard about the site because...they're experienced and know the word around town. It is definitely the place to find fish.

Too many players and observers are chatting at the tables about their lack of knowledge for particular games, not knowing who is who, not knowing what books to read and that they have not even read the very basic poker books, is the perfect formula for opening a sardine cannery. Although playing there is a potentially risky for integrity reasons, it is also the perfect opportunity to check out the site and gather information about the players who are playing there. Take notes, and prepare to exploit the weaknesses the new players have in their game, including their lack of knowledge for the game they are sitting at.

I gather that many of the current clients of the room have been watching too much World Poker Tour. They are taking up the game and wanting to play with the world class players they have recently seen on television with very little knowledge about game strategy. (Just go to the site and observe the chat and you'll see it very often. If you're lucky, you'll even profit from it! When they say they don't know what they're doing they will usually follow through with it and hand you some money.)

** Seven Card Stud Players--Pay Attention!**

Still on the observation of clientele between card rooms online but on a different tangent, one very helpful hint that players tend to overlook for strategy adjustment purposes are usernames. When someone named "Ace_King_Suited" is sitting at a seven card stud table, this is an excellent opportunity to switch up strategy. Why?

This is obviously a player who is accustomed to a form of Texas Hold 'Em. You want to be careful about sizing up a player, but in some cases, information that is staring you in the face must be considered for possible use to give you an advantage.  Online poker is not the same as playing in a casino.

Online poker players who would go so far as to make their online handle about a specific game other than seven card stud, and be sitting at a seven card stud table, is likely to have less skill at seven card stud. Many times hold 'em players and/or players with hold 'em references in their username will even announce their lack of skill at seven card stud.

The mentality of the opening hands for these players is "pocket pairs, big aces, and suited connectors", followed by, "pot odds, implied odds, and outs" (in no particular order). When you've played stud with players who have Hold 'Em usernames, look at the hand histories and you'll see that they're opening with hands like AK4 rainbowed, thinking that their opening AK with a 4 kicker is a pretty good start!

Based on the way seven card stud works at middle and micro-limits, you will have these guys calling you with their two pair --of threes and fours--to the river, vs hands that would appear to be obvious to a stud player as straights, flushes,  trips, and Queens-up. They are accustomed to a community board and many times get myopic on their own hand unaware of what else they are up against. Perhaps they will play incredibly tight and become frustrated with continuing to lose their antes. Perhaps they will play very aggressively with 8-8 in the hole and not let it go because starting with a pocket pair in hold 'em can be pretty darn nice. At a stud hi-low table, they may be less inclined to call raises and three-bets. Three-bets are a scary thing at a low limit hold 'em table. And you don't necessarily want to raise these players out of a hand if you know they will pay you off with a lesser hand.

Playing stud with an obvious hold 'em player opens up an incredible opportunity to make profit, and because the hands are usually multi-way, many hold 'em players think that they always have the pot odds to call every street. Not that they don't have pot odds. They just aren't weighed the same in stud as they are in hold'em.

Keeping an eye on clientele also includes paying attention to usernames and ongoing chat that distinguishes a player as being female. Use your experience from playing female players in particular games to adjust your strategy. If in your experience, female players to rarely bluff and play fairly tightly, you can use this to your advantage. If you know that females are mostly well versed with seven card stud and you happen to be male and sitting at a table with them, prepare to get really focused and start counting the cards like never before, because they will generally have an excellent memory for counting live and dead cards at a stud table. If your opinion about playing poker vs a female player is indifferent, of course this section I'm writing will have little relevance now, but it may be something to begin paying attention to.  There is a great deal of information out there that will give you an edge. And again, online poker is not exactly the same poker that happens in a casino.

Much of the elaborations on this post come from the previous article. If you haven't read the article about Choosing an Online Card Room just yet, hopefully you'll head over and give it a gander.

Summarizing the highlights from this post:



  • Make sure that you are clear on your reasons for joining an online card room if its integrity is questionable. It is okay to play purely to gamble and for recreational purposes. Just be clear that you've decided it's what you're going to do so that your experience with online poker does not become bittered over mishandled transactions/records or poor service.
  • Pay attention to the information that you read in the chats.  Things will be said that will give you an advantage somewhere down the line. And don't say anything that gives too much information, yourself.
  • Pay attention to the usernames at a table. I reiterate that it is wise to be careful when sizing up a player, but also keep in mind that a username on its own can be very valuable information towards switching up strategy.  (When choosing a username, I recommend choosing a name that is ambiguous as to not be giving information that can be used to an opponent's benefit). 




Sunday, July 25, 2004

StudStrategy Blog Syndication

StudStrategy.com has converted its blog system to one that allows a syndicated feed.

This will allow me, the webmaster, a more convenient way to update without large gaps of time between postings. The old system was rather cumbersome.

The new blog will include more news and updates as well as hand history examples for strategy refinement that are not included on the main website.

There are plans to add a poker hand of the week story, as well as ongoing session reports that you are more than welcome to comment on.