Check Out Other Games

Before you take a seat, it’s a good idea to take a look at the games that are underway.  If you can, request to be at a particular game.  Take a look and see how the games are going – whether there seem to be a lot of people calling anything, or if one player is constantly raising.

During the course of a game, if you feel frustrated by the way it’s going, you can always call a floor person and ask to be moved to an available seat in another game.  Some games will have players who are more conservative (tighter), and some games will have players who throw a lot of money at many pots (looser).  I’ve found that games at the card club on weekday mornings and afternoons are more tight, as there are many retirees there who play more conservatively.  On evenings and weekends, you have a more diverse crowd.  Many people are there to just have a good time, and as a result, they play more loosely.

The Importance of Odds

Any gambler knows the importance of statistical odds, which play a huge role in poker.  If you don’t take the time to learn them, you will be at a major disadvantage.  In the back of this book, in the Appendix, I’ve listed the odds for different types of hands.  As in any poker game, there are two types of odds-pot odds and the odds for making your hand, statistical odds.

Pot ods are not that difficult.  If you know how much is in the pot, you can figure out the pot odds by dividing that sum by your bet.  If there is $40 in the pot, for example, and it is a $4 bet to you, your pot odds are 10 to 1.  If these are greater than the statistical odds of making that hand, then it’s a good bet.  Let’s say you started out with three to a fuslh, which didn’t improve on fourth street.  At this point, your statistical odds of making your flush are 8.5 to 1.  But, if there’s a lot of money in the pot and you’re getting large enough pot odds, it is okay to toss in another bet.

Knowing statistical odds is essential, so memorize the odds that are listed in the back of the book.  It’s always helpful to know pot odds and compare the two, but at the very least have a general idea of the drawing odds so you know how likely you are to make the hand you want to make.  If you can do both, great.  With so much betting going on, you might find it very hard to count the chips which are in a big pile in the center of the table while simultaneously trying to pay attention to what has been folded.  If that’s the case, focus on the cards first.

Knowing odds will help you at the table, but remembering those cards is more important.  The odds give you a general idea of your chances of success, but if you do not know which of the cards that you need are live and which ones are dead, then the odds are useless.  In the earlier example, while I may be an 8.5 to 1 shot to get my flush on fourth street, I am much more likely to call if I know that very few cards of my needed suit had been dealt to other players.

Study Your Opponents

Another important aspect of stud poker (and any pocar game) is to know your opponents.  You must always be paying attention to Poker players at the table and watching their style of play.  Are they the kind of players who seem to be calling every single time someone bets?  If so, you can take advantage of them when you have the monster hand, because you know they will go ahead and call.  Are they the type of players who seem to fld constantly and bet hard when they do stay in?  (Ideally, you are this type of player – it’s known as “tight-aggressive,” and we’ll get to that shortly.)

Maybe your opponents are the type of players who seem to bet with anything.  Knowing your oppoents’ style is very important.  It will help you to get insight into how they play – whether they are playing smart or just chasing cards.

While you will be playing only a few hands, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be watching your opponents like a hawk and getting information on them at all times.  At my card club, there are lots of televisions everywhere, and people are naturally interested in the horse races or highlights on Sportscenter.  You can watch TV at home.  If you’ve made the effort to come to the card room to play cards, your focus should be on the game, not on the TV.

Even when you fold, watch action – work on remembering cards or on watching what your opponents stay in with.  Look at their eyes; notice how they breathe when the cards are dealt to them.  Does one player sit and stare at a hand at length before betting?  If so, odds are he doesn’t have that great of a hand – if he did, he’d be betting it.  Does one player seem to be staring at the ball game constantly?  If that’s the case, you want to take advantage of him, because the poker game is of secondary importance to him.

Another way to get a good idea of how your opponents play is by noticing what their hole cards are when they lay down their hands.  When the last card is dealt, if that card goes on top, the two starting cards are on the bottom; if it goes on the bottom, the two starting hole cards are on the top.  A player will sometimes shuffle the three hidden cards, but it’s not too tough to figure out what he started with.  If he rose on third street and then turns over two kings and a 5, he likely had two kings from the beginning