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A Poker Player's Education Part 2
Sept 15, 2005  
by Jason Kirk  

Hold'em is all the rage today, but the poker players who win the most money consistently are those who are comfortable playing any game. There probably has never been a better time than today to branch out and become a well-rounded player: there is a good selection of material on most games, and the internet provides a cheap training ground for testing out their strategies in almost any game you can imagine. Here are a few good resources for anyone trying to expand their repertoire.

Seven Card Stud

Seven-card stud is a game with a unique place in poker today. With hold'em's popularity at an all-time high fewer people than ever before are playing Stud, yet it is widely recognized as the game that's most difficult to learn to play well. While it might not be quite the gold mine that the high-low split games are, anyone with a skill advantage will still win money over time. The starting point for anyone who wants to play seven-card stud is Chip Reese's 40-page chapter on the game in the original Super System. Reese has to this day a reputation as one of the greatest poker players in the world, and his explanations of the ante, split and concealed pairs, how to play drawing hands, value plays and saving bets still comprise the best short course on the game available.

Once you get your mind around that material - which, despite the Reese work's brevity, will take some time - you may decide that you need a more in-depth book on Stud. David Sklansky's Seven-Card Stud for Advanced Players, written with Mason Malmuth and Ray Zee, is the definitive study of the game available today. This book focuses on specific situations, and also features hand quizzes so the reader can be sure he's learning all the concepts presented in the book. If you want to beat anything but the lowest level Stud games, you'll need to know it inside out because your opponents certainly will.

High-Low Split Games

The high-low split games can be some of the most profitable tables around to a player who has even a slight edge over his opponents. Most bigger online poker rooms today have a good selection of Stud-8 and Omaha-8 tables available at most times of day, so there is a potential gold mine waiting out there for any who can learn to play them well. In addition many more brick-and-mortar poker rooms are beginning to offer Omaha-8 games these days, tables that are sure to have enough fish to make the game worth your while if you know how to play. The basic resource around for anyone who wants to play these games is Ray Zee's High-Low Split Poker for Advanced Players. It has separate sections on the Stud and Omaha variants, both of which require different strategies than the high-hand versions. Several other books have come out in recent years, but Zee's work is still considered the definitive source on the high-low split games.

Omaha Hold'em

With so many cards in play, and with all the draws and re-draws, Omaha is the game people find themselves playing when they just can't get enough action anywhere else - especially when it's pot-limit Omaha. It's as challenging a game as exists today, and every passing year sees its popularity grow. One unfortunate circumstance of its still-growing reputation is that the literature on Omaha is pretty thin. The standby text is T.J. Cloutier and Tom McEvoy's Championship Omaha. It's definitely a good introduction to the basics of the game, but its reputation as being the best is based more on the competition than its own strength. Still, a working knowledge of what's presented here is helpful. Another book that has a good reputation is Bob Ciaffone's Omaha Hold'em Poker. It's a short work but it contains good enough advice on pot-limit Omaha to get a player started in the game.

Conclusion

Becoming a solid player is a lot of work. While most of it comes in the form of hands played at the tables, part of that work is in the preparation and thought you put in away from the table. Those players who take the time to study the games they play will always have an edge on their less-equipped opposition - and the more games you know well the more likely you are to have an edge at any table you choose to play.


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