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Stud: Tournament play

by Adam "STUDstood" Roberts

These past few months, many of you have suggested different topics for me to blog on. One of the most common is tournament play, and all its aspects. I have decided to write on this important topic for the next few weeks.

To segue into that, I wanted to tell you about an interesting discussion I recently had with one of PokerStars Team Pro members, Chad Brown. Chad and I are the same age. Along with various other "known" players our age (and also from the New York area) such as Ted Forrest, Howard Lederer and David Grey, Chad and I "hit the poker scene" around 1990. Although I had not seen Chad for many years, he and I had played many hours together through the 1990s.

Not only do I respect his "game" as one of the best all-around poker players in the world, I also have respect for his lifestyle, both on and off the felt. At different junctures in our lives, Chad and I were semi-professional athletes, he in baseball and me in basketball and martial arts. After getting too old to compete in those sports on that level, Chad and I remained very active, and have always taken care of our bodies.

I never really gave much thought or credence into how this affected my poker results, but obviously Chad does. Over a leisurely glass of wine last week at the Commerce Casino, we talked about this idea, especially how it relates to tournament play.

I happened to be at that casino to play in their $500 Stud tournament, in which I placed 8th. Before last week, I hadn't played in a casino tournament for many years. And when I did, I only competed in the Stud, Stud Hi/Lo and Razz events intermittently at the WSOP.
Chad, however, travels around the world, where he competes in virtually every major event.

Although I remember how grueling my own tournament play was (and felt again after it took until 2AM to reach that final table), I can only imagine how physically and mentally demanding it must be for him, and everyone else who plays in so many events, requiring constant travelling over global distances.

When I had mentioned to Chad that we should have dinner some evening, his reply was that when he is on the tournament trail, which is almost all year-round for him, he follows a very strict training regimen with regards to exercise, diet, sleep and time management.

His response did not surprise me, nor did his explanation. Chad feels that his due diligence away from the poker tables plays a big part of his success on the poker tables. His disciplined regimen makes him able to mentally endure the long hours of constant concentration which his type of tournament play requires.

Most major tournaments are multiple-day events, with each day capable of lasting 12 hours. This is unlike cash games, where you can quit any time, and return any time you want, or even take reasonable amounts of break time with your chips still on the table. Cash games leaves you much more room for both mental and physical rejuvenation, and that applies even if you are a regular, daily player, who puts in many hours, whether live or online. Even just knowing that you can walk away any time is refreshing, even if you choose to play long hours.

My personal style in cash games is to play "quality hours" over "quantity". I covered that concept in one of earlier blogs. For those of you who compete against me here at PS, you will know what I am referring to.

Although I always give myself a free 6-8 hour window to work, most days I actually play multiple 2-3 hour sessions. This enables me to remain totally fresh, both mentally and physically. I get enough sleep, enough exercise, enough food, and my errands taken care of, while putting in enough quality hours of poker each week. In fact, in my 15 year career, both live and online, I can remember playing longer than eight hours straight only a handful of times in a ring game.

But in the tournaments where I advanced to the final tables, I played continually for much longer than that in one day alone. In tournaments, there are also minimal break times, which are all scheduled beforehand. Tournaments can always turn out to be marathons.

To give you an example of how physical game preparation (both good and bad) affected one of my opponents, I want to share a story. In 1998, I was competing in an $800/$1600 ring game of 7 Card Stud Hi/Lo at the Mirage hotel in Las Vegas. I got onto a good rush, and wanted to see how far I could take it. I began playing in the game at 12 noon, and I was still playing at 4 AM the next morning. That was by far the longest I had ever played continuously in any type of poker game, tournament or cash game included.

I was substantially ahead when it got down to just me and Hamid Dastalmachi, heads-up. Hamid had won the main event the WSOP in 1992. I was still on a good rush when during the middle of hand, Hamid passed out and fell to the floor. He had been drinking and smoking while we were playing, but he had not been at the table for more than a couple of hours.

It was a bit scary, because paramedics had to come and administer oxygen to him. When they revived him and attempted to put him on the gurney to take him to the hospital, he refused, saying that he wanted to finish the game. We ended up playing for another four hours, when he finally did quit.

This is just an example of what I have covered in previous blogs, emphasizing the importance of being mentally and physically prepared for a long, grueling session, be it live or in a tournament. Poker can be enormously draining, mentally and physically.

Many times you will end up getting knocked out early, but when you sign up for a tournament you should be prepared for the long haul, as there WILL be those times where you will have to play long hours. And if you want to succeed, you must be at your best the whole time.

Remember, mistakes in cash games are costly, but they can sometimes be recouped. Mistakes in tournaments usually put you on the rail, with that buy-in lost.

Chad Brown's way of thinking is sound. Proper diet, rest, sleep and exercise, as well as limiting stress and distractions, are all imperative to your success regardless of what level, stakes, game, and setting you choose to play poker. Before you play one hand, you should be fully prepared to play your best. To an extent, the game starts even before the first hand is played.

Until next time, 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 adamr@pokerstars.com. See you at the tables!

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