Taking Advantage of Mistakes in Rotation Games

I’m principally a stud player. Sure, I’ve learned hold’em – and actually become fairly good at no limit. But deep down, behind the sunglasses, I’m a stud player at heart.

It’s too bad. The world has become hold’em crazed. It’s the game that everyone is playing. It’s harder and harder to find any decent stud action. Tournaments reflect this trend. Often there’s absolutely stud in the largest tournament series. I feel fortunate now to find it among rotation games like HORSE or HOSE or SHOE.


That being the case, I’ve found that there are often players in those tournaments who are not very good stud players. In those setting, especially if the crowd is relatively young, I find that I’m often playing hold’ em against players who are principally hold’ em players – no limit hold’ em players at that. They’re relatively recent or poor stud players, if they’ve played it at all. And their inexperience translates into some exploitable errors in their play. I’d like to focus on how to take advantage of those errors. This should help you whether you are chiefly a stud player as I am or a hold’em player like nearly everyone else. Knowing how to exploit the mistakes of those who are not familiar with stud can only add to your bottom line.

I’ve noticed that hold’ em players who are new to stud tend to overvalue and misplay certain hands. Let me list their errors and then write a little bit about how you can take specific advantage of each error.

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Overvalues AK blank as starting hand

This is one of the most prevalent mistakes I have witnessed. Hold’ em players fall in love with one of the three or four best starting hands in that game. They don’t realize that it isn’t a very good starting hand in stud. In fact, most of the time, without any other reason to play, I’ll ditch A K blank if the bet is completed. In a tight-aggressive game, I’ll even ditch it for the bring-in if there are players yet to act after me – that’s how bad it is.

Your best countermove to this error is to generally try to isolate these bad players by playing back aggressively by re-raising if they act behind you.

You need to be aware that if you see an Ace, and they play their hand as if it were a pair of Aces, if they then hit a King, you might well be up against Kings with an Ace kicker. In that case, you must obviously revise your opinion of their hand and respect their bets. But if they catch a blank, continue to push them.

Play too many hands on third street (first three cards)

Hold’ em players are often used to playing very loosely before the flop – waiting to see a full five cards before making a decision about whether to fold. I’ve heard many hold’ em players say this at the table – things like “can’t get out until you see the flop”. This may be fine for hold’ em, especially no limit in a very passive game. If everyone calls the large blind, the implied odds may well justify a call with any two cards. You go from seeing 2/7th of your hand pre-flop to seeing 5/7th of your hand post flop.

But not so in stud. In stud, on third street you are seeing 3/7th of your final hand. And by staying in for another card you’re only improving what you see to 4/7 of your eventual hand. In fact, as any good stud player will tell you, the most important decision you make about whether to stay or fold is made on third street.

To exploit this weakness, raise more with your medium and higher valued hands. If you knew, for example, that you were against someone with a purely random hand – 27J for example — you’d want them to be playing for as much money as possible against your medium pair or three high cards. So too here. Make them pay for their mistake.

Overvalue medium and low pairs with weak kickers

In hold’ em, especially limit hold’ em, it’s true that you can get away with a raise in late position with a pocket pair, if the hand has not yet been raised. Not so in stud. A hand such as 339 is surely not worth raising. And if someone with a higher valued up card does raise, it should almost surely be folded.

To exploit this mistake, don’t give these players much respect for their raises into a board that has higher valued up cards. In a stud game with pretty good players, if a player shows (xx)4 and raises after (xx)T has called and before (xx)Q has acted, I’ll often give him credit for a big pocket pair – or at least a pair of 4s with an Ace kicker. But not in a rotation game with inexperienced stud players. In those games I’ll be much more likely to call their raise – or if I have what I think is a higher pair, to re-raise.

Failing to properly consider the strength of opponent’s cards

This tendency is especially significant later in the betting rounds. I’ve noticed that these players tend to overbet their medium strength hands – like small two pair or premium pairs – without doing a good job of reading the board. This is understandable because of their inexperience with individual boards.

You obviously need to call more. This is made even more correct because, based on the other mistakes above, the pots will often be significantly larger than in the typical stud game among good players.

Play too few hands

Some good hold’ em players are just trying to get through the stud rounds without losing their money. They’d be perfectly happy if HORSE were HOHOH or HHHHH. So they do what they can to make it so, by playing very very selectively.

Note which players do this and take advantage of their disinclination by bluffing them mercilessly. Of course you have to pay attention to the other people in the hand – so you’re not bluffing one individual who is likely to fold only to be called by three others who aren’t.

I’ve also found that players are more likely to be timid and weak early in the stud round. It’s hard for them to retain their resolve after a few hands of folding and watching others win. After three or four hands like this, their AK2 looks pretty damn good – and they’re more likely to play it.

Good stud players tend to be too aggressive especially early on

This last error is one that you, the experienced stud player, may tend to make. Many times, in rotation games, the stud expert feels that he is now in his element. He has waded through the rounds of the less desirous flop games and high-low games, and now finally has a chance to show his stuff at his favorite game. What’s he going to do to press his advantage? Check more? Fold more? Call more? Of course not! He’s going to be aggressive and bet and raise more!

Though I have given you some examples of when this should usually be done, it is a bad mistake to do it thoughtlessly or because of impatience or eagerness. Poor players often tend to call too much. You don’t necessarily exploit this by getting more money in the pot when you have a hand that is likely to be behind. Better to wait, be patient, and pick your spots. But then, as an experienced stud player, you already knew that didn’t you.

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