No, this is not an advertisement. I’m not selling anything.
Despite the cheesy headline, I’m convinced there’s one approach that outweighs all others — that is, if your goal is to win a World Series of Poker gold bracelet.
Here’s the secret.
Visit your local Dollar Store.
That’s right. Pay a visit to your local Dollar Store and head straight for the bin where books are sold.
This is a sad place. It’s a literary graveyard. Here, you find dusty copies of the 2006 World Almanac, old Backstreet Boys calenders, and books written by Jimmy Carter. And they sit, and they sit. These poor dregs can’t even fetch a buck.
And one particular series of books above all else appears among the untouchables. I’m talking about strategy books on Seven-Card Stud.
One achievement in poker transcends prize money, and that’s winning the WSOP gold bracelet. Poker celebrity and philanthropist Phil Gordon once put it best when he said, “There are two kinds of poker players — those with gold bracelets and those without.”
Yet even those who share the collective wonder that’s attached to poker’s supreme achievement commonly choose paths of greatest resistance. Instead, wouldn’t it be wiser to pursue the path of least resistance?
By “least resistance,” I’m talking about entering tournaments with hundreds rather than thousands of participants. Numbers aren’t just bodies, including some tough players — many of whom are probably better than you. They are a gauntlet. Fact is, it’s easier to get through a field of 300 opponents versus 3,000.
And that means playing Seven-Card Stud.
This game is all but dead. As a stand-alone game, it’s destined for poker’s graveyard — along with the likes of Five-Card Draw and Five-Card Stud. No matter what poker room you go to, Seven-Card Stud is rarely spread in live action these days. Hold’em isn’t just king — it’s become King Kong. However, these changes over the past decade have come with a cost. Hold’em’s worldwide rise in popularity has corresponded with Seven-Card Stud’s decline. Hold’em is the smart phone. Stud is a pay telephone booth. Alas, Stud tournaments have all but disappeared — except for one special place. And that’s inside the Rio this summer.
Even where Stud appears on tournament schedules, the numbers are discouraging. Consider the number of players who have participated in Seven-Card Stud events at the WSOP in recent years (2008-2012):
$1,500 Buy-In Seven-Card Stud (Number of Entries)
2008 — 381
2009 — 359
2010 — 408
2011 — 357
2012 — 367
$5,000/$10,000 Buy-In Seven-Card Stud (Number of Entries)
2008 — 158
2009 — 142
2010 — 150
2011 — 126
2012 — 145
By contrast, No-Limit Hold’em events in the exact same price range typically draw ten times as many entrants. Once again I ask, which is tougher to make it through — a field of 3,000 or 300? Obvious answer.
Non-Stud players — especially younger poker players who haven’t exposed themselves much to the game — may quibble that someone can’t learn a new game fast enough in order to be competitive within a short time frame. I strongly disagree. Good card sense trumps everything else. Moreover, since Stud is so rarely played anymore, it’s not like there are hundreds of Stud specialists. While there are thousands of world-class No-Limit Hold’em players, the number of great Stud players is now probably less than 100. The numbers are debatable. But getting back to the path of least resistance, the Stud highway doesn’t carry nearly as much traffic.
Of course, what keeps Seven-Card Stud alive are Mixed Game formats. Based on the growing popularity of tournaments with multiple forms of poker, a strong argument can be made that Seven-Card Stud (and its close cousins Stud Eight-or-Better and Razz) will survive as long as it’s grouped with other (more popular) forms of poker. Indeed, Stud players enjoy clear competitive advantages over those who primarily play Hold’em in these mixed events. Consider that 60 percent of HORSE (3 out of the 5 varients) consists of Stud-related games.
Hence, learning Seven-Card Stud would appear not to be the complete waste of time one might imagine. Think of Stud as poker’s Latin. Sure, no one speaks the language anymore. But if you know a little bit, learning perhaps a dozen other languages is going to be much easier.
Seeing a bin full of Seven-Card Stud books at a local Dollar Store — here in Las Vegas, no less — epitomizes a couple of things.
First, Seven-Card Stud is all but dead — except as part of a larger mix of poker games.
Second, the undeserved neglect of this game provides an extraordinary opportunity for those who are now willing to take the time to master it. Indeed, just as with investing, the time to “buy” is when the price is low. And with Seven-Card Stud, the price and popularity has never been lower.
So perhaps the road to winning a WSOP gold bracelet victory runs through the place when you least expect it — to your local Dollar Store.
LINK TO 2013 WORLD SERIES OF POKER SCHEDULE HERE
Writer’s Note: There are perhaps 300 poker books at the Dollar Store in Las Vegas located on Spring Mountain Road, near Rainbow.