We are basically giving Hold’em a pass on this one. I’m assuming everyone knows that HE is usually the most profitable game for serious players.
I have often been able to help fledgling players decide which game is best for them. This comes from a combination of listening to them talk about poker, watching them play extensively and the things Ray said in his book.
The player who starts out learning and playing LHE seems to be able to adjust to NLHE easier than vice versa. Some players try to play limit after learning and playing a lot of NL. What a train-wreck. They get eaten alive. I see the inability to adjust every day. It is painful to watch.
Women can hang with high variance games better than men, at times. But they have to have absolutely no respect of money; No fear. Mentally it can be tough to go to a game like PLO or Stud 8 and lose huge pot after huge pot, going in as a favorite. Some men absolutely cannot take these swings, and end up steaming. Women don’t tend to steam in the traditional sense as much (blowing off chips; playing badly after running badly). The problem with women in these games is that they tend to have one of two problems. They are either too timid and scared, or they are too hyper-aggressive in the wrong hands (no discernment). Either can present huge problems for a woman playing a high variance game.
Razz should be a woman’s game. I have always thought this. Thank God almost no one agrees with me, and I typically play against all men. Women can handle losing with a made 65 on fifth to some monkey drawing to a jack and getting an incredibly lucky runner 64. Men go absolutely ape when this happens. I have seen the most calm, controlled, professional men go ballistic. Razz can be a super frustrating game when you forget the odds, forget your edge and let the game get to you. One of the only male players who can hang tough in Razz throughout all seasons is Ted Forrest. He knows that the incredible runner suck-outs are what keeps the game from dying altogether. He knows that he makes money by keeping his cool and staying sharp. He just smiles, taps the table and moves on to the next hand. Of course he wants that monkey with a jack door-card drawing all the way! He wouldn’t have any other scenario, and this is what makes him great at Stud games.
Stud High is a great game for action junkies, those who like to play a lot of hands on third, those who like to draw and chase. In good games, the ante is rather high, so players who want to play a lot of hands and go far with them are actually playing much more closely to correct. That it is a good game for them. Although they will lose in the long-term (if they are not top players), they will typically lose less than in other games. If a player is loose and aggressive on third, with no regard for money, and likes to call down a lot of hands, even if he is unsure where he is in the hand, he will tend to do better at Stud High than many other games.
Stud 8 is an awesome game in some respects, and a terrible one in others. It is awesome because a good player can incorporate a lot of trickery into his game, and deception rules in Stud 8. But it is frustrating because it can be the roller coaster ride of a century. When you run well in Stud 8, you think you are the king, the best Stud 8 player ever. And then when mother variance rears her ugly head, you wonder if you ever knew how to play in the first place. The trickier you are, the more deeply you think and play the game, the more of an idiot you can seem when the play doesn’t work. When it DOES work out, your table-mates will be shaking your hand and congratulating you on your “world class play.” Don’t let this go to your head, either positively or negatively. Remember, when a good play works, everyone will proclaim you their hero. When the exact same play, under the exact same circumstances backfires, they will be calling you a moron. Both terms are incorrect. Although an advanced player is the one thinking deeply, on many different levels, this is simply good play. You aren’t the master of the game, nor are you the idiot. You are simply playing good poker.
If you are the type of person who likes to over-call a lot, until your hand is made, Stud 8 is a good game for your style. If you think of yourself as a fisherman, sitting patiently and silently, while players all around you are in a rage, Stud 8 may be your best game. Yes, you can simply sit and wait, and then let them give you all of their chips when they are ramming and jamming with you in between. Typically in Stud 8, the first betting rounds are pretty light, the later rounds a chip spewing fest. Stud High is exactly the opposite. Good players slow down in later rounds.
If you’re tired and/or bored, games that might keep you sane, but decrease your variance, are Razz, LO8 or low buy-in NLHE. These games are pretty much no-brainers at low limits. I tend to call low buy-in NLHE “wash, rinse, repeat.” Razz is easy because there are no suits or high cards to memorize. Only low cards and boards to play. It is typically a board game. Sit and wait for a good door-card and play your board strongly.
And then we come to Limit O8. The Special Olympics of poker. The game where you can win a gold medal, but you are still mentally challenged. The brain dead game of the world.
Yes, it takes a special talent to succeed at LLO8. Yes, it takes a certain personality and a ton of adjustment from typical poker. But these talents and adjustments are more like tuning DOWN your game, not ramping it up. Like listening to classical music on it’s lowest volume setting, instead of the death metal volume you are used to at rock concerts. For those of us who can humble ourselves and hang out in homes for the mentally impaired, it is a gold mine. For those who want to be gorillas at the zoo, beating our chests and showing everyone how aggressively manly we are, it can spell disaster.
LLO8 is the one game where passive play can consistently win. It is like no other in poker. If you can simply slow down. If you can convince yourself that you must be the turtle, rather than the hare. If you can sit and wait patiently. If you can see that over-calling with the nuts will net you 3 more big bets versus the 1.5 big bets you will net if you keep raising. If you can realize that bad beats, in the way that we typically think of them, don’t exist in LO8. If you can change your mindset about poker and aggression, you can succeed greatly in this field.
It will not be that exciting. It will not cause a huge rush of adrenaline. It will not have huge swings. If you are playing correctly you won’t feel like you are the master. You won’t get to boast and beat your chest. You will simply make money. Slowly, surely, painlessly. It is like working on an assembly line versus speculating on the trash stock market.
Take care, and I hope this has given everyone something to chew on.