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Remembering Cards in Stud
By Ashley Adams
February 5, 2005

7 Card Stud is a great game for many reasons.  Chiefly, it’s a great game because the good  (but not necessarily great)  player has a large advantage over his poor or average opponents.  But this helps only if you take advantage of all of the information that is available.  One of the most important pieces of information that is available to you in Stud  (and is NOT available in Holdem or Omaha)  is the exposed cards.

The problem is remembering those cards.  I recall reading a section in a poker book addressed to this matter.  The author concluded that excellent stud players needed perfect recall,  so they could memorize all of the exposed cards that had been played.  Only in this way,  the author opined,  could the player take proper advantage of the information that was revealed.

This is absolutely terrible advice.  It requires too much of the player and will end up either discouraging all but those with perfect photographic memories from playing stud,  or leave the stud player to neglect card memory entirely.  By raising the memory bar so high,  they make it too daunting a challenge.  A simpler method is certainly possible and desirable.

Here’s what I suggest.  DON’T memorize all of the cards.  It’s too hard.  And not necessary.  Rather,  focus your brain on that which really needs to be remembered and you’ll be fine.

First of all,  most of the cards don’t have to be memorized because  they’re staring you in the face!  Don’t memorize the up cards that haven’t been folded.  Just make sure to look at them as the need arises.

Second,  focus only on the  rank  of the folded cards.  As they are folded,  in turn,  just say their value to yourself,  adding to the list as more cards are folded.  For example,  if the players around the table fold,  in succession,  a 7h,  8s,  2c,  Kh,  Js,  just say to yourself:  “Seven-eight-two-King-Jack.”  Repeat it,  like a mantra.  It may help for you to put in ascending order,  278JK 278JK 278JK.

When more cards are folded as the hand progresses just add them in.  So if the 10h and 9s are folded on Fourth Street,  amend your mantra to be 2789TJK 2789TJK,  etc.

You can do this with even just a little practice.  Hey,  a phone number is ten digits these days.  You’re only going to have to remember 8 or 9 digits most of the time.  So start doing it.

The key is to focus only on the rank  --  not the suit of the card.  Remembering the full name of a card is immeasurably harder than just memorizing the number.  Remember the suits a different way.  What I do is to count my own suit if I’m going for a flush and to just notice if there are a lot of a particular suit that are out.  I don’t have to memorize it.  If there’s a close call about whether someone is drawing for a flush or not,  I will recall that either a lot of his suit are out or are not out when the time comes.

I recall in this same section of this book by this mistaken author that he recounted an example of remembering that nine of one suit had been folded so his opponent absolutely could not have a Flush.  I can tell you with complete certainty that this has never happened to me  --  although I’ve played hundreds of thousands of hands of stud.  It just has never happened like that.  Believe me,  remembering the ranks of the hands and having a general recollection of which suits are relatively dead is sufficient to give you an enormous advantage over the typical poor player who barely knows what he has.

One final word about remembering cards.  This is one of the few useful poker playing skills that you can actually work on when away from the felt.  There are many ways but I’d suggest the simplest.  Just take a deck of cards,  turn over eight cards,  fold six of them and try to recite the folded card.  Expand your list to include seven,  eight,  nine and finally ten cards.  Practice until you can easily remember ten cards and you’ll be armed with a skill that will serve you well when you actually are playing for money.

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Ashley Adams has been playing poker for 42 years,  since learning the game literally at his grandfather's knee.  He's been playing seriously  (and winning)  in casinos,  poker rooms,  living rooms and kitchens all over the world,  for the past 12 years.  He started playing seriously in 1993 at the poker room in Foxwoods Resort Casino and he's been winning just about ever since.  He's won No Limit Hold‘Em and 7-Card Stud tournaments in Connecticut,  Massachusetts,  California and Nevada.

He is the author of  Winning 7-Card Stud (Kensington 2003)  and articles in Card Player Magazine,  Poker Player Magazine,  Live Action Poker Magazine,  Southwestern Poker Magazine,  5thStreet Magazine,  and numerous online sites.  He is under agreement for his next book,  Winning Low Limit/No Limit Hold‘Em,  due to be published by Kensington in early 2006.

He is by profession a union organizer and negotiator,  representing broadcasters,  health care workers and now teachers.  He has two daughters,  both of whom play poker.


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