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Four-Time Bracelet Winner Anthony Zinno Talks Seven Card Stud Tournament Strategy

by Bernard Lee |  Published: Jan 12, 2022

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Anthony ZinnoThe 2021 World Series of Poker saw 88 bracelets awarded live at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino, while 11 were awarded online during the nearly eight-week series. In this series, I will be interviewing 2021 WSOP bracelet winners. These champions will provide observations, tips, and strategies for you, the readers of Card Player, about the specific poker game in which they captured their 2021 bracelet.

The Event: $10,000 Seven Card Stud Championship

The Winner: Anthony Zinno

Cranston, Rhode Island’s Anthony Zinno topped a field of 62 in the stud championship event, earning $182,872 and his third career bracelet. Just days later, he would go on to win his fourth bracelet in the $1,500 H.O.R.S.E. event.

Similar to most of the poker players of his generation, the 40-year-old former lawyer began his poker career playing no-limit hold’em. The dapper gentleman became extremely proficient at the game as he captured the Season XIII (2014-2015) World Poker Tour Player of the Year honors. During that memorable run, Zinno won his second and third WPT main event titles and earned almost $1.4 million.

Back in 2012, however, he began dabbling in mixed games and committed himself to improving.

“My goal has been to get 5-10% better at each game per year,” Zinno said. “So, over the years, I tried to keep getting better and see where it takes me. It has been working well.”

That may be an understatement as all four of Anthony’s WSOP bracelets have come in a different discipline. In addition to winning the stud championship and H.O.R.S.E. event this year, Zinno also has titles in the 2015 $25,000 pot-limit Omaha championship, and the 2019 $1,500 pot-limit Omaha eight-or-better event. He also has final tables in limit hold’em, razz, and triple draw.

Zinno’s two bracelets kept alive a streak that dates back to 2000 of at least one player winning multiple WSOP bracelets in the same calendar year. This year actually set the record for the most multiple winners ever which included WSOP POY Josh Arieh, as well as Jeremy Ausmus, Scott Ball, Michael Addamo, Kevin Gerhart, Julien Martini (won two bracelets at WSOP Europe) and also a few players who won a combination of online and live bracelets in 2021.

I spoke with Anthony for my radio show and asked him to share some thoughts about playing in seven card stud tournaments. You can watch the full interview at YouTube.com/BernardLeePoker or listen on iTunes.

Bernard: Congrats on an incredible 2021 WSOP. Two bracelets and you [were] in the race for 2021 WSOP POY.

Anthony: Thanks. It has been incredible. From the beginning, I really thought I could have a shot at WSOP POY this year.

Bernard: All four of your career bracelets have been in different games, which is very impressive. Let’s talk about your first one this year, the $10,000 stud championship which had some of the best stud players in the world competing for this coveted bracelet. (The explosive final table featured Stephen Chidwick, Jack McClelland, and a red-hot Phil Hellmuth.)

Anthony: Yeah, I’m extremely happy to win this bracelet as I feel very comfortable with stud. I’ve been playing it since 2013, but I started to play a lot more in 2015 and 2016.

Bernard: I also love the game as it was the first poker game I ever played in a casino back in the 90’s. Let’s talk about some key strategies when playing in a stud tournament.

Anthony: Sure. I guess the first thing, which may seem obvious, is to focus on playing solid starting hands. This initial decision, which is often called third street, is obviously a critical one. If you start with marginal hands, you can quickly get into trouble if the next couple of streets (or cards) begin to connect with your starting hand.

Overall, you want to start with a solid hand such as a premium pair or, the best possible, rolled-up trips. But you can’t just wait for those types of hands as they are rare. So, to branch out, you want to start with hands that have multiple potential and can get you somewhere.

For example, you don’t want to start with just 5-6-7 offsuit and just assume you will get a straight. It would be better to have other possibilities like at least two of the same suit. Or if you have a pair, it would be so much better to have the third card suited or at least in the range to make a straight or better yet both. For example, a pair of sevens (7Heart Suit 7Diamond Suit) with the 6Heart Suit would be better than (7Heart Suit 7Diamond Suit) 10Spade Suit even though the third card is technically higher. Try to go to battle with hands like that.

Bernard: Are there any other streets that are critical for players to pay particular attention to in stud tournaments?

Anthony: Absolutely. Maybe even more important is fifth street where the big bet (twice the small bet) kicks in. You have to make the biggest decision on that street because you have to decide whether you are going to go with this hand all the way to the end (seventh street) or give it up.

You can get to fifth street without losing a lot of chips because you have two small bets on third and fourth street. But once you get to fifth, you are going to have to make big decisions because you will often face a big bet on every following street and it can get expensive.

Bernard: What else would you recommend to novice stud players?

Anthony: This is a game where you really need to pay close attention to the up cards. In no-limit hold’em, players are told to play close attention, but you are watching the players for betting patterns and sizing. This is not the case in stud as the betting amounts are set on every street.

Instead, watching the cards is critical. What cards are out, what are available, what can complete a hand like flushes and straights. You want to have playability with your hand with no or very few dead cards.

Bernard: Can you give the readers some examples and further describe “playability” as it relates to stud?

Anthony: Sure. Let’s start with pairs. Starting with a pair in the hole (two starting face down cards) like 6-6 can be very strong as they are well hidden. Let’s say you have a queen kicker up. Now, you can raise to represent a pair of Queens. But if a six or a queen is an upcard in someone else’s hand, your hand has less playability.

Bernard: What about drawing hands like flushes and straights?

Anthony: For flushes and straights, you really have to play attention to the cards that are up. Three flush cards are great starting hands, but if multiple same suits are upcards, your hand’s playability drops down.

Also, for straight draws, you want to watch out for the cards that are directly connected. For example, if you start with J-10-9, you want to watch out for any eights and queens. Again, your playability drops down if multiple connecting cards are already out in other player’s hands.

Bernard: Since betting amounts are fixed, can you give any advice on betting during stud tournaments?

Anthony: Aggression in stud high is key, especially in tournaments. Remember, there is only one winner in the pot, this is not a split game, so you want to three-bet and knock the drawing player out when you have a solid hand. You want to isolate and get heads-up with an opponent. Three-way hands just increase your risk of losing the pot. You may not win a monster but, overall, in tournaments, you want to be slow and steady and make small, consistent gains.

Bernard: Any final words of advice?

Anthony: Couple of things. Don’t be intimidated, especially if you feel like you don’t have a good memory for cards. And finally, practice to get experience, even in small level games, whether at a casino or online.

I have put in hours of practice and have seen so many different hands and situations. With practice, you will get used to paying attention to the up cards. Stud is a classic. Enjoy the game. Poker should be fun!

The Finish: After earning his second bracelet in the $1,500 H.O.R.S.E. event, Zinno was among the leaders in the 2021 WSOP POY race. He cashed in 10 events in total, capturing his two bracelets while earning almost $500,000 during the series to bring his career earnings to $10.9 million. As a result of his performance, he finished 12th in the 2021 WSOP POY race. ♠

Bernard LeeBernard Lee broke into the poker world after a deep run in the 2005 WSOP main event. He has two WSOP Circuit rings, and is an author, having written for Card Player, the Boston Herald, Metrowest Daily News, and ESPN, where he was a host of the show The Inside Deal. His radio show and podcast, The Bernard Lee Poker Show, recently celebrated its 14th anniversary, and his latest book, Poker Satellite Success: Turn Affordable Buy-Ins Into Shots At Winning Millions, is now available on Amazon as well as D&B Publishing. Follow him on Twitter @BernardLeePoker or visit his website at BernardLeePoker.com or YouTube channel at Youtube.com/BernardLeePoker.