Callum Hamilton: The 7 Different Types of Poker Stables

  • A stable provides proper coaching while not having to worry about your bankroll
  • The MDA stable will see you mindlessly follow the playbook
  • A spiritual stable will leave you living on a diet of raw goats liver and rainwater
  • Downsides to a live stable include playing against other horses and the likelihood of scamming
Horsehoe and playing cards
Poker expert Callum Hamilton has broken down the many different varieties of poker stables. [Image:]

An important tool

Poker can be a tough game and a difficult learning environment. “Don’t be a lone wolf” is classic advice that’s come down through the ages.

Even the late great Doyle Brunson had his Sailor Roberts and Slim Amarillo, although they were playing in the days of exclusive dodgy private games with the ever-present danger of cheating and robbery. Poker has moved on a long way since then, and thankfully that sort of thing doesn’t exist anymore.

Unfortunately, most poker discord groups are full of morons who are breakeven at best. And wouldn’t it be nice to get some proper coaching in with it and not have to worry about your bankroll? Well, you need a stable, my friend.

There are a wide variety of different kinds out there. Here’s a quick guide to all the various poker stables you can find.

The MDA stable

Mass Database Analysis seems like a great idea. We all know that GTO doesn’t come up with the highest EV strategies, so let’s find out what does. And they’ve even done the work for you of telling you the best play in every situation. Fantastic! You can’t lose.

Prepare to be castigated in the discord for not following the playbook

Now prepare to have every ounce of enthusiasm for the game you still have sucked out as you mindlessly follow the playbook and repeat the same plays over and over and over again. Prepare to be castigated in the discord for not following the playbook and calling the river vs the 85-year old in a 4bet pot.

Prepare to forget what frequencies, blockers, reads, and poker itself even are anymore. Prepare to play 10nl for 500,000 hands until they’re satisfied any independent thoughts have been mercilessly beaten out of you. You used to be a poker player. Now you work in data entry. One night, thinking about your coach, you’ll finally get the ending of 1984.

Then they’ll let you play 25nl.

The theocratic GTO stable

On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have this particular brand of stable. Not as common as is popularly believed, but they do exist. No serious stable will entirely forego the use of solvers, but be prepared for the ones that also forego the notion of any simplification whatsoever.

Doing anything with a stable like this will leave you completely confident in the future of the game as you try in vain to memorize the 2,675 paths of the game tree for every possible hand. You’ll develop a sense of smug superiority every time you see someone deploy a bet size 3% larger than you. You will also forget any semblance of how to play the game and eventually resort to basing every single decision, up to and including what to have for dinner, on your RNG. Hey, if 4betting the flop with middle pair can be good 2% of the time, so can strawberries on pizza.

You will secretly know that you have no idea what you’re doing

You will feel like an utter fraud. You will secretly know that you have no idea what you’re doing. And somehow you’ll probably end up winning anyway.

The “there’s something suspicious but I can’t quite put my finger on it” stable

These can come in all shapes and forms when it comes to how they approach poker, but one day someone will mention Jordan Peterson in the discord and you’ll realize they were being sincere. Then you’ll realize they were complaining that he’s a globalist cuck. Then you’ll notice the hentai section of the discord. Run.

The spiritual stable

GTO is all fine and dandy, but there are other elements to being a successful poker player. Not playing when you’re tired is a great one. So, make sure you’re getting plenty of sleep. Don’t drink and play, that’s obvious. That’s how it starts.

They have a coach for mental aspects of the game too – a really nice touch that many stables don’t take the time to provide.

That’s how it starts.

Four months later you’re living in a commune in rural Bosnia on a diet of raw goats liver and rainwater. You’re having regular sessions with your coach, which mostly consist of taking Ayahuasca and screaming primally. Competing for the attention of your backer is difficult, since you’re one of his eight wives, and you haven’t spoken to your mother in months ever since she deadnamed you by accidentally calling you Steve instead of Forest Dancer. On the plus side, you’re really starting to nail that block betting strategy that your ancestors told you about.

The informal arrangement

No real stable here – a friend who’s been crushing it offers to get you on your feet. A limitless supply of credit to play whatever you want, and no sweat about paying it back. Next time you get a big score, maybe. Until then, don’t worry about it. And if you need some for living expenses it’s cool.

You’ll never actually encounter any situation like this. But all of your friends will have this arrangement. And don’t even think about asking the question, you’ll get the same look as if you’d asked for their sister’s number.

The live stable

Even outside of the US, it has not escaped the attention of many backers that it is significantly easier to find a random kid who can beat live £1/£2 ($1.25/$2.50) without £6,000 ($7,505) to his name than it is to find someone who can beat 25 Zoom without £500 ($625).

six out of the eight other people at the table are all fellow horses

There are two downsides to this. Firstly, the small pools mean that you’ll inevitably clash with your colleagues. You’ll be in a £1/£2 game where the average player in the field can’t tie their shoelaces, but six out of the eight other people at the table are all fellow horses, like those communist cells in the 70s where 80% of the membership were undercover cops. In seeking out soft live games, you’ll somehow end up in the hardest games playing ridiculous 4bet pots with 6 high and getting called down by bottom pair because it’s your pal and you both forgot you were playing for actual money.

The bigger issue is that live players are essentially impossible to police, so a decent chunk of profits has to be written off to the inevitability of getting scammed, like a farmer’s grain lost to mice.

This could be anything from a horse who’s behind on the rent misreporting a big winning session to a methodical, relentless scam stretching over years. As a result, live stables tend to develop a somewhat psychopathic desire to control their players and inevitably morph into….

The cotton wool stable

At the opposite end of a pal taking 5% of a live tournament is this stable.

You agree not to fire up 10/20 after coming back home at 3am drunk – fine. But getting a lawyer to read over your contract will reveal that not only are you only allowed to play very specific games, but you are technically not allowed to leave your house without supervision or a doctor’s letter. If you so much as enter a bowling club raffle, your backers will demand their 50%, if they don’t immediately drop you for breach of contract.

Congratulations – you are now a kept boy. Enjoy that Vegas trip where you’ll see nothing that isn’t a poker table, piosolver, your bedroom that you’re sharing with four other horses, and the stern, disapproving gaze of your backer.

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