live poker improvement method

This Proven Method Will Boost Your Live Poker Winnings

You want to increase your live poker earnings, right? 

Today you will learn a battle-tested method for doing just that. And all you need to pull it off is an online poker account, a small deposit, and a little bit of free time.

The idea is to use online poker as a tool to improve your skills — not to make money (though you may make a little in the process).

I’ll outline the process step-by-step so you know exactly what to do. Then I’ll give you 5 tips that will help you beat your online opponents and get the most out of this method.

The Process

Step 1. Choose a poker site

The specifics of this first step depend on where you live. Certain countries have restrictions on online poker sites, and your options will be limited if you live in one of those countries.

Ideally, you choose a site that saves hand histories and allows you to use tracking software, which will make the later steps more effective. If you aren’t able to play on such a site, it’s okay to settle for one that doesn’t allow tracking.

Click below to see a comprehensive list of poker sites.

USA and Australia Friendly Poker Sites

Note: Unless noted as “Regulated”, the sites below are operating in a legal grey area in the United States and Australia. This means it’s possible they could be shut down at any time. Never keep money on these sites that you can’t afford to lose.

Sites that are compatible with tracking software:

  • America’s Card Room
  • Ignition*
  • PokerStars NJ (Regulated – New Jersey Only)
  • PartyPoker NJ (Regulated – New Jersey Only)

*Ignition is not directly compatible with tracking software, but it works if you use PokerTracker’s Ignition Hand Grabber or Ace Poker Solution’s Ignition Hand Converter.

Sites that are not compatible with tracking software:

  • Global Poker
  • (Regulated – New Jersey and Nevada Only)

Poker Sites for the Rest of the World

Note: Some of the sites below may be unavailable based on your country of residence.

All of these major sites are compatible with tracking software:

  • PartyPoker
  • 888 Poker
  • PokerStars ( and are available for residents of France and Spain, respectively)
  • America’s Card Room

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Step 2. Deposit 50% to 100% of the buy-in for your typical live game

If you play $1/$2 with a $200 buy-in, deposit between $100 and $200. If you play $2/$5 with a $500 buy-in, deposit between $250 and $500. Same goes for higher stakes. 

The plan is to play a game that’s 5% to 10% of the stakes of your typical live game.

Step 3. Get software for studying

First, you’ll need software that can calculate equities. You have a few options:

PokerStove is very basic software, PokerEquilab has a few extra features, and Flopzilla is premium software with a bunch of helpful features for studying. You can’t go wrong with any of them.

These equity calculators are absolutely fantastic for analyzing your hands. If you need help with that, I laid out a quick 6-step process here.

Next, get yourself some tracking software so you can track your statistics and study the hands you play. You have two options:

Both of these trackers cost $99 for the full version, but you’ll only need to shell out $59 for the small stakes version unless you plan to play higher than $0.25/$0.50. They also both have free trials so you can check them out before deciding.

If you need help with setup or basic use of your tracker, check the Poker Tracker tutorial page here or the Hold’em Manager FAQ page here.

Master Database Analysis in the Upswing Lab

I want to quickly plug the Upswing Lab because, by joining, you get access to two incredible modules that will help you master the process of improving your game with tracking software. 

The first module is aptly called Mastering Database Software, which teaches you how to how to analyze your own statistics, hands, and more.

The second module is called One on One Coaching, in which Doug Polk and Ryan Fee each work with one student to help them analyze and improve their game using tracking software. Here’s a clip from Doug’s section:


Step 4: Play some hands

Finally, the fun part!

Since you’ll play around 4 times more hands at an online table compared to a live table, a little time spent goes a long way in terms of hands played. If you’re comfortable playing multiple tables at a time, feel free to do that, but I recommend keeping it under 4 tables so you can focus more on learning while you play.

Any poker pro would tell you that online poker is 10 times harder than live poker, so prepare for some tough competition. For example, if you normally play $2/$5 live, you should expect at least the same if not a stronger level of competition while playing $0.25/$0.50 online. This tougher competition is part of what makes online poker such a great tool for developing your game!

While playing, make sure you mark notable hands for review using your tracker, or by saving them to a text document and converting them with our hand replayer

Now, let’s go over some tips that will help you get the most value out of your time spent playing online.

5 Tips For Your Online Poker Adventure

Play a lot

The most important thing that you need to do if you want to improve your poker skills is to play as much poker as you can. There is no substitute for the first-hand experience. No amount of away-from-the-table study will prepare you for the game as well as actually putting in time at the table.

The more you play, the more tough spots you’ll get in, which will lead you to study those spots more frequently, which will help you develop your game faster.

Pay attention to showdowns

If you want to maximize your win-rate against your opponents, you will need to exploit them to the max. The best way to do so is to pay very close attention to what hands they are showing down in each situation, which most sites allow you to do by opening the hand replayer.

One useful way to use the info you get from showdowns is to quiz yourself before looking at what they had. First, come up with a hypothesis about their range of hands. Then, check if the hand that they showed down was in the ranges that you assigned them. 

If you want to learn how to destroy your opponent based on the info you get from a single showdown, read this article.

Attack capped ranges

At pretty much all levels of poker, players are absolutely terrible at protecting and defending their checking ranges. In other words, they don’t check with enough strong and/or decent hands, so when they do check, they almost always have a weak hand. 

Poker players refer to this as a capped range. Whenever your opponent caps their range, you can wreck them with an aggressive betting strategy. Learn more about capped ranges and how to exploit them here.

Stay disciplined

You probably already know the feeling of going on a losing streak at live poker. In many ways, going on a losing streak online is much worse. The sheer volume of hands that you go through in a small amount of time results in huge swings. 

You might lose 3 buy-ins in 15 minutes — something that would almost never happen in a live game. It’s a whole new ball-game for your mental defenses. You will need to find ways to stay disciplined and avoid tilting.

Join a poker group

Joining a poker group is one of the best things that you can do to improve your poker skills, especially since you will have a database full of hands to talk about.

When we study poker by ourselves, it’s very easy to be biased and bend reality to satisfy our ego. If you join the right group, with players that call each other out when they suspect bias, you will start making massive steps forward in becoming more objective with yourself and poker.

Final Thoughts

Becoming a part-time online player is one of the best things that you can do for your live poker game, and there is very little potential downside if you follow the process in this article. So, get out of your comfort zone and try it out!

I hope I’ve inspired you to try your hand at online poker. As usual, if you have any questions or feedback, please let me know in the comment section down below.

Till’ next time, good luck, grinders!

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About the Author
Dan B.

Dan B.

Online grinder aspiring to reach the highest stakes and crush the toughest games. I'm available for quick strategy questions and hourly coaching -- reach out to me at [email protected].

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