Poker Training – The Ultimate Guide to Improving in 2018
Playing poker is more fun than studying poker.
Few players would disagree with this statement. However, this natural preference for action often leads to a severe neglect of poker training.
While the latter may not be as fun as getting frisky on the felt, the value of studying is too great to ignore.
It can be tough figure out where to start when it comes to away from the table training. But don’t worry, this article will detail the most efficient methods for studying poker in 2017.
First, let’s outline the various reasons why poker training will bring you more success at the tables.
Poker Training – What’s the Point?
- Training is the most efficient way to improve your skill
Simply put, the best way to improve your ability as a poker player is by studying. In a game of small edges, it is crucial to carefully consider the many complex decisions you encounter and learn how to evaluate them all effectively.
Don’t get me wrong: experience is really important too. But it is impossible to consider all of the nuances and subtleties of poker whilst playing — when you have to act under the pressure of a time bank or the threat of the clock getting called on you.
By setting aside time especially for poker training, you can make rapid improvements to your game in a very short space of time.
- Make your future-self more money
The most appealing aspect of studying is the wonders that it will do for your win-rate. It is helpful to get into the habit of thinking about this bigger picture in order to motivate you to study.
In some cases, all it takes is simply a few minor strategic adjustments to turn a slightly losing player into a slightly winning player. Playing may seem a lot more productive than studying in the moment, but this isn’t always the case. Consider this hypothetical:
Too often, players will employ the same strategy at the tables for months on end and expect their results to get better. Set aside time to assess your game, make the required adjustments and your win-rate will take care of itself.
- Poker hasn’t been solved yet
It is common for players to feel like they ‘don’t need to study’ as they’ve pretty much got poker ‘all figured out’. Such complacency is never justified, and will hold you back from progressing as a player.
Poker has not yet been solved as a game — not even the best players in the world play perfectly — meaning that there is always room to improve your strategy.
Types of Poker Training
Given the amount of resources now available online, it has never been easier for beginners to learn to play poker or for more experienced players to develop their game. Below is a list of the many different ways that you can study – each has its own merits, so choosing what suits you best is a great way to start.
One of the most popular ways to learn is by watching poker training videos. For those of you that struggle to stay focused for long periods of time, these can be good as they are often short in length and engaging to watch.
Try to stick to poker training videos that were recorded by experienced and well-known players so you to be confident the material is correct and high quality.
Here are a few of the most common formats poker training videos take:
- Live play videos
The instructor plays poker and explains their thought process throughout the session (example: Nosebleeds Poker Pro Plays and Reveals Secrets).
Live play videos are perhaps the most common type of training video, despite being one of the least efficient. (It’s tough to absorb information when the hands don’t stop coming.)
- Hand review videos
The instructor does an in-depth review of one or more hands, usually in a hand replayer (example: WCOOP Play & Explain with Doug Polk & Pratyush Buddiga).
Hand review videos are the improved version of live play videos, as the lack of time crunch allows for more explanation.
- Theory videos
A specific topic is discussed at length by the instructor (example: How to Overbet the River Like a High Stakes Pro).
There is a boatload of free poker training videos on YouTube. Check out some of our favorite channels:
Articles & Books
Another one of the more popular ways of improving your poker game is by reading relevant articles. Resources like these serve as an excellent guide for reference and give you ready-prepared notes which you can revise from at a later point.
Browse Upswing’s expansive library of poker training articles by game type:
- Cash game poker training articles
- Tournament poker training articles
- Articles for live poker players
- Articles for online poker players
(We update our blog two times per week because we’re striving to be the best poker training site.)
In regard to books, take note of the release date and be cautious of any material that is particularly old. Poker strategy evolves quickly and you want to make sure that you keep up-to-date with it. Given the length of time that it takes to write and publish a book, strategies advocated in them can become quickly outdated.
This is not to say that there are no good poker books available. Applications of No Limit Hold’em by Matt Janda is a masterpiece, for example. We have a whole article about how awesome it is.
Hand History Reviews
Reviewing your own play by looking at past hand histories is one of the most effective forms of poker training (provided it is done correctly).
To get the most out of this practice, it is crucial that you are honest with yourself. By scrutinizing your own hands in an objective and critical manner, you will be able to make strategic adjustments and learn from past mistakes that you have made.
A good way to make these hand history review sessions more efficient is to tag interesting hands as and when they happen (either through your HUD or just by taking a note of the details). Get into the habit of reviewing notable hands after each session that you play – this way you’ll be sure to have at least some balance between playing poker and studying it.
To find out more about how top pros review their own hand histories, have a look at this post on Analyzing Poker Hands.
If you play poker online and make use of tracking software (PokerTracker/Hold’em Manager 2/DriveHUD), such programs are powerful tools for deconstructing and analyzing your own game.
Because of the large database of hands that you can accumulate and save over a large period of time, you are able to look at statistics that reflect how you are playing. By comparing your own stats with the strongest players in your player pool, you can get a better sense of which adjustments to make.
You can also use an extensive range of filters to see more closely where your leaks are. Using your database as a resource for learning in this way is very important for anybody serious about online poker training in 2017.
We break down a simple 6-step method for analysing your own database in this article.
Poker Training Software
Aside from tracking programs, there is a lot of useful poker training software available on the market that can help you study. Here are a few of the most notable ones:
- Run equity simulations for free with Poker Equilab
- Construct, compare and save hand ranges with Poker Ranger or Power Equilab
- Nail down your push/fold ranges in short-stack tournament situations with SnapShove (learning the ranges from this app will do wonders for your MTT game)
- Get into the weeds of poker theory with powerful (and advanced) programs known as ‘solvers’, such as PIOsolver, Simple Postflop & PokerSnowie.
(Solvers are definitely not recommended for beginners and even some intermediate players, so don’t stress about your ability to learn just because you don’t own the latest in solver software.)
If you have a strategy-related question or are want a second opinion on a hand, posting on a forum is a good way to get an answer. Also, giving back to the community by answering the questions of others is a good way to test and prove your own knowledge.
All Upswing Lab members have access to our active and positive Upswing Poker Engage community on Facebook, where players constantly look to help one another.
You can also check out the Two Plus Two forums (https://forumserver.twoplustwo.com/) that have been a hub for poker discussion for many years.
Study Groups & Friends
If you prefer discussions with smaller groups of players, forming a study group can be an extremely beneficial arrangement for everyone involved. To quote Ryan Fee on poker study groups:
Being apart of groups like this is one of, if not the best ways to get better at poker. Having a circle of friends gives you the opportunity to bounce ideas off of each other and discuss past hands/mistakes. Being challenged mentally by someone who is near or at your skill level is amazing for growth.
Such groups usually come together through forum interaction and communicate via Skype or Discord.
Easier still, if you have friends that play poker, sharing hands and talking strategy with them can be a fun way to learn. Make sure that you are honest with each other as this is a key part of engaging in constructive poker conversations.
Poker Streams on Twitch & YouTube
Watching streams can be both an entertaining and informative means of poker training. If you go to Twitch and search ‘poker’, there will always be a selection of streamers playing poker and providing commentary on their actions.
Some streams are more educational than others, and poker on Twitch in general seems to be heavily weighted towards tournament play. I highly recommend checking out tonkaaaaP’s channel, as he regularly plays high-stakes MTTs and is considered one of the best players on the scene.
I also highly recommend checking out Doug Polk’s streams, specifically his recent huge $271,000 win in a $5,200 buy-in tournament.
Poker Training Summary
Regardless of which type of poker training appeals to you, including any of the above into your routine will help you progress as a player.
Get into the habit of balancing your time spent playing poker and studying it – doing the latter will make the former a much more rewarding experience both in strategic and financial terms.
Read more from Upswing Poker:
- Make sure you don’t believe any of these 5 Tournament Myths Way Too Many Players Believe
- Acclaimed poker author Matt Janda stops by to explain Why You Should Use More Small Bet Sizes
- Does your poker career feel stuck? So did Doug Polk’s. See how he turned it around here
- Learn all about our advanced poker training courses for every game type
- Go back to the top of this poker training guide