In the past, you had to learn poker the hard way. You would usually first become familiar with the rules and start playing with friends or family. The next step would be to go to a casino for the real deal. As a result, most people would tend to lose a lot before becoming somewhat decent at the game. As the popular saying goes, “When a man with money meets a man with experience, the man with experience leaves with money and the man with money leaves with experience.”
While the above scenario will always prove true to an extent, nowadays we have access to plenty of information. With some research and dedication, there are numerous ways to reach a certain level of proficiency at poker without losing a dime. This article will give you a good idea where to start.
1. Read Strategy Articles to Understand Important Poker Concepts
There’s practically an overwhelming amount of poker training resources available online, especially if you want to learn Texas Hold’em. It is almost criminal not to take advantage and learn from the experience and knowledge that other people have accumulated over the years.
Pretty much everything is covered. From basic stuff like the rules and the flow of the different types of poker variants to more advanced strategy for high stakes games. I highly recommend that you to start off by reading up on general strategy. Learn the top starting hands, how to play them, what pot odds/implied odds are, and how to take advantage of your position. Mastering these relatively simple concepts will help you avoid costly mistakes.
Once you are done with that, you should seek out articles on more advanced techniques. Start studying them and try to understand the logic behind each. This is crucial, as you do not want to just copy a technique without understanding its reasoning.
Fortunately, most poker training sites have a smart structure that will allow you to learn systematically. The materials are split into categories and you will easily understand where to start and how to progress through them. Reading poker articles online and putting into practice the best poker tips are certainly the fastest ways to build your basic playing strategy.
2. Watch Good Players Play on Twitch or YouTube
Video content sites, such as YouTube and Twitch, are another exceptional source of useful information for the aspiring poker player. You will often see good coaches and poker pros upload strategy videos for free. If you take your time choosing what to watch, there is a lot you can learn from them.
The producers of poker video content usually try to be as engaging and interactive as possible. They discuss specific hands with their viewers and explain most of their decisions in a detailed manner. You not only see their actions but also get the reasoning behind them.
Since decision-making is one of the most important skills in poker, you can immensely improve your own by watching top professionals play. Furthermore, if they’re doing a livestream of said strategy videos, you can even interact with them directly and have your questions answered. This is a perfect, easy way to get clarification with regards to specific situations you need to understand better.
Just as with poker strategy articles, there are poker strategy videos covering everything from the basics to advanced level concepts.
3. Mark Hands While You Play and Review Them Later On
Once you have understood poker’s basic principles and have built a solid fundamental strategy, most of the decisions you make at the tables will become routine. You will know what to do without spending too much time thinking. However, some awkward spots will still arise from time to time that make you uncomfortable. When you encounter such a situation, the best thing to do would be to write it down and analyze it properly after your session is over.
This way you will have enough time to consider the whole situation thoroughly and evaluate all the factors involved. If you are still unable to reach a definitive conclusion as to what the correct course of action is in such a situation, there are many options available to you. Discuss the hand with your poker friends, post it online in a forum and ask for help, or just search for articles/videos that are related to the particular situations that confuse you.
By doing this on a regular basis, you will slowly improve your game and eliminate leaks one at a time. It will allow you to gradually become a better player as well as potentially climb to higher stakes.
4. Analyze Your Database to Find Mistakes
This final point covers situations where you know that you’re probably doing something wrong but you can’t quite put your finger on it. In other words, there are certainly spots where you are not playing optimally but you do not even suspect it. Don’t despair! There are ways to discover and fix even these leaks.
There are many poker tracking products that can help you in this regard, most notably PokerTracker and Hold’em Manager. With this software, you can go through your online poker hand database and compare it to the stats of winning players, which will indicate when something is off.
To use such programs, you should first start collecting your hand history. Usually, you only need to log in to the poker client and activate a certain setting. This will allow you to store the hands on your computer. Then, install the software and start working.
You will not only notice spots that can be potentially improved, but the software will also display concrete examples of your errors. There are dozens if not hundreds of different filters that can help you narrow things down until you isolate where the problem lies.
While it’s true that you will have to invest some money to obtain poker tracking software as well as a good deal of time to understand how it works, trust me when I say that it’s worthwhile. In fact, this is one of the fastest and most efficient ways to find leaks in your play and plug them.
As you can see, there are plenty of opportunities to study on your own. If you’d like to dive even deeper, you’re invited to read my article on how to learn poker strategy the right way. Indeed, improving at poker will take dedication and the desire to work, but you will eventually see the results if you are willing to put in the effort. Of course, you won’t become Phil Ivey overnight; you will have to be patient (and even then, Phil will still probably crush you, haha). However, if you are persistent enough, you will eventually reap the rewards both in terms of personal satisfaction as well as financial gain.