No one would ever consider running a business without a strategy. Well, some people do it, but they probably aren’t in business very long. The same can be said for poker. Many people decide to play poker without any strategy for getting better, but they probably lose their money rather quickly. To take this a step farther, many people embark on a poker training agenda with the intent of improving, but very few approach their poker training with any strategy. I believe that this is a critical mistake.
The first step in devising an appropriate poker training plan is doing a Big-Picture Analysis of your long-term goals and the steps that it will take to reach them. The bigger your goal, the more time it will take. The farther along you are to accomplishing your goal, the less time it will take. The program I am going to suggest today is directed primarily at beginning and intermediate poker players, but many aspects of it are useful for advanced players also.
Step 1: Get an Accurate Assessment of your Current Poker Game
I have two primary suggestions for getting an accurate assessment of your game. One involves using a database of your actual online play, the other involves using our poker IQ test that analyzes different aspects of your game based on objective criteria and a standardized set of hands.
1. Test Your Poker – The original Poker IQ test on our site is a great way to get an accurate assessment of your current skills, broken into a dozen different categories. By seeing which areas, such as knowing the odds, reading opponents, pre-flop, etc., that you are weak in, you can appropriately train in those specific areas using the tools I discuss in Part 2 below. Our membership fee is only $19.97/mo, and that gives you access to unlimited tests including overall analysis, hand-by-hand feedback, replays of a pro playing the same hands you played, and many others. We have tests in full ring, six-max, sit-n-go tourneys, multi-table tourneys, as well as limit holdem. For the purposes of this post, I am primarily discussing tools that can be used for either online or live cash games, not tournaments. But a membership at testyourpoker.com not only gets you the cash game training and assessment, you also get the tournament tests and assessments, which makes it a great opportunity to get an accurate assessment of your game cheaply. This method is the best for reassessment (see Step 3), and also for all players who do not have a big existing database of online poker hands for Hold’em Manager. It’s also a great supplemental assessment method for players who do use HEM because it is based on an objective and varied set of hands and situations.
2. Leak Buster – If you have a big database of real poker hands and use Hold’em Manager (and you should if you are a regular online player), then this is probably the ultimate tool for finding leaks in your game. It is far too complex a program for me to explain in a short article, but let me put it this way – if you have a specific leak in your game, Leak Buster will find it. The developers mined millions and millions of poker hands, analyzed them, and found ranges in a huge variety of statistics where win-rates drop off tremendously. If Leak Buster tells you that you have a leak, you do, and it’s backed up with years of real poker hands from thousands and thousands of poker players. It works as an add-on to Hold’em Manager, so you need to have Hold’em Manager to use it. In a nutshell, this program will identify an average of about 6-16 serious leaks in most player’s games, and by knowing these leaks, you will be able to train specifically to improve these areas. Almost everyone here at Test Your Poker uses Leak Buster personally, and we always recommend it to our students, especially micro-stakes, small-stakes and mid-stakes players. If you have a database of real poker hands, get this program. It will be the best $49-$149 you have ever spent depending on the version you purchase. Leak Buster supports No Limit, PLO, and Limit at all levels.
Step 2: Train in your Specific Areas of Weakness
This sounds obvious, but so few poker training sites do targeted training. If you look at the top several poker training sites, they all involve videos of outstanding players talking through their games. Now, this is fine, but how does it help a player who has known specific weaknesses? Even watching a specific video does not give you the practice you need to become a better player. The other problem is that there is no way to work on most weaknesses through just playing online or live poker. Sure, you’ll get better that way, but you might only encounter the situation that you need to practice once in ten hands at the most, and sometimes much less often than that. That just isn’t efficient. With that in mind, I have two tools that you can use to work on the specific weaknesses identified in Step 1.
1. Advanced Poker Training – This is possibly the most amazing poker software yet developed. It consists of a poker game with ten different levels of artificially intelligent opponents who learn your game and how to beat it. The more you play on it, the better the top level opponents get at beating you, so they push you to improve your game. The game requires no downloads, and you can play hundreds of hands in an hour. But the best part is that you have the ability to 1) pick the specific hands you want to play based on the weaknesses identified in Step 1, 2) receive play by play advice from one of over a dozen artificially intelligent advisors, choosing one that is programmed to play the style you prefer to play, 3) replay hands that the AI engine automatically saves when it detects you making an error. The combination of these features (along with countless other tools such as the ability to see odds and outs at any point in time) make this site the best deal on the web. At only $19.97/mo, this is cheaper than almost all of the other poker training sites out there, and none of the others offer anything like this for targeted poker training. The site has both full ring and six-max versions, and both are outstanding. I personally use this, recommend it to all my friends, and find it to be a very fun and very fast way to sharpen up my game.
2. Ace Poker Drills – This tool is an absolute bargain. For only $49.99 you get all three of the Ace Poker Drill packages, including an equity trainer, a pre-flop trainer, and an odds tool. Based on an extensive analysis of all players who have taken the poker IQ test at TestYourPoker.com, we know that knowing the odds is the single greatest weakness for beginning and intermediate players. The Ace Poker Drill software addresses this problem brilliantly. The interface is a very quick and easy download, and it installs two separate programs on your computer. The pre-flop trainer helps mostly beginning players learn the appropriate hand ranges that should be played. Through drills and practice, without having to wait for hands to finish, you can really get better quickly, and most importantly, start to recognize situations and patterns without having to think over the odds as much. The second program, the equity trainer, is my favorite. There is no question that knowing odds and equity is the number one weakness for most beginning and intermediate players. The Ace Poker Drills tool is simple to use, and enables you to start recognizing the odds and the equity in so many common poker situations without having to make the calculations. In my opinion, this is what separates a great player from a merely good one – knowing the odds without having to think about it, putting your opponent on ranges of hands and knowing what your approximate equity is. There really is no other software program out there that offers the value of Ace Poker Drills for the price – and I say this as a user of the software myself.
Step 3: Reassess your Skills
This is where our site, TestYourPoker.com can really come in handy. Our members have the ability to take an unlimited number of tests, so you can regularly reassess your game and see if you are improving in the areas that you have been improving. Using TestYourPoker, along with Advanced Poker Training and Ace Poker Drills has proven to be a great combination of training and re-assessment. Leak Buster is also very useful when you have large databases of hands, but sometimes it is difficult to play enough hands in a short period of time to truly reassess your game accurately.
In closing, take the strategic approach to your poker training. With a combination of the outstanding poker training tools listed above, you can improve your game faster than you ever dreamed possible.