To ascend the ranks of the poker world and successfully grind along with the greatest players in the game takes not only a healthy amount of luck but dedication, time and effort. For some, such as Phil Ivey, an affinity for poker comes naturally, but unless you were born with optimal 3-betting lines and a blueprint for playing J-J profitably embossed on your brain, then you're going to need some help.
Thankfully, the poker community is generous and, because of its "share and share alike" mentality, it's possible to learn everything you need to known through a number of resources. Indeed, whatever your preference - be it audio, visual, textual or personal - the industry currently has a plethora of poker material ranging from the good, the bad to the downright laughable.
Throughout this article we've endeavoured to not only breakdown your poker training options, but give you some pointers to the best resources in each category as well as which tools are the most effective. On top of that we've also included an important caveat which all players should keep in mind whenever they are taking heed of any poker training advice.
Pick up your pens because class is in session and we've got a lot of material to get through and not a lot of space to do it. This crash course on poker training resources has been designed to give you all the best options, so make sure you take notes carefully:
Before the internet - when things were virtually black and white - there were books and these printed manuals were not just the best way to learn about poker but the only way. Unlike today's culture, the poker world was much more of a lone enterprise 30 years ago and to receive any type of coaching was a privilege.
With Super System still serving aspiring grinders today, it's fair to say that learning poker through the medium of books is still a solid idea. Indeed, there are many seminal works - including David Sklansky's Theory of Poker and Dan Harrington's series Harrington on Hold'em - which all players should read. Indeed, although some of plays may be out-of-date, the core concepts are as reliable today as they ever were.
To really get the most out of a poker book you often have to look past some of the finer detail to the main ideas. Because the game develops so rapidly it's often the case that hand examples might not reflect modern playing conditions. However, the principles with which you should approach various situations will always be the same and it is your job to take the information and apply it to your own game. Thus, while books are a fantastic resource for all novice players, it's important to remember not to simply take things at face value.
Acting as a modern, pared down version of classic poker literature, strategy articles are usually used by different outlets for a variety of different reasons. For example, an online poker site might post in-house strategy articles in order to attract players to its platform. In contrast, a community portal, such as CardsChat, is designed to help players improve their game and often offers high quality poker strategy content.
This variation in quality between poker strategy articles is something you need to be mindful of. Although the vast majority of writing will be free to read, not all of it will be worth absorbing. Try to seek out articles that offer solid advice and, if possible, are written or endorsed by a top poker pro.
By far the most popular and effective way to learn the game of poker in modern times is through an online training school. Designed to incorporate the full spectrum of resources, these virtual hubs contain everything the aspiring player needs to succeed. Indeed, whether you're a complete newbie of seasoned grinder, these sites have a wealth of information aimed at people of all skill levels.
One of the first online poker schools, and one that still thrives today, was CardRunners. Founded by Taylor Caby and Andrew Wiggins, this poker training site was the first of its kind and featured instructional videos, online articles and discussion forums on all aspects of the game. Able to delve into greater detail than poker books ever could, this community portal became an instant success and launched the careers of many world-class pros.
The key to CardRunners' early success was its video content. Produced by many of the game's best online players, the videos often focused on a particular skill or aspect of the game in extreme detail. Moreover, each video was created by an established long-term winner and usually revealed certain secrets about their profitable playing style.
Such was the impact of CardRunners on the poker community that more training sites began to emerge - such as DeucesCracked, PokerXFactor and Stox Poker - and each followed a similar training format. In a short period of time poker training videos became THE way to learn the game and, as such, the standard of poker increased dramatically.
Today, poker videos are arguably the most effective poker training resource we have thanks to their price, accessibility and ability to stay relevant. Indeed, because each video is produced by a current winner, it means audiences are treated to the latest concepts and strategy; something a book simply can't do. To gain access to a video library of poker advice will vary anywhere from $0 (if you grind a certain amount of hands every month at a specific poker site) to between $9 and $99 per month.
At present the most popular online poker training sites include:
Still one of the top contenders, this site combines free content with premium NLHE, PLO and MTT videos from the likes of Collin Moshman, Alex Huang and Matthew Janda.
Founded by the legendary Phil Ivey, this training site is the newest kid on the block and offers three membership options: Undergraduate (free), Bachelors ($9 a month) and Masters ($75 a month). At each level players are given access to an ever-increasing amount of advanced video content as well as forum access and monthly Q&A sessions. Aside from Phil Ivey, this training site features expert advice from the likes of Patrik Antonius, Greg Merson and Dan Smith.
Another tiered poker training site, RunItOnce is fronted by one of the world's top young players: Phil Galfond. Also featuring other millionaire pros, including Ben Sulsky and Hac Dang, this site is a complete community of information. From forums and articles to live discussions and training videos, members can join this site for free and pay anything up to $99 a month for Elite Level access.
If you like to work things out on your own rather than relying on the advice of others, or you just want to become even more skilled, then poker training tools are the way forward. Utilising powerful software engines, these resources allow users to run simulations and calculations in order to deduce the optimal lines in multiple situations.
Top resources currently include PokerStove (free), Poker Snowie ($14.90 per month), The Combonator ($35) and Equilab (free) and each of these digest hand data and output the most profitable plays.
Although these tools won't be suitable for everyone, they do give users a comprehensive insight into the numbers involved in the game; something which everyone needs to appreciate if they want to compete with the best players in the world.
The most effective but easily the most expensive way to improve your game, poker coaches provide personalised tuition for players of all skill levels. Whether you're a complete novice or a world champion (Chris Moneymaker recently admitted to having a poker coach after his WSOP win), a poker tutor will often reveal their personal secrets and help correct any faults a player has.
To benefit from one-on-one coaching a player will need to spend anywhere from $50 per hour to more than $250 per hour for a high level poker coach.
The poker world is full of training resources and each is available at different price points. Indeed, whether you're new or experienced, flush with cash or working on a limited bankroll, the ability to learn from the best is varied and extensive.
However, while our overview of the top poker training resources should give you a few pointers to the best options, it's important to remember that there's no substitute for personal experience. Putting the hours in at the poker table is crucial in order for you to discover your own playing style and hone the skills you glean from training resources. Thus, if you really want to become a profitable player, you need to combine strategy advice with time at the table.
One important thing you need to bear in mind when absorbing any piece of poker advice is that it's not gospel. Just because someone such as Phil Ivey says it's the right thing to do, it doesn't mean that you should do it. Trying to implement every move you learn will often cost you money; moreover, it may mean you develop fancy play syndrome which essentially means you start trying out plays which aren't suitable for the players you're playing against. Indeed, not all players will be thinking on the same level as you which means it's important to assess the table dynamics before testing out your new found plays.