Choosing a Poker Training Site

Online poker training sites have exploded over the last few years. What was once a cottage industry featuring a few small sites with a handful of videos has expanded into a highly competitive arena, with dozens of sites battling it out for subscribers. With so many sites to choose from, the process can be overwhelming, especially for newer players. To help simplify things, here’s a simple list of questions you’ll want to ask yourself when comparing training sites. Taking just a few minutes to answer these questions can result in not only saving hundreds of dollars, but also in ensuring that you get the most out of your investment when you do subscribe to a site.

Do I Need a Training Site?

If you’re reading this article, you probably think you have the answer to this question already. Put that aside for a second and consider a few things first: Have you viewed the hundreds of free strategy videos that are available on sites like YouTube, PokerTube, PokerListings and PartTimePoker? Have you considered joining a poker forum and getting direct feedback on your game from other players by participating in strategy discussions? Have you taken the time to analyze your game and identify your strengths and weaknesses? All of the above are absolutely free alternatives to a costly training site subscription, and are valuable avenues for players to explore.

All too often newer players think of training sites as an ‘easy fix’ for their game – sign up, watch some videos, and viola, leaks plugged. In reality, there is no easy fix for your game. Training sites are a valuable resource, but if they’re the resource you’re turning to first, you might want to pause and explore some other resources like those mentioned above before proceeding.

How Much Does It Cost?

This question might seem a little obvious, but determining how much a subscription to a training site actually costs can be a tricky task. Some sites have low monthly fees but charge you an initial sign up fee. Some sites offer discounts if you participate in a promotion they’re running or if you earn rakeback through their site. Other sites, like Cardrunners, offer free poker training if you play a certain amount of hands at an online poker site. Be sure to read the fine print and carefully compare offers, as training site memberships can cost upwards of $1000 a year. There’s no need to pay a cent more than you have to, as that’s money coming out of your bottom line.

What Game and Limits Am I Focused On?

Not all training sites are the same – some are focused just on cash play, some on MTT play, and some on SNGs. Some sites focus exclusively on lower stakes, while others are geared toward mid and higher stakes play. It’s important that you clearly identify the type of game and the limits you’re looking to focus on before choosing a site. Once you know your game and limits, read reviews of poker training sites (and the archives of the sites themselves, if you can) to get a better idea of what the primary focus of the site is. There’s nothing worse than plunking down some cash for a training site, starting to watch some videos and then realizing that the videos you’re watching have little or nothing to do with the games that you play on a regular basis.

What Extras Does the Site Offer?

Not all training sites are created equal. While all of them offer various types of videos, some sites (especially the larger ones) offer additional perks and tools to help you with your game. PokerXFactor offers an excellent hand replayer that gives you insights into your play you might not get otherwise. Cardrunners offers a wide array of promotions that add value for their users. Dig around in the site and get a feel for what they offer above and beyond just the videos, and evaluate whether or not those extras add value for you.

What Do Others Say About the Site?

Do a quick search on the site you’re considering subscribing to on Google. What are other players saying about the site? Sign up at a poker forum like 2+2 and ask other players for their experiences – they’ll be happy to share. Fellow poker players – especially those who play games and limits similar to yours – are the best resource you can have for evaluating the quality (and therefore, the value) of a poker training site subscription

Training sites are a valuable addition the arsenal of any poker player, but they are an addition that shouldn’t be made haphazardly. Hopefully this guide has given you a few questions to ask before you sign up – questions that will help you choose not just the best training site, but the best training site for you.

MZone Report – Poker Calculators For Tournaments

Up until recently, there wasn’t a single poker calculator that was designed for tournament play and of all the software I have tested over the last 2 ½ years, this struck me as somewhat fascinating. The fact is, online poker has thrived because of new players signing on after watching WPT or WSOP reruns.

Both of those shows ushered in new television celebrities the likes of Gus Hansen, Daniel Negreanu, and Chris Moneymaker. As a result, hundreds of thousands of players took to the poker sites in search of ring games. Not. They came because of the tournament action and qualifiers that could, for a s little as a couple bucks get you on a final table on television vying for millions!

These players need help at the game, and many software designers obliged with poker calculators. Using poker calculators however often meant you had to adapt the information it provided while playing tournaments because tournaments and ring games are completely different strategies.

I was in a forum recently where players admitted using two different poker calculators to help compensate for tournament structures. Those players who are using two poker calculators are welcome at my table anytime. Too much of a good thing can make you a geek in this case, and it will take away from your game.

Regardless of all this, the bottom line in tournaments is that the only history you should be focused on is the recent history. Any particular player can take on many characteristics during a single tournament (never mind hundreds). Too much past data not only takes your attention away from the game but skews it into thinking how credible your opponent’s hand may or may not be.

I prefer keeping things in a simplistic display with hard core data that reflects what has transpired RECENTLY – as in the last 10 hands or so. I think Tournament Indicator does this better than anything on the planet right now.

The only stable period where long term stats MAY be useful is in the first 2 or 3 levels. However this stage is more reliant on hole card strength anyway. Once your table has reached a variance in MZone stacks, well then long data term is all but useless. You don’t need it, and you don’t really WANT it either.

Rather than be reliant on profiling, I strongly feel that reading opponents has more to do with what they are “feeling” at a game critical intersect in the tournament. If I can get an inkling on that player’s feelings, I am much, much farther ahead than looking at historic data collected at different tournaments and ring game levels from long past.

Poker Book Report Wars: Arnold Snyder Challenges David Sklansky

Arnold Snyder is not new to gambling, but he is a new writing force in the world of poker. Having recently written a ground breaking tournament poker manual, he has ignited a debate of old school verses new school, aggression versus conceding, and blunt force betting verses the fear of losing. With the publication of The Poker Tournament Formula, Snyder has captured a loyal and expanding audience of strategy-hungry tournament players that contribute to Snyder’s online forum like packs of wolves, frequently taking frisky bites at the old school tournament thinkers.

Collectively, those thinkers are represented (at least ideologically) by David Sklansky the resident professor and writer of Tournament Poker for Advanced Players. This book, now several years since its first publication, and before the boom, put into motion the tight-early and tight-aggressive strategy that simply made common sense of hold’em tournaments. This strategy is guided in nature by the Gap Concept described in Sklansky’s book as “you need a better hand to play against someone who has already opened the betting, than you would need to open yourself”. Even modern superstar writers like Dan Harrington and Phil Gordon use this in their strategies as well, so you know it has to have some merit. As such, it is not unusual to find that squeaky, tight-aggressive player at numerous final tables that has got enough playable cards during the tournament to have survived to the final table.

Survived is the key word here, as he (insert any Sklansky drone) is rarely among the chip leaders. Further, rarely does the player return to a final table, because the basic tight strategy of relying on enough quality hands also has to be fused with having them actually win pots, and hold up throughout the tournament. As Snyder points out with much experience, it is those “quality” hands he gets kicked out of tournaments playing, as opposed to position plays with weak holdings.

Where Snyder feels The Gap is a completely misguided concept is in the smaller buy-in tournaments that many players participate daily, in local casinos, regional events and online poker sites. Snyder feels that this is a lucrative segment, as many players may never have a bankroll big enough for $10,000 and $15,000 entry fees for the WPT and WSOP. However, if you play these smaller tourneys the way Snyder plays them, you will soon enough be able to pay for a $10,000 entry fee!

Snyder breaks these smaller tournaments down, and categorizes them into a skill level based on the chip and blind structure combined with the amount of entries. Depending on the skill level and patience factor of the tournament, your strategy is going to be radically different than anything Sklansky would recommend. The underlining of that strategy is based largely on position play, and pressuring your opponents, who have likely missed the flop as much as you have. This is executed in spite of your hole cards, not because of them. Snyder’s wolves say this strategy works it sheer numbers in large part because of the Sklansky type tournament opponents who know nothing more than to fold out of position or out of flop weakness.

Both writers have forums and both have supporters, and it is interesting to hear some of the challenges put forth from the Snyder Wolves – “specific mistakes in Sklansky’s and Malmuth’s advice”, “I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the “Gap Concept” and why it’s wrong.”, “Waiting for Sklansky to speak”, ” The burden of proof was Sklansky’s, and all he did was add to his errors”, “Sklansky’s “proof” is a perfect example of his incompetence at poker logic” and on and on. This is juicy stuff!

All I can say is, between the two of them, someone has got to know what is going on here! All we want to know is how to win a bloody tournament! It seems to me that elements of both strategies are needed to win tournaments. Take a look at players like Daniel Negreneau, Erick Lindgren, Gus Hansen, Greg Raymer or Gavin Smith. They have often made some amazing lay downs to aggressive opponents, but I more often see them playing stuff like QJos, 57s, KTs and even more rubbish hands to not just one raiser, but two! These guys truly understand, like Arnold Snyder, that if you laid down like Sklansky does, you are just not going to see many final tables. By the way, have you seen David Sklansky at a final table recently?

All of the above tournament players, who are definitely more tuned into Snyder’s slant have won big, and won often. Yes, I want some of that.