Hello and welcome. My name is John Anhalt for DriveHUD University and this is part one of a three-part series on how to really make money playing poker. This is going to be a really exciting and in-depth series about the A to Z’s on how to be profitable playing poker long-term.
This is going to be a whole culmination of a ton of different content that I’ve personally written about or done videos about over the years and I’m gonna bring this in the most straightforward and comprehensive approach I can.
And there’s a lot of different videos on specific topics of how to play poker and theory – this is going to be really a complete course of everything that you’re gonna need to be that long-term winning player. I’ve played and written about poker for well over a decade. I’ve played successfully for over 15 years.
I’m gonna go over a little bit first on who the heck I am so you can get an idea of why I should even be talking about this. But I just want you to know if you watch this whole series, I feel like you’re gonna gain, no matter what level you’re at, you’re really going to gain a lot of useful information and you’ll see why here pretty shortly. But first, let me give you a little background on who I am and really a little bit more about what my goal for this series is gonna be.
So who the heck am I? Just a little bit of background about my poker career so you know I have some credibility here and teaching all these concepts.
I pretty much intentionally tried to be an under-the-radar poker player. I’ve mainly played cash games throughout my career. I’ve played a little bit of high-stakes tournaments and probably should have played a little bit more earlier especially when they were super super soft but I didn’t; I played mostly cash games. I’ve been a winning player since 2004. I’ve never gone broke. I’ve made one poker deposit and I’ve built that one deposit into all my money that I’ve won over the years. I played somewhere over 6 million hands of online poker. I don’t know exactly because it’s been multiple different trackers over the years. Played as high as 10 20 No Limits.
Pre Black Friday Post Black Friday I played mostly a lot more mid-stakes; didn’t keep as much money online because I still have lost a lot of money as a result of confiscation of those funds. Here are some of my results in post Black Friday just to give you an idea.
Today I mainly play a lot of mid-stakes, even some small stakes – it just kind of depends on the games. I don’t play a lot of high stakes anymore. I just don’t feel the need and I’ve also pretty much accomplished most of what I wanted to in poker. And it’s much more of a third or fourth to your hobby that I’ll still play mainly for vacation money.
But I’m still very active because you know I’d still do love the game, I still do enjoy coaching and teaching people. I feel like this was a perfect time to kind of put all of my information together that I’ve learned and bring it together for somebody who is maybe getting to the game for the first time or who is already a successful micro stakes poker player, small stakes player, a mid-stakes player that’s kind of just looking for some extra insight and how do I maintain this and really continue to evolve as a poker player. I’m gonna have all of that information in here and hopefully, I can do that some justice.
And like I said, I’ve coached a lot of players. I’d say somewhere over 150 over the 15 plus years that I’ve played. coached celebrities like Jeremy strong for the movie Molly’s Game with Jessica Chastain. I’ve also coached athletes – I’m not gonna name drop. But I’ve done several different interviews on the radio about poker and the state of poker.
I have written a lot of content and done a ton of video. This isn’t something new to me – I spent a lot of time putting this series together, absolutely the most time I’ve ever spent putting together a video series and I’ve done a number of video series before. This three-part series really mean me to go through and think what are the different elements that set me apart because you know again I’ve been an under-the-radar player but I did.
There’s my own humble brag. I did win at a very high rate for all the different stakes that I played at. And to do that for as long as I have, I feel like I have some information that people are gonna want to hear and understand so. And I felt like this was kind of the perfect time to give this out to the poker community and hopefully you enjoy it. So without further ado this is the three-part series on how to really make money playing poker.
In part one of this video, I’m gonna be focusing on what it means to be a successful poker player and a successful person. Those things are not mutually exclusive. The elements of how to learn to have a goal-oriented approach to how you try and do things in order to succeed are super important.
And what I found through coaching over the years when I ask simple questions about “what your goals are”, “how you’re gonna proceed”, “what’s gonna be your work plan”, and things like that. To students, most of the time, they didn’t really have any idea about how to go about that so this is really going to be a lot of the first elements that have a lot to do with your psychology and how to set yourself up for success and whatever it is that you do want to achieve. So obviously one of the first things that you need to do is put in some hard work.
You know, poker is not an easy game. It’s extremely hard and it will continue to evolve and get more difficult. You’ll have to rethink previously held beliefs about how you approach the game and you need to have good models on how to do that so I’m hoping that this video is going to really show you how to do that.
And so one thing that goes in with the idea of hard work is to understand that very few people succeed long term at the game of poker. I’ve read several different articles and analysis and whatever data was really available based on poker site information. This is over the years. I’ve never really seen anything in a while but at the time it was commonly thought around five – maybe 7% tops of people are successful poker players long-term. I’ve heard numbers even slightly smaller than that but I think a safe bet is to say that very few people do succeed long term.
So I say long term – I’m not talking about 2 or 3 years – I’m talking 10 plus years. And whatever your goal is in entering poker to begin with, you can have some short-term success as we know – that’s variance. I could name hundreds of poker players over the years who were seen as very good poker players who won for one, two, or three years and then were completely broke after that.
That’s not my personal definition of success – that’s being able to have some scores, be able to have some prolonged luck, or whatever it is but that’s not really success. Like I was just talking about, poker is going to challenge you in many different ways.
Psychologically – I’m sure you’re familiar with tilt. We’re gonna go into that a bit more here later in this video. Emotionally – which is part of your psychology, because there’s gonna be, sometimes, it’s very often wild swings especially the higher the stakes that you play.
There can be some really dramatic swings and you have to be able to have a model for yourself to be able to not get caught up in those swings, to understand that it’s a process and this is just part of the process. One day, one week, one month, one year, doesn’t just define your winning or losing as a poker player. It’s gonna challenge you physically, especially if you play tournaments. You’re gonna be sitting in one place for many hours at a time. You know, even with breaks and everything, it can be draining. So those are all very important things.
like I was also just talking about, what’s your goal when you’re getting into poker like right now? If you pause this video and you said, “okay I’m playing right now. Have I said why I’m playing? Am I playing because I want to turn this into a part-time job, a full-time job, as a hobby, for vacation money?” Whatever it is, I would highly recommend that you take a moment to really make sure that you’ve defined that for yourself because that’s gonna help you start creating a framework for how you want to work about this school.
If this is just something that you’re doing as a hobby, It’s gonna be completely different. And if you’re trying to say, “I want to become a professional poker player or I want to become the best poker player in the world”, those are vastly different goals and you need to be able to define those for yourself so that when you do have obstacles or roadblocks, you understand why that is. Having that goal actually helps you to see those roadblocks better.
All right, if you’re vague about what your goal is, and then you procrastinate. Or you don’t quite do something the way you and I thought you should have, you don’t have a framework for saying, “well, you know even though I didn’t study for three weeks, it’s not really gonna affect me”. Even though maybe in the back of your mind, you have a vague goal that, “yes, I want to be the best poker player in the world”.
Well, you clearly are gonna be lying to yourself if you think you’re gonna be able to continue to take long breaks or not study the game and things like that. That’s not gonna be possible. so, that goal needs to be defined. And you know, so all these things are gonna go into how to become a long-term winning player and so I’m going to talk about the idea of what a winning person is next, here.
What’s the mentality and makeup of someone who’s a winner?
Now for the purposes of poker, I define that here, this also, of course, applies to life in general but I define a winner as someone who is open-minded. So someone who can allow new ideas into their consciousness.
Knows how to ask good questions
And then tie into number two here: knows how to ask good questions. So they hear those new ideas and they’re inquisitive; they know how to not just passively listen to information or new ideas that come to them, but they can also think about it and create good questions out of that. That’s how you become more and more informed and learn about your world or whatever ideas are presented to you.
Can be wrong
Very importantly, someone who can be wrong. If you are constantly trying to revalidate how smart you are or how intelligent you are, especially if it’s you’re more intelligent than X Y or Z, it’s going to create a lot of problems for you in order to learn about your world and yourself in a deeper manner.
So a winner has to be someone who can be wrong. And more importantly to me is someone who can even admit when they’re wrong. You know, I don’t know, you mostly have spouses or girlfriends or something. One of the most difficult things to do, especially in the course of an argument, is to say, “You know what, you were right. I was wrong”.
But when you do that, something else very magical will open up and it deflates the situation. And a lot of times, it’ll even put the other person and have them be taken aback and be like, “what?”, and then what happens out of that space is usually a lot of hearing and learning and listening and those are key elements into being a successful person and being a successful communicator and someone who can be successful in relationships.
Sticks to his/her goals
So someone who sticks to his or her goals.
You’re gonna hear this probably several times, a goal-oriented approach is going to be the best way for you to keep yourself accountable. Now you have to be able to create realistic goals there, and you know, you can’t say, “okay, you know, I want to be the next person on Mars”. You have to set something in a framework that it can be achievable and something. You can even do those in steps but you have to have some goals so that you know when you are straying from those.
You can say, “Hey, you know what, these aren’t, the way I’m functioning here and the actions I’m taking are not going to allow me to achieve this goal”. If you don’t have that goal defined, it’s gonna be very difficult for you to do that.
Continues to challenge himself or herself
So someone who continues to challenge him or herself.
If you are constantly looking to improve, constantly looking to get better at whatever it is you’re doing, that will be a driving force for you to be able to do it. You know, if you find excuses why you can’t, that’s not a winner, okay? So, and like I was just saying here, you can’t learn anything if you’re never wrong. That should be obvious but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen especially, and I bet if any of you have read some poker forms before where someone will put up a hand history and talk about a hand, and then people try and give them feedback and advice. But nope, they shut down every piece of advice and whatever else.
Of course, there’s a lot of bad advice that people ill give. I don’t think if you’re in that scenario, you need to be commenting on every bad piece of advice. But I think the key piece here is that you are open to that and that you can take in that constructive criticism. And sometimes it’s like I said, it’s all garbage, but you have to be open to that and to the possibility that maybe you’re totally wrong. Otherwise, you’re not gonna be able to learn, right?
And I’m sure in that same vein, you ever heard people posting in forums and talking about bad beats and you know, random number generator scams and things of that nature, and they’re trying to constantly put the blame onto some other element other than themselves, that’s not a winner. I would definitely define that as a loser and that’s a losing mentality. When people don’t make excuses, you just find reasons to continue to improve and get better and figure out what you did wrong. That’s a winning mentality.
So don’t be one of those people who are constantly trying to blame others and everything outside of yourself because that’s a vicious cycle that that will be cancer in your life.
As cheesy as it sounds, winning is a state of mind. Everything is a state of mind. Right now, while you’re watching this, you’re in a very specific state of mind; hopefully, you’re in a receptive open state of mind. But every fantasy, thought, dream, idea, everything that comes through your head is a state of mind. Underneath that, there’s a constant recursive state of mind that’s happening. Sometimes people call this your own self-talk.
There’s a lot of different ways that people will categorize this but there is an undercurrent of previous ideas that you’ve learned, lessons you’re constantly going through and telling yourself stories. You’re telling yourself and things about your experiences.
So as a human being, you’re also in a constant state of trying to figure out your environment and your situations. We do that for survival reasons and a lot of different things. And often, what you’re seeing in your current reality is in conflict with this previous story that you’ve told yourself or you believe. And without getting too deep into what that means, maybe I’ll save that for another video because there’s a lot of good information to understand about what states of mind do for you, just know that you need to take an intentional moment before you play to get yourself n your highest state of mind.
Well, what is your A-game and how do you do that, how do you get into that state so that you are playing at your best. That’s the most important thing that you have to do every time you sit down. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat down at poker tables over the years and I can hear the language from people around me, especially a lot of grinders that is just all this very losing language about life, their spouses, their kids, all this stuff, you need to do your best.
We all need to do our best to insulate ourselves from that because that kind of negativity just breeds more negativity and gets you into a more losing state of mind. We’re all gonna have our down moments and that’s not the point; the point is that when you are setting yourself to a goal, you need to have an intentional setting of your state of mind and say “okay, this is, I’m here, this is my objective, this is my goal, and this is how I need to focus my mind in order to play my best”.
So every time you sit down online, live, whatever it is, that should be the first thing that you start getting. It’s like a warm-up attitude like, “okay, I sit down on this chair now. These are the things I need to do, this is what my intention is. Set those. It’s very powerful. So listen to your own internal language, you know. A very simple way is you know, be honest with yourself. Are you more of a half-full or half-empty person?
And of course, there are nuances in between that, but in general, you can be someone who can constantly find what is wrong with something? Or you constantly find what is right with something? And like I said, there are nuances, and hopefully, the best way to approach a lot of what you wanna do is to find somewhere in between that where you’re recognizing the things that are wrong but you’re not letting them dictate your life and your experience and how you see the world.
You want to see it but also understand that there are ways to make it better and there are things that I can do and I can find the beauty and the things that I need in my experience without focusing on only the bad.
So, are you finding excuses about why you can’t be successful like we talked about just a couple of minutes ago? Are you blaming your lack of success on other people, your environment, your spouse, your kids, your whatever it is? Those things are not gonna be who you view to become the best person, the best poker player you can be. So those are, and again, it’s a state of mind and internal language that you want to be aware of and and do your best to try and put that aside or catch yourself when you start going into that and say, “no, you know, this is my goal and this is my intention, and everything that’s sinking away from that is not gonna lead me to my success and to becoming a winning poker player”.
You won’t win at poker, if you don’t do some internal work
So this is kind of part of less than one. You want to win at poker? You have to do some internal work. You can’t just say, “I want to learn about, you know, how to play the turn in a perfect manner”. You have to understand all of these other elements that make you who you are and what your motivations are. And so my point is, being a good poker player isn’t just limited to learning the game – you have to learn about yourself. It’s very key.
I can tell you from being around a lot of very successful poker players that majority of them and, not all, but majority of them do a lot of good internal work whether it’s, you know, everything from meditating to reading about psychology or doing therapy themselves, or whatever it is so that they have a foundation to continue to be successful.
And again, this doesn’t just apply to poker; it applies to all of life. But you know, as a general statement, you have to want to commit to some of the internal work and it doesn’t have to be like you go full from meditating in the mountains of the Himalayas. It just have to be something that you’re taking some time – it could be as simple as writing down some of the things that you feel like are holding you back from being your best self in your best poker player, to looking at possibly getting counseling, poker psychologist, whatever it is.
But I would advise you to commit to something. Commit yourself to even a small act reading some books you feel like, might help you.
I could be anywhere in this self-improvement genre, there’s a lot of stuff out there but just make some kind of intentional commitment and it will manifest for you, I promise you that.
Every poker player tilts. If you don’t think you’re someone who tilts or has tilted, you are definitely fooling yourself. It’s part of the game of poker and the whole point of understanding tilt is just to limit it.
I consider myself a pretty even-keeled person. I know other players, I would say, are as well. we could probably name some professional players we would say are very even-keeled and don’t seem like they tilt, but believe me, everyone tilts, okay?
So if you don’t know what poker tilt is, it’s when an action by another player, or yourself, takes you out of your A-game. So we were just talking about A-game; if you know that you’ve set that intention to play your A-game and there’s some action that you did that threw you off and now you’re playing your B or your C game. Or something that someone else did like gave you a bad beat and that takes you out of your A-game, that’s tilt.
Jared Tendler has defined seven types of tilts. They’ll run through here and honestly, it’s been a while since I’ve referenced this or talked to him so I don’t know if he’s changed this over the years or not, but he called. But I liked kind of the definitions and I held on to him so he calls.
Running-bad tilt: that should be pretty self-explanatory.
Entitlement tilt: so you think that you deserve the pot and how dare someone else take it away from you. I bet you could probably think of a couple of professional poker players, Phil Hellmuth, that you might say carry a lot of that kind of tilt.
Desperation tilt: you know, you’re losing a lot and I got to get my money back.
And I also define winners tilt, and that is when you’re winning a whole lot throughout a session and then you start getting out of the ideal way you should play a situation or hand because you don’t want to lose what you had already on; that’s also a form of tilt.
So there are tons of different things that you can do to kind of get yourself into a more focused state, but the number one thing is, I gave you just a few minutes ago. When you sit down for your session, get yourself in that ideal state of mind, start defining that as your A-game and then start recognizing when you’re moving out of that and then take a few breaths.
One of the things that I recommend doing and even do for myself is, if it’s really severe, I will sit out a hand or something, I really feel like they’ve been running really bad and I made some bad decisions, this really bad session, I’ll sit out a few rotations and then I got to evaluate: can I get back in and play my best game or do I need to just end things?
And that’s what you need to start being honest with yourself because these are, you know, these are the subtle parts of being a winner, a winning poker player. That you have to be able to recognize for yourself. No one else is gonna go, “Hey, you know, buddy, like you’re off your A-game or whatever”. I mean, occasionally, if you’re really bleeding money, someone might say, “hey”, you know that knows you, “you should probably stop playing”.
But in general, you know, when you start bleeding at a poker table, the sharks start chomping harder so you have to be responsible to be able to maintain and understand that, “No, I’m off my game, I sit down”. So like I said, one of the things you can do is you can actually sit out a rotation.
I like 4 breath pause, and refocus where you just literally stop. You take four, long breaths and then you reset your intention and you have to be honest with yourself. You have to be able to evaluate, “Hey, am I gonna be able to come back and actually play my a-game?”. And if the answer is anywhere, I’ll say that there’s any ambiguity to your own internal answer, that’s where you need to stop. And stopping is just as important as knowing when to get into a game. So make sure you fully, really understand that.
I want to talk about bankroll management for a quick minute. I don’t want to spend much time on it other than to just emphasize its importance. It’s extremely important if you want to be a long term winning poker player. If you’re someone who’s just getting into this game, a basic minimum buy-in multiplier for whatever stakes that you want to play is about at least twenty-five times and I would say thirty plus is always better.
If you have been playing for a while and you’ve moved up stakes, you know, moved down and you have some experience, you can give yourself a little more leeway in terms of what your minimum number of buy-ins you should have for whatever that stake is. But I can’t underemphasize the fact that you really need to try and stay within a controlled area of your bankroll management.
Otherwise, that’s a red flag or should be a red flag for you that maybe you don’t have the proper discipline to play this game long-term. Discipline, discipline, discipline is extremely important and being a winning poker player and a winning person, you don’t have discipline, it’s gonna lead into all sorts of other problems.
So, you know, 25 to 30 buy-ins. So that’s if you’re playing 100nl cash games, that should be at least two thousand five hundred dollars, three thousand plus is recommended. And, if again, you’re someone who has played a while and you’re going to start taking shots at the next stake level, give yourself a hard stop loss. I would say five to ten buy-ins; I would say around five, six really. If you lose those buy-ins, move back down, okay?
Have that discipline, you know, and know that having that discipline is an important part of you becoming a good poker player, trying to remind yourself that, “Hey, this sucks, you know? I took a shot, didn’t work out, but if I want to be good I’m just gonna go back down, I’m gonna review more of my play, I’m gonna look at the hands and really analyze the hands that I play at this higher stake and see what I did, get some feedback, post some hands, ask some poker player friends that you have that are good poker players, you know, are there things that I should have done here, was I thinking about this hand wrong and then refocus yourself.
And when you’re ready, move back up and try it again but have that in there. Just have that discipline; it’s gonna pay off in the long run.
So how do you learn to become a good poker player? I outlined a few different points that I thought were the main elements that helped me become the best poker player that I could be, and those are:
Get a poker HUD and database.
I feel like this is beyond essential, especially if you’re playing online. Even if you don’t want to use the HUD, all the information that you’re gonna get and be able to analyze about your game is priceless. So that’s number one, without a doubt. Most of the HUD’s out there all have trials and things you can try them and see what fits you the best.
I’m almost going to be biased to DriveHUD. It was designed, or one of the key core components of the design was about the review process for online poker players, so how to make that as efficient as possible? So for that reason, I’m a huge advocate.
Review ALL of your sessions. Mark hands that you have questions about.
Every single session. So what I would do is after I’ve played, no matter how long I played, even if it was like really late into the night, early morning, I would go through and look at all my biggest pots. Just want to refresh my mind so that I understand a little bit more about what I was thinking about because memories have been shown, scientifically, to fade and alter and not hold up to facts, the further away that you get from the moment of the experience.
So I wanted to go through and see okay, well, I played this because sometimes you’re gonna take certain lines you may not necessarily be your standard, because there was something I was noticing about that player at the table or how the session was going or how I was playing or whatever it was.So I’d say right away, review your session. If you absolutely can’t do it right away, then do it before you start your next session. I mark all the different hands.
Post questionable hands in your favorite poker forums. Also, respond to others asking questions. BE OPEN MINDED!
Most databases have ways you can tag hands, so if there were things that I was kind of not sure about, want to ask some of my poker friends, I was on different groups that I could share this information to kind of get feedback from really other good professional players. I do that or post on forums like 2+2 and whatever your favorite poker forum is.
But that’s essential, so mark them, post those hands. I just mentioned 2+2; there’s a lot of good poker forums out there – cardschat and so on and you know, ask questions. don’t just put a hand out there without the information; try and put in as much information about the hand as you can remember, stats about your opponents are always helpful.
And then you know, like I said earlier in this video, be open-minded. If you want to learn, you have to be open-minded; that’s just essential. and when other people are giving you their feedback, my recommendation is, if you don’t agree with their feedback, thank them, regardless, and maybe ask them questions about why they concluded or why they think this is this way and try and keep it as non-confrontational as possible.
You know, there’s a lot of ego in poker and sometimes it can get really stupid for really no good reason other than you know, people want to have pissing contests and it’s just not worth it.
Join a poker group
Like I had just mentioned, I was a part of, I think there was about eight or nine of us that regularly kind of met in a channel and talked about poker and share information and sweated each other. So if you can do those things, I highly highly recommend it. I think all four of these elements really accelerated my game in ways that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.
You know, you can read books, you can watch videos, aim for training sites; notice I didn’t mention any of those. I felt like those helped me a little bit, but these four things right here absolutely had the most effect on my growth. So like, if you’re gonna, you know, time is valuable, so if you’re gonna rank hierarchically what you’re gonna do in order to get the most out of your time, these are the things I say are top four.
Then I might put down here five, you know, read some books about poker or join a poker training site so on. And so people might have a different order about these but, you know, because reading books and joining poker forums, sorry, enjoying poker training sites, I think can be valuable; getting coaching, all of these things I feel like are valuable.
Invest in a poker training course or training site. USE THE SITE. 🙂 Free alternative – find YouTube poker training videos by reputable sources
So fifth, I’d say invest in a poker training course or training site. There’s a ton of content out there now. A lot of sites, you know, will have courses that you can buy for X amount of dollars. Those can be really good. I would say, before you actually commit to a dollar amount, you know, get some feedback from the poker community.
If they have free content that they offer as samples, use that and you know, take a look at it. Evaluate it for yourself. You got to use your own mind if you want to be good at poker and you have to hear and understand the logic of what that poker coach is trying to convey.
Does it make sense? You know, does it fit the games that I’m playing? All those things or questions you – got to go through and sort through and there’s a ton of free content out there. DriveHUD has some free poker training, there’s a ton of stuff on YouTube. Again, just make sure it’s from a reputable resource and the content of what they’re saying makes sense.
Don’t just blindly apply what you’re seeing from other top pros. UNDERSTANDING is key.
Do not just blindly apply what you’re seeing from other top pros. I mean, that you have to be able to understand what they’re saying because a lot of times, they’re playing at stakes that are above where you are and the same kind of concepts and what their approach is not going to necessarily be the most profitable way to approach your game. So you really need to understand that. I mean a simple example is really getting into some game theory optimal lines and ranges against opponents that just have no idea. They’re just playing their hand in those cases.
In your stakes, you need to be playing a very exploitative game; you can’t be thinking about what does my opponent understand about my range and a situation. That’s just throwing away money. So you just wanna make sure that you’re applying information that is going to be applicable to the game so you’re actually in..
Get a poker coach. Alternative cheaper route, get poker training software like Leak Buster.
And lastly, I’d say, you know, get a poker coach.
That can be one of the most costly investments, but it can be extremely helpful especially if you get into stuck patterns in your game. Getting a voice that’s outside of how you’re looking at the game can be really valuable. But you know, if money is a concern, the other top four things are the best time money investment that you can make.
These points here are I would say, you know, if you want to get the most out of your time and money, do these. And then, if you can’t afford them, continue down this list here. Another cheaper route is getting some poker training software – Leak Buster’s a good one that could just analyze your database and break everything down and give you constant feedback whenever you need it and say, “Hey, you know, these are areas of your game you need to look at, these are the hands that are related to areas that you’re making a lot of mistakes”, that can be extremely helpful.
And I would say, in hiring a coach, make sure again he’s reputable, he’s a long-term winning player, ask for references, all those things are essential in getting a good coach.
So when you’re learning how to play poker and get better at poker, what are some things that you should not do?
Watch TV on poker and try and replicate. No. Just no.
Well, I would say, number one: watch TV on poker and try and replicate what players on poker are doing – that’s an absolute no-no.
Games – pretty much all games that are televised and I put an asterisk there because there are some full live feeds now of poker that you can watch, but most like if you’re watching world series of poker or WPT or stuff like that, those are edited tournaments. You’re missing a whole lot of hands, a lot of information that’s happened.
Players are sometimes making plays that don’t make a whole lot of sense in a wind tunnel, but they have justification for why they’re doing it. You know, yeah, just don’t try and learn from TV. That’s it’s not, you know, if you can find some good live streams from good players, yes, I would say it’s possible you could get some good information, but it’s still gonna be very limited, you know.
It depends on the announcers if they’re really good players. I think the announcers in poker, in general, have gotten much better than they have in years past. But I still just keep that as strict.
Play poker for free or freerolls and apply what you’re doing in real money games.
Don’t play in freerolls and then think you can take what you’ve been doing in a freeroll and apply it to a game where you’re playing for real money. When people play for real money, they play much much differently than if nothing is at stake. That should be self-explanatory. But I’m gonna say it anyways.
Win in your home games and apply the same strategy to online games.
And don’t take home game strategy and then try to apply it to online games because pretty much unless you’re playing with other professional poker players and home games, those home games are gonna be with a bunch of amateurs that don’t know what they’re doing and I’m sure you’re beat up on them really well but you’re going to online games and most of the players there are gonna know how to play and it’s not gonna play the same.
So don’t think that if you’re winning at home, you’re gonna take that strategy and apply it to online games and crush. That’s not gonna happen.
If you want to become a good poker player, it starts with preflop mastery. I know there’s this notion sometimes that if you’re really good, you can just play into cards, you’ll be able to outplay somebody post-flop and you know there’s a certain element of truth to that. But it takes a long ways to get to that point. So, you got to start with understanding preflop in and out. I mean, it really has to become second nature. You have to understand a lot of spots, a lot of complex spots, and just drill yourself.
When I first started playing, I somehow stumbled across a really cool spreadsheet that had, it’s almost like a quiz-style format and it would rotate around and I started playing Limit Hold’em and it would just have very simple situations that were random and you had to say colorful blah blah blah.
And I found that drilling myself with that and everything, I really started understanding a lot of subtleties of Limit poker and that’s why I won. But I’ve spent a lot of time really understanding, you know, where the very first key decision was because everything starts there, right? You make a bad decision preflop, you get yourself in a pot you shouldn’t have, it compounds from there.
Every once in a great while, you know, you end up playing a bad beat on somebody or something like that but in general, in the long run, if you’re making a lot of mistakes preflop, you’re not gonna be a winning player.
So I would say, invest a lot of time. There are some good tools out there; Ace Poker Drills is something that you can use in a simple way to kind of drill and go through some stuff. And there’s a lot of other good tools out there now and web format that you can kind of, you know, get yourself familiar with, get some hand charts, quiz yourself, get familiar with a lot of the common mistakes, start with single raise pots, move to 3bet pots, and eventually 4-bet pots.
And, you know, always check yourself. Part of after you play is, okay, the first decision was, should I’ve even got into this pot, you know. And then you can work on how much you should be raising and those things.
But, you know, the first step is just looking at that and then in general, you know, it should be common knowledge, but, you know, you want to play more aggressively, in position, and place any more conservative out of position. So there’s a lot more checking and calling on a position; at least initially, you know. Eventually, you start moving in and creating more ranges of check races and what-have-you. But in general, be more aggressive in position, be more conservative out position.
On average, your equity decreases by roughly minus 10% out of position. So, whatever hand that you have, your equity realization will typically be 10% less than if you were in position with that same hand. So, you know, that could be a general guideline that you can use when you’re looking at a spot in a hand and if you’re looking at an equity calculator, you know, was this really the best play?
And keep that in mind, you know, there’s always that equity disadvantage and then I’d say this is at least 10%. It depends on your experience – if you’re really, really good and experienced poker player, this could go as little as minus 5%. But, you know, on the counter of that, you could go as high as 15, 20%. So keep that in mind, just stay focused, play good cards, patience is key, and preflop game.
If you’re, you know, if you’re playing a good game, you’re going to be fooling a ton of hands and before, you know, you want to start playing a ton of hands and playing very loose-aggressive, you want to make sure that you’re getting a good, solid, tight, aggressive strategy. So you’ve gotta walk before you run.
So being a good poker player and winning money at poker are really two separate things, right? So you can be a good poker player, but you’re at a table with all the best players in the world, you are likely gonna lose money or at the very least not gonna win very much money. So you have to make a decision: are you playing this game to feed your ego, or do you want to win the most money? And I find it often laughable when I hear people talk about the fact that when I play in tough games because that’s gonna help me become a better player and so on yada yada, and yes, there’s an element of truth to that, but in general, if you’re playing at the softest sites, as you move up in stakes, those games are gonna get harder anyways.
And by playing in softer games, you’re gonna build your bankroll faster. Which, so when you do get into the tougher games, you’re gonna have to be winning more money. You’re gonna have more money in your pocket. So my best advice is to get on the softest site, so if you’re online. If you’re live and you’re playing and you have the option to, um, if there’s a couple of tables running, your local casino, and you have an option to choose a softer table, always, of course, put your name in on the softer table.
Online, you know, there are unlimited options here where you can get on multiple sites and, you know, I recommend Ignition, Bovada, BetOnline as a couple of soft sites; there’s plenty out there. A lot of these Asian poker apps, a lot of these sites are really really soft if you get in reputable groups.
But like when I was grinding at the stake, I’m at a highest point in my career, I was on, you know, seven, eight sites. I’d have money on all these different sites and I’d be looking constantly for what are the best games only. Just game types take all that kind of stuff and find those best ones.
So I might have one table on one site, two on another, one on another, you know I mean, and just find those best games. That’s an advantage of playing online so you want a game, select, find those best games, and naturally, you are gonna get better no matter what games you’re playing or even how soft a game is because learning how to take money off of the whale, on the fish, and everything correctly is also a skill and all of this is really gonna come down to how you analyze and how you know how to analyze your game so that you’re gonna improve no matter what as long as you’re continuing to do a lot of the things I was talking about earlier in this video.
Another thing is to make sure you have good seat position in a game. You know, if you don’t have that discipline to get up and leave, you know, if you have somebody who’s fairly fishy in front of you but you have a really tough player to your left as constantly 3-betting you when you’re trying to isolate a player making it really difficult for you to actually win money from this fishy player in front of you, then that, you know, might negate the fact that it’s gonna be a profitable table and then just have the discipline to get up and find out their table.
There’s a lot of options so take those to your advantage and focus on winning money, you know. The analysis part you’re, like I said, you’re gonna get better if you’re analyzing your game constantly no matter how soft your game is. You can get better by taking a hand at a really really soft table and having somebody who is a really really good poker player analyze it with you. You’re gonna learn just the same.
Now we get into one of my favorite topics – database analysis.
And this is a primary reason why I got into designing my own database and HUDs because I realized very early on in my poker career that using the advantage of all this database information and aggregating all the data and analyzing it and finding out where some of these ranges created points for you just could not be profitable no matter how good you were and what that looked like, really put me in a huge advantage over my competition on why I won at such a high level and I was kind of ahead of a lot of, you know, videos and training content – stuff that’s out there because a lot of people had opinions and I had data that was saying often sometimes something vastly different than what they were advocating for.
So, you know, I can’t understate the importance of using the information that you collect to your advantage to understand your own game, to understanding the general population that you’re playing against because every site is slightly different. I mean, as a whole, you can look at all different sites and players as a population and then you can refine that, right. So use that, you know, you have to have a database.
You know, of course, I’m gonna recommend DriveHUD, but find something you feel like is going to be easy for you to use. Then you don’t have to fumble around and it’s gonna be difficult to create filters or understand how to build reports and all the stuff, just something that’s gonna be efficient for you because you know time is money.
So if you have to spend a ton of time trying to figure something out, it’s not worth your time, in my opinion. Find something that you feel comfortable with and use it; use it constantly. And I would, you know, start with your big stats, analyze vpip preflop raise, 3bet aggression levels, look at it by position. if you can, get something, you know, use something like leak buster software or there are commonly accepted stat ranges that are out there on the internet that you can find for a lot of these stats and just see.
Like, am I on the edge of probably profitable range, am I right in the middle and my way outside. You know, when you’re way outside, that’s definitely an indicator that there’s something about your game that you need to really start understanding better.
Run filters, okay.
Look at your small blind and big blind play. Those, you know, people playing on the blinds that’s one of the more difficult things to do, I think we know that. So that is an area that usually has the most errors and something that has the most errors has the most ability to be corrected. So, I would say, start with your blind play, really start getting more comfortable. Start with big blind, start whittling that down, small blind, and then next, move to under the gun, your button play then your middle positions.
There’s usually a little less variance but, you know, after you work out those things kind of good on the line, work at some middle position, late early position so on. Look at your cold-calling overall – this is a big thing that usually commonly gets a lot of players into trouble and how you’re playing when you call in 3-bet 4-bet pots. Not when you are 3-betting or 4-betting but when you’re the caller in those pots, how you’re playing, what’s, you know, is there something consistently that you’re doing too often, are you playing too much of it or fold poker, are you bluffing too much.
Those are primary places that I recommend everybody just start at. Start there and you’re going to learn a lot about your game.
If your database has some quick filters, utilize those suckers. They’re going to make your life a lot easier so you don’t have to fumble around and make sure that you’re setting all the different parts of a filter correctly so that it’s gonna show you the information that you’re looking for.
Sometimes, you can think you set something a particular way but it’s not correct and you’re looking at completely wrong info. So I think most databases have some amount of quick filters and they’re created by the database manufacturer so, you know, they’re gonna know their product and how to do it correctly so they’re great resources.
DriveHUD, it has a whole lot where you can just click on something and turn it green and it’ll set that filter. You can click on it a second time and it’ll do the opposite of what that filter is. So if I click on call 3bet here, and it’s green and look at all the times that I call the 3-bet. If I click on a second time and make it red, it’ll look at all the times I didn’t call a 3-bet. So those kinds of things are handy and when you get the data back, look at your actual hand histories.
So what I recommend doing is sorting by your biggest pots (whether they’re wins or losses), and going and replaying some of those hands; look for any patterns that look consistent – are you playing too passive when you’re at a position, too aggressive in position, so on and so on, you play too much fit or fold poker, whatever. But take that information and that data. Those are gold nuggets to give you insights into how you can become a better poker player and that’s, the goal of what we’re doing here is what do I need to do to become a better poker player and one of the keys is run lots of filters, you use your database, analyze your information.
Lastly, before we move into part two of this video series and go into a specific strategy on the flop, I want to talk about exploitative play and game theory optimal play. I’ve written a bit about this. If you’re familiar with any of my writing and I kind of want to just give a quick little note because, you know, game theory optimal play is kind of been the big rage over the last two or three-plus years and it’s something very important to learn about.
But in general, especially micro stakes, small stakes, a lot of mid-stakes games, you’re making money when you’re exploiting your opponent, you know, they make a mistake and you’re exploiting that. Simple. So instead of worrying about how to balance your range in a certain situation, unless you have a lot of history with someone, just bet the max that you think you can get them to call with when you have really strong hands, and bet the least that you think you need in order to get them to fold.
Don’t worry about, I need to always bet two-thirds pot here with this range of hands, in this range of hands. No. Not yet. If you start building history with somebody, yes. You know, and when I mean history, I mean a few thousand hands or there have been really specific scenarios where you have shown down hands, your opponent knows your hand, make sure you’re making notes on those things and then start worrying about balancing your range.
But don’t start making your bet sizes based on this theory of, if you played someone millions of hands, you would be unexploitable only if, you know, that you would be an unexploitable player, and, you know, you’re gonna depend on them always also playing and the highest to their ability – that’s just a total misnomer. Like, the only way that you are gonna make the most money at poker is by varying your bets in a way that maximizes the amount of money that you can withdraw from your opponent and minimizing your losses when you want folds or, you know, you’re trying to take stabs at the pot.
Again, it’s very important to understand game theory because this gives you a model for understanding how to think about poker, how to understand ranges; it’s gonna make you a better poker player, and I recommend getting to that.
But if you’re playing, like I said right here, micro stakes saying the big blinds are 25 cents and under, this should really be one of the further things from your, the primary thing that you should be focusing on to make you a better poker player right now. Trying to say that as plainly as I can because I’ve watched so many trends in poker go over the years, you have no idea, and I guarantee, finally when people wake out of this game theory optimal coma, they’re gonna realize that really, we need to be focusing, I think the money is mainly coming from the fish and the weak regular players. So, we need to be playing things that allow us to exploit them the most and get the most money from them.
And then as we’re getting up into, you know, really good mid stakes and high stakes games, we have to be implementing a strategy where our opponents aren’t going to necessarily understand our range so that we can become less exploitable. That is very important to understand but not something I would be focusing most of my time on right now.
You want to know how to exploit your opponent’s the most, make the most money, understand your range and how your opponent thinks about your range and so on, but mostly focus on how to extract the most money when you have the best hand. And if you’ve got time to spare, a good resource to check out would be PokerNerve’s Heads Up poker strategy article.
Part one of this video series was all about creating a good foundation to build your poker house. Everything starts with the foundation and this is a video I’ve been wanting to do for a while to talk to somebody who’s either newly coming into poker, who’s been grinding out these games, and you know, who’s maybe even winning a little bit but feels like they can be a better player no matter what stakes you’re at.
I feel like this is a good representation of what I did in my own poker career and things that I’ve talked to with other poker players that they felt like we’re essential elements, and while I’ve talked about some of these things individually I wanted to put it all together.
So part two of this series is going to shift into strategy; I’m gonna specifically flop strategy and part three is gonna be turning river strategy. But this first part, I just want to let you know that you have the ability to make this happen for yourself. It’s not gonna be easy, but if you really dedicate yourself and you follow what’s in here, you will be successful. So, good luck and look for part two.