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Stop Losing at Online and Live Poker
It has gotten more difficult to win at poker over the last two decades. At the beginning of this century, you could beat most poker games with one of two extremely basic strategies:
Be aggressive and pick up lots of pots uncontested, or
Play tight, and earn maximum value when you make a hand
However, modern players are much more advanced, which is why it is so much harder to win at poker these days, especially online. Computers allow players to run thousands of simulations to determine the best action for each hand and scenario. And while players certainly can't do this during play, they can use these tools to study. If you are not studying how to improve your poker game, you are at a severe disadvantage! The good news is that you don't need to run thousands of hand simulations yourself. Plenty of professional poker players have already done this for you, and many of them have been kind enough to share what they have learned!
Below are the best ways to learn how to win at poker, listed from least to most expensive (from left to right).
Books are one of the most cost effective ways to learn how to win at poker, and most are very beginner friendly. You can also re-read them as many times as you want for no additional cost! If you want to start winning at poker, then reading a book is the bare minimum amount of study required.
The biggest problem with books is that they are theoretical, and not everyone is good at imagining the scenarios presented by the author, or applying the concepts at the table. While many of the better poker books will give hand examples, you will ultimately need to practice what you have learned. Don't expect to read a book once and then immediately become a winning poker player. Books also become out-dated as strategies continue to evolve.
Poker workbooks are a great way to simulate playing. These guides help reinforce the concepts by giving you opportunities to practice via detailed hand breakdowns and quizzes. They are still not a substitute for playing against human opponents, but are a great way to raise your comfort level and experience, allowing you to learn from your mistakes in a cost-free environment!
Not only are most workbooks more expensive than regular books, but they are also much more focused. That is, a book might cover 20-30 concepts, while a workbook might focus on reinforcing just 2-3 of them. In other words, if you want to practice multiple concepts then you will need multiple workbooks, and yet there are far fewer workbooks than books available.
Although there are programs focused on training you to be a better poker player, most poker software focuses on analyzing hands. These are incredibly valuable tools that allow you to identify unprofitable tendencies in your play. However, you should not invest in any poker software until you have already learned the basics by reading several books, and/or completing at least one poker course. Poker software is best used for refining your skills not for teaching you new concepts.
Not everyone can read text and then perfectly envision the described situation, let alone apply the learned concept in the real world. Plenty of studies have shown that we learn best when presented with information in a variety of formats, and this is where online courses shine. The downside is that teaching you how to win at poker across multiple forms of media is far more expensive, which results in a higher cost.
However, when you consider that you are far more likely to retain the information presented in a course format, plus apply it better at the table, it is easy to see why online poker courses are so popular.
Poker coaching is becoming increasingly popular as games get tougher. However, if you have not already invested in several poker books, workbooks, a course or two, and some hand analysis software, then you are wasting your money hiring a poker coach. While most coaches can certainly teach a beginner how to beat most poker games, you do not want to be paying an hourly rate just to learn the basics!
Once you have read several books, taken a few courses, and used software to analyze your play, then hiring a poker coach is probably the next step if you want to continue to improve. If you already have a solid foundation, then a good poker coach can pinpoint exactly the areas where you need to improve.
Unlike most games, the majority of people do not get better at poker simply by playing. Plenty of players have played the game for decades without showing noticeable improvement. They make the same costly mistakes hand after hand, year after year. They are in a rut, and rather than looking for errors in their game, tend to blame "bad luck" instead. If you want to become a better poker player, you need to study (via books, workbooks, courses, software, and possibly coaching).
However, you can't spend all of your time learning either. Eventually you need to apply the concepts learned in a real game. Real world situations are rarely as simple as those presented in a book. At first you may even find that the things you have learned have actually made you a worse poker player! With practice you will learn when to apply each concept, and how to make the most profitable play for any situation. Subtle differences that occur in a real game are precisely why the correct answer to almost every poker question is, "it depends". There are so many factors that go into each decision, that it is impossible to present them all in a learning environment.
Ultimately, you need to practice everything you learn at the tables. The difficulty is in applying the theory in real world examples
Poker is most definitely a skill, but luck still plays an important role in short-term results. Poker is primarily a game of probabilities. Although you have no control over the cards (that's dependent on luck), you have full control over what you will do with the cards you are dealt. Not only can you choose whether to fold, call, or raise, but in no limit and pot limit games, you also get to choose how much you bet or raise, giving you opportunities to either drive players out of pots and extract maximum value from your winning hands. Poker is also a game of psychology and deception. With skillful betting, you can trick players into folding weak (but winning) hands, or trap them into calling or even betting with strong (but losing) hands.