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The Top 8 Ways to Get Better (or Worse) at Poker

Posted by BlackRain79

The Top 8 Ways to Get Better (or Worse) at Poker

Hey guys I figured a good idea for a blog post would be to talk about all the different ways that we can use to try and get better as a poker player. "Get better as a poker player" is really the key term here.

Poker is a game that is always changing and if you aren't constantly trying to improve, then you will get left behind.

This doesn't mean that you need to be committing to hours upon hours of study each day of course, but you should be making at least a little bit of effort to think through some aspects of your game, be it theory or even stuff away from the table, on a fairly regular basis.

That said there are some great ways to learn out there and some pretty bad ones as well. I know this from experience but also because I have been exploring some more of them lately.

I will probably say a couple contentious things in this article but that's ok because I am a polite Canadian so I can get away with it from time to time.

But seriously, I prefer to keep things as real as possible to provide you guys with the best information possible. With the good also comes the bad and providing the whole story and letting you decide is the best policy in my opinion.

I will go from best to worst.

1. Play a lot of poker

This has always been the best way to get better at poker and nothing has changed. If you look at the top players out there you will find one thing that they all have in common; it seems like they are always playing! Like anything else in life, practice makes perfect and we learn through trial and error. You don't get better at something by sitting around talking about it. That does help but only to a certain extent. You get better by experiencing firsthand what works and what doesn't, and making adjustments from there.

2. Coaching

I almost put this one lower on the list for reasons that I will talk about in a second, but the potential value in getting coached by a great player is huge. If you wanted to learn how to play golf there is no question that going out and playing the game a lot is going to help you the most. But second best will be some one on one time with Tiger Woods (or whoever is the best nowadays, I don't really follow golf much).

There are a couple of reasons to be wary of this option though.

Firstly, there are a number of almost "scam coaches" out there now. Maybe "less than honest about their abilities" is a more polite term. Let's go with that one.

These are guys who might be good teachers and all. Heck, they might be fantastic teachers! But they aren't capable of beating the games that they are teaching. If that isn't a big deal to you, then don't worry about this. It would matter quite a bit for me though.

Make sure you check their results and don't fall for the "PTR lost all my winning hands" story. Also make sure that they are winning big in today's games. Lots of people have pretty graphs from 2 or 3 years ago when the games were super easy. This often says very little about their abilities in 2011 however.

Lastly, the price with coaching is a bit of a downer sometimes. But all and all, if you are working with the right coach, one who is a good teacher and an elite player, it's probably well worth it for you in the long run.

3. Joining a Training Site

This is a really good option especially when you consider the cost versus getting coaching; a month's subscription at a training site is usually not even enough for a full hour with a coach. However, like coaching you need to do a little bit of research before you decide upon a site.

I am of course biased towards DragTheBar. And the biggest reason why is because DTB is the only site to my knowledge who links directly to the coaches PTR or OPR pages right on their site. This kind of transparency is what drew me to them in the first place.

4. Talking with other top poker players on Skype/MSN etc.

This is a pretty big thing. As they always say, try and surround yourself with people who are better than you and you will rise to their level. You will probably have to message them initially at the tables though or try pm'ing them on a forum, because as I said before, they are probably spending a lot of their time playing poker, not talking about it.

5. Studying your DB

This could easily have been #2. It has been #2 for me because I have never really utilized coaching, joining training sites or discussing hands with other top players enough. One of the benefits of playing a lot is a mountain of reliable information on your game and that of others. I have spent countless hours messing around with the filters in Hold'em Manager and studying the games of other players who I think are really good.

6. Reading Blogs

And not just any blogs. Blogs of top players. I pretty much read the blogs of the guys who are the top winners in the games. I don't need to name them. You can go to PTR and find this year's top winners at each stake and those are them. You can definitely learn a lot by reading about what makes them tick and how they think about hands.

7. Books

It sucks to put this one so far down on the list especially as I am in the final stages of writing my own book. But it needs to be said. There is a lot of crap being released that is paraded around as a "poker book" these days. It's similar to the less than honest coach thing. Who are these people? Where are their results? Forget the $24.99 that I just blew, why should I spend my time reading this? I don't believe that these types of questions are being adequately asked or answered enough of the time.

I don't want to paint this whole category with a bad brush though. There are some fantastic books out there that have helped me a lot. It's like anything though, you just have to dig through a lot of rubble to find the gem.

8. Forums

And finally we have forums. Yes they are that bad. One of the easiest ways to see this is by remembering that somewhere in the neighborhood of 80% of all poker players actually lose money in the long run after the rake.

Now let's give forum members a little more credit as being more serious players and therefore more likely to be winning players. It would probably still be generous to put that number at 50% though. So basically this means that every second post on a poker forum (on average) is made by a losing poker player. Does this sound like a good environment to learn from?

I don't want to completely rag on forums. There are a lot of nice people that visit them and try their best to help. And I am also mostly just speaking about the bigger forums here. I think the community on a smaller forum like the one at DragTheBar for instance is a lot more knowledgeable and friendly on average than at the larger ones.

And there is a lot of good information on them sometimes as well. But you have to remember that forums are kind of like a social gathering place for many people as well. It just so happens to be that poker is the topic. As I stated above a couple times, remember that the top players are at the tables playing poker, not making thousands of posts on forums.

Nathan Williams aka "BlackRain79" is a microstakes grinder, poker coach, DragTheBar instructor and the author of Crushing the Microstakes. Now available in Spanish and Russian as well.

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It’s Ok to Just Quit Sometimes

Posted by BlackRain79


A very common question that I get asked about is what to do when things are going really bad. This is going to happen every now and then if you play this game for any length of time. I call them "disaster days." A disaster day for me is running in the bottom 5 or 10 percentile of overall luck.

And by overall luck I mean things like coolers, bad beats, hitting draws, having them have something when you have something etc. On disaster days these categories will all be overwhelmingly in the favor of your opponents.

It is hard to quantify all of this of course but one of the easiest and best ways to see how you are running is to check the,

stat in HEM. Make sure that you have played a decent amount of hands first, at least 500 but preferably 1000. For most people at full ring (might differ slightly in 6max), if this number is between 45-50, you are probably running a little bit bad and you should just grind it out. If it is between 40 and 45, you are running quite bad and should consider quitting. If it is below 40, you are running extremely bad and should quit immediately.

Here is a reply of mine to a pm on this subject recently,

"I have had these kinds of days on countless occasions in the 6 million+ hands that I have played. I'm sorry to say but I don't have any words of wisdom. I don't understand them. I was just writing a section in this for my book recently. I don't know what to tell people. I don't get it when it happens.

All I know is that I win in the long run. Trying to understand what happens in the short term is well beyond me. I don't even try anymore. I just try and gut it out for as much as my stomach can handle and then quit. And by quit, I'm 100% done for the day. I compartmentalize that day and move on. It's definitely easier for me when I play at stakes where the loss is a trivial amount to me.

When I come back the next day I always feel much better. However my fuse is usually shorter and if it goes bad again, I may have to quit earlier. And my fuse is even shorter the next day. And then the light switch gets turned and I go on a heater. I don't understand this game man lol. Hope this helps somehow though."

So I hope this discussion was a benefit to you guys. It's a tough game to deal with at times. Just remember that everybody goes through it eventually to an equal extent. The only question is if you are going to handle it better than the next guy or not.

The vast majority of people reading this don't play for a living. Don't sit there and bang your head against a wall when this stuff happens. You don't have to play! And especially if you are playing your C game or worse, your bankroll will really thank you for quitting.

Don't bother trying to understand what went wrong. Don't even bother checking the hand histories. Don't go tell your friends your bad beat stories (They don't want to hear them, trust me on this one). Don't go whine about it on forums.

Just get up, preferably away from the computer and do something else for the rest of the day. The games aren't going anywhere and you will feel full of energy, rejuvenated and in a much better headspace tomorrow.

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Quick Update

Posted by BlackRain79

Hey guys just a quick update here since I haven't posted in awhile. I continue to work away at the book. I really thought this thing was only going to be a smaller eBook when I first got started, maybe 50-100 pages at most. Boy was I wrong.

It is pretty much for sure going to be a full length book at this point. And I am still adding content and have a big list of stuff that I still want to talk about. It really is amazing how many important concepts and ideas there are even at the lowest stakes of full ring.

But I don't want to miss anything so I am constantly jotting down notes on a certain types of spot that I need to talk about as I play poker each day. Thanks for the suggestions that I have already received and by all means leave more in the comments.

With my play, not a whole lot to talk about. Just playing NL2 mostly and not a whole lot of volume by my standards. Obviously really busy with the book and coaching and video making and trying to have a life as well!

I lost my supernova a couple months ago and I don't have time to get it back before the end of the year so if I do decide to play some higher limits again it won't be until 2012.

I hope you are all doing well. Thanks for all the comments and support here and elsewhere. It really means a lot to me. Here's a silly hand from the other day to close with.

Poker Stars, $0.01/$0.02 NL Hold'em Cash Game, 8 Players

MP1: $1.67
Hero (MP2): $5
CO: $1.70
BTN: $9.83
SB: $0.75
BB: $1.86
UTG: $1.91
UTG+1: $0.62

Pre-Flop: 9 9 dealt to Hero (MP2)

2 folds, MP1 raises to $0.08, Hero calls $0.08, CO folds, BTN calls $0.08, SB calls $0.07, BB folds

Flop: ($0.34) 2 Q Q (4 Players)

SB checks, MP1 checks, Hero checks, BTN checks

Turn: ($0.34) 4 (4 Players)

SB checks, MP1 checks, Hero checks, BTN checks

River: ($0.34) 9 (4 Players)

SB checks, MP1 checks, Hero bets $0.50, BTN raises to $1, 2 folds, Hero raises to $4.92 and is All-In, BTN calls $3.92

Results: $10.18 Pot ($0.50 Rake)

Hero showed 9 9 and WON $9.68 (+$4.68 NET)

BTN showed 9 7 and LOST (-$5 NET)

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My New Book, Pro Poker Strategy: The Top Skills

Posted by hotjenny314

I'm very excited to announce that my first poker strategy book, co-written with my husband Collin Moshman is now out on Amazon! The price? 'Bout Tree Fiddy (That's $3.50 for those not as well-versed in 2+2 jargon ;) ).

Here's the description:

What skills do all top professional players have? In this concise text, edited to give you the most improvement in the quickest amount of time, best-selling poker author Collin Moshman and pro poker player Katie “hotjenny314” Dozier identify and explain each of these crucial skills held by the top pros.

For late beginner and intermediate players, learning and practicing these vital skills will prove instrumental to increasing your winnings. For experienced players, further mastery of the more advanced concepts will be key to maintaining your edge in today’s quickly-evolving games.

For the limited-time price of $3.50, this text will have you immediately improve in these essential areas:

Pot Odds and Winning Percentages for Optimal Decision-Making
The Key Concept: Expected Value
Mastering Equity
Playing Optimally against Ranges
Tracking Software
Targeting the Donators
The Miracle of Table Selection
Counting Hand Combos
Aggressive Semi-Bluffing
Value Betting
The Fundamental Betting Rule
Optimal Short-Stacked Strategy
Manipulating the Pot Size
Exploitive Play
Avoiding Tilt

Hope you all have a chance to check it out, and please let me know if you have any questions. Check out the Facebook wall for more info! :)

Whenever You Breathe Out, I Breathe In

Posted by preachercasy151

I've blogged about similar concepts in the past, but as a Sit N Go player it is important to keep certain concepts at the forefront of your mind. Tommy Angelo can take sole credit for this one:

There are no hot and cold streaks. They are arbitrary creations designed by the individual to get their head around or make sense of what is happening to them. There is the current hand, and the current hand alone. We look for patterns in order to rationalise a game that, no matter how experienced we are, can always throw up a good kick in the teeth. For example, if one of my students asked today, I would say 'I've run like crap this week'. However, if they had asked me on Tuesday how I was running, I would have said 'terrific...playing good, running good. All is well!' So these arbitrary demarcations regarding 'streaks' serve no purpose but to try and help us see patterns in a game that is inherently random. Poker is fluid.

Now where these 'streaks' become dangerous is when they start to inform your decision-making. For example, if you flop the nut-flush draw with an overcard and an aggressive opponent donks into you, your default line would be to stack it in. But today you might think 'ach these draws just aren't hitting for me right now, I'm going to wait til I have a made hand before I tangle with this guy' and either call or chuck your hand into the dustbin. In this scenario, you are trying to manually reduce your variance by taking a (hypothetically) sub-optimal line and, in so doing, are allowing your completely meaningless definition of your 'bad streak' to have a negative impact on your decision-making. And, as I am forever telling my students, the important things are:


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Leaving DTB After 2 Great Years

Posted by Leatherass

I wanted to let all of you know that as of today, I'll no longer be an instructor at I have been with the site for nearly two years, and have cherished each day. It's been a gift to work with Hunter Bick and his team, as well as to be included on an awesome roster of great coaches. I want to thank all of them, as well as the membership at DTB that made me feel so welcome. It's been amazing to watch the DTB community grow to become what it is today.

What stands out to me most about DragTheBar is its integrity. The people behind the curtain there are good, genuine and decent, and in bad times as well as good their mission has remained the same: to exceed the expectations of their customers. Poker has a Wild West mentality to begin with, and we all know how desperate things have become since the economic downturn — particularly since Black Friday. But the folks at DTB have held onto their character while some other poker companies have abandoned theirs.

I'm proud to say that I coached at DragTheBar. It truly has been a pleasure.

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Steve Jobs, Rest in Peace

Posted by Hunter Bick

Steve Jobs passed away tonight.  I wrote a long blog about it, but then I decided nothing I wrote seemed adequate, so I scrapped it.  Over the next few days there will be thousands of articles written trying to capture his genius and summarize his amazing work.  None of them will succeed, because it will take a book of hundreds of pages to even get close.

So my thoughts will be short, because it feels disrespectful to attempt and then inevitably fail to pay adequate tribute to Steve Jobs in my blog.

There is no one else in business that I admire more, and there is no company I admire more than Apple. In 1996, Apple was literally a week or two away from bankruptcy and was losing hundreds of millions a year.   Then they re-hired Steve Jobs after the board forced him out in 1985.  15 years later in 2011, Apple has the biggest market cap of any company in the world, surpassing Exxon-Mobil.  That is a jaw-dropping, mind-numbing, unbelievable achievement.  And Jobs did it through invention, innovation, and a laser-like focus on raising the bar for how technology can improve human life.

He understood people better than anyone, and he changed the way people live, how they read, how they listen to music, how they work with computers, and how they interact with technology in general.  Ideas that originated in Apple products are present in some form in pretty much every computer or device out there today.  Nearly every single major Apple product was a total game changer, going back to the early '80's.

Steve succeeded where others failed (and still fail even with his blueprint) because he knew people and he never compromised on the quality of Apple products.  Apple products succeed where others fail.  It literally was a relentless pursuit of perfection.

I feel very fortunate to have been in attendance at his famous Stanford University commencement speech (was my sister's graduation).   Well worth a watch if you haven't seen it.

Its particularly tragic that Steve was only 56.  There's not another mind like his out there, and it hurts to think what he could have done with another 20 or 30 years.  Rest in peace Steve, you will be missed.

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