Learn Poker Without Playing It

They say you learn by doing, but when it comes to poker sometimes you may not have the funds to play, or at least the bankroll you need to play the game you’d prefer. So in honor of all of us who can’t “do” (including me, as I’d love to take more shots at big buy-in tournaments or higher limit games that I can’t afford), here’s a list of ways to learn without doing.

Join a discussion group — This allows you to post some hands you played and seek others’ thoughts about how you played them and how you could have played them. Plus, if you just to love to talk about poker there are plenty of discussions on a number of topics, including the various disciplines (Hold’em, Omaha, etc.) and stakes. The best include 2 + 2 and Cards Chat. Do a Google search and you’ll find these and more.

Pay for online poker training — The growth of online poker in the early 2000s also gave rise to poker training sites designed to help players improve their games — both online and live. These pay-to-use training sites include videos and articles from expert poker players, as well as discussion forums for members. The good part is most offer free introductory content to give you a taste of what you can get for your subscription. The best such offerings include Run It Once, started by pro Phil Galfond, and Upswing Poker, from pro Doug Polk.

Read a book on strategy — Many of the old classics are outdated, such as Harrington on Hold’em, and even poker’s “bible” — Doyle Brunson’s Super/System — has lost its luster, written in an age where simple aggression could take down many pots uncontested by eliciting folds from opponents. These days, I like poker pro Jonathan Little’s books — he’s written several tomes on both cash games and tournaments. I find particularly useful books like his that include example situations that require you to think deeper about certain Hold’em hand situations, as well as provide insight from Little on how he would play the hand.

Watch a bigger game online — Gone are the days when you could view heavyweights like Phil Ivey and Patrik Antonius go toe-to-toe on Full Tilt Poker. Congress’ Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act eventually made sure of that. But there are still bigger games to watch on various legal and black-market online poker sites. Watching players in those old nosebleed stakes (we’re talking $500-$1,000 blinds pot-limit and no-limit games) may not have been the most instructive to you if you play $1-$2, anyway, because the difference in the level of play is so great. You’d be better off watching players at the next highest level of $2-$5 blinds to get a feel for how the winners in those games play. If you’re in Nevada, New Jersey, or Delaware, you can watch the games on WSOP.com. It’s no-cost training to see how the best play. In the rest of the country, you can watch games on legal site Global Poker and offshore sites like America’s Cardroom. You may pick up tricks on how to play a hand you’d never have thought of yourself.

Get a Poker Go subscription ­– Having operated for a couple years, Poker Go is a subscription service (monthly or annually options available) that lets you stream the action from various poker tournaments around the world. It’s been a big hit with poker aficionados and is must-see, er, “TV” during the World Series of Poker. A big bonus to the value is the commentating of Nick Schulman, a poker pro who has received accolades for his insightful viewpoints on the hands as they’re played.

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