HomeGuides10 Ways to Improve Your Poker Skills Without Spending a Penny In the game of poker, mistakes can be costly. We look at ten ways to significantly enhance your poker game without any risk to your pocket. 1. Get Strategy Insight from Poker Podcast Guests Learning from the best-of the best is a fantastic way to improve – and poker is no exception. Tap into the minds of the poker elite via poker podcasts (which are like downloadable or stream-able radio shows) which are truly packed full of poker insight and discussion of all aspects of the game including cash-game and tournament strategy and advanced poker concepts for all of the popular poker variants. The ‘featured guests’ lists on these podcasts reads like who’s who in poker – and you can tune in and listen to what these tried-and-tested legends of the game have to say. We’ve listed our favourite poker podcasts below. Podcast Name Site Selection of Featured Guests Rabbit Hunt Cardrunners.com Taylor Caby, Matt Matros, Chris Grove, Gary Wise, Brian Hastings, Corwin Cole The Poker Edge ESPN Daniel Negreanu, Dutch Boyd, Mike Sexton, Scotty Nguyen, David Benefield, Max Steinberg, Melanie Weisner, Amit Makhija, Yevgeniy Timoshenko. Oneouter Podcast Oneouter.com Alex ‘Assassinato’ Fitzgerald, Phil Hellmuth, Devilfish, Nick Abou Risk, Max Silver, Chris Moneymaker, Eric “Sheets” Haber PocketFives Podcast PocketFives.com Faraz Jaka, Big Huni, Moorman1, Flush_Entity, Mike Matusow, Timex, Chris Wallace, Matt Savage Tournament Poker Edge Podcast Tournament Poker Edge Casey Jarzabek, Marc Alioto, Tim Kelly, Jamie Kerstetter, Andrew Brokos, Mike Sowers PokerNews Podcast PokerNews.com Ryan Reiss, Bryan Micon, Phil Hellmuth, Andrew Brokos, Greg Merson, Sam Grafton 2. Watch Free Poker Training Videos Did you know that humans have seven Learning styles, and that one of them is ‘visual’ ? What this means is that some people can learn better by watching rather than reading. These ‘visual learners’ are in luck! There’s no shortage of excellent poker training sites (as well as poker players themselves) sharing poker instructional content on video-sharing sites such as YouTube and Twitch. 3. Use Free Poker Tools to analyse your game and identify mistakes in your game-play (‘leaks’) There’s loads of great poker software out there which can help you track and analyse your game. If you aren’t sure whether you should have folded that Ace Jack on the bubble of a SNG, there’s a tool for that. If you want to construct 3-bet and cold 4-bet ranges, or calculate your EV in specific spots, yes – there’s a tool for that too. Poker “Tracking Software” Poker tracking software stores your hands / sessions in a database for later analysis. Usually the poker tracking software will contain filters and tools to help you to identify and fix ‘leaks’ or problems in your game. Other benefits of using poker trackers is that they can also provide a heads-up-display overlay on your tables which keep you informed on various useful statistics on your opponents which can often be used against them. For example – a HUD statistic (provided by your tracker) on one particular player on your table might indicate that they fold to a reraise most of the time when they lead out, out of position on low, dry boards. This can help you to exploit the opponent by (usually) getting the player to fold by 3-betting any 2 cards in this situation). Popular commercial poker tracking software packages include ‘Holdem Manager’ & ‘PokerTracker’. One free poker tracker is freepokerdb – a poker tracker & HUD which supports Texas Hold’em, Omaha, Stud, Razz and Draw poker games. Odds / Equity / ICM / Other Poker calculators. To save you having to perform a lot of calculations manually, you can use a number of excellent poker calculators online to find out what the best or most profitable plays are in specific situations ProPokerTools Free online poker equity calculator Final Table ICM calcuator Make sure you read some guides for whichever poker tools you select so that you completely understand what the data all means and how to apply it to your game. 4. Railing ‘Solid Regulars’ – Evaluate & Emulate ‘Solid Regulars’ is a term used to reference poker-players who are always on the tables – crushing poker skulls, making consistent profit and binking some large cashes along the way. Once you know who the best players are, it’s a great idea to find and watch them on the tables to see how they play and to understand why they play that way. You can check who some of the biggest winners for your favourite poker games online are using poker results tracking websites like OfficialPokerRankings, Sharkscope and PokerTableRatings. Once you have found a really good player to spectate (or ‘rail), simply Use the ‘find player’ facility when you are logged in to a poker site to find the games which that player is currently playing. Open up all of their tables and watch and analyse their hands. Focus on hand selection, opening ranges, bust-out hands and showdown hands. To understand why the hero took specific betting lines in each situation. Work out what the most profitable lines are in specific situations and emulate these betting patterns where appropriate in your own games to maximize value extraction in your own poker pots. 5. Reading Poker Magazines In an effort to present top-notch content written by domain experts to their readers, poker magazines employ some of the biggest earners and most players in the game to offer you the reader practical advice for poker situations which you are sure to encounter. And there’s no shortage of great poker magazines available such as PokerPlayer Magazine, CardPlayer & Bluff Magazine – and usually they can be found for free in any card-room or casino, (or purchased at a newsagent). Repeatedly examining and understanding the thought and decision processes behind how these top-players play their hands in specific situations will undoubtedly assist you with becoming a better poker player. 6. Visiting Poker Forums hand analysis threads Post your own ‘What would you do?’ (WWYD) threads – you can post any poker-related question or situation and can usually expect to get detailed constructive answers on possible ‘best lines’ or reasons for a play. Many forums also run their own private leagues and password protected freerolls too – (you can find some forum freeroll passwords on our freeroll passwords page). Good forums for poker strategy threads: TwoPlusTwo Forums – http://forumserver.twoplustwo.com/32/beginners-questions/ The Hendon Mob Forum – https://www.thehendonmob.com/forum/viewforum.php?f=5 BlondePoker – http://blondepoker.com/forum/index.php?board=24.0 Boards.ie Poker Forum – http://www.boards.ie/vbulletin/forumdisplay.php?f=416 Poker Math Examples + Tutorials The math and concepts behind ‘optimal’ and correct poker play can be complex. Thankfully there’s plenty of examples and tutorials available online to explain poker math and concepts to you. For example, if you’re interested in understanding how and why ICM (Independent Chip Model) works for bubble play, and the math behind it? No problem. Look no further than Poker strategy forums which are awash with threads full of this stuff, including an explanation of required mathematical calculations, formulae and examples, as well as links to useful guides + tool on any poker concept imaginable. e.g.sample ICM tutorials from poker forums: ICM example thread on TwoPlusTwo ICM calculations thread on PocketFives ICM Example on PokerJunkie 7. Play Free Poker Games (Poker Freerolls) Practice makes perfect, and nothing beats practicing in a safe, risk free environment until you are competent and confident in your skills and abilities. Enter poker freerolls, which are free-to-enter poker tournaments with real prizes. Freerolls are great for many reasons, but particularly because they offer the opportunity for players to learn the nuances of the game and to develop their poker skills in a safe, risk free sandbox. If they bust out of one freeroll, they can just open up another one – no damage done! Until you know that a flush beats 2 pair, or that a flush beats a straight – you should be playing freerolls! similarly if you can’t afford to lose, freerolls are for you! Although freerolls generally have a lot of players – they are a fabulous way to enjoy poker while giving you a shot at building a real-money poker bankroll for free. The PokerDB freerolls database lists over 150 Freerolls daily, so you will never run out of free poker games to play! 8. Watch Poker Live Streams With Hole-Cards and Expert Analysis Live poker streams (usually from high-buy-in poker tournaments or cash-games) enables you to see hole cards (via RFID / hole-cams). Usually the stream has a 30 minute delay and will offer commentary and analysis by hosts / poker experts and guest players. Listening to poker commentators and experienced players breaking down and analysing in-game variables such as hand ranges, betting lines, stack-sizes and other factors as part of their analysis is invaluable for improving your own skills in many ways such as hand-reading, optimal bet-sizing and more.. 9. Read Poker Blogs by Professional Poker Players There’s no shortage of great poker blogs online which are written by expert poker experts. Many blogs focus content focused on on poker-strategy and tactics too – so whether you’re a cash-game wannabe or a tournament or sit-n-go player – there’s plenty of great reading in the blogosphere which will help you to play better poker. You will also find out about the true poker lifestyle (and the hard work it takes to succeed), and about nasty downswings (variance) which can occur – and why good bankroll management is essential. Below we list some our favorite poker blogs: Great Blogs for Multi-table tournament players Poker HeadRush – Loads of really interesting hand analysis from Alex ‘Assassinato’ Fitzgerald, with plenty of situations against some big-name players. Alex is one of the most consistent MTT grinders online and he’s not afraid to share his knowledge on his blog. Tony ‘Bond18’ Dunst – Analysis and commentary from poker superstar Tony Dunst Jonathan Little – Weekly Poker hand analysis with multi-WPT champion Jonathan ‘JCardShark’ Little. Dara O’ Kearney – Dara O’ Kearney‘s blog. Poker commentary from the live and online grinder known as ‘slowdoke’. Jared Tendler – Work on the mental side of your game with mental-coach Jared Tendler David ‘Lil Dave’ Nicholson – Great blend of poker, lifestyle, graphs and discussion Chris Moorman – He built his bankroll playing freerolls, and he’s won over $10,000,000 from poker (so far). Chris Moorman is simply the king of MTTs Great Cash-game Poker Blogs Brian Townsend – nosebleed PLO + NLHE hands from online cashgame superstar Brian ‘sbrugby’ Townsend Phil ‘OMGClayAiken / mrsweets28’ Galfond – Galfond has been killing high stakes cash games for years. His blog offers lots of hand Hold’em and PLO analysis and a lot more besides. Reading Poker Tells – Zachary Elwood’s excellent blog focusing on physical and verbal poker tells. Alan Jackson – Learn from Bluefire Poker training coach Alan Jackson Dusty ‘leatherass’ Schmidt – Blog of long-time cashgame crusher Dusty Schmidt Great Sit and Go Poker Blogs Katie ‘hotjenny314’ Dozier – Dozier has proved herself to be a ‘real sicko’ – and it’s not uncommon to see her playing 30 games at a time. Colin Moshman – Colin Moshman wrote the book on beating SNGs – literally. A goldmine of information. James ‘Atkinator’ Atkin – UK based Professional SNG grinder James Atkin’s excellent blog. Ryan ‘MouldyOnions’ Bell – MouldyOnions is a Hyper Turbo SNG player who earned 2,000,000 VPPs on PokerStars in 2012 Jennifear – Legendary SNG coach Jennifear/Punkinbear’s blog. A true SNG WIZ! 10. Realtime Q&A with Your Own Poker Mentor If you’re keen and willing to learn how to improve your poker game, you can find plenty of talented poker players (on poker forums or via social media) who will be happy to let you ‘rail’ or watch them while they play, allowing you to ask questions in context, and in real time concerning their decisions, timings, bet-sizing, reads and other factors. Screen-sharing software such as Skype and TeamViewer enables anyone on the internet to share their whole desktop with a third-party – live – so you can get your even get your mentor to share their whole online poker grinding session in real-time if they are happy to do so. Simply check out any popular poker forum and make post asking players if you can rail them during a session, and ask them some questions as you’re keen to bring your game to the next level. This interactive style of coaching is probably one the best ways to learn poker.