Are Poker Training Sites Worth It?

Date: 2009-01-06
Author: Chris Wallace

One of the most common questions I see on poker forums is "Are poker training sites worth it?" Those of us who are familiar with what they have to offer know that this is one of the easiest poker-related questions we see. The answer for almost any player is an emphatic "Yes!" In a few moments, we'll talk about the reasons why joining a training site is so useful, but first, let's look at why the question is so common along with a few of the reasons why most players have trouble seeing the value of things like personal coaching and training sites.

The reason why poker is such a special game is that anyone with the cash to buy in can sit down with the best players in the world. There are no ranking systems in ring games and whether you play in cash or tournaments, it's easy to ignore your own results, blame a bad run of cards, or just lie to yourself. The less education you have about the game, the more likely it is that you are outclassed by many of your opponents. Without training, you won't be able to recognize those times.

In most games, the difference between a great player and an average recreational player is quite obvious. The best basketball player at the park on a Sunday afternoon would know he was terribly outclassed within 30 seconds if he faced a mediocre NBA player. The king of the company softball team has no shot at hitting a 98 mph fastball from a Major League pitcher. An average chess player would know after losing the first ten games in a row to a Grandmaster that his opponent was far superior. In poker, it works differently. In poker, it's not so easy to see the differences. A player with very little knowledge of the game can convince themselves that they play pretty well.

At a poker table, the weakest player will still win pots and a miserable player will still occasionally win a tournament. The strongest players will make money in the long-run, but the ups and downs allow weaker players to lie to themselves or just avoid looking too closely at their results. You don't need a lot of knowledge about basketball to know that you just got dunked on for the eighth time in a row and are wasting your time. However, it takes a fairly knowledgeable poker player to realize that they’re outclassed at the tables. Without that knowledge, it is very tough to know how strong your opposition really is.

It's the inability to see how good your opponents are that makes it tough to understand the value of a training site from the outside. Anyone who joins a training site, hires a coach, or studies poker books has an immediate advantage over his or her opponents. Every great golfer, chess player, or high-level competitor in any endeavor has a coach. In fact, many of the greatest contenders have a whole team of coaches.

Poker training sites give you a chance to experience something that is very rare: The opportunity to learn from the very best in the world for a reasonable amount of money. Getting private coaching from a great chess Grandmaster or the world's greatest baseball coaches is incredibly expensive (if you can get it at all), but in poker you have easy access to the best players and coaches in the industry. For a few hundred dollars, you can join all of the major training sites and have an advantage over even the most talented opponents in just a few weeks of study.

Why don't more people take advantage of training sites? I think it has to do with the type of people who are drawn to poker. I have seen the same thing in the music world, with musicians who want so desperately to be professional, but never take a single lesson or study their craft. They play songs and practice in a garage somewhere, but very few people who want to make it big in the world of music actually go to college for it, take lessons for any period of time, or sit at home and study their instruments. They just play with their pals hoping to make it big while doing very little to make that happen.

Most poker players do the same thing, trying to get better while they play, but never studying hard or putting in a lot of work into getting better. People don't associate poker with work. They see great poker players portrayed in movies as hard drinking gamblers who seem to play well just because they are able to handle stress and “know their man.” The truth is that the more you learn and the more work you put into your game, the more money you’ll make.

I may be a little biased. After all, I do work for a poker training site, but that also gives me a unique perspective on how much it helps. I've seen my students improve faster than their counterparts, some of them going pro and making a great deal of money. It's a little like a college professor telling you how important it is to go to college if you want to be an engineer. Sure he teaches it, but he's giving you good advice, just like I am.

If you want an edge, if you want to play better and start winning, then you need to hit the books, join a site, or maybe even hire a coach. If you hate money or just don't need any more of the foul stuff (it is the root of all evil after all), then forget you read this; you'll probably do fine on your own.

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