Simple: Put In the Time
People ask me this question all the time when I'm online, my email from the website, live and my response is always the same. Love the game and always keep your legs moving and keep going forward. I never stop playing poker and when I say playing poker, I mean enjoying the complete hobby of playing the game. When I say complete, I mean that I play poker because of the tremendous opportunity for growth it presents for me, as a person.
The following are 6 steps that I use to expand my poker experience:
One: READ – A lot
I have over fifty poker books in my office and I have read them all. Many of them two times. Read Super Systems 1 and 2 until you can quote from them. My theory is that all poker books are free, if I get just one idea or one concept from a book that will help me win a fifty dollar book, then that book has paid for itself. The truth is that many of those books have made me thousands of dollars each. It is my strong belief that if you are unwilling to read, you are destined to be the sucker in the game.
Two: Watch And Learn
I have instructional DVD materials and I purchased the entire VHS collection of WSOP from Binons. I gleaned what information I could from those tapes and then magic happened. Four or five years ago, Steve Lipscomb launched the World Poker Tour on the Travel Channel and we got to see the hole cards. The art of studying poker had changed forever. We now have a televised poker explosion:
World Series of Poker
Lon McEachern and Norman Chad
World Poker Tour
The Travel Channel
Mike Sexton and Vince Van Patten
Celebrity Poker Showdown
Dave Foley and Phil Hellmuth
Poker Superstars Invitational Tournament
Fox Sports Net
Chris Rose and Howard "The Professor" Lederer
Ultimate Poker Challenge
Chad Brown and weekly guest
John Ahlers and Robert Williamson III
High Stakes Poker
A.J. Benza and Gabe Kaplan
Professional Poker Tour
The Travel Channel
Matt Corboy and Mark Seif
National Heads-Up Poker Championship
Matt Vasgersian and Gabe Kaplan
Poker Dome Challenge
Fox Sports Net
Barry Tompkins and Michael Konik
Poker After Dark
Shana Hiatt and Oliver Nejad
Pro-Am Poker Equalizer
I watch most of these shows. I TIVO all of the WSOP, WPT, PPT and High Stakes Poker on GSN, and I watch each of these at least three times, some of them more. Thank God for TIVO or I would be able to claim that I have seen 100,000 party poker commercials. This wonderful device allows me to skip them. I watch the different styles of play and I also learn, what I believe, to be tells on these great players. I have used this information to my advantage in major events, however, that is only a side benefit. The learning and self growth is what I am after, and I get that. It is worthwhile time spent, for the serious poker player, to view these shows.
Three: Practice Your New Found Knowledge Online (Poker Lab)I play regularly on a website called www.pokerschoolonline.com. I have played online, for cash, at all the major sites. I longer do this and not because of the reason you might think. The big problem I have playing for real money online, is that it breeds cheating. It is so easy to imagine a crew together in one room, possibly in China, with masked Ip addresses, appearing to be all over the world, sharing their hole cards. If you play online poker, I believe you are foolish and any money you lose, is the price for being naïve. It is just too easy to do, and to think that it isn't being done for the money that is involved. I really don't care about the money part either, my big problem stems from the old adage that "Practice doesn't make Perfect, Perfect practice makes perfect". If you are a student of the game as I am, learning how people react to the way you play AK suit in first position, when they all know each other's cards, really does nothing for my growth as a play in major events, where this is not a factor. (Please do not send me emails about this, if you want to give someone that large of an edge, go ahead. If you are winning, I am truly glad for you. Bring that money with you to the WSOP in June, I will be there like the darkness, waiting.) With all of that said, Mark and Tina Napolitano, founders of PokerPages.com, developed PokerSchool Online to further help players learn the game.
PokerSchool Online will offer up to $100,000 in student sponsorships to the 2007 World Series of Poker (WSOP). Student Sponsorships will also be available for other major poker tournaments. Scholarships are awarded within the school as well, based on various performance criteria.
When you enroll in Poker School, you will learn how to play the games correctly and learn how to compete and win in tournaments, in the real money world of poker. The games covered are limit, pot limit, and no-limit Texas Hold'em, and Omaha, as well as single-table satellites (24 x 7) and 7 Card Stud and Ring Games.
Your education starts with weekly lessons posted on the site by some very well know instructors. Mike Caro, "The mad genius of Poker", is PokerSchool Online's Dean. Plug into his exclusive weekly audio lessons in the comfort of your own home. You'll find more instructional materials in his classroom. This includes books, tests, tips, strategies and much more! Other instructors include Nolan Dalla (Noted Columnist) and Lou Krieger (author of 'Poker for Dummies') and Mark Napolitano (visionary co-founder of PokerPages.com and himself a former European Poker Champion).
Daily tournaments and games are offered in the Poker School card room using their proprietary PokerPages software, so the student can practice in live game situations. Each student is given an initial bankroll to use to buy into the tournaments. Additional money can be added to your bankroll by completing and passing tests, based on the weekly lessons and by winning one of the online tournaments.
The Poker School lessons are not just for beginners. There are topics covered for advanced players as well. If you have any questions, you can ask the Experts by e-mailing the instructors. You can also discuss topics with other students through the forum or in the chat room. Socialize with the friendliest poker community on the Internet, where all levels of players from beginner to professional meet and help each other to improve.
The biggest advantage of PokerSchool Online is that you can learn, play and practice at your own pace. You are not risking a lot of money that it would cost you to get your education, at the live tables. Unlike some of the play for fun sites you may have visited, I find that the players in the games on the poker school site, are very serious about their play, and most treated their cyber-bankroll as real money.
The cost of PokerSchool Online is nominal. It is just $14.95 per month or $149.95 annually. You get all this for less than $3.00 per week: Lessons from top authorities in the poker industry, books online, audio lessons, hand analyses, tests, reference articles, practice play, league tournaments, and a chance to win entry into major national tournaments. And there is a 14-day, money-back guarantee, so you can try it - risk-free!
I play there and you can play with me whenever you want. My handle is NitroxBoss!
Four: Make Some Friends – Help Them Grow
I have a very close-knit group of friends and write about them. Often, here on poker stories, I refer to them as the "Tribe". They are my crew and we help each other learn and improve. It is interesting and not surprising to me in the least, that each member of my Tribe is a multimillionaire, down to the last man. None of which, would any member count poker as the source. I say this to point out that these men are highly educated and very successful. They use those proven tools at the poker table, with extremely damaging results. They are among my closest friends and harshest critiques. We have love for each other that only men who have faced the enemy together can know. We are truly looking out for each other and, if I had to say what the most value able thing that poker has given me, I would say without reservation it is the Tribe. I only hope they feel the same about me, because without the Tribe, I could never have come this far. So, I hope in the same way, I have also helped them. The next time you are around a successful pro, ask them about their friends and the impact those friendships have had on their success. I know the answers you are going to get, so if you want to be a successful player at the highest levels, you better find a "tribe", and if you are very wise, you will surround yourself with people that are among the smartest and most successful people in the world, as I have.
Note: If you do decide to join the pokerschoolonline.com site and end up playing with Johnwgalt, protect your chips. He is Tribe and he is also the number one ranked player on the site.
Five: Test Your Progress – Often
The three main tribal leaders of our group (Bard, Jason and I) formed a club called the www.pokerschoolclub.com and we have a large tournament every month. This club allows us to test what we have learned from studying books and T.V. and our poker discussions, in a live brick and mortar tournament. We consider it the monthly test. We have all the professional tables and chips, and we follow strict WSOP formatting and blinds. We even have an exact replica of the WSOP final table, made by the same company that made the final table for Harrahs. This club is the NUTS. It has grown into a really neat place for people to come and learn about poker, in a friendly and fun environment. Don't get me wrong, there is action and the competition is fierce! I have to give major credit and thanks to Brad. Without his generosity and dedication, that club would never have become what it is today. Membership in the club is closed as of now, however, if you do get invited to the game and you end up sitting next to Brad, step carefully. He is one of the nicest guys I know, he is also Tribe and he has dealt me the "death blow" more times than I care to remember, and he loves me. You are only a source of chips, on his way home to the final table.
Six: Go To The Dance
Go to a major event once a year. The really cool thing about poker, is that you can be a part of it on a grand scale. When you are in a big event and you have a name brand player at your table, it doesn't matter if you bust them, or they bust you, it is going to be fun and you are going to come away from it with a life experience. You and your Tribe are going to be closer for attending. It is something to look forward to all year. When you get there, it is electric. Include your family. My girls go every year and none of them play, but they get to stay at the Bellagio, and shop and play by the pool. They have a blast and I love sharing this part of my life with them. The whole Tribe and everyone they bring always gets together for a couple of nice meals, and everyone has a story to tell from bad beats to unreal shopping bargains. The World Series Of Poker is fun for everyone in my family, and one day my girls will all be lined up watching Big Papa win the big one, and from there we are all going to forum mall and I will show those girls how to shop, without looking at price tags.
I started writing this story long time ago, as the Tribe was breaking into the big game in the upper deck at the Bellagio. They play really high in that game with a lot of the players buying in for more than $25,000.00. We wanted to test our metal and boy did that ever happen. Anyway, I never finished the story and after re-reading it, I couldn't believe how bad I played this hand. I am including it as an example, with embarrassment, to illustrate that if you work on your game, you are forever growing. I know I have. The player I am today, would have lost no more than $20.00 in the following hand. I wish I could find the "past me" and get him in a juicy "no limit" game, with the present me.
11_05 The Tribe Meets The T.V. Pros
This post really should be titled "After The Kid Left His Coat". As you remember from that story, the Tribe had decided to swim in the deep end. We watched a blood letting before any of us even shifted in our seats. I get AQ off in late position and make it $60.00. The button and the big blind go along for the ride. The flop is J82 rainbow and I am first to act. This isn't exactly what I had hoped for, but in the absence of a QQA flop, I figured I would make a move on this pot, and we could all go on to the next hand. I was the pre-flop raiser, so a first to act bet might yield me the pot. I make it $120 or 75% of the pot and they both call. CRAP! The turn is a blank and I make it $260, or about half the pot, and I am done with this hand if I get played back at. They BOTH call. The river is also a blank. Forget it. I check, they both check. The kid in the small blind flips 85 off for a pair of eights, beating the buttons AK, and making the AQ I was so proud of, third prize. I feel like a real boob investing $440 in that mess, but at least I was betting and not calling. $50 more to go, with 85 off-suit. I will need to remember that…..
Needless to say, more bad things happened to the Tribe that day, but we got to play poker with David Williams and Cindy Violet, and we had fun. We were also able to learn a little more about poker and ourselves. Poker is just one big game your whole life. You will be up and down at times. Keep learning and make sure to include your family and friends. In the end, they are the only things of value you get to keep when we move on.
Me? I am already the luckiest guy alive.