Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Tools of the trade

 One of the most frequent questions I get asked is how to get better at poker and what tools I use to study/would recommend. Here they are in order of how much I use them myself and recommend them to my students:

1. GTOWizard

This is a one stop shop for preflop ranges (both normal and ICM) and post flop solves of thousands of different spots. It’s constantly being added to and comes with its own trainer. Barry and I made this video on the particularly powerful Aggregate Reports feature. I wasn’t that impressed with this tool when I first saw it over a year ago and used the more expensive Odin instead. However it’s come on in leaps and bounds and is now the main tool I recommend to students (and use myself). 

If you do want to give it a try if you sign up using this link you get a 10% discount. 

2. DTO

The original and still the GOAT training app, DTO is perfect for drilling yourself in any spot that gives you trouble on your phone, iPad or computer when you have a few minutes to spare. If you want to purchase, go to https://www.dto.poker and use code CHIPRACE for 20% off.

3. Holdem Resources Calculator 

Perfect for analysing preflop spots particularly when ICM and/or bounties are a factor. You can enter any stack sizes, payouts etc and it does the rest to answer the question “what hands should I play/shove/call a shove with in this specific spot?”

ICMiser has the same functionality and is also very good I’m reliably informed (I’ve only ever used HRC and go on doing so primarily because of habit/familiarity). 

4. PokerSnowie

An AI tool rather than a solver, this means it has suffered a little from the scoffs of GTO snobs that “it’s not GTO” (strictly speaking, neither are any of the other solvers perfect GTO). It also means it’s gotten stronger and closer to GTO over time, and it can give you a reasonable answer to any poker spot, no matter how weird or multi-way. It also has a very useful mass import function which can be used to quickly identify leaks in your game. It has its own trainer function. This list is aimed at the type of person who has an hour or two to devote to study, but if you only have a few minutes a day I’d move this one to the top of the list (along with DTO). Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good, as the old Italian proverb says. 

5. PIOSolver

If I was writing this list even a year ago this would have been on top. I still love PIO, it’s still the gold standard when it comes to running your own solves but the reality is with the newer tools out there there’s a lot less reason to run your own bespoke solves. What takes 20 minutes to set up and a few hours to run in PIO can often be located in a few seconds in something like GTOWizard. If you want to delve deeper and run your own node locked solves though you still need PIO. Or if you think you’re up against very different ranges from GTO ones.  

6. PokerTracker 

If I was writing this a decade ago this would have not only been top of the list, it might have been the entire list. Back then most of my edge came from being to quickly analyse statistical data in real time to identify likely leaks specific opponents had, and work out how best to exploit them. That was online poker back then: most of the weaker player had massive egregious leaks that could be quickly identified if you watched them for a while, or with the help of PokerTracker or other HUDs if you were playing too many tables to pay attention to specific opponents. 

Since then a couple of things happened. Firstly, a misguided belief that HUDs were cheating took hold in enough recreational minds that sites started to ban them. In reality the only thing they did was allow pros to more tables simultaneously, which believe it or not was actually a good thing not just for the sites collecting rake on each one but also for recreationals as it meant they were competing against pros only able to give their table 1/24th of their attention (or whatever number of tables they were playing). The disappearance of the HUDs (or more precisely them being driven underground) on most sites had some unintended consequences. Not only did it reduce the number of tables pros could play simultaneously (with a knock on effect on prize pools and the overall online ecosystem, something the industry tried to compensate for by allowing reentries, another thing which is way worse for the recreational bottom line and deposit lifecycle than HUDs ever were) but it accelerated the drive to GTO and solver learning. Recreationals with egregious leaks lost their money faster than ever unless they hit the lab themselves. Those that did stuck around, those that didn’t drifted away, and overall standards rose to where they are now. Of course the better players still have an edge over the weaker ones, but there’s been a general convergence in playing styles and you just don’t see as many total outlier playing styles any more. These days the talk of the town is less specific opponent tendencies and exploits and more “population reads”. 

All that said, HUDs have not disappeared completely. Some sites like Stars and ACR still allow them, and even if they are less useful as playing aids these days because of the ecosystem changes outlined above, they can play a vital role in the general improve your game drive we are all on. These days they’re used more to try to identify and fix our own leaks than to exploit specific opponents, and also to help identify population tendencies. 

The book

If you follow me at all you can’t help but have noticed that my fourth book with Barry Carter,  “GTO Poker Simplified”, is finally out. I gave the full pitch in my VegasSlotsOnline piece so I don’t repeat it here. 

Instead I’ll just say that I have four books out people have started asking me what’s the best order to read them in. It’s an interesting question and here’s my suggested order:

(1) “GTO Poker Simplified”. This is the most general of the four books and the only one that applies across the board to whatever type of poker you play. Most of the examples are from NLH tournaments but the principles apply across the board to any form of poker

(2) “Endgame Poker Strategy: The ICM Book”. Only if you’re a tournament player. If you are then everything in this book not only applies to you but learning ICM is the single biggest thing you can learn to improve your profitability 

(3) “Poker Satellite Strategy”. I would say only if you play satellites but a few players have told me that the general ICM principles in this book helped them enormously even in normal MTTs. This is the only one of our books available as an audiobook (currently free at Amazon.co.uk at time of writing)

(4) “PKO Poker Strategy” but only if you play knockout tournaments. 

The latest book is off to a quick start both in terms of sales and reception from readers. The early reviews are all amazing and if you do enjoy the book enough to want to help myself and Barry out, the best thing you can do for us is to leave a review of why you liked it at Amazon or wherever you bought it. As self publishers we rely entirely on reviews like this and word of mouth in general to sell enough copies to make it worth our time writing books.  

Faraz Jaka coaching

I'm pleased to announce I've joined Fara Jaka's training site as a guest coach. I've already done some webinars on ICM and mystery bounties which you can access replays if you sign up. I'm often asked if I'll ever join the Twitch streets and I always answer no as it seems too time consuming, but for those who really want to watch me play a session in real time and explain my thought process I'll be doing one of these every few months on the site, the first of which is scheduled for December 7th.

If you sign up through this link and use the code Dara15, you get a 15% discount!

The rest of the year

I have quite a bit of live poker scheduled in December including a couple of Irish poker tour stops, a trip to the Macau in Cork at the end of the week, and biggest of all the massive $15 million guaranteed WPT in the Wynn in Vegas. David and I fly over the 11th and arrive back the 22nd. Quite a few Irish have already satellited in online so it should be a great event.



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