Last year I profiled the Top 10 Poker Training Sites Online, which are subscription-based services. Each of these pay-for-training sites offer a handful of videos for free to allow potential customers a preview of the content they offer. I’ve also written about poker content on YouTube a couple times (see here and here), a study method advocated by tournament professional Alex “AP” Phahurat.
What if you don’t want to spend the money on a subscription-based training site, and you don’t know where to look for good training videos on YouTube? Never fear, as there are a few sites that offer poker training videos at no cost whatsoever. (I’ll get into what you can find on YouTube in a future article.)
This site, sponsored by PokerStars, offers a 13-chapter series introducing beginners to No Limit Texas Hold’em and progressing to some of the more advanced concepts and strategies of the game. Each chapter is around a half-hour in length, with example hands from live tournaments and cash games which illustrate the talking points in more interesting ways. A few interviews (both on-topic and off-topic) with PokerStars pros are sprinkled in the mix. The series includes:
- Episode 1 – THE BASICS.
- Episode 2 – STARTING HANDS.
- Episode 3 – POSITION 1.
- Episode 4 – POSITION 2.
- Episode 5 – BLUFFING.
- Episode 6 – TOURNAMENT BASICS.
- Episode 7 – BETTING 1.
- Episode 8 – BETTING 2.
- Episode 9 – PLAYING STYLES.
- Episode 10 – GATHERING INFORMATION.
- Episode 11 – PLAYING MADE HANDS.
- Episode 12 – PLAYING DRAWS.
- Episode 13 – REVIEW SHOW.
I’ve watched the entire series and highly recommend it for all players, but especially for beginners. The only drawback to this site is that the content is entirely static. EverythingPoker never adds to, subtracts from, or changes the content it offers.
This is another site sponsored by PokerStars. Where EverythingPoker has a single “course” of videos covering the basic fundamentals, PokerSchoolOnline has multiple courses including videos, articles, skills assessment tests, blogs, and a member forum. Just as important, new material is added on a regular basis. Videos are separated into game types: cash games, single-table tournaments, and multi-table tournaments. Hold’em, Omaha, and mixed games are all represented here.
Videos are produced in a variety of formats:
- Live Session. In this type of video, an instructor has recorded his play and has provided commentary either as the session is played or after-the-fact. With few exceptions, the commentary is recorded without pausing, as the action plays out. Example: Christopher De Meulder NL 6-max $1/$2 Session Part 1.
- Session Review. In this format, the instructor has recorded a session and either pauses the action when an interesting hand comes up; or, the interesting hands have been imported into a hand replayer. The benefit to this type is you don’t waste time with uninteresting hands, and since the action is paused the instructor can take all the time he needs to describe his reasoning throughout the hand. The drawback is you lose some of the context of certain plays based on game flow and player tendencies due to some hands being skipped. Example: Tyler ‘frosty012’ Frost – NLHE Fullring: Multi-way Pots.
- Live Training. This style has an instructor walking through various poker hands while students ask questions and discuss the action. It’s identical to a session review, except that there is a chat room active throughout the training whereby students can ask questions and get feedback. (More on the student element below.) Example: Scare Tactics #1.
- Hand of the Day. These are brief, one-hand reviews done in the same style as a session review. If you’re looking for advice on a specific situation, this is the fastest way to get it. Example: TheLangolier Facing Overbets 1.
- Lessons/Tutorials. This style of video is best described as classroom study or straight lectures. It is comprised of slides, with some hands or scenarios sprinkled in, accompanied by an instructor’s narrative analysis. Example: Randy ‘nanonoko’ Lew NLHE Beginner Series Part 2 – Post Flop I.
In all, 1,008 videos are available in their catalog. To save your assessment test results and to view some content, you must register an account with PokerSchoolOnline through the PokerStars client (click “Poker School” from the PokerStars client menu). Also, some videos may not play for users who haven’t earned a prerequisite number of VPP’s (VIP Player Points, earned through real money play). Since US players aren’t able to play for real money at present, you may not be able to view all of the content. Even so, you can still sign up and get free access to around 50% of the catalog.
Live training is just like the videos, in that some are free to all and some are reserved for people who have earned a required number of VPP’s. Once you’ve registered an account with PokerSchoolOnline, visit the Live Training Schedule page. Sign up to a training event by clicking the corresponding “Add” button. This adds the event to your training schedule. Shortly before the event is scheduled to start (15 minutes, to be precise), an “Open” button appears next to the event on the schedule page. Click “Open” to launch the live training window in your browser.
Let’s say you don’t want to register with PSO and you don’t care about participating in the Live Training events. Well, you can still watch a good portion of the content through other sites on the web. As of this writing, 118 of the videos can be viewed from the PokerStars.tv website’s PokerSchoolOnline channel. Another 312 videos are available through PokerSchoolOnline’s official YouTube channel, PSOOfficial.
If you don’t have this website bookmarked in your browser, click the link above and do it now. This site has been around for years and has become the largest repository of poker programming on the internet. It is an affiliate for several poker sites and has a working relationship with many poker video producers. Want to watch the Aussie Millions, Poker After Dark, High Stakes Poker, or the National Heads-Up Championship? All of those (and dozens more) are available for instant viewing.
Getting back to poker training, though, this site has plenty of that as well. Not all of it is top-quality, and it can be difficult to find just what you’re looking for. Like YouTube, PokerTube allows its registered users to upload videos. So anyone can submit a video for streaming. Nevertheless, if you stick to videos by trusted experts, you will find a wealth of knowledge.
As a long time member of CardRunners, I was elated to discover a few sessions with commentary by Taylor Caby (CardRunners co-founder). The shocking thing was (if the timer can be believed) that one was over five hours long and another was over 19 hours! Respectively, you can check them out here and here.
So aside from searching for training videos using obvious keywords like training, session, strategy, or school, another approach is to find uploaders who specialize in poker training videos. Here are a few I’ve found after just a few minutes of searching:
- PokerTube: 437 videos, roughly half are interviews with household-name players (including Your Brain is Killing Your Poker Game, an interview with Nick Wealthall), but a respectable percentage include game strategy and analysis, like this hand history review from Leak Busters.
- ThePlayr.com: 43 videos, most featuring Gus Hansen, including a multi-part series entitled “Gus Hansen Poker School.”
- tightpoker: 27 videos, most are session replays with analysis at various games and stakes. Others are straight-up strategy and game play instruction.
PokerTube also features a forum but it’s not that useful to live players simply because there is little public participation.
This site has all the features of a full-fledged, pay-subscription training site, minus the subscription fees. Four years ago, they produced just a few videos per year. But in the last 12 months, they’ve really come on strong, producing 150 videos in 2012. Content spans the full range of games and stakes for both tournaments and cash games. According to the Gripsed Facebook page, this site offers “the only free online poker coaching show on the web.” With the addition of a VIP section tagged as “Coming Soon,” one has to wonder if the content will remain free for much longer, so take advantage now.
Gripsed has cross-posted some of their content on PokerTube and YouTube, so if worse comes to worst and they start charging for their content, you can hopefully still find some of their catalog online for free.
Honorable Mention: Pokerstars.NET The Big Game – Behind the Poker Face
Prior to Black Friday, Pokerstars produced a show called The Big Game. The format was a six-handed cash game where five professionals would square-off against an amateur who qualified through an online tournament. The amateur would be staked $100K to play, and anything won above the $100K the amateur would keep. Play was limited to 150 hands, and the session would be edited down into five 45-minute episodes.
It’s a good show, but from a training standpoint the best part of the show was when they included a “Behind the Poker Face” segment. They would take a hand from the show and ask the players to explain their thought process behind the decisions they made in the hand. It’s interesting stuff. What’s even better is that Pokerstars has collected all of the “Behind the Poker Face” segments into one location on their Pokerstars.tv site.
Just keep in mind that much of what you see is specific to the game format and opponents in the hands you’re watching. There isn’t a direct correlation between what they’re doing and what you should be doing in the games you play. Instead, pay attention to their thought process. What things are they considering as they make their decisions? What factors are given more weight than others? If you watch these with that perspective, they will be both instructional and entertaining.
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