If you’re looking to get better at poker, there are dozens of courses and training programs out there, all of them promising to make you a better player and most of them delivering on that promise.
So, whenever I sink my teeth into a new course, I start with the question: what is it that makes this course different from the rest? And that’s exactly how I approached Gareth James‘ Train & Play Like the Pros.
One thing that immediately caught my attention as I watched the introductory video was that Gareth seems to understand the biggest struggles that most recreational players have when signing up for a training program. Having access to a bunch of content is cool and all, but how useful is that content to someone who’s not already on a fairly high level?
So, instead of just producing a few dozen coaching videos and calling it a day, Gareth lays out a structured path adjusted to your personal needs. Train & Play Like the Pros aims to give you the tools to improve the areas of your game in which you’re lacking, taking a very focused approach.
Getting Your Ducks in a Row
One thing that James is very honest about right from the start is that the value you’ll get from this course will depend largely on how much time and effort you put into it. As you’ll quickly realize when you start taking the lessons, the whole idea is to get you engaged and excited about becoming a better player.
But before embarking on that journey, Train & Play Like the Pros outlines some of the biggest challenges that most recreational players face. Namely:
- Feeling overwhelmed – i.e., not knowing where to start or how to go about improving their game, which often leads to giving up on the idea completely.
- Poor or no study habits – knowing how to learn effectively is a big deal, and this course provides some great advice in that area.
- Weak fundamentals – recreational players often find themselves in spots where they are not sure what to do, despite having played a ton of hands.
These three areas serve as the backbone of the course. Gareth aims to address each of them, not on a general level, but rather for every individual player that signs up. While the overall problems may be the same, different players struggle with different parts of these large areas.
In accordance with this, Train & Play Like the Pros is divided into a number of main areas designed to first help you identify your own leaks and shortcomings, then provide you with the help you need to fix those leaks, and finally offer tools and advice to make your study routines much more effective.
Identifying the Leaks
Once you go through the first video lessons and other materials, the initial proactive sections of the course are designed to help you find the leaks in your game. You’ll get access to a simple worksheet where you’ll need to input your stats from Poker Tracker 4 (or a similar tracking program like Hold’em Manager) to compare them with optimal values.
So, yes, to be able to use this course, you’ll need to have some hands in your database and tracking software to go along. In this day and age, it is hardly a big expectation, and if you’re at least a bit serious about getting better at poker, this is a must-have.
A couple of videos available in this section will explain the key preflop and postflop stats that you need to pay attention to, their meaning, and why the numbers are what they are. Even if you are new to poker stats, Gareth has done a great job of explaining things, so you won’t feel lost.
Once you do the work and fill in the worksheets, you’ll have a good idea of what areas of your game need the most attention, and you can move on to the next section.
Fixing the Leaks
This section of Train & Play Like the Pros is similar to a traditional poker course, as it contains several videos addressing specific topics related to those areas identified in the earlier section. Your task here is to watch those videos that apply to your particular leaks.
For example, if you discover that your flop c-bet numbers are off, there is a video addressing that specific area of the game which contains a number of actual hands selected from the database. Gareth goes through these hands and explains various strategic aspects that should help you bring your numbers more in line with the optimal approach.
You will also learn how to use filters in PT4 so that you can go through your own database and filter all sorts of situations in the future. This is very helpful, as you’ll want to go back to your hands every now and again for another round of analysis.
Developing Effective Study Habits
Completing a single course will not be enough to make you a winner in poker in the long run. To achieve that goal you will need to constantly work on your game, looking for new leaks and making sure your game stays up to par.
This is another major area that most recreational players struggle with, which is why the course contains a fairly extensive section on developing effective study habits. The goal here is to help make you an active learner, i.e., someone who actively engages with the learning process and consumes the offered knowledge in the right way.
This section teaches you good study habits and also shows you how to properly use some poker software solutions to review your hands. If you are interested to see how poker studying is done at the highest level, Train & Play Like the Pros will teach you.
Optimal Strategies – Building Strong Fundamentals
The final section of Train & Play Like the Pros is different from the rest of the course. It contains a few dozen long videos focusing on poker strategy. These are webinars from Gareth’s earlier course MTT Game Changer and they cover a wide array of topics, such as:
- Blind vs. blind play
- Flop and turn strategies (in and out of position)
- River strategies
Since these are very long videos, James suggests (and I would agree) that you shouldn’t try to consume a bunch of content all at once. Take your time going through these, as they offer a lot of valuable information, but it will only be useful to you if it sticks.
Summary: Does Train & Play Like the Pros Deliver on Its Promise?
Gareth has done an excellent job of doing exactly what he set out to do: creating a poker training course aimed at recreational players looking to get better. It offers the kind of structure and guidance that I feel is lacking in many other courses out there.
If you’re someone with a passion for poker but simply don’t know how to go about improving your skills, Train & Play Like the Pros will give you the tools you need, both right now and for the future. It will show you how to recognize your mistakes, give you the tools to fix them, and help you set up a structure where you’ll be able to identify any future leaks on your own.
To top it all off, you also get access to a very active Discord group and weekly seminars where you’ll be able to ask any questions and discuss poker topics with fellow players and coaches alike. Being a part of a living and breathing poker community is certain to help you reach your goals faster while staying in touch with the game.
Use code CPL50 to get a £50 discount on Train & Play Like the Pros
All in all, Train & Play Like the Pros is a quality course that offers a unique approach. It will require you to put in time and effort, but it will also provide you with very specific and targeted knowledge that more general courses don’t give you. The ultimate choice is yours, but as far as value for money goes, you won’t go wrong with this course if you’re ready to follow the path laid out for you.