POKER COURSES

Foundations by Phil Galfond: A Thorough Review

By Ivan Potocki
July 05, 2024

Foundations is the name of the latest poker course created by Run It Once and its founder, Phil Galfond. The name of the course seems fairly self-explanatory, but if you went in expecting another basic poker training boot camp, you’d be wrong.

What Foundations by Phil Galfond sets out to do with the course is dig under the surface and explain things that most beginners are only marginally aware of and often only have barebones understanding of.

This is the course that tells you what the game of poker is really about, where the idea of the Game Theory Optimal (GTO) Strategy comes from, and why it works. It strives to teach you how to think right at the tables instead of trying to memorize as much dry information as possible.

Does it achieve this goal, and to what extent? Read this detailed Foundations by Phil Galfond course review and find out all the details, as well as my personal experience with this unique approach to poker training for beginners.

Run It Once Foundations by Phil Galfond

Foundations by Phil Galfond at a Glance: What’s Inside?

The course consists of a few big sections, and each of them is made up of a number of videos covering relevant subtopics. The videos themselves are mostly short and to the point, and Galfond’s natural ability to explain things allows you to go through them without getting tired or overwhelmed.

The main sections inside the Foundations by Phil Galfond course are:

  • What Is Game Theory
  • Intro to Poker Fundamentals
  • Preflop & Gameplay Foundations
  • Ranges & Hand Reading
  • Hacks & Tricks
  • Adjustments & Exploits
  • Off the Felt Essentials

Just looking at how the course is structured, it feels different from most beginner courses out there. While there are a couple of sections that go into what you’d call the poker “bread and butter,” i.e., pot odds, equities, and such, Galfond makes it clear from the get-go that this isn’t the main emphasis.

Instead, the course focuses on giving you solid foundations upon which you can build and develop your game in any direction you want. Once you understand how the greatest minds in poker think about the game, all forms of studying become much easier.

GTO Demystified

The first section of the Foundations course is perhaps the most important one. It is here that Galfond takes the concept of the Game Theory Optimal (GTO) and breaks it down so that even those completely new to poker can understand the idea.

Using examples like rock-paper-scissors and a simplified game of poker with just three cards, he explains terms that many beginners may have heard of but probably don’t fully grasp. What is GTO in the first place, what does it mean to play an unexploitable style, why deviating from GTO makes you exploitable, and why these deviations are still the right thing to do in certain scenarios.

Foundations by Phil Galfond screenshot

That list of things may seem a bit overwhelming, but all these concepts are broken out into separate lessons, and Galfond takes the necessary time to bring these ideas home.

Even if you’re not new to poker, these explanations will help you develop a better grasp of GTO. Step by step, you’ll realize how, despite all its complexities, poker is founded on some very simple concepts. When you understand what they are and how they work, things become much easier.

Revisiting Basic Concepts

No beginner’s poker course is complete without at least touching upon some basic concepts such as EV, equity, calculating your outs, position, reversed and implied odds, etc.

You’ll find explanations and examples for each of these inside Foundations by Phil Galfond, but once again, they’re not the core of this course.

There are plenty of resources out there to teach you these things, so if you happen to struggle with them, it’s perhaps a good idea to go over them once again before continuing with the rest of this course.

Foundations by Phil Galfond screenshot

Foundations is a beginner’s poker course, but not in the sense that it teaches you the rules of the game and these level-one concepts. Instead, it builds upon them and puts them in the wider context of the GTO and everything that goes with it.

The best way to explain it is that Galfond doesn’t try so much to explain what implied odds are, but rather why they exist within the game in the first place. Instead of memorizing charts and definitions, this course looks to impart the knowledge that can help you intuitively come up with correct decisions.

Understanding Ranges & Hand Reading

After going over the basic concepts, the course goes back to its original trajectory, and in this important section, Galfond focuses on the importance of hand reading in poker. As he explains, at the end of the day, if you’re able to make a lot of right decisions on the river, you’ll likely be making money at poker.

One of the most important questions you need to answer at the tables is: why? Why should you check or bet in a certain spot; why is your opponent doing what they’re doing; why do those preflop charts look the way they do?

Learning how to think about the “why” and find the right answers is much more valuable than just memorizing charts.

Foundations by Phil Galfond screenshot

In this section, Galfond provides a lot of advice on techniques you can use to develop these skills by reviewing your own hands and picking up on your opponents’ general and specific tendencies.

This is where GTO meets the exploitative side of things, as the knowledge you’re able to gather through this analysis will allow you to make adjustments that most other players don’t even think about, especially at low levels.

READ MORE: A Run It Once Primer from Phil Galfond

Setting Yourself Up for Success with Foundations

The final three sections of the Foundations by Phil Galfond course focus on tricks and exploits that you can work into your game. Some of these simple yet very effective hacks include:

  • Folding when you know you’re beat (most players don’t bluff enough at low stakes)
  • Maximizing value with your really strong hands
  • Exploiting weak players in certain common spots

The course also goes over several major player types you’ll likely encounter and how to best adjust your game according to these general tendencies.

Finally, the last section provides you with some good pointers on where to go next and how to go about taking your poker career to the next level, depending on what your personal goals and ambitions are. Galfond talks about things like bankroll management, game selection, and other aspects crucial to long-term success.

Foundations by Phil Galfond: Is It for You?

This course is designed for beginner players who have already learned the very basics and feel ready and eager to embark on a serious poker journey. On its own, Foundations by Phil Galfond may not be enough to make you a winner beyond micro and low stakes games, but it gives you the tools to grow as a player in a much quicker and more efficient way.

For the very reasonable price of $49.99, if you purchase this course, you can expect to it to help you differentiate quality training content from the other types and teach you what things to focus on when studying the game.

If you are the type of player who wants to move on from just memorizing charts and start developing a deeper understanding of the game, Foundations by Phil Galfond might be the best option out there. It is simple enough for almost anyone to engage with, yet comprehensive enough to take you to that next level and set you on the path to becoming a consistent winner at the tables.

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Ivan Potocki poker author
Written By.

Ivan Potocki

Ivan Potocki transitioned to poker writing after playing more or less full-time for about five years. He first discovered poker while studying English Language and Literature at the University of Sarajevo. What started with freerolls and micro-stakes games led to a love for poker, opening gates to a whole different world. After finishing his studies […]

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