If there was a time once when poker resources were scarce and hard to find that time is definitely far behind us. These days, there is are so many poker training sites out there available to you that the biggest problem is deciding what option to go for from dozens on offer.
Over the last while, I’ve had a opportunity to look into and review quite a few poker training sites and courses so I’ll admit that when I stumbled upon The Poker Forge, my initial thought was – “another one, don’t we have enough?”
However, my initial skepticism was quickly dispelled as Sky Matsuhashi, the man behind The Poker Forge project (and frequent fellow Cardplayer Lifestyle contributor), has managed to create a rather unique site that doesn’t just deliver great and useful content but also allows his personality to come through. This latter bit is really something that distinguishes The Poker Forge as a unique offering, because you can hear and feel the enthusiasm in almost every single video, which is something I can’t honestly say is true for many of the other poker training sites I’ve come across.
This isn’t to say that the other programs don’t provide great content as well, but for me, personally, being able to feel that a poker coach is actually enjoying what they’re doing is a big difference-maker. It just makes listening to and learning from them so much more enjoyable.
Moreover, I also had the opportunity to ask Sky some specific questions about his training site, which you’ll see if you scroll down below to just after the Poker Forge review.
Who Is Sky Matsuhashi?
The first and very natural questions that likely come to mind are who is this Sky Matsuhashi guy and why is he qualified to teach you something about poker? In all honesty, Sky’s is not a name I have seen in any big tournaments and his Hendon Mob record doesn’t show any outstanding results. So, what makes him qualified?
The thing with Matsuhashi is that while he’s been playing poker since 2003, he has been playing almost exclusively online since 2006. He also has great experience in teaching in general so he has a pretty good idea of how to structure a good lesson plan and present learning materials in a fun, engaging, and easy-to-understand manner.
As for his poker credentials, Sky may not be the best player out there nor does he claim to be one. What he is, though, is a guy who constantly strives to become better and has a lot of passion for the game in general. If that’s not an attitude and character trait that resonates with most poker players, I don’t know what is.
His Poker Forge training site isn’t aimed at poker crushers who have been making a living at the tables for years. It is more meant to be a resource for those who are taking their first serious steps into the poker world. From what I’ve seen, Sky definitely has a lot to offer to that particular group.
Poker Forge Courses
You’ll find several fairly extensive poker courses inside The Poker Forge. Every single one of them covers a particular important topic and none of them are super-advanced so as to be difficult to comprehend and internalize. Sky is sticking to what he knows and he is very successful in verbalizing his poker knowledge. As already mentioned, his lessons are definitely not dry and he is great at keeping you engaged as a student of the game.
Starting Your Journey
The first mini-course at The Poker Forge is intended to give you the push in the right direction. Sky shows you the way how to properly evaluate your game up to that point and determine what some of your leaks might be. Right at the start, he suggests you focus on the particular format that you play most, i.e., cash games or tournaments.
Another thing needs to be said, too: to successfully complete the evaluation process, you’ll need to have poker software like PokerTracker 4 installed. Perhaps some of you don’t find this approach appealing, and that’s completely fine, but let’s be honest here: there is no serious online player today who plays without a HUD and tracking software of some kind.
Quick Wins Course
The first and probably the most extensive course on The Poker Forge site is named Quick Wins and it represents a fairly comprehensive set of lessons aimed at those looking to take a more serious and more structured approach to poker. It is divided into several modules such as constructing your hand ranges, hand analysis, putting in the volume, improving your c-betting, learning how to think in terms of EV, etc.
What I particularly like about this course is the way every module is structured. Matsuhashi places a lot of emphasis on actually doing things instead of just talking about them, so every module contains one or two “Take Action” videos. These focus on practical hand examples that zone in on theoretical concepts discussed in the first video in the module.
Most players and coaches agree that the ability to read hands and put your opponents on correct ranges is fundamental to your success in poker. So, Sky’s Hand Reading course is kind of a logical next step for prospective students after the Quick Wins course.
The sheer amount of materials you’ll find here is quite stunning. It’s not just a bunch of videos covering a variety of topics, from basics of hand reading to actual strategies you can apply in-game to improve your abilities. Sky also presents you with a number of quick quizzes and spreadsheets you’ll need to fill in after watching the lessons.
He basically stays true to his structure throughout The Poker Forge. Lessons are followed by actionable tasks that put you on the spot and require you to apply the newly-acquired knowledge. Yes, it feels a lot like school, but this isn’t much of a surprise given his background, and I don’t think it’s a bad thing, either.
Pre-flop Hand Selection
The first course already discusses some basics of solid and fundamentally sound pre-flop hand selection. In this course though, Sky takes things to the next level and really zooms in on this extremely important topic, especially for those relatively new to Hold’em.
In addition to lessons and quizzes, you’ll also find your 30-day checklist inside, which is designed to help you keep track of your progress. As for the content, there is once again more than you’d expect. This course doesn’t just talk basics of pre-flop hand selection but also discusses things like 3- and 4-betting, isolating limpers, attacking weak players, etc.
The fine art of continuation betting is one of those things that you really have to master if you want to have any kind of successful poker career. In The Poker Forge Profitable C-bets course you’ll find a number of great videos talking about general concepts behind c-betting as well as many hand examples to bring these points home.
Of course, the theme that’s been set at the start continues here as well. In his lessons, Matsuhashi heavily relies on PokerTracker stats. The good thing is, even if you’re kind of new to HUDs, after watching lessons in this and other courses, you’ll probably develop a pretty good understanding of what all the different-colored numbers on the screen stand for.
Finding the Fold
Money saved is money earned. This adage holds true in life and in poker alike. And, in poker, you’ll save a ton of money by finding correct folds and knowing when to get out of Dodge. This is exactly what the Finding the Fold course is all about.
You’ll find a variety of topics covered here, from dealing with river bets, to over handling check-raises, to generally paying attention to your opponents and the signals they’re sending. These lessons are bound to open your eyes to certain spots that you may not have given any thought to up until this point and teach you (once again) what stats to look at when making your decisions.
Truthfully speaking, the Poker Math course could be a bit of overkill if you’ve already gone through previous ones. It discusses and explains all the important poker math concepts, from calculating your odds and outs, over implied odds, to EV, profitability of your bluffs, etc.
Many of these concepts have already been covered extensively in earlier courses so you should have a solid grasp on most of them by this point. So, you may wish to actually go through this course after watching Quick Wins, especially for those just building their poker fundamentals.
The final course currently on offer at The Poker Forge deals with plugging leaks in your game. This one relies really heavily on stats and shows you how to read into them to discover not only your own leaks but also those of other players you regularly face and turn that knowledge against them.
Who is The Poker Forge for, and Is It Worth the Price?
Sky Matsuhashi may not be the best-known name in the poker world. In fact, you may not have heard anything about him before, but that doesn’t take anything away in the slightest from the impressive poker training site he’s set up.
With every video and strategy he teaches, he tells you exactly how to practice it either on- or off-the-felt. No other site I know of does that. You learn something from a video, he gives you action steps to purposefully practice it, then you learn even more by doing so. “Action is the greatest teacher” is a central philosophy of this poker training site.
The Poker Forge is clearly aimed at those new to poker and players who are looking to build solid foundations on their way up. It teaches you how to play good, stats-based online poker, which is pretty much what you have to do to join the big leagues these days.
The content quality is very solid and, as mentioned several times, Sky definitely knows how to make things both entertaining and engaging. Video lessons combined with quizzes, spreadsheets, and all the other tools he provides you with will give you everything you need to become a solid and fundamentally sound player if you put the time and effort into studying properly.
As for the price, the amount you’ll have to pay to get access to all these courses is truly reasonable, especially when compared to other similar poker training options and considering how much work has gone into creating The Poker Forge. If you want to really learn poker and are ready to study hard to achieve this goal, the monetary investment is well worth it.
Sky Matsuhashi Q&A
After having done a review of the Poker Forge, it was a pleasure to also have the opportunity to get some replies to my questions from the man himself, Sky Matsuhashi. As with his course presentation, his responses to my queries once again demonstrate his incredible enthusiasm for teaching poker.
How did you come up with the idea for developing the Poker Forge in the first place?
The Poker Forge is a natural progression in my journey as a coach. I started with a blog and a YouTube channel. Then I started coaching students 1-on-1. Next came my weekly podcast (I’ve produced over 300 episodes as of this writing) and then online coaching webinars. I’ve also written four books on poker study and play strategies.
I see The Poker Forge as another way to serve my audience, especially those who love progressing step-by-step through a logically designed course. I believe courses are the most effective way to learn anything, and the Poker Forge takes you through seven different courses dedicated to building critical skills, one atop the other, in an effort to turn you into a complete and winning poker player.
In the poker world, credentials are often brought into question. What is it that you’d say best qualifies you to be a poker coach?
My track record with students as well as my own online poker results. I’ve been playing poker for over 17 years and I’m constantly working on my own game and still improving all the time. I’ve been a winning player for about the past 10 years. I’ve been coaching for six years with dozens of 1-on-1 students and taught thousands of others through my website, podcast, and YouTube channel.
My 1-on-1 students start with a 3-session package and most re-up for another 3-9 sessions. My longest-running student just completed his 29th session with me. He started off as a “fish” and a losing player. Now, he regularly shows up for our sessions with a +6-8bb/100 hands win rate over the hands he played between sessions. I have another student right now who just completed his 13th session with me and he turned in a +4bb/100 hands win rate and is progressing nicely.
As for coaching through the Poker Forge, I have great testimonials from most of my long-term members, many of whom just renewed for their 13th month. I get frequent emails from members telling me how my coaching has positively impacted their skills and they’re more profitable and comfortable with poker than ever before.
What do you enjoy more, playing yourself or teaching others about poker?
Teaching others about poker is more enjoyable. I spend more time on a daily basis teaching than I do playing. I create training videos for the Poker Forge, coach students, write articles, plan/record the next podcast episode or YouTube video, improve my website or write my next book. I’ve set myself a daily task of playing 100 hands, but I have a daily “teaching” task of putting in five hours of work and creating one piece of strategy content every day.
What is the long-term vision for the Poker Forge? Do you have any particular goals you like to achieve?
My long-term vision for the Poker Forge is to add three more courses making it 10 in total. I already know what the next three courses will be; it’s just a time-consuming process to fully plan and then execute on making all the content necessary.
My goal is to make the Poker Forge the #1 poker training membership site online. Truthfully, I don’t know how that’s ever going to be measured other than by people telling me that they’ve taken all the other online memberships with mine being the best. So, it’s probably one of those goals I’ll never know if I’ve achieved, but as long as I’m continually striving for improvement in my teaching/coaching abilities and the Poker Forge continues to grow in numbers, I’ll be satisfied.
Online is your specialized venue, obviously, but do you have any thoughts about live poker? Do you see it as a viable option for those looking to start a poker career or do you believe they should start online?
I enjoy live poker, but it’s just not for me. I have a hard time sitting still for hours on end and only fitting in 20-30 hands per hour. I have a business that I run from home as well as two children and my wife, and leaving them for 4-5 hour stretches just isn’t in the cards. Online poker is the easiest way for me to learn, play and teach poker.
I think that live poker can be a viable option for the start of a career, but online gives you so many more options. Here’s what I love about online poker that differs from live poker:
- You can come and go at any time of day; super quick and easy.
- You can site/table/seat select to find the fishiest tables at any given time.
- Cash games, tournaments, and SNGs are more plentiful. Plus, different game types like Stud, PLO, mixed games, etc. are easier to find.
- You can play with as little as $2 for a full 100bb buy-in (instead of $200 at a $1/$2 game).
- You can play more hands in a shorter amount of time, giving you the ability to experiment with different hands and strategies much more frequently.
- Speaking of experimenting, you can test out different exploits at cheap prices to nail down the strategies. Then you can take them to the live felt and use them against the same types of players.
- Poker tracking software records all your hands played, giving you more study and reviewing options.
- You can look at hard numbers (statistics) that tell you what your tendencies are in hundreds of situations. No guessing that you c-bet 70% and barrel the turn 30%. This allows you to find your mistakes, study good strategy, and then implement what you learn.
- As you implement new strategies, you can see how they directly impact your win rates and bottom line.
- Using a heads-up display (HUD) gives you useful information on your opponent’s tendencies, allowing you to exploit them more easily.
I believe that everybody should play online regardless of their poker career goal.
Would you say that the instruction you offer via the Poker Forge can also assist live poker players with their development?
Live players will learn a lot from the Poker Forge that they’ll find useful and profitable. The strategies I teach are all exploit-based. So, if I tell you to float the turn against turn honest c-bettors at 40% or less, that just means that when you find somebody who c-bets the flop a lot but only double-barrels with strong hands, you should bet when they check the turn.
Online poker makes it easier to spot tendencies and use exploits like this, but every online exploit also exists in the live realm. As a live player, you just need to figure out what you’re looking for in your opponent’s actions that clue you in to their weaknesses, then pull the trigger on a profitable exploit.