Monday, August 15, 2016

What is the Fastest Way to Become a Winning Poker Player?

Fastest way to become a winning poker player
People ask me all the time what is the fastest way to become a winning poker player. Well, unfortunately success rarely comes fast or easy in this game.

You could get lucky of course and win a big tournament. But even for a good experienced poker player this would take a lot of short term luck.

But there are several steps that you can take to quickly improve your game and get yourself winning at the lower limits at least. In this article I am going to discuss several of them.

Review Your Play

Some people look at me with a strange face when I tell them that you must review your play in order to get better. How you might ask?

Well, much like a professional athlete reviews the game tape, you need to look over your hand histories. Every time you play a hand of poker online the poker site generates a raw text file called a hand history. You have the option to save these to your hard drive.

You can then use a program like Pokertracker or Hold'em Manager which will turn these files into useful information about yourself and your opponents. They will also allow you to review your hands after you have played them.

The only way that you are going to get better at poker is by learning from your mistakes. When you only ever play the game (and don't review your hands) you aren't giving yourself a real opportunity to analyze why you are taking certain actions.

These programs also allow you to filter for specific scenarios and find the long term profitability of certain plays (e.g. 3Betting with AQ versus just flatting). This takes the guesswork out by giving you the cold hard facts on which plays are more profitable.

So for all of these reasons, at some point early on in your poker career, I recommend at least getting yourself aquainted with one of these poker tracking programs and using them to review your play.

Play Poker Like a Beast

When I first started the main way that I taught myself how to become a winning poker player was through ridiculous amounts of simply playing the game. I am talking 10 or 12 hours every single day.

I didn't have much of a choice back then because training programs and many of the other educational tools that I will mention later on in this article simply did not exist.

Now of course not everybody has this much time to devote to the game. However, even if you work a full time job or go to school full time, you probably have at least a couple free hours each night.

Many people end up wasting this time by watching TV or browsing Facebook. If you want to create a successful side business or income such as by playing poker though, then you are going to need to sacrifice these things.

Consistency is another big key. It is important to try and play every single day if possible. This keeps the game fresh in your mind and allows you to easily recall the key situations that you have been working on lately.

I would recommend doing a session review in Pokertracker either directly before you start playing or directly after as well. Just quickly review about 5 or 10 of the most important hands. This will help keep you up to date on what you need to work on and what is working well.

Find Those Fish!

Forget Pokemon, winning poker players are out finding the fish!

It is really important in today's games that you make sure that you are finding good games to play in. And by that I mean games that are full of recreational players or fish.

I see so many people these days struggling at the lower limits and often it is because they are playing in tough games where they don't have much of an edge.

What I mean by this is that as a relative beginner their skill level is not significantly better than most of their opponents. You win big in the long run in this game when you have a big skill edge over your opponents.

But the great thing with poker is that it is all relative. When I first started playing online 10+ years ago recreational players were not hard to find. They were on pretty much every table.

This helped allow me to win big very frequently even though truthfully, I was pretty bad at the game back then myself. The reason why? A lot of my opponents were really, really bad.

If you put yourself in similar game conditions today then you will get the same results. You don't need to be the greatest poker player on earth in order to crush the micros.

Sometimes You Gotta Work to Find Them

The fish aren't always on every table table though, unless you play live. Online, it definitely takes some effort to find them these days. This is why I recommend playing on the right poker sites for starters.

Some poker rooms are more geared towards the recreational poker player and gamblers in general especially by offering lots of up front bonuses. These are the sites that you want to be playing on.

The sites that you want to avoid are the ones that make it easy to mass multi-table and give big rewards for volume of play. These sites tend to attract more of the tight regulars.

You also need to make sure that you are practing good table selection no matter what poker site you are playing at. Always make sure that there is at least one player at the table who is playing too many hands (40%+) and limping and calling a lot.

Winning Poker Players Study the Game

Lastly, and arguably most importantly today, is to study the game. Sometimes I get a blank face when I say this too.

What do I mean by study the game?

Well, there is an absolute ton of poker educational resources out there these days such as books, video training sites, forums, coaching and more.

None of this stuff was around when I first started playing online poker. I believe if it had of been, then I would have improved my poker game much, much faster.

The reason why is because many of these educational resources allow you to lower the learning curve by getting direct instruction from somebody who has already had big time success in the games that you play in.

I would recommend using a mixture of all of the resources listed below if you are just starting out.

1. Books

10 years ago I would have said that poker books were mostly a waste of time. Most of the titles back then were written by aging live pros who had little to no experience with the modern game online.

That has all changed in recent years though with tons of new titles on the market from experienced online pros.

Most poker books of course are not free but they are rarely expensive either. And for the amount of information that you get, they are actually an absolute steal.

For total beginners or anyone struggling at the lowest stakes I would recommend starting out with my first book, Crushing the Microstakes. CTM provides you with the complete strategy for how to start winning big at the lowest limits.

As mentioned though, there have been tons of other good titles released in recent years by online poker players like myself who have the experience and results in these games.

I would recommend simply heading over to and searching for "poker books" for a good idea of what other material is out there.

2. Video Training Sites

I highly recommend getting a subscription at a video training site as well. There is nothing better than seeing a winning player make decisions in a video format and discuss the reasoning behind them.

There are tons of good training sites out there but I would recommend two for people who are just starting out or struggling at the micros. probably has the best selection of up to date training video content available of any site that I have seen especially for the lower limits. Their membership prices are also very low and they have a free trial of course.

The other site that I would recommend is which is mostly free these days. I am actually an (inactive) coach there myself and have made close to 100 videos for this site in the past.

DragTheBar is still a good training site overall but it can't really compete with some of the bigger sites like Deucescracked these days in terms of up to date quality instruction.

It should also be mentioned that there is a good deal of free video content that you can find on places like Youtube or Twitch these days. Here is my Youtube Channel by the way.

The problem with Youtube and Twitch sometimes though is that you don't always know who you are getting advice from. Because after all, anyone can toss up a video or a stream on either of these platforms.

However, I would still recommend checking them out in addition to a training site subscription.

3. Forums

With poker forums there are tons of them and they are almost always free. is the biggest one of them all and many of the top players in the world post there.

However, it is also notoriously known to be full of know-it-all kids who won't hesitate to rip into you with nasty comments if you ask what they deem to be a "stupid question."

This is why I would actually recommend another larger poker forum over it. Cardschat is a much more welcoming environment for beginners especially.

Even though the level of poker advice might not always be quite as good as TwoPlusTwo, the nastiness is far less common and the sense of community is much better.

You might not know it but I also have a poker forum myself on this very website that you are reading right now!

It is of course nowhere near as active as the other ones mentioned above but there are plenty of regular contributors and I pop in there all the time myself to comment on hands and questions as well.

It is always free and no nasty comments I promise. I will just ban them! :)

4. Coaching

Lastly, coaching is probably the best overall option that there is in order to get good at poker really fast. There is nothing that can compare to the one on one personal interaction with a good winning poker player.

They can dissect your game specifically and make custom recommendations. They can also watch you play and comment in real time on the actions that you are taking. The best coaches in fact will press you on why you are making certain plays and suggest a better line when necessary.

The biggest impediment with coaching though of course is the price tag. There are many different reasons why coaching is not cheap and some of the best online coaches charge hundreds or even thousands per hour.

However, in order to find a good coach at the lower stakes you don't need to shell out this kind of money. There are many coaches these days who work with students at the micros for much less than this.

I have already written a big article before about how to hire the right poker coach. I would recommend checking that out for more info on this.

Final Thoughts

Unfortunately there really is no super fast way to become a winning poker player. It takes time and a lot of effort. However, it certainly doesn't need to take you years or even months to start crushing the lower limits.

Firstly, I would absolutely recommend reviewing your own play by getting started with a tracking program. How can you learn from your mistakes if you don't study them?

Secondly, you must play a lot. And I truly mean a lot. All of the best players who I know have played millions and millions of hands of poker. This is not a coincidence.

Lastly, you need to make sure that you are playing in soft poker games by picking the right poker sites and table selecting well.

You should also be spending plenty of time studying the game to improve your overall skills. This should involve a mix of reading books, watching training videos, posting on forums and maybe even hiring a coach.

The bottom line is that if you put the effort into this game, then you will be rewarded with success in the end. There is no ultra quick way to get there though.

But if you follow some of the advice above, then you will be able to push your learning curve along much faster.

Let me know below some of the ways that you have used to become a winning poker player. Do you have any suggestions that were not mentioned in this article to improve your poker game?

New Here? If you want to learn how to become a winning poker player quickly, then check out my strategy articles for the micros. Also, make sure to hop on my free newsletter below for tons more free tips!

winning poker player


  1. Another good post Nathan.
    Just want to add that i started winning right after reading your first book. True to be told all aspects that you put here where present: play a lot, go for good videos/coach, always look for good games.
    All in all, poker is not like our used to be at mid/high stakes, micro stakes is still very soft and i have seen plenty of success stories.

    1. Really starting to put fish hunting into my game.Do you still play alot, do you ever think about doing twitch!

    2. Hey Michael, I get asked that a fair amount but I have no plans to start streaming on Twitch right now.

  2. Always enjoy your blog and find it very informative
    Your advice is very honest and helpful
    I would advise any player interested in playing online to read and study your book
    Look forward to your next blog Nathan

    1. Thanks Owen, appreciate the kind words!

  3. Estimado y valorado BlackRain79: No me canso de repetir lo útil que son sus aportes (tanto en libros, como en blog.) Y uan lástiam que no sean traducidos al español!.
    Ahora, con el mayor de los respetos y sin ser todavía un jugador ganador en micro límites, a esta presentación le faltó hablar de la importancia del entrenamiento psicológico - mental. Hay que tener bien "acomodada" la cabecita para poder dedicarse al poker. Buena salud le deseo, porque lo demás depende de usted!

  4. Hey Nathan lots of helpful advice in this article especially as if pertains to forums and training videos and software.
    Couldn't agree more about the Pompus attitudes on twoplustwo forums. The place is loaded with Major League Assholes.

    1. Thanks, glad you liked this article. Ya, it's really a shame with that particular forum. A lot of top players have actually stopped posting there in recent years because of this.

  5. Nathan I play mostly 1/2 NL and have a plus 10bb/100 after 33k hands.
    Would you call that solid or fair ?
    Also I seem to bounce between the plus 9 and plus 11 range.
    I just can't seem to get higher then plus 11.
    I am thinking that means I probably have some leaks in my game albiet not big ones ?

    1. Hey Carl, 10bb/100 is an excellent winrate in this game, good job!

    2. Hoping they will open a live poker room on long island in the net 2 or 3 years.
      From what I have heard playing on unregulated online sites is like play at your own risk. Nothing but No Pay, slow pay stories mixed in with frozen account stories etc etc.
      As for clubwpt having to beat 90 guys for a share of the 100 dollar pot just isn't worth the effort period.

  6. How many hours do you play a week now ? Which stakes normally too ?

    1. I average about 30 Hrs a week 1/2 NL Live. No its not job to me its a fun pass time where i grind 225 to 350 a week. Yes I have bad weeks.
      Its a real shame playing on a reputable site is a large problem for most players in the U.S.

    2. I average about 30 Hrs a week 1/2 NL Live. No its not job to me its a fun pass time where i grind 225 to 350 a week. Yes I have bad weeks.
      Its a real shame playing on a reputable site is a large problem for most players in the U.S.

    3. I though I answered this did not see it posted ?
      about 30 hours a week 1/2 nl live. No its not a job but its some nice gas money and stuff like that.

    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    5. Hey Nathan Williams,
      Good sound advice. If I may add that watching the pros play on twitch helped elevate my game.

  7. Question for Nathan
    Is sample size bb/100 dependent ?
    In other words if your bb is above plus 10 can the sample size be smaller an still be accurate ?
    As an example would plus 10 bb/100 @ 35,000 hands be sort of the same thing as plus 8bb/100 @ 50,000 hands ?
    Also would a plus 10 bb/100 put a person some where in the top 10 to 15% of players at that level ?
    P.s. don''t know how true it is but I do recall a fairly good player telling me IF you have those kind of numbers over those sample sizes you are NOT going to deviate more then + or - 2 from there even if you play another 100k hands.
    Agree ?

    1. Yes, bb/100 is totally dependent upon the sample size. 100k minimum hands imo to be fairly certain but 30k is more practical and at least gives a decent general idea of where you are at. Top winrates will vary among games and stakes and depend upon a whole host of other factors as well.

    2. Back to your comment about the attitudes on 2 plus 2 forums.
      Yup... got banned there for "stupid" questions and questioning the credentials of some of those giving advice.
      After 37,500 hands I am now Plus 11 bb/100
      With a number Like that Ide say I am probably a better player then 85% of the guys who banned me.

  8. Cash game : effective stack is me R2000 in chips, blinds R10/R20 NL holdem live cash game, loose table with whale + some tight regs.

    me:AKo in UTG+2

    me:limp for 20 (looking to re-raise whale)
    5 limpers to small blind tight aggressive reg makes it R120
    I reraise to R300 only small blind calls

    pot R660

    flop comes AcJsTh
    small blind checks I bet R350
    small blind calls. pot :R1260
    Turn is Qc completing my nut straight. small blind checks

    What do I do? and why
    I will tell you what I did and what the result was later, I don't want to influence suggestions.

    appreciate any feedback

    Above is a question from two plus two forum.
    I just love some of the Advice most of it is pretty LAME !!!

    1. Yea Maybe you should raise pre flop BUT if you are predictable via playing the same cards the same way all the time you are going to be mighty easy to read.

    2 The OP who was posting the question was in early position UTG making a limp was marginally acceptable. (HE EVEN mentions this is a loose table with a whale) SO Now his limp is even more acceptable.

    3. ON the flop having Top pair with a straight draw the Ops bet of 1/2 the pot is Perfect.

    4 on the TURN the OP completes his high end straight and is vunerable only to a repeat card on the river that gives villian a possiable full house OR a suited card that gives villian a possiable flush.

    5 WITH the pot at 1260 THE correct play is to bet 1/2 the pot giving villian incorrect odds to call to either of his draws that beat you.

    In the mean time guys are telling him not to bet the turn because a lot of people will call you there LOL.

    Go read that thread its a JOKE !!!
    These are the guys who gave me (a plus 11 bb/100 player) a life time ban.

    In Fact I hope they see this i use to post under gary there.
    I am Like Really ? Really ?
    Nice Advice you CLOWNS you are welcome to come sit at my table any day any time

  9. EXCUSE ME I MEANT 75% to 100% OF POT BET ON THE TURN GIVES HIM Incorrect odds to call.....with 17 outs he is still a 2 to 1 underdog on the river

  10. Oh Bye the way did anyone mention that when everyone folded and the small blind called, AFTER The flop the normally bad position of UTG NOW Has position vs the small blind.

  11. Urr Meant he hits straight on the turn. He has to bet to present incorrect odds to draws that can beat him its THAT simple