Poker Coverage: Poker Tournaments Casino News Sports Betting Poker Strategy

Learning No-Limit From Scratch

Roy’s Strategic Live Play Learning Tools

by Roy Cooke |  Published: Mar 16, 2016


Roy CookeThe advent of high-speed computers and the growth of poker wisdom from previous data have advanced poker knowledge dramatically in the last 15 years. The game has passed by many top players from the pre-2000 era who haven’t kept on top of the knowledge growth. There is a wealth of new poker information out there these days, some good, some bad. And it’s much easier to study wise men’s knowledge than uncover it yourself. Let me recommend the best path to growing your no-limit game from the basics to professional quality.

Firstly, it’s very important to understand the game conceptually. I am not a fan of learning strategies by rote, as too many no-limit situations fall outside of standard parameters. You’ll have to recognize those situations and make judgments based on the current information. If you don’t understand the concepts of poker and how they affect your expected value (EV), you won’t be able to calculate the correct response on the fly in non-standard situations. And if you don’t learn how to optimize your play in those situations, you’ll leave a lot of equity on the table. Playing poker at a high level is not about learning and memorizing strategies, it’s about learning an advanced way of thinking so you can decipher any situation. In short, to make accurate at the table adjustments, you’ll need to understand the game conceptually.

The basic concepts are in David Sklansky’s The Theory of Poker. It’s an old book, but it’s the basics from which many new theories were developed. As you read this book, think deeply about how these concepts apply to your game. Is your thinking along these same lines? How should you adjust your thought process to make your thought process more conceptually correct? Ed Miller’s The Course describes the levels of skill and knowledge you’ll need to develop to grow your game from the $1-$2 level up to $5-$10. I also think No Limit Hold’em by Sklansky and Ed Miller has a good basic knowledge foundation that puts you on the right path. I would study them in that order. And when I say study them, I mean do it over and over until you deeply understand them.

Once you’ve digested those, you’ll want to delve into poker’s fine points. I’ve signed up and am very much impressed with the video/forum site, It’s run by poker superstar Phil Galfond, and he’s brought in many high-level successful players with varying styles who develop videos along with Galfond. You can browse through and find the style of play and games you want to develop and follow a given player. The site covers numerous aspects of the game, from the strategic to the mental game. What many videos lack in presentation skills is made up for in the quality of information provided. You can sign up for two levels, “Essential” and “Elite.” If you’re not beating the game, start with Essential. Elite is for those with a deep understanding of the game.

You also need to have the mental strength and demeanor to play well. Many players dismiss the mental game, but if you don’t have a good one, you can’t succeed. The failure of many highly intelligent and knowledgeable poker players is attributable to the inability to mentally handle the game and its stresses well. One just needs to fathom the successes and failures of Stu Unger to relate to the importance of keeping a solid mental foundation. Both Alan Schoonmaker and Jared Tendler have good book series that deal with the mental aspect of the game. You need to read these and put their knowledge into creating the mental strength to deal with poker.

If you’re a live player, you need to learn tells. Many players dismiss them, and I think tells lose value when playing tell-poor knowledgeable opponents. However, in tell-rich environments, the value can be huge. With any opponent, if you can read his physical patterns and their relationship to his play, you’ll own him at the table. Mike Caro’s The Book of Tells was the first book to deal with the subject and has much good information. I also like Zachary Elwood’s books on tells. Combine the knowledge from books with good awareness at the table and you’ll be amazed at the value.

These recommendations are for those developing their game. I’ve excluded some books that I like that I felt were too complex. Applications of No-Limit Hold’em by Matthew Janda is the foremost. It’s full of good information, but digesting it takes a high level of poker understanding. And while I like Janda’s train of thought, it’s written mostly for online six-max. That said, with good poker knowledge and application, you can adjust the book’s concepts to the structure of the game you play. It’s a tough book to digest. Read it after you feel you truly understand the fundamental concepts of the game.

By the way, I receive nothing from any of these recommendations. All are based on merit.
This is hundreds of hours of effort. But to become a high quality player, you’ll need to know this information. Take the time to make the effort to prepare to win, and winning will come. The best poker players, similar to the best chess players, spend endless hours studying their own and their opponents’ games away from the table.

You’ll be amazed at the difference this will make in your results! ♠

Roy Cooke played poker professionally for 16 years prior to becoming a successful Las Vegas Real Estate Broker/Salesman. Should you wish any information about Real Estate matters-including purchase, sale or mortgage his office number is 702-376-1515 or Roy’s e-mail is His website is Roy’s blogs and poker tips are at You can also find him on Facebook or Twitter @RealRoyCooke