Advanced Poker Strategy: Poker Drills

Advanced Poker Strategy: 5 Essential Poker Drills

Practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.

Advancing your poker strategy effectively and efficiently requires intelligent curriculum design. To gain an edge in today’s game, you must not only play better. You must study better.

One vastly underused technique is running poker drills.

Why is this “Advanced” Poker Strategy?

Two reasons:

1) Because drills are hard.

You can keep doing it the easy way: reading books and watching videos on the popular training sites, but then your game will be as good as everybody else.

2) Because many of the drills I’m talking about involve repetition of advanced poker tactics.

We learn by repetition. The problem with learning advanced concepts at the table is that the situations may not happen that often. Whereas if you construct drills specific to your topic then you can repeat situations with very high frequencies.

#1 – Memorize your Ranges

The very first thing any aspiring poker pro must do is memorize his starting hands. Begin with your opening range chart, and then move on to cold calls, 3-bets, 4-bets, etc. Check out my complete preflop strategy guide.

There are many reasons why this is essential:

  • Pre-flop, you can act instantly without having to think about it. This buys you time to spend on other things like studying your opponents.
  • Knowing your range is a prerequisite to more advanced poker strategy topics like analyzing who hits the flop harder.
  • Memorizing things is a proven exercise to build brain power.
  • You will gain confidence. You’re more likely to both get in the zone and to avoid tilt when you’re feeling confident.

#2 Pot Odds

Being able to quickly calculate your pot odds is a fundamental skill. If you haven’t attained it, then don’t wait for situations to arise at the table to practice.

Filter for hands in your database and flip through them, calculating your odds as you go. Use paper/pencil or a calculator at first if necessary. Do it over and over. You will get faster over time (even if math isn’t your forte).

You don’t have to get it perfect when doing it in your head. Just close enough.

#3 Equity Estimation

Equity means: how likely is your hand to win?

Start with pre-flop situations, such as deciding whether to call a short stack jam. Or you’ve 4-bet and are trying to decide whether to call the 5-bet.

Or it could be post-flop again considering an all-in call or perhaps you’re considering a semi-bluff jam and wondering whether you have enough equity to make it profitable.

As your strategy gets more advanced, move on to post-flop estimation. This could be again deciding whether to call an all-in, or you are simply trying to assess how strong your hand is given a flop and opponent range.

The Poker Ranger tool contains an excellent equity trainer. You list your opponent’s range, your range, and the board (or set it to random). Then it will show you a hand from your range and you guess the equity. It will show you how far off you are. You keep trying hands, and it keeps track of your overall score. You can then repeat this drill over time and should see your score improve.

#4 Opponent Ranges

Even beating the small stakes games these days requires a solid ability to put your opponent on a range. You can develop this skill slowly over time like everyone else, or you can hone it fast by running drills.

The best approach again is to start with the simplest scenarios and then get more advanced with your study strategy.

For example, you could assume “average reg” for your opponent. And filter your database for spots where you open and get called. Run through the list of hands (you don’t even need to open the replayer) and recite out loud what your opponent’s range is for each position.

This may mean you have to go back to your range tool (Equilab, Poker Ranger, etc.) and work on the ranges the first time.

Once you can do this fluidly, you move to the next scenario: your opponent is the opener …then when he is 3-betting, and so on.

Then you should mix all these spots together and run the drill.

Then you swap in “average fish” for reg and repeat the whole process.

And then you start refining your opponent using more granular profiles and statistics.

If you are able to develop this skill to a high level, your post flop play gets much easier and sharper. And you will advance through the stakes more quickly.

#5 EV estimation

As you become more proficient at visualizing both your range and your opponent’s range, you’re ready to move on to estimating expected value (EV) on the flop.

To determine your best course of action (lines and sizings), you need to know who the flop hit harder.

This is more than just equity. Equity only tells you which hand is likely to win if there is no more action (e.g. all the chips are in or it is checked down). However, factors like position, polarization, and playability significantly effect the profitability of the ranges relative to each other.

We’re definitely getting into advanced poker strategy at this point. And drilling these situations requires a GTO solver.

Using the simpler to more advanced approach, I would start with two typical reg ranges and choose a dry flop texture. Make your best guess at who has the advantage. You can say things like: big advantage, small advantage, or even. Hint: estimate who has more nuts, strong hands, top pairs and good draws as a percentage of their entire range.

Then run the scenario in the GTO solver and see how close you are.

Make a list of other dry flops and make your guesses. Then queue them all up in your solver to get the answers.

Next try wet boards.

Next try medium boards.

Then try a new set of ranges.

And so on.

This approach is similar to the scientific method, where you are fixing all variable except one.

It also employs the principles of deliberate practice, where your study activities are very precise and slowly build on each other to continually provide a high degree of challenge.

If you have any questions or have some ideas for other drills, please use the comments section below.


  • Charley Gates
    December 18, 2016 at 9:04 pm

    Do you think that memorizing opening ranges is worth the time and effort? Really you should be adapting these to each game and your range should be different if there is a limper in front, and it should be different it that limper is a fish or a TAG, etc. So you’ll end up having to memorize 50+ ranges. I think that the point is to understand your oponent, your position, the type of game you are in, etc. It seems that the energy spent on brute force memorization would be better spent on building hand reading skills, etc

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