Elite Cash Game Mastery - Upswing Poker Review
Today I'm going to be reviewing the "Elite Cash Game Mastery" course produced by Andres "educa-p0ker" Artinano for Upswing Poker. Let me preface this by saying that any course that comes with a price tag of $1000 must carry some serious value in order for it to be worth the cost. Given that the target audience of this course is small-stakes No Limit Hold'em players, its price tag could be as high as 5 to 10 buy-ins for some players on the lower end of that spectrum. That being said, I have been playing professional poker for 6+ years, and I have never been as excited for a training course as I was for this one. It is rare to see a truly elite player produce legitimate content, and my initial thought was that the lofty price tag would be more than worth it if the videos produced had the depth I expected. In today's poker climate, top players tend not to publicly divulge their strategies, so for someone as successful as educa-p0ker to create a course of this magnitude, it has the potential to be the best training material of its kind ever made. For the sake of this review, I will be organizing it by sections in the same way that the course itself is organized. At the end of the review, I will provide my final thoughts and overall impression of the course and its value.
Before watching the pre-flop section of this course, it was the section that I was the least enthusiastic about. I, of course, expected Andres to have a very sound preflop strategy in place, but I also realize that with the availability of tools like PokerSnowie and PIO Solver, that this section was unlikely to provide a tremendous amount of insight to anyone already playing mid to high stakes. There were some interesting tips to take away, however, and I found the breakdown of his approach to be helpful from a procedural point of view. These are things that high-level players would already be conscious of, but for many of the people purchasing this course, the hands-on demonstration of how a player of this caliber approaches his preparation for pre-flop situations will have plenty of value.
The most useful part of this section is not simply the ranges he gives the viewer, but more so the thought-process Andres goes through to prepare himself for any given preflop scenario. One comment he made in particular resonated with me: he explained that the main issue for players in these spots is that they don't prepare ALL of their base ranges pre-flop, and when put into new situations, tend to over-adjust or simply make mistakes because of the fragility of their ranges. Proper preparation pre-flop might seem mundane, but having all of your base ranges in place and adjusting from there will make decisions easier, while also eliminating some of the human error that exists when just ad-libbing.
Again, this portion of the course promised to hold the least overall value, but I was pleasantly surprised with what I took out of it. The uploaded charts included are a nice bonus, but observing the meticulousness in preparation of one of the top players in the world was the largest benefit, and is certainly something I plan to emulate in my own game moving forward.
The post-flop section promised to be the most relevant section of the series, and with 35 different videos, Andres covers almost every post flop spot you could think of in no-limit holdem. Using tools such as PIO Solver and PokerSnowie, Andres continues his structured approach in breaking down ranges and drawing conclusions based on what he learns from these software tools, as well as population tendencies. I enjoyed the way the videos are structured, as well as the linear progression from start to finish. This made watching them in bulk fairly easy, which is important when dealing with 30+ hours of content.
One warning for casual players: there is a heavy amount of software used throughout the post-flop section. In today's poker climate, it is imperative for players to understand and work on a theoretical approach to poker, and using software like PokerSnowie and Pio Solver is probably the best way to do so. Andres effectively demonstrates the utility of these types of software, while explaining their functions in a way that allows players who are unfamiliar with them to understand.
As he goes through the motions with software, he doesn't forget to outline their limitations and explain how a reliance on software can, in some cases, hinder progression. The human element that exists in poker is reinforced throughout these videos, and explaining the flaws in the software he uses, while also demonstrating how to effectively interpret the data and implement it into your game, is where most of the value of this section comes from.
As thorough as some of the videos are, there were some areas that left the viewer wanting more. As someone who plays mid to high stakes no-limit online, I found that some of the videos lacked depth, and instead gave more of an overview of how ranges interact in a given spot. A lot of these videos were a reiteration of prior topics, which became a bit mundane as I progressed through the post-flop section. For some of the more advanced viewers, some topics discussed won't be new to them, and may focus on areas that they have already seen or addressed.
That is not to say that there isn't any value here for high stakes players, but more to temper expectations. I found his opinions on population tendencies, as well as the structure of the videos, to be very strong. Many players tend to become lost in the "GTO" (game theory optimal) concept, and forget how removed we are from a true GTO game environment. Andres addresses this and reminds the viewer of the human element that still exists in poker, and how to be aware of that and adjust accordingly.
Overall, I think this section of the course was very thorough. There is no other course available that dissects every aspect of post flop poker like this one, and it is truly one of a kind. Although some of the content lacks depth for more advanced players, the vast majority of viewers will gain a lot of valuable insight from this section. I believe that anyone playing small stakes no-limit holdem, and especially any live players who lack a structured, theory-oriented approach to their game, would benefit greatly from this course. For these players, the $1k investment would almost certainly pay dividends, as it addresses and explores some of their weakest areas.
In the Play and Explain section, the viewers are treated to some hand histories and session reviews of stakes ranging from $10/$20 all the way up to $200/$400. The railbird in me loved this part of the course, as we not only get to hear some spot-by-spot analysis by Andres Artinano, but we also get to review some of the biggest pots played online in the last few years.
Towards the end of the section, Andres breaks down his 25 largest pots ever played, most of which are from 3 handed games vs. Kanu and Trueteller. This part was refreshing for me, as a course of this kind can often be dense and difficult to get through without some excitement. This section acted as a break for the viewer, allowing their minds to relax a bit and enjoy the action provided.
That's not at all to say that the play and explain videos are devoid of strategic insight. Andres reiterates several of his key concepts from earlier sections, such as turn and river implications, the importance of setups, and how to structure bet sizings according to both players' range.
One hand, in particular, demonstrated the importance of compounding your bet sizes:
Kanu7 (BTN): $40,200 Trueteller (SB): $118,166 Educa-p0ker (BB): $97,808
Hero is dealt A♠ K♦ in the BB.
BTN folds. SB raises to $1,400. Hero raises to $4,600. SB calls.
Flop ($9,200): 7♦ 9♣ A♣ SB checks. Hero bets $11,034. SB calls.
Turn ($31,268): K♥ SB checks. Hero bets $25,010. SB calls.
River ($81,288): 3♦
SB checks. Hero bets $57,162 (all-in). SB calls.
SB Shows A♥ Q♠. Hero wins the pot ($195,611).
This was one of the most interesting pots to me, despite seeming straightforward on the surface. Blind vs. blind AK vs. AQ on an ace-high board is almost always going to result in the player with AQ losing a fair amount of chips. What wasn't straightforward to me at all, however, was the flop sizing Andres elects to go with. This is one of the concepts he repeats the most throughout this course--the idea of putting the maximum amount of pressure on opponents when you have a significant range advantage, i.e. when you have more nut combos than they do. They begin the hand with nearly 250 big blinds, and as the flop and turn play out, Andres is able to leverage the pot size in a way that gets all the money in comfortably by the river. His bet sizes are compounded because of his flop over-bet and large turn bet, and he's able to extract the maximum amount value in a situation where many players may not have because of inferior bet sizing.
He also explains how he would construct his bluffing range throughout this hand, which includes hands that turn gutshots, and which also have removal effects against his opponent's top-pair hands. He reminds us of the importance of our bet sizes when deep and in position, and how valuable it is to players' win rate.
All things considered, this section of the course is highly entertaining, yet is ingrained with strategic elements that continue to strengthen the structure of Andres' strategy and approach as an instructor.
Crush the Baron, offered as a free add-on course for purchases prior to the 23rd of February (now available separately for $499, OR as a $199 add-on if you purchase the main course), sees Andres break down the strategy of renowned high stakes end boss "OTB_Redbaron". Don't let the silly title mislead you--these videos may actually hold the most strategic value of any section of this course.
Part of this section is simply a rundown of OTB's largest pots. These, much like the previous "play and explain" videos, are mostly for entertainment and do not contain much in terms of strategy. The videos that follow, however, are some of the strategically densest, and hold an enormous amount of value.
Andres goes on to break down several key aspects of OTB's game which he believes separates OTB from many of the other high stakes regulars, including a multitude of HUD stats, which he analyzes thoroughly. Referencing a large database of hands played by OTB, we get to see Andres' interpretation of his strategy both pre flop and post flop, as well as some of the creative lines OTB uses in order to maintain continuity with his ranges.
I found the videos focusing on the small blind strategy to be the most valuable. Here we get to see an abundance of hands in which OTB is in the small blind. Andres is extraordinarily thorough in his breakdown of OTB's strategy, and outlines his conclusions in excel/word format so that they are visible. This was helpful for me, as I tend to learn in a more visual manner, and to have "rules" in point form style allows me to internalize them.
Andres' analysis continues as he demonstrates how OTB approaches each type of flop, and what he does with each type of hand category. Through hundreds of hands, we get to see an accurate representation of OTB's strategy, what he does with various hand classes, and how he splits his ranges. For me, this section turned what would otherwise have been a good course into an excellent one, well worth the money.
While the cost of this course, at $1000, may put it out of reach of many casual poker players, I can confidently say that there is no course quite like this being offered anywhere in the world. It is so rare for a top player in poker to offer to coach or produce videos, let alone an entire series of this magnitude, and Andres delivers something well worth the investment.
The course covers nearly every aspect of No Limit Texas Holdem imaginable. Preflop strategies and explanations are completely worked out for you through a series of videos, as well as charts to reference, which are provided for the viewer. Beyond preflop, Andres covers the spectrum of possible post-flop situations and gives a good analysis of how he feels players should be approaching the game, what mistakes are most common, and how to properly address whichever leaks may exist.
The "Crush the Baron" add-on holds some of the most valuable content of the entire course. Here we get to see Andres break down a large database of one of the best 6-max NL Hold'em players in the entire world. We see an analysis of many different spots, with a focus on some of the most problematic spots for small to high stakes players alike. Andres breaks down what OTB does better than everyone else, and offers his advice on how to improve, while visually mapping out a base-line strategy to follow.
Overall, I feel like this course is well worth the $1k investment for anyone playing small stakes no limit or higher. Any live players that are looking to improve their theoretical approach and gain more structure to their strategy would benefit greatly from this, and paying a couple buyins for access would be a no-brainer for me. There is content that applies to players from all different skill levels, and I can say with certainty that this is a highly valuable, one-of-a-kind coaching package.