So it’s getting well into the evening on a Thursday and my normal plans of watching Survivor, then a smattering of NBC comedies, followed by LOST at a friend’s house – totally crippled. Survivor ended last week, NBC comedies are taking a week off so they can finale during sweeps week, and ABC is, for some completely unfathomable reason to me, taking a week off before showing the LOST finale.
My last ditch effort is to see if my LOST buddies want to do something else. The response I got was both depressing and enlightening – “Uh yea, the girls kiiinda want us to watch Grey’s with them.” So there it was: although I now knew I would be missing picking up on “cryptic clues” on The Island this evening, I also now knew that I officially had nothing to do.
Then I remembered… I had a VIP entry pass to what I can only assume would be the second most fun thing I could do that night (first would have been bothering my friends’ girlfriends by talking through the entire finale of Grey’s).
So I jumped into what I imagined was appropriate attire for this extremely exclusive kick-off event (in my case – Adidas track pants and my ‘EUGENETODDBRO’ t-shirt), logged onto my email, and retrieved my ultra-baller VIP Pass to Tobey McGuire’s new club called “VENOM” (in the previous sentence: Substitute “early trial media password” for “ultra-baller VIP Pass”; switch “Tobey McGuire” out for “Daniel Negreanu”; and “new club called ‘VENOM’” swaps out for “new virtual interactive instructional poker site called ‘PokerVT.com’”)
Aesthetically, the site is very impressive. The menus are flashy and interactive, and, despite all the flash and animation, everything loads very fast. Daniel’s delivery and explanation comes off much more natural than if he’s reading it, but much more concise than if he was just riffing – a perfect delivery for something like an instructional video.
The only thing I could do without are the little mechanical clinking sounds whenever you mouse-over something. However, that small annoyance is not enough to impact my overall feeling about my first impressions of the site.
POSITIVE EV – Aesthetically great design, feels very interactive
NEGATIVE EV – the mouse-over sound gets annoying, a volume adjustment knob within the site would be helpful (the site can be very loud in headphones)
EQUITY – AdAc vs. Ah10d (91-9)**Oh, should have told you this, the grades will be in the form of “poker hand heads-up win percentages”: 100-0 being the best (like, a guy moves in, you call, then
he eats his cards or something), 85-15 being “this isn’t even enough of a sweat for me to stand up”, and 50-50 being “at least I’m the one that moved in!”
I would describe my first impressions of the content section as – A LOT. The site just launched and they already have multiple sections including: “Negreanu’s Custom Course on Hold’em”; “Negreanu’s Hand Analysis”; “Know the Math, Play Winning Poker”; and “Online Poker Instruction From Winning Online Pros.” Within each of these sections you then have multiple courses to choose from.
For example, in “Negreanu’s Custom Course on Hold’em,” there are five individual courses with an average of about five video lessons in each course. The “Beginner’s Strategy” section alone has a whopping TWENTY-SEVEN individual lessons. The amount of content on this site is staggering, considering it launched only days ago, so I’m going to review each section individually. I guess we’ll start with the basics.
NEGREANU’S CUSTOM COURSE ON HOLD’EM
This section has five lessons – Daniel’s Tips, Q&A with Daniel Negreanu (where he will add new lessons frequently based on player questions), Beginner’s Strategy, Small Ball (which is Daniel’s second favorite thing to talk about, right behind…), Rules & Etiquette. Although the Rules and Etiquette section piqued my interest first, for the sake of the review I thought it best to start at the beginning.
Like I mentioned before, this section has about 450,000 videos. If a beginner were to watch all of these and really comprehend everything Daniel is saying, they could easily beat Phil Gordon in a week or so.
Even though it is called the “Beginner’s Strategy” section, Daniel get’s into what I would consider some third and fourth level thinking areas. Now that I’ve been playing a few years, I look back at the instructional materials I had to learn with and can’t believe that some of these authors (COUGHTJCLOUTIERCOUGH) really gave out such garbage information.
I wished they’d pushed me to understand things before it was really time for me to know them. For instance, I remember one of my friends who was WAY ahead of me teaching me about the river defensive bet. To me, this is what I heard – “So when you’re in a situation where BLEEEE BLAAAH BLOOOO, and you don’t want to call a ZIPPITY PIPPIDY, then you TAKE GRAMMA TO THE CARNIVAL AND WIN HER A GOLDFISH – it’s a good way to avoid facing a tough decision on the river.”
Three months later, I was in that type of situation, and I finally understood what he was saying. Knowing ABOUT advanced concepts before you can recognize situations in which they apply helps you get to that point faster.
So, I’m glad Daniel didn’t just go over, “these ten hands you can raise from early position, and as I said – 3-4 times the big blind.” In fact, the titles of his lessons speak for themselves. I mean, “Facing a Raise”? Why would I need to think about that? All I’m doing is raising the blinds, right?? Let alone, “Facing a Re-Raise”; how often does that even happen? Everyone I know just limps and calls. … yes, and that’s why you’re all losing.
A section I found particularly interesting was the lesson called “The 25% Rule.” The rule is basically that if a standard raise would be 25% or more of your stack, then you should consider it a shove-or-fold situation.
This rule has been similarly discussed as “if your stack is less than X times the big blind,” but if your student understands WHY it’s a shove-or-fold situation, they’re more likely to remember it AND to use it in practice. Daniel goes on to explain a number of bad situations that could happen if you make a standard raise, and finally sums it up with the overall theory behind the strategy.
Daniel then moves on to flop play with lessons called: “Playing the Flop”; “Flopping Top Pair or an Over Pair to the Board”; “Flopping Two Pair or a Set”; “Flopping a Straight or a Flush”; “Flopping a Full House or Better”; “Missing with A-K”; “Pair with Over Cards on the Board”; “Playing Against Multiple Opponents”; and “Playing Drawing Hands.”
In every one of the lessions, Daniel describes the basic theory of the strategy, tells you the benefits and trappings of different moves, gives you a checklist of questions you should be asking yourself, and shows an example or two of the situation to help you visualize making correct decisions.
I personally love his take on playing flopped very strong hands (two pair, sets, flushes, straights). His basic mantra is to lead out with a pot-sized bet. I really liked how Daniel is getting back to the basics – you want money going into the pot when you have the best hand.
Daniel goes on to cover a lot more basic strategy in the TWENTY-FIVE other videos in this course, and he does so in a way where he’s not talking down to the beginners, but earnestly trying to express the thought process behind why we do what we do.
He even covers some situations where I see beginners making the biggest mistakes, although I never see them covered in other beginners’ instructional sources – i.e. “Value Betting,” “Facing a River Bet,” “Adjusting to Shorthanded Play,” and “Limping and Calling Raises.”
As far as content goes, I would recommend Daniel’s section on beginner strategy over pretty much any book I’ve ever read on the same subject. The use of visual aids and animations make the learning a much more visceral process, which seems a much more efficient way of teaching.
In this section, Daniel offers up his “tips” – not so much basic strategy guidelines, but more specific lessons that will help players in every aspect of their game. The first two lessons are one’s we have all heard before in some form or another: “Be Careful What You Learn On TV” goes over why television poker isn’t representative of real poker (edited down, big blinds, etc.), and “The Three Levels of Poker Thinking” is a basic introduction to meta-game mind wizardry.
I’ve always been a sucker for “Top X” lists, so the next three lessons were right up my alley. In the first section on “Top 5 Reasons You’re a Losing Player,” Daniel starts out with a quote – “Poker is a lot like sex. Everybody thinks they are great at it … but most people don’t really know what they’re doing.”
He uses this to illustrate that, as a poker player, you need to check your ego at the door and realize that if you’ve been a consistent losing player for a while, you need to admit that you may not be the poker sex machine you think, and you need to go back and work on some things.
The next list is of the “Top Ten Rookie Mistakes.” Although most of us know all these things, just hearing them laid out reminds us that we DO have leaks, and we’re NEVER as good as we think we are. The “Top Ten Trouble Hands” list goes over hands that will either win you small pots, or lose you big ones.
Rules & Etiquette
If you’ve watched a good amount of TV poker over the last few years, you’ve probably heard Daniel say (in response to someone exhibiting poor etiquette), “You know, someday, somebody’s gonna write a book. And it’s going to be called ‘Poker Etiquette’, and when they do, I’m going to buy you a copy.” Well, I guess Daniel may be giving us a little peek at some of the things that will be in his book.
As the site has just launched, this section only has a few basic rules and one section on basic table etiquette, but I’m sure as they add more and more content to every section of the site, Daniel is going to be more than happy to tell us why we’re being assholes when we: ask to see a losing hand, ask to see the winning hand when the hand didn’t go to showdown, talk about our hand while in a hand, talk about what we folded when there’s still action to go, talk about the hand in progress while the players are still in the hand (especially in big pots), etc.
I’m actually really glad that people are going to learn why those things are such poor behavior at the table, because I feel that most of them don’t know why what they’re doing is wrong, and if they did, then there would be much less of it at the table.
“Small Ball” – it’s trendy, it’s fun, and anyone who doesn’t use it is an archaic, one-trick, two-card-poker shove-machine. “Small Ball” is so much more intricate and artful and crafty … oh, and you get to play A LOT more hands. This section is sparse at the moment, which I think is actually good for any beginners signing up for PokerVT.
To try to jump into the ninja-style of “Small Ball” before having a DEEP understanding of beginning concepts would be like someone trying to learn to play a Sonata without knowing why the different “buttons” on the piano make “dif’rnt sounds.” I’m sure this section will be extensive as the site grows and Daniel adds more lessons, and I expect it to be the most helpful set of lessons for intermediate-to-good players. Plus, like, “Small Ball” is like the coolest right now; it’s like SO in.
Q&A with Daniel Negreanu
In this section, Daniel answers questions from fans and members of his fullcontactpoker.com online community. This section is a lot less formal and has a good feel. Daniel seems to open up when he is talking about his own life, and that comes through in his answers.
Negreanu’s Custom Course on Hold’em
POSITIVE EV – TONS of great content for beginners, Daniel’s lectures are succinct and interesting
NEGATIVE EV – This won’t be a problem for long, since I know they are putting new content on the site constantly, but some of the sections for intermediate-to-good players, as well as the Etiquette section, were a little sparse.
EQUITY – Right Now: JsJd vs. 10h10c (81-18) – However, a player folding exposes a 10 (representing the site adding content/giving us more information, and at that point we’ll be looking at more like 85-15).
NEGREANU’S HAND ANALYSIS
In this section, Daniel takes a three-pronged approach to hand analysis.
Real-Time Thought Process In the “Real-Time Thought Process” section, you’ll watch a collection of players (including Paul Wasicka, Kirk Morrison, and Daniel) playing in a real poker game. All of the players are wearing headsets with small microphones attached, and, as hands develop, each player tells his thought process by softly speaking into the mic.
Then they’ll cut to Daniel giving an even more in-depth explanation into the player’s thought process.In some of the more interesting hands from the “No-Limit Cash Game – Full Table” section, we hear Paul Wasicka’s reasoning for playing some mediocre hands against weaker players when deep-stacked, as well as seeing a good read followed up by a perfectly executed flop-float and successful bluff on the turn. I really enjoyed this section (and watching more of the videos than I probably had to to write the review was a big contributor to me missing my deadline).
There are also sections on “Heads-Up No-Limit Cash Games” and “Shorthanded No-Limit Cash Games” with the same live thought process and intercut commentary from Daniel. One great tip from Daniel came in the shorthanded section while referring
to calling a raise from the button in a multi-way pot after not looking at his cards – “When you’re playing for real money, you should probably look at your cards. It makes the game so much easier. Trust me.”
My favorite section by far.
In this section, Daniel commentates on a previously played game in which he played. There is no live-headset commentary from the players, but Daniel commentates on the hands as they play out, and gives insight into why each player is making the decisions they are, and also points out when he feels the other players are making big mistakes.
As of right now, there are fifty-two individual hand analysis videos spread over the “Full Table,” “Short Handed,” and “Heads-Up” sections. They were able to capture some really interesting hands, including: “Daniel Discusses when K-K Becomes a Bluffing Hand,” which isn’t a concept I’ve ever heard discussed in all the poker media I’ve read/watched/written/videotaped over the last five years.
This section is pretty straight-forward. Daniel takes famous and well-known hands from big tournaments and breaks them down. Some of the hands involve Daniel, but the most interesting analysis comes from his breakdown of other player’s hands, in particular Joe Hachem’s “Worst Laydown in the History of Poker.”
Negreanu’s Hand Analysis
POSITIVE EV – The interface was flawless, you got to see which player was talking and where they were at the table and all the bet and pot amounts, probably worth the membership fee just for this section.
NEGATIVE EV – The graphic representation on the “Classic Hands” is good enough to follow the action, but combining it with actual footage of the big TV hands would be even better. Also, the lineup for the “Real Time Thought Process” and “Private Games” were always the same players – they should mix it up so we can hear from a number of different pros.
EQUITY – Total domination: AsAd vs. AhKs (93-6) – And the A-K called, 3rd hand of the tournament, after A-A put in a FIFTH raise.
This concludes Part 1 of our PokerVT.com review. Up next, we’ll check out “Know the Math, Play Winning Poker” featuring Professor Charley Swayne, a Probability and Statistics who specializes in poker. There is already about fifty lessons up in his teaching section, and he answers players questions in the Q&A section.
Then there’s the “Online Instruction from Winning Online Pros,” where names like Paul Wasicka, Annette Obrestad, and JC Alvarado provide great insight into winning online. Finally, there’s content from Adam Junglen and Justin “BoostedJ” Smith, who you probably haven’t heard of yet, but you should.
Plus there’s the “My Poker VT” feature that tracks what lessons you have watched and your scores on The Negreanu-Swayne Poker Aptitude Test. The “N-SPAT” test is designed for you to track your improvement in understanding the concepts taught in the videos as you are able to watch more and more content and take it into practice.
Wait, there’s more! A Games Section which consists of two games: “D’s Nuts” and “Poker Jargon.” “Poker Jargon” is just what it sounds like – you get quizzed on poker jargon. “D’s Nuts,” thankfully, is NOT what it sounds like. This game tests your ability to identify the nut hand, 2nd nut hand, and 3rd nut hand as fast as possible.
As I was browsing the site, I constantly had slogans for PokerVT popping into my head, which was both distracting for my work and troublesome for my case that I’m not crazy. Two of them I’ve decided to pitch to Daniel. Email [email protected] and give me your opinion. Tell me which you like better, tell me that they both suck and I suck, OR suggest your own. My two so far are – “Nothin’ good on TV? Lotsa good on VT!” And something along the lines of “I Wanna Be on VT.”
Hey, at least I’m not the guy who came up with “The very best in ‘Pokertainment,’ from the people who invented it.”