We’ll let you in on a little secret: No single strategy or tactic can make you a winning poker player. You need them all. So the secret to winning any poker game is to study more efficiently and effectively than your competition. That’s where Adam Jones comes in on this week’s podcast. He produced many of the exclusive training videos you’ll find in our brand-new CORE poker learning platform. In this episode, Jones takes us inside his process for breaking down poker’s more complex concepts into fundamentals that are easy to digest and apply in the games you play.

Featuring: Zac Shaw and Adam Jones

Zac: Adam Jones is back on the podcast today. Adam, thanks for joining us again.

Adam: Good to be here.

Zac: So, today we’re gonna to talk about your involvement in CORE, which is our new product that we’ve been talking about on the podcast and I wanted to just let you explain to the viewers and the listeners, really, how you got into developing these videos for us and kinda the process you went through in creating just some of the best poker training material I’ve seen in a long time.

Adam: The concept is pretty much straight forward, actually SplitSuit approached me with some ideas for some short training videos. If you’ve seen any of my videos for the main Red Chip site, they’re usually a bit long, they’re usually 40, 45 minutes. The idea behind the CORE videos was to … It’s basically a crash course. Explain the concept very quickly. We take 10, 15 minutes for each concept. We do it as thoroughly as possible in the timeframe available.

Zac: Excellent. And one of the things that I’m sure you encountered as we did when we were thinking about how to structure all of these topics is that, take a concept like floating, it’s a very complex topic that requires lots of skills to build off of in order to know exactly when to float and you have to also look at in context of the specific spot and all the variables in place. So, I mean, how do you distill such a complex thing down into a 10 or 15 minute video?

Adam: I think really it’s giving players a mixture of what they actually want and what they actually need because the thing that many players want is actually not what’s best for them. Many players want a system. They want an idea of what to do in every single spot, almost as if they’re a robot or a machine, they just want to follow a flow chart but that’s not really the best way to approach poker. So, as much as possible the CORE videos try and distill the relevant principles. So, rather than just teach what to do in each spot, and there’s a decent amount of that as well just for the people who are interested in developing that default game plan, but the focus is on instilling principles. So, a little bit of the difference would be, let’s say someone followed a system to play poker so it could just be a flow chart, i.e., bet top pair in a certain spot, check second pair, that kind of thing.

They’re gonna run into difficulties when they face unorthodox spots at the table. Let’s say they’re facing over-bet, for example, they look at their flow chart or their system, they realize that there’s nothing in place to help them figure out how to deal with that. The difference with a player whose understood the principles, he understands why the default strategy is the way it is and, as a result, he’s able to adapt to new circumstances. So, that’s really the focus of the CORE videos where possible, while we talk about default game plan to some extent, the idea is to develop a strong principle to understanding of the mechanics behind why we do certain things, so that way a player’s gonna be adaptable, he’s able to change to opponents who perhaps play in a different way. He’s also able to respond to different scenarios he’s perhaps not seen before at the tables.

Zac: Wow. That’s a great way of putting it. Super clear. And one of the other things that you do a lot in your videos is dispel myths and for a lot of players, they come to the game thinking that they understand how to see bet, they understand how to do certain things, when in reality you have to break through a lot of disinformation in order to give them those principles. Why do you think it is that people kind of form these ideas in their head and how do you break out of those bad habits?

Adam: Yeah, it’s something we can touch on a bit later. I swear it’s one of the questions that I think it’s to do with the amount of, let’s say, ill informed training content that’s available. There’s so many books that want to tell you one thing, there’s other coaches that want to tell you something different. Some of the ideas have stuck more strongly than others and, as result, the average player believes certain things about the game, which are either not true or are perhaps not true given certain circumstances, i.e., they’re a little bit like that flow chart where, it might work in some situations but you just change some of the variables and suddenly that well meaning advice becomes very bad very quickly.

Zac: So, once we dispel those myths and instill those principles and, I mean, you have a great way of explaining these very advanced concepts in very fundamental ways. So, we built this for players who are just starting, getting serious about studying. What’s the learning style you would recommend? I know we talked to a lot of pros and they have a very well developed learning style involving lots of different ways of studying but for someone whose just getting into it, what’s a good program for them in terms of learning these concepts and these strategies that can be so advanced?

Adam: There’s a variety of methods available. The problem is not so much the methods that’s used but the focus. So, for example, one issue that many players have is when they’re trying to work on their game, they’ll jump from topic to topic. For example, I’ll take something like a hand history review, they’ll perhaps do a hand history review after their session, they’ll review a three bet part, they’ll then jump to a single raised part, they’ll jump to a check raise scenario. They’ll be jumping from topic to topic in a very sporadic and random manner. So, the first thing is, that it’s very important to take one area of the game at a time to break it down into each of the relevant components, focus on each component for a sufficient amount of time so that any upgrade you make to your strategy stick around for a while, ’cause it’s very easy to forget something you learn in five minutes, whereas if you spend a decent period of time learning a certain concept it’s gonna be around in your game for the long run.

But even if you break things down like that, that’s not the only issue that many players face with the way they work on their game. For example, one problem is, they work on areas of their game that simply don’t add a big boost to their win rate. You’ll find it they’re spending time analyzing how to play a six bet part out of position, for example, it’s such a low frequency spot, it’s gonna make no difference to the overall win rate. So, some players refer to this as the “low hanging fruit concept”. First thing is we have figure out what aspects of our game are costing us the most in win rate because those are the ones that we want to prioritize. It honestly doesn’t matter if we don’t know how to plan a six bet pot out of position, but if our three bet strategies wrong, that’s a high frequency spot or I see betting strategies wrong, another high frequency spot. Those gonna have a big impact on our win rate.

I think the final area and one area where I’ve noticed many players are going a long way off track is the popularity of solvers. Things like PYO solver, GTO solver, those kind of things. I think many players are putting far too much emphasis on running GTO simulations and models. And it’s not that these are not relevant, they can be very, very useful and absolutely not against that kind of learning but it shifts focus away from what’s most important, which is essentially how to make the most money, which will always be through exploitative play, i.e figuring out what opponents doing wrong and figuring out how to exploit that. Figuring out by extension what the population is doing wrong and how to exploit the average unknown, whereas many players are spending long hours running various simulations, which might teach them how to play an equilibrium solution to poker but it’s not going to boost their win rate in the short term.

And that’s what poker’s really about for many of us, it’s generating the highest win rate possible. So, we have to really structure our training on achieving that specific goal.

Zac: Absolutely. Strategic awareness is key and you mentioned studying high frequency spots and that was something that we came across as we’re putting CORE together was, there are so many spots to look at, let’s look at the ones that occur more frequently and that has to do with the game and the stake that you’re playing, I imagine. So, for a player who’s looking to kind of progress to the next level, assuming they have the bank roll let’s say. How do they know that they’re well studied enough to take that shot or is that something they can really ever know? They have to have like a trial by fire to figure that out.

Adam: Yeah, I mean, ideally it would always be nice to know what our win rate is but sadly it’s just not possible. In fact, no one ever really knows what their win rate is because firstly, in order to truly know your win rate, you need a very large sample of hands. We’re talking hundreds of thousands of hands minium to determine what our win rate is with any degree of accuracy. The problem is, by the time you’ve been playing long enough to have, let’s say, three to five hundred thousand hands under your belt, your win rates probably changed in that period of time. So, it’s impossible to ever know what your win rate is. So, for everyone, there’s always going to be that element of not knowing. Sometimes players thinks it’s different for high stakes players, they’ll say things like, “Well, you play high stakes, you already know that you’re winning. Therefore, it doesn’t matter to you.”

But the truth is, no one ever knows whether they’re a winner at a given moment in time in the game that they’re playing because even if you’ve been historically a winner at a certain limit, the games are constantly changing. Maybe six months passes by, you’re no longer a winner at that specific limit. So, there’s always that element of not being 100% sure whether you’re definitely gonna turn a profit in a certain game. However, what we can do is we can obviously spend as much time as possible working on our game and considering the types of games we’re playing. So, one of the things that’s really a big tell in terms of whether you can expect to reasonably make money at a certain limit is, rather than looking at results, look at how the players play at that particular limit. Are they making errors, which seem very fundamental to you? Are they for example, just barreling it off of post flop with garbage, for example.

That’s a good sign because if you can spot mistakes at this point in your game at that limit, it probably means that you can reasonably expect to make money. Whereas if you’re just losing, you don’t really understand why, you don’t think it’s variance, that’s gonna be a pretty good sign that you’re maybe not quite ready to attack all those limits at this stage.

Zac: Oh, that’s a great way of putting it. So, you’re observing our opponents, if you can those mistakes than you know you’ve studied enough so that you are at least identifying them in others and certainly we hope in yourself. Now, it used to be maybe decades ago but poker knowledge was kept secret by the players and everyone knows the story of Doyle Brunson putting out Super System and it set the whole poker scene in a tizzy because the secrets were being revealed and now we look to today’s system and there’s just so much poker training material out there it feels like there are no secrets anymore. But I guess my question is, how does a player decide from all these, quote-unquote secrets, which ones to focus on. You talked a little bit about that already but a thing we talk a lot about on the poker podcast is, people creating a lesson plan for themselves and doing things one step at a time. So, do you advocate that? Take one thing at a time and, if so, how do you pick that one thing?

Adam: Yeah, I definitely advocate that as mentioned. You wanna break things down in a very systematic game and, in some sense, nothing has changed. It might seem as if back in the past there were lots of secrets and now those secrets have been revealed but although certain secrets, and I use the term secrets loosely, I’ll get into that shortly, although there are certain secrets that have been revealed, there’s a proportional amount of bad information to go along with those secrets. So, things are not obvious because there’s so much conflicting information out there. While the relevant information is out there somewhere, there’s so much bad advice surrounding it that it’s very, very difficult to extract the relevant information that’s gonna allow you to beat the game of poker.

Also, this idea of big secrets is a little bit of a misnomer. Sometimes we’ll hear guys who are perhaps playing high stakes, maybe they’ll even be on Twitch, they’ll be doing a podcast, something like that and there’ll be this eery moment where they suddenly stop mid sentence and say, “I was going to talk about this but I’m not sure if I want to talk about this anymore because I don’t want to give away secrets.” And it kind of gives the impression that there are certain one liners that they could give us, where we’d suddenly start crushing poker if we had that one liner, i.e., a genuine secret. We hear that, we suddenly start winning. But the truth is, poker’s not like that at all and that’s why I don’t really have secrets as such.

To give maybe an analogy of, let’s say, learning to play a musical instrument, right? Let’s say someone wanted to learn how to play the guitar. Now, there’s no one liner I could give you where overnight you’d suddenly be a welled expert playing the guitar, it doesn’t work like that. You understand that it’s a process where you take in the relevant information, you increase your ability over time through focused practice and study. And it’s the same with poker, there’s no one liners that can suddenly get you crushing everyone. Sure, there’s one or two tricks that you can learn to help accelerate your process but at the end of the day you can’t give someone a small piece of information and suddenly they’re competing at the highest level.

It’s something that takes a long time. It takes a large amount of work over a long period of time. That’s why I think when players are talking about they have these secrets, I think perhaps that it’s really an indication that they are insecure regarding how and why they’re generating an edge. They’re actually concerned that if they let something slip, suddenly their edge will disappear, whereas if they have a solid understanding of where their edge is from, how it’s generated, than they realize that it’s going to take a long time for someone to reach their level and there’s no one liners that you can give away that which suddenly ruin the game of poker for everyone.

Zac: Wow, okay. Yeah. I never thought about it that way but that makes a lot of sense. It almost seems in another way, like an angle. You kind of make yourself seem scarier at the table because you have these secrets and you’re playing to those fears that you just kind of dispelled but one of the things I think about when I think of secrets in poker is, poker strategy changing throughout the years. The idea that you’ve picked up on a trend, maybe in the population of the game you play or just the overall poker playing population where you can exploit that and maybe other people haven’t picked up on that yet. Is that happening in poker? Are there people who have that strategic edge and kind of pick up on a few moves that maybe other people haven’t yet? Is that how the ecosystem works or do I have it kinda weird?

Adam: Yeah, I think it does work that way. I think the simplest way of explaining this is, rather than break it down into specific things that we’ve seen or specific trends we’ve seen during certain years or during certain networks, for example, the basic idea is that the way players are thinking about the game is becoming more and more specific as time passes and it’s that, that allows to them to generate the edge. It’s got nothing to do with any specific type of strategy but the way they think about certain spots. To give an example, you go back far enough in time and most of the online community didn’t even use a HUD and some guy showed up and had a few stats on the HUD, they have an edge against everyone else. Perhaps they had the Fold to C-bet stat, for example.

Then some other guys came along and they had Fold to C-bet flop, Fold to C-bet turn, Fold to C-bet river, they had more detailed information. They were the ones that were ahead of game and then someone else comes along, they break it down by imposition, by out of position. Coming to more recent times people are breaking stuff down by specific board textures, they’re breaking it down by specific sizing. So, they’re saying stuff like, “My opponent folds this often against two thirds bet. He folds this often against one third. His often against over-bets.” So, players are branching out for more intelligent use of bet sizing based on this extra information they have.

So, the game is fundamentally the same, it’s just the players are using the information that’s available in more and more specific ways as time goes on and the players that use the most accurate information are the ones that are gonna be having the edge.
Zac: I mean, your clarity is just stunning. It’s in the videos that you produce for the CORE and I just love talking to you about poker because I feel like I learn so much in every single answer that you give me. So, one of the things I always ask coaches is, how did this experience of creating all this content change the way you look at poker? I know a lot of people say it’s hard to teach a concept if you don’t actually fully understand it. Did you find that to be true?

Adam: That’s something that I’ve always believed in. It’s cliché but the adage is true, which is, if you can’t explain in a simple way it means you don’t really understand it yourself. And it’s something that I recommend for everyone, even if they’re not, for example, a poker coach, if they have guys who are maybe not as good as them at the game of poker they can work with them, they can attempt to impart some of their knowledge. If they find any point that something that they thought was fundamental, they can’t explain to one of their poker buddies, it means they need to go back into the lab themselves and start working on those concepts. So, it’s a great test to see if you understand things well yourself. You also find that as you’re teaching certain things, the concepts get clarified and reinforced in your own mind as well. So, it’s definitely something that’s very valuable for everyone.

Zac: Definitely. And we certainly hope that people who are learning with the CORE start teaching their friends and their poker buddies and we just get more people into this game. And I guess that’s kind of my final question. We’re seeing all this poker training material and let’s just assume hypothetically, we’d love to see this, that CORE continues to be a big success and lots of players are studying it, in a year or two from now the level of poker knowledge at the table is much, much higher, playing poker is much more challenging. Do you see that actually happening? Or do you think there will always be enough unstudied players in the game to be profitable if you study enough?

Adam: There’s always going to be an edge, is the way I see it. Whether that edge continues to be Nolan Hold ‘Em, that’s something that remains to be seen. I imagine it probably will be because there’s just so many players that are willing to show up and just play poker for recreational reasons. ‘Cause after all, our profit is not about the limits we’re playing or the network we’re playing on, it’s about our opponents. So, as a long as we have someone that’s willing to sit down at the table who is not as advanced as us at poker, it means we can make money. But I like to think about the hypothetical scenario as well. Imagine that AI advances and some point in the future No Limit Hold ‘Em gets completely solved, everyone’s running bot software playing No Limit Hold ‘Em online, it’s completely impossible to make any money.

Does that mean poker’s dead? Absolutely not. I mean, just think of some of the other variants that are available. I mean, you have PLO, for example, you also have things like five card PLO, you have some of these new formats showing up, for example, we have this, I forget what it’s called, the new format for Star’s it’s called Power, Power Up. Something like that, where you can draw cards from the deck. Basically, as soon as a variant of poker gets solved, all you have to do is add another card and just say, “Okay now, this is three card Hold ‘Em or something like that.” You have a completely new game that hasn’t been solved. If you can learn that variant faster than your opponents, you’re gonna be able to make money.

So, I think there will be a lot of profit in No Limit Hold ‘Em for a long time but even if that were to disappear, as long as we’re willing to try new variants and we’re willing to adapt faster than our opponents, there’s always going to be money available to be made in this game.

Zac: Good point. Now, a lot of that Hold ‘Em knowledge can be transferred to other games, just don’t think that you can just move from one to the other. We’ve done plenty of podcasts about that and Adam, I gotta say, it’s always amazing to talk to you and again thank you for your amazing contributions to CORE. You’ve really made it one of the best poker training experiences that I’ve had, so, thanks again and hope to have you on the podcast again real soon.

Adam: Yep. It’s a pleasure. Thanks very much. Appreciate the feedback and good luck at the tables guys.