With so many moving parts, a coherent poker strategy can feel like an impossibility. So we created CORE from the ground up to lay out everything you need to know in an easy-to-grasp course. It’s the poker university you’ve been looking for, and we’re here to help you through it. 

CORE makes professional-grade, winning poker accessible to anyone who’s willing to put in the effort. This is the world’s first all-encompassing poker strategy syllabus and learning platform. We believe it’s the best way ever to learn to play like the pros.

Featuring: Zac Shaw and James 'SplitSuit' Sweeney

Zac: So how do we make the ultimate poker strategy training resource? We’re all making our own poker strategy training resources in our brains as we pick up information from various sources and analyze it, prioritize it, organize it into a learning structure that makes sense. What if we could take all of that and build it from the ground up from scratch, to create the ultimate learning experience?

That’s what we’ve been trying to do here at Red Chip Poker, and this week, I’m going to talk to James “SplitSuit” Sweeney who’s helmed CORE, which is our brand new product that teaches you how to play poker from the fundamentals on up to the more advanced strategies and tactics that people are using to win. James, welcome. I am so excited to have this discussion with you today.

James: Thank you, thank you. Let’s get into it.

Zac: It’s been a long time coming, and CORE is almost out there for the public to access. Let’s tell people what it is. We mentioned it a little bit on an earlier podcast, but what’s the elevator pitch to a poker player, as to why they would want to check out CORE?

James: The elevator pitch would simply be this: Poker is extremely complex. There are tons of moving parts in this game, so it’s very difficult to know what you don’t know, and even once you know what you don’t know, how the heck do you fix that exact thing? With all the moving parts in poker, you can’t just fix any one thing in isolation, it has to be fixed in the context of your entire strategy.

The issue is that far too many people don’t have a strategy, they rely heavily on tactics and reactive situations. It’s not that you can’t make money that way, but are you going to be best prepared for all situations, all games, and for more scenarios that are realistically going to come up? No, and that’s what we’re trying to fix with CORE.

CORE is essentially your one-stop shop for everything that you want to learn in poker, all the knowledge gaps that you need to fill in poker, and how to actually build and understand the strategy as a whole. Poker is very complex, but CORE is our way of trying to simplify it as best as possible, get you through it, get you where you need to go, and get you back to the tables with more information and more strategy that you could actually use to turn that win rate that you’re looking to turn.

Zac: Now, the story of how we put this together is pretty great. You mentioned on the podcast the last time you were here, people have been asking for this for years. We struggled with how to put it together, because a lot of people in the poker community essentially said, “Well, it can’t be done. Poker’s too complex, there aren’t discrete prerequisites that lead from one thing to the other.” I think we did a pretty good job breaking it down into its … hate to say, “Core,” but core elements here.

James: Indeed. I mean, obviously I’m a little biased, I definitely feel like we did a good job on that. I just want to raise the kimono up a little bit and show what happened here. There have been numerous posts on the forum about people asking for a syllabus for this game. I’ve always felt really gross about giving the syllabus away. I felt like it would kind of cheat people from getting what they need to learn, and I think there’s a lot of value to getting in there, getting your hands dirty, starting to learn what you don’t know, and then actually building a learning plan to start learning those things.

If I built the syllabus, I felt like it might be cheating them a little bit out of that experience, but also you can’t just learn X, Y, Z, and then all of a sudden you’re Phil Ivey. It just doesn’t work that way. There’s so many things that go between being a brand new player, and being a top-tier player that some syllabus, be it 10 items long, 100 items long, or 400 items long, it’s just not going to get you exactly where you want to be.

It’s not just like you check off all these boxes, and now you’re a great player. Just like, you know, how many people that have been playing for 15, 20 years, that suck at this game? Just putting in the hours doesn’t inherently make you a great player. There’s a lot of things that are very, very important that you need to understand that are all interconnected, but a bare-bones basic front to back syllabus I’ve always felt was suboptimal, and would leave people to think that they have the game mastered, when they just very much do not have the game mastered yet.

Zac: One of the big challenges of putting this together was organizing all of those concepts into a structure that made sense. I’m sure our listeners want a little sneak peek into how this syllabus is actually structured. I mean, this is really difficult to put together. We kind of came up with a two-level structure to start, right?

James: Yeah. If I’m being totally honest, again, I just want to really part the kimono and show what’s going on here. We started this … I don’t know, we definitely started it in 2017, but this … the kind of the structure, like where things go in order, I mean, they must have come up with 10, 15 different iterations, like easy. Those are iterations that we were happy with at that time.

It’s been a back and forth conversation of, “Where does this go? Where does this go? Where does this prioritize? Is this more important than that? Should this go here? Well, you need this to understand X, but you also need Y to understand X, so which one goes first, X or Y?” It’s one of these things that takes a very, very long time. We really felt like structuring and organizing this, because you can only do one thing at a time.

Here’s the difference with poker, poker is 3D learning, whereas if you want to learn to cook really well, it’s 2D learning, meaning that everything is in order when you’re going to learn how to cook, right? You go get your ingredient list, then you put all those ingredients together in a specific order. You bake it, or do whatever you need to in that order, and then you eat your food. Great. Now all of a sudden you’re a decent cook.

With poker, there’s so many different moving parts that you need to understand in order to go from c-betting the flop to a double barrel on the turn. It’s not just, “I understand c-betting. I understand the concept of double barreling, and as such, I got it.” Like, no. There’s a bunch of different things you need to understand.

You need to understand how the texture on the turn changes things. You need to understand range management. You need to understand bet sizing, and how that relates to break even percentage. There’s all of these things that are required to take you even just from one street to the next street.

Our goal with CORE was to zoom it all out, help you understand how all of these things interact, understand that there are no specific elements in isolation. Everything is together, and it’s understanding how all of these things together are going to work, and are going to actually help you build something that is profitable at the end of the day.

Not just profitable today, but to help set you up for a full knowledge base that allows you to be profitable for years and to build upon. We’re essentially looking at this as your base legs. These are the legs at the bottom-ish part of your house, but if you want to get a taller and taller house, that’s no problem at all, you have a foundation to build upon.

The issue is that people see really high-end players doing things, and think, “Oh, I just need to learn one, two, three things, and all of a sudden, I got it.” Like, no. They’re high-end players doing what they’re doing because they understand everything and how it interacts together, and they make strategic decisions accordingly.

That’s what CORE is teaching you; how it all fits together, prioritizing that information for you as best as possible. So again, we’re trying to understand the syllabus issue that you’re looking for, because you can only learn one thing at a time. You can’t open up the SPR lesson, and a stack size lesson, and the c-betting lesson, and the all-in EV lesson, all at the same time and digest all four things in tandem. You can’t.

Which one do you prioritize? Which one’s going to be most important? That’s what we try to solve for you guys in CORE, and then obviously the content itself is just as in-depth as it needs to be to help you get the information, fill in all the knowledge gaps, and again, get back out there and start turning it into actually money and win rate.

Zac: Like you said, one of the biggest challenges was that the fundamentals for one concept are the fundamentals for another concept, and vice versa. They all build on each other, so which can come first? That’s why we created these two tiers, these two course levels, if you will, where the first course is very much 101, get used to the concepts, get used to the ideas that you need to know.

The second level is much more 102, now let’s apply those and actually use them, calculate the math concepts that we’ve learned, build the range concepts that we’ve learned, analyze post-flop spots in the ways that we’ve learned. It’s very procedural … the first level will kind of walk you into the basics, and then the second level we’re really going to take you into how you apply these into your game.

James: 100%. One thing I will say on that, is people that have been playing for a while have read a couple of books, have been playing for years, are going to feel the urge to skip 101. The level one stuff I would say, is still very, very important, and here’s the reason why. Most people just inherently don’t know what they don’t know. That is what it is, but if you go through this, you will find and identify knowledge gaps that you have.

Maybe you don’t have any. Maybe you just breeze through level one. That’s fine. Level one is significantly faster than level two. We did that for a very specific reason. We’re not trying to slog you down with jargon and terms, and advanced calculations, and over-jargon, or any of that kind of crap. We really try to breeze you through the important stuff, so that way when you get to level two, you’re well positioned to actually understand the content and use the content.

Again, we’re trying to bridge that theory and practice. That theory, the understanding, and then also the application, where does it get used and how? Again, we’re strategic focused here, so don’t skip level one. No matter how long you’ve been here, just breeze through it, it’s fine. If you get it you get it, but you’re being able to find issues in areas is almost guaranteed, where maybe you need a little bit of extra time. Maybe you need a little bit of extra strength. That’s fine, and it will help prepare you for understanding level two at a deeper level.

Again, the whole point isn’t to breeze through all of CORE and be done in 60 hours. First and foremost, it can’t be done, and secondly, it’s one of these things that it takes a lot of time to digest and make sure that you have it all. If you really do understand level one, that’s fine, you’ll get through it real fast, and you’re onto level two, and you’re well positioned to understand it all.

Do not cheat yourself and skip through level one. Just please don’t. Just take my word on it. I promise you we built this very specifically for a very specific reason. We clocked it in a way that made sense, we have quizzes all the way as well, and that’s also really important, right? Just prove your knowledge real quick.

A lot of these eight to 15 hand … or eight to 15 question quizzes that will just guarantee that you have the basics down, what you need to know to set yourself up to understand level two, and then eventually start applying it at the table as quickly as possible. That’s our goal, so please don’t cheat yourself, don’t skip level one, spend the time, it won’t take you that long, to get into it. Trust me, things are going to start filling in, making a lot more sense very, very quickly.

Zac: Yeah, the quizzes are great, especially 101 where like you said, you come into it thinking, “Okay, I might know that concept and this concept,” and the quizzes do a great job of challenging even your basic assumptions on what you think you know. In poker, like you say, we don’t know what we don’t know, and in addition, we think we know things that we actually don’t truly understand.

Let’s get a little bit more into what’s inside CORE. I guess there’s two ways of looking at it. The topics that are in there, of which there are dozens, but first I’d like to kind of talk about, well, what is this whole platform? It’s more of a learning experience. It’s not just another website with some videos, right?

James: Yeah, so we kind of took all the lessons that we learned and continue to learn, with how people like PRO, and things they like, and things they don’t like. Pro is really just, “Here are all the high-end videos that we have for you. We did some organization as best we could, but at the end of the day, you need to have a little bit more prowess to be able to get the most out of Pro.”

With CORE, our goal was to make it simpler in terms of not only knowing what comes next, but also getting you there significantly faster with less clicks. You just, “Boom,” into the next thing, exactly where you need to be. Again, we spent so much time on the organization, making sure that you can get to where you need to be, and that when we put you there, it’s actually where you need to be, not a guess of where you need to be.

Again, that was very, very important. In terms of what this actually feels like, this is really supposed to feel like a course. There is everything from the quizzes, like we already mentioned. There’s the prereq stuff that we’re building in level one. There’s lots, and lots, and lots of topics that are kind of just building all of these things up and really showing you how all the pieces fit together. There are tons of videos, there are tons of images to try to break up the monotony.

We’ve really did our best to make sure that this didn’t just feel like a slog of articles you have to go through, and at the end of the day, it should not feel like three poker books mashed in front of you. Like yeah, poker books are great, but no one needs a 700-word poker book mashed in their face. There needs to be a better usage of mediums, and that was largely our goal with CORE, is to really use a nice mix of mediums to make sure that whatever the heck we were teaching is taught in the best possible way.

Some of the math-y kind of stuff had to be a little bit more formula shown on the page, whereas other things could be better shown in a video, and other things better shown through a download, or a chart, or some sort of auto-calculator posted on the page. We really did our best to make sure that not only are we teaching you what you need to learn, but in a way that’s best to actually learn that thing.

Because I’ve worked with so many different students, we pay so much attention in the forum in terms of what people are looking for. We pay a lot of attention when you guys who take your trial, and you didn’t care for the trial, you gave us feedback on it, we’ve put a lot of that stuff together too, like, “What didn’t you like about PRO that we can help fix in CORE?” That was a really, really big thing for us, is bridging all of the feedback we’ve been getting for years and years. How do we put that all together?

I mean, CORE has been a long time coming, and honestly, I never thought that it would get built, because it does take so much time. If you mess up the organization, if you mess up the flow, it’s going to be a nightmare. And again, that’s why we spent months … I mean, we didn’t build a single topic at all for months. All we did was focus on what’s the organization, how’s this thing going to look and feel, and what is this thing going to do for students? If we couldn’t figure that out, we wouldn’t do it. I think at the end of the day we built something pretty awesome, and I’m hoping you guys agree with that.

Zac: Yeah, when we started this, we definitely asked ourselves the question, “Why hasn’t anyone done this?” I think it’s pretty apparent there’s a lot of work involved in organizing these topics, writing them out, creating this … as you said, textbook. It’s really like a living textbook, and people can actually discuss and ask questions on each topic, right? We’re really trying to do more than just give people information, we’re building a community of people who are learning.

James: 100%. And again, we’ve spent so much time building the structure of this whole thing, but we’re totally open to the fact that we may have missed some stuff. There may be some things that you go through this and you’re like, “It would have been really nice to know this.” Any time you have that thought, we want to hear it. We’re not dialing this in saying, “Okay, here’s CORE. It’s done, we’re never going to touch it again.” Like not even close.

Like what you said, this is a living, breathing thing. I mean, this is a living, breathing game. Something, or some dynamic that may come up in the future may force us to say, “Wait, wait, wait, we need to add a couple things here for it to make more sense for people,” or you say, “You know what, the pre-flop hand reading was great, but I felt like the flop hand reading needed a little bit more work.” Cool.

Honestly, let us know that kind of stuff, because that’s what we’re looking for. We’re looking to build this not only as the starting product of CORE, but also, where does this need to go to help you continue learning what you need to learn? And again, we are more than open to … maybe we missed something. Maybe something needs to be added right here. Maybe you played just tournaments, and you’re like, “Ehh, this would have been awesome if there was just a pinch more information on late stage tournaments.”

Let us know that. We are totally open to continuing to build this thing out. And in fact, that’s something that I’m looking forward to with this kind of product.

Zac: Yeah, you’ve mentioned it a few times, but it’s one of my favorite aspects of what this is. We have the most success teaching people poker when we give them what they ask for, but sometimes, it’s difficult to give people what they ask for when poker knowledge is so complex. For example, I have people emailing me all the time saying, “I want to learn how to do hand reading. I want to learn how to put people on ranges.”

We have some great resources for that, but at the end of the day, you need to build fundamental upon fundamental in order to successfully do that, otherwise poker would be an easy game. Hand reading is one of the hardest things to do in this game, and I think in particular when you talk about ranges, CORE really excels in teaching that aspect.

James: Yeah, exactly. It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to improve hand reading, if you’re trying to improve advanced math calculations, which I know most people aren’t, but some people are, or if you’re trying to learn how to double and triple barrel. There’s precept upon precept, and you need to understand, okay, what are the base things that are required? Again, your level one’s largely going to fill that stuff in, and then level two content is just going to say, “Okay, you need to understand this part, and this part, and this part, and this part. I want you to understand all of those moving pieces.”

Now all of a sudden you can have an actual double barreling strategy, an actual triple barreling strategy. It will help you clearly identify one, what things are most important, so you can look at a double barrel, or a triple barrel situation from a tactical perspective, but also from a big picture, zoomed out, strategic point of view, that goes into choosing your entire range in that situation.

It’s not just, “Do I double barrel because I have a flush draw? Do I triple barrel because my flush draw whiffed?” It’s, “What goes into the entire thing? Who’s my opponent? How does that impact my ranges? If I choose this size, how does that impact the break even percentage? How does my opponent’s range fit with that break even percentage, making this good or bad as a bluff?”

Even just talking that out, and that’s just a rough idea of what goes into a good triple barrel, you understand how many moving parts there are. That is our whole goal with CORE; fill all of that knowledge gap, allow you to fully understand what goes into it from a strategic point of view, so you can build on it later and say, “Okay, now that I have this strategic knowledge, here’s when I would want to start expanding this range. Here are the hands that make the most amount of sense for that.” You’re building all of it on the strong foundation you’ve already built within CORE, and that’s our entire goal.

Zac: One of the things we talked about a lot was spots, and the relationship to the fundamentals, the concepts, the strategies, and the tactics that we use in spots. We talked about this, it’s not just a living, breathing document, it’s sort of the missing manual for poker strategy. It’s a reference guide that you can go back to and say, “I’m in spot X, so I need to look at topics X, Y, Z, A, B, C, and D, because they’re all prerequisites for dealing with any given spot.” One can imagine that this is actually kind of an operating system and a platform that you can plug any spot into and get some solid, strategic advice on how to approach that.

James: So you’re beating me to the punch, huh? Okay, so let’s talk about level three. When we launch CORE, level three probably won’t be ready yet, but it is something that we are planning on extending CORE functionality to. Level three, our goal is to essentially show spots, or hands, and showing what are all the pre-required pieces necessarily to play this hand better, to fully understand this hand?

When I review a hand in a YouTube video, or in a podcast, or just even in an article or in the forum, there are so many pieces of the puzzle being used together, but I can only talk about so many of them in a 10 or 15 minute stretch. Even when I do PRO videos, I still have a timer. I can’t spend nine hours talking about a single hand, but if we really went through all the prereq knowledge that was required to understand that hand, it might come out to nine hours somehow, depending on how complicated it is.

Level three stuff is looking to merge, “Okay, how do we merge level one content, level two content, and what is really required in order to understand the holistic part of this hand history analysis?” That’s going to be another interesting challenge for us. We talked a lot about the back end, how do we want to build that, what is that going to look and feel like, and is it going to feel too tactical, or is it going to have the large strategic feel we’re looking for?

Again, our whole thing with this is looking at strategy first, but if we show you what goes into … even just understanding the single hand history, I think that’s really going to help to tie everything together, put that level one with the level two, merge all those pieces, and see how this thing really fits together.

Level three is going to be a lot of fun, but again, at launch, I think CORE is just going to be one and two, but level three should be coming quite shortly after. Definitely make sure to pay attention if you’re interested… it’ll be ready probably just in time, when people start finishing the level one, level two content, and they’re ready for something else. Boom, level three should be there right around that time.

Zac: Hopefully that breakdown gives you an overview as a listener, but I know what you want to know. When is this thing going to come out? How do I get access to it? How do I use it? What’s it cost? We’re not going to give you all the details right now, I’m sure, but for now, how do people get invited to be the first to know?

James: All right, to get on the list, all you got to do is go to redchippoker.com/fire. That’s F-I-R-E. Redchippoker.com/fire, sign up, we’ll send you all the information as it’s coming out and get you ready to rock and roll. Launch date for this thing is 2/20, so it’s pretty darn quick. It’s coming up shortly, and trust me, we are so, so excited to launch this thing.

Like I said, this has been months, upon months, upon months, of building. It’s been years of really compiling all the knowledge together, and this is going to be a really great way to get everything you need in one simple location, and done in a way that actually makes it fun to burn through the content, fill up your poker knowledge, and really start using things better in real-time. That’s the whole goal with CORE, and again to pre-sign up for it, get a little extra information, redchippoker.com/fire.

Zac: I never thought having fun while studying poker was possible until I used the CORE.

James: Well, that is the whole goal, right? Otherwise, we could just say, “Hey, go read this book,” or, “Go read this handful of books,” or, “Go watch this 50 hours of videos, it’ll fill up most of the knowledge.” Our goal with this was to really make it so it doesn’t suck, so there’s actually some fun stuff going on.

You’ll see what we’re talking about with the achievements and the badges as you start hacking through it, the quizzes, to really make sure that it’s reinforcing, and that you’re actually learning what you’re trying to learn, and what you’re supposed to be learning, and we’ve got a bunch of other fun things planned. We talked about a little bit with level three, but we also got some fun things in the pipeline.

Again, this is a living, breathing thing, we are super excited to finally be launching it, because we’ve been working our butts off on it for so darn long. Again, redchippoker.com/fire, sign up for it, we’ll send you some information. Again, won’t be too long before it’s 2/20/2018, and it’s time to get this thing launched.

Zac: Awesome. Well, I don’t want to spoil the surprise, so I guess we’ll wait until it launches to have you back on the podcast, and maybe talk a little bit more about some value that we are bringing from CORE, and maybe we can share a little bit of that with our audience.