Texas Hold’em is a simple game, complicated by endless challenging situations.
Imagine you are in the middle stages of a tournament and you defend your big blind to a raise with a one-gap suited connector. You flop your straight draw. Great! Right? But now what do you do? Bet into the pre-flop raiser to show strength? Check-raise? Check-call? Check, and see if there is an empty cash game table seat because you know this is not going to end well?
This is just one of many tricky situations you will encounter in Hold’em. Many factors can impede clear-cut decision-making: positional disadvantage, opponents with wide ranges, missing flops with premium pre-flop hands, hitting flops with medium strength holdings, and wet board textures to name just a few.
Further complicating matters, unless you are playing very high volume online, you can go a very long time between similar situations which allow enough repetition to see improved mastery. Even small variations in playing conditions can nuance the decision-making process as well.
Advanced Poker Training’s Solution
Advanced Poker Training (APT), a leading poker training site, has built a philosophy on the power of focused practice. APT founder Steve Blay believes that, while books and videos can be extremely helpful learning tools, there is no replacement for active hand play.
The problem is that live and online play can be time consuming and expensive. Further, you cannot decide “Today I am going to work on playing middle pairs with a single overcard on the flop” when playing poker.
APT recently added a new tool to their site that bridges this gap: the Combat Trainer. The Combat Trainer allows you to practice specific scenarios repeatedly in a time efficient manner. You can play a hand multiple times, taking different lines each time, and examine the resulting actions of your opponent. In many scenarios, the board may vary slightly across iterations in a way that may alter your approach.
Running through the out of position straight draw scenario 40-50 times (which can take less than 20 minutes) will allow you to see the challenges posed. Betting out leads to some folds, but also runs into a lot of raises. Check and you are almost always facing a c-bet.
You are left sorting through your options, not feeling great about any of them. And one decision often results in another, even more difficult, decision. Betting out requires you to determine how to face a re-raise. Meanwhile, check-calling the flop, and checking air on the turn, leaves you facing a large turn bet.
The Combat Trainer is a unique training tool. The ability to isolate tricky situations and get focal, condensed practice is a rare opportunity. When playing live you might face an OOP straight draw once or twice in a tournament. You can take notes and reflect on your approach, but it’s hard to imagine that you are truly building a process well-ingrained into your skill set.
It would take months of live play to experience the number of alternative situations encountered in a few minutes with the Combat Trainer.
The Combat Trainer poses scenarios in six categories. Here are some scenarios available, with more coming very soon, I’m told:
- Pre-flop Situations: JJ in the cutoff facing a 3x raise.
- Flop Fundamentals: AK offsuit in the big blind. You miss the flop.
- Poker Pairs and Draws: You call a pre-flop raise with QJ suited on the button and you flop a flush draw. The pre-flop aggressor c-bets.
- Surviving the Turn: You hold QQ, with no overcards on flop, however your c-bet gets called, and the turn is a K.
- River Strategy: You have top pair, top kicker on the river, but your opponent has called both your flop and turn bets.
- Tournament Tactics: In an MTT, the out-of-position straight draw described above.
There is a short orientation video for the Combat Trainer available. Further, APT has a dedicated thread in their discussion forum for questions and comments about the Trainer.
The Future of the Combat Trainer
In discussing the future of the Combat Trainer, Steve Blay stressed that APT strives not only to create great training tools but an active, thoughtful community of poker players. Blay wants the Combat Trainer to reflect that community’s needs.
To that end, they have also established a thread in their forum to gather ideas for new scenarios. While Blay is excited by what APT has developed already, he is excited about the potential for further growth in the number and complexity of scenarios.
Go over to APT and check out this evolution in poker training.