Master Poker's Game Study Features
Whether you're looking to buy poker software purely for recreational purposes, to learn the game well enough that you don't embarrass yourself in your Friday night game, to become a serious online player, or to become a poker pro, Master Poker is the ideal solution to fill your needs. Here are a few program options that were included purely to help you become a better player.
Presetting Your Holecards
Master Poker gives you the ability to lock in specific holecards in order to practice playing a specific hand under all kinds of table conditions. For example, you might want to practice playing soft Suited Aces such as A4s. You can do this very easily by presetting the A4 of spades to be dealt to you every hand until you tell the program otherwise.
With your holecards locked in you will be dealt the A4s each and every hand as the dealer button goes around the table in its normal fashion. This allows you to experience the difficulties of playing this troublesome hand from different positions, before and after other players act on the hand, from the button, from out of the blinds, etc ... Tired of playing the A4s, just press F1 to bring up the little window above and click to unlock your preset holecards (or change them to something else).
Presetting the Board Cards
In the example above you learned that you can practice playing any two holecards. Our example was the A4 of spades. Master Poker also gives you the ability to lock one or more of the impending Board Cards that will come into play. That means you can not only practice playing those soft suited aces, but you can even make sure you flop your flush draw every single hand by locking in two more spades on the flop. Here's an example:
Any time your hand goes to the flop the king and nine of spades will always be the first two cards dealt. In this example, the third flop card, as well as the turn and river cards, will always appear random, giving you a different board texture with every hand played. As you can see, you always have the option to each of the three remaining cards as well, or any other combination of preset cards you wish.
Presetting or Freezing the position of the Button
In the examples above Master Poker gave you the option to preset your board and holecards to practice specific hands under dynamically changing table conditions. The program also gives you full control over the dealer button, allowing you to place it anywhere on the table you wish at any time. Just hit the F3 button on your keyboard to bring up the button navigation window.
As you click the little arrows the dealer button moves around the table, showing you the name of the current player in the dealer's seat. Want to practice playing from a specific table position? Move the button to your desired location then ... double-click it to Freeze the Button in place.
By double-clicking the button you're telling Master Poker to freeze it in it's current location. The button will turn blue to show you it's frozen, and you can pass your cursor over the top of it to be sure on which player it has been frozen. Like presetting your cards above, the button will remain frozen in that seat location until you double-click it again to unfreeze it. This allows you to play hand after hand from the same table position (relative to the dealer button). Maybe you wish to practice early position play, or late position, or playing out of the one of the blinds, a spot in which few players every really grow comfortable. How long will it take you to get a feel for your blind play by playing every single hand dealt from one of the two blinds? A session or two? How long would it take you to accomplish the same thing in the real world? I'm just sayin'. ;)
The Starting Hand Guide
The main hurdle most novice players encounter is in playing far too many hands. Experienced, but unsuccessful players often fail for similar reasons. The SHG let's these types of players click their cards to see very specific advice on how to play any given starting hand under the current table conditions.
Unlike most commercial software, which might give you simple advice such as fold, call, or raise. MP's SHG will not only help you decide which hands to play and which to toss, but will give you the precise reasons as to why you should fold, call, or raise, pointing out dynamic attributes of the unfolding hand you may not have noticed. Here are some examples of actual situations (SB=Small Blind, BB=Big Blind).
When the SHG comments are framed in red, it's a recommendation against playing the hand. When framed in green, it's a go. When framed in cyan (turquoise), it means the hand is borderline and can be played or folded under the current conditions.
My intention was to present information to the user in easy to read language, as if an experienced player were watching over your shoulder.
As you can see, each and every comment attempts to help the player with some type of helpful advice, even when little information is present with which to work.
I did not specially pick these samples because they seem to be doing what I promise. The SHG will present comments similar to these on nearly every hand dealt, except perhaps where you might hold seven/deuce offsuit and the comment simply says, "Garbage."
Players gain experience by seeing the same situations over and over. This is why pros often say things like, "Get out there and play as many hands as you can." It is through the repetition of experiencing similar circumstances over and over that you remember what worked and what didn't in your play. It is my hope the SHG can help novice players focus more clearly on these repetitive circumstances, allowing them to recognize and grasp the related concepts much more quickly.
My original intention with the SHG was to give very brief comments to inexperienced players so they would more quickly learn the very basics of starting hand requirements. I quickly realized I had the opportunity to take these players even deeper into the learning process because deciding on which hands to play is not just a matter of which two cards you hold. It's all about position, stack size, opponent tendencies, the current table conditions, etc., so why not help my novice players learn about these things as well, particularly when I can teach them both at once.
The development of this construct alone took nearly six months to complete and aside from the advanced computer player intelligence is perhaps the most powerful tool included in Master Poker. For any player unsure of their starting hand decisions, the SHG alone will be worth the cost of the software.
The Board Observer
Poker is about observation and making moves at the appropriate times (both offensive and defensive). By activating the Board Observer you're telling Master Poker to keep an eye on the Flop, Turn, and River, and warn you of dangerous board conditions by wrapping colored boxes around the board cards. These colored-coded warnings spy out conditions such as paired boards, Flush and Straight DRAWS, and potentially MADE Flushes and Straights. It is an excellent tool for helping you to quickly recognize this important data. Here's an example:
Here the Board Observer is warning you with a purple box that the board is paired, and a blue box to point out the Flush Draw (diamonds). The purple box is solid since the pair on board is a big pair, much more likely to have hit an opponent's hand than a lower pair. If a third diamond was on board the blue box would be solid to indicate a MADE Flush might already be out there, as opposed to just a Flush DRAW.
This example shows the Board Observer warning of both a Straight Draw (yellow box) and Flush Draw on board (blue box). If another Straight card were to appear on the Turn, perhaps a Jack, the yellow warning frame would turn solid to let you know the danger has increased.
Danger! Danger! The Board Observer was designed to increase the level of visual warning based on the level of danger on the board. The more frames you see, and the more solid lines those frames contain, the more dangerous the board. Here you see a glaring example of danger on the horizon. Sure, you have Top Pair and a good kicker, but the board is not only paired high, but also has both a big Straight and Flush Draw to boot. Your Top Pair is in danger. Hopefully you already knew that, but if not, you've just been warned by your new buddy.
Don't worry, it's not necessary to learn what each of the warning frames means. You can simply click the little multi-colored question mark next to the frames to get a detailed explanation of the conditions about which you are being warned.
The Hand Ranging Grid
For advanced players I've included a construct I call a Hand Ranging Grid. This feature allows players who wish to practice reading opponent hands to do so with a minimum of difficulty. The grid shows general categories for most of the hand types you'll normally be facing. At the start of a hand most categories are displayed in gold, meaning they have not yet been removed from contention on the opponent you are tracking. As you eliminate particular opponent hands as being unlikely they are clicked off in the HRG.
In the HRG above (upper right corner) 'Poison' indicates small connector hands ('Little Poison') like 76s or 43o. 'Draw' is grayed out, because you can't automatically assume an opponent is on a draw until he gives you reason to believe so (for example smooth calling a bet on the flop). TP=Top Pair, and OC=Overcards. Like putting your opponent on a draw, either of those may be activated upon your first suspicion.
For an example, let's say 'Table Shrew', the first player to act (under the gun) immediately puts in a raise from early position. An early raiser is very often the player whom you will want to keep an eye on through a hand so we'll focus on him for this example. Let's keep it simple and assume you know this is a fairly tight player, that he wouldn't raise with so many players behind him unless he had a reasonably good hand. The idea with the HRG is to eliminate those hands your opponent is not likely holding based upon their actions through the course of an entire hand. His first recordable action is to raise from early position, therefore ...
We click to darken the hands he is not likely to be holding based on his first action. With this reasonably tight player that eliminates hands like weak aces, QJ, 0JT, and probably little connectors since I usually see him limp with those hands, but since I can't be sure I leave the 'Poison' option alighted for now. I call the raise, as do two other players, the button player and the big blind. The flop comes 7-6-4 rainbow (multiple suits). Both the big blind and the early player we're tracking check to you. What can you assume from Shrew's second action?
As a tight opponent I will assume since he's facing multiple opponents he could not take a chance on letting us draw to that little straight on the board if he is holding anything like top pair or an overpair. That means I can clear away all the big overpairs right down to 88. The exception might be AA if he's being a little tricky and hoping someone else will bet for him. We'll leave AA alighted for now, gray out KK as unlikely, and actually right-click the other big pairs to turn them red, meaning I'm fairly CERTAIN he doesn't have one of these hands. His check could also indicate he's trying to see another card without risking being raised, which is exactly what many people would do with little connectors or any type of draw--since this is a drawing board I must now be a little more worried about those hands, so I will click to alight the 'DRAW' possibility, but I'm not quite worried enough to click either of them to bright green (another option). There is also the possibility he has two big overcards (like AQ) so I now alight the marker for Overcards (OC) as well (turning it to gold).
I check behind him, as does the button player. The Turn comes ... and both early players check again. What can we surmise from this most recent action by Shrew?
Since checking here risks giving up any chance to make money on a big hand (because the two players behind him could check and see the river card for free) he is very unlikely to be holding hands like AA, KK, or a pair of any card on the board (giving him a Set). If he had been on a straight draw, that draw would have filled with 8d, so he isn't likely to be checking that hand for the same reasons, meaning we can likely click him off a draw.
To keep this example of reasonable size let's go ahead and make some assumptions right now, before the river card even arrives. Can you see what's happened? By using the HRG, despite there still being many gold options on the grid, we can see that Shrew is almost certainly not holding any powerful hand. According to the HRG any of his remaining potential hands are fairly worthless. We can confidently derive two important things from this information--if we have a big hand he is not likely to be able to call a big bet. If we have a weak hand and wish to steal the pot we can now safely remove him from our threat list and move on to our two remaining opponents. Since the other early opponent (Lizzie Borden) has played the hand very similar to Table Shrew, we can probably classify her in the same category--not going to call a big bet, and not likely a threat if we want to steal. That leaves the button player behind us ... since we only have to go through one player to steal this pot, and until now the button has been playing passively as well, I think a bet here is in order. With 250 chips in the middle, try putting in around 150-180 chips to take this pot, then thank your HRG for winning you a pot you may not normally have taken. A little info goes a long way when viewed in the proper manner.
By the way ... this example was pulled as an actual random hand which I did not set up (as I wrote this section). Here's how it turned out.
Right-clicking Shrew's cards to reveal his hand shows our evaluation and tracking actions were spot on. He had KJ (a couple of overcards), and just couldn't bring himself to make a continuation bet on the flop into multiple opponents.
I hope my simple example gives you an idea on how the Hand Ranging Grid works. It's a very powerful tool for anyone trying to learn how to play the game at an advanced level, and as you can imagine, becomes especially powerful versus fewer opponents or when used on more than one opponent at a time (for those folks much smarter than myself). Highly recommended.
AI Personality Peeking
When you take a seat at a table with unfamiliar players deciphering your opponent's skill level and playing style should be one of your primary tasks. This information is so important it can make or break you in any given session. While you set the difficulty level of your event by determining the percentage of good and bad computer players, you can't tell the difference between who is Dead Money and who is Tough or Aggressive ... unless you peek. There are two preferences related to computer player personalities. You can allow yourself the ability to peek at a player's personality by right-clicking their screen name as shown below, or you can instruct Master Poker to make their personalities visible at all times.
In time, by observing the actions of players around you (both computer and human) their playing style will become evident as you pick up small attributes from their actions at the table. These attributes add up to a player's style, and this information can be critical when making a tough call. I suggest playing with the 'Peek' option enabled. After you've studied an opponent long enough to build a picture of their playing style allow yourself an educational peek to confirm your suspicions. Over time, this should help you focus more closely in observing the actions and betting patterns of your opponents.
The option to always display the AI player personalities can also be used for good over evil. Novices should use this information to observe how a tough player handles himself in difficult circumstances. While MP's tough and aggressive players may not always make the perfect decision, they will make many more good ones than bad. Novices should observe and take heed.
Allow Peeking at AI Cards
Ever wished you could flip over an opponent's hand and take a look at what he seems to be so proud of with that huge bet? This option gives you the ability to do just that, peek at your computer opponent's cards at any time during the hand.
Used properly, this feature can be a valuable learning tool to confirm your suspicions or to verify your reading of an opponent's hand. To get the most long-term benefit discipline yourself to make a decision on whether or not to fold your own hand before exposing your opponent's cards. Then put your opponent on a range of hands based on his past actions and see how close you come to calling his actual two cards. Click, there they are.
Player Decision Timer
This option activates the human decision timer. When it is your turn to act the timer begins to count down to whatever limit you have set for yourself (as shown by the shrinking blue line).
If you have not yet acted when the timer expires, your hand will be folded. This can be used to simulate online play, where timers are used to push play along.
Deal My Cards Face Down
Typically, the human player's cards are dealt face up, an extra large card graphic to make it easy to view your hand (as shown on the left below). This option tells MP to deal your cards face down on the table (as shown on the right below), and is an excellent way to practice for live play. Why?
In a live game, every time you look back down at your cards (after the first) you risk giving away information about your hand. This is particularly true for novice players who often have a hard time remembering which two cards they hold (which tells your opponents you don't have a memorable hand like AK or a big pair).
By practicing your card recall you won't find yourself looking back down at your cards after a third flush card hits the board. When you make this type of peek at your hand, you're signaling to the table that not only are you wondering if you have a single flush card, but you almost certainly don't have two flush cards (since you likely would have remembered that). Playing advanced poker is about the little things.
Calculate my Pot Odds
Many major decisions on a hand are made based upon the current pot odds you're receiving on making a particular play. Some folks have a little difficulty making this important calculation on the fly. Master Poker gives you the option to hit the 'O' (Odds) key on your keyboard to instantly have the current pot odds calculated and displayed for you.
Students of the game can use this function to practice calc'ing pot odds. Take a look at the pot, the wagers, the amount to call and make your estimate. Then click the 'O' button and see how close you came to the actual number. This will build confidence in yourself in making the correct mathematical decisions under often stressful and pressing conditions.
Show all Winning Hands
When the hand has ended, this personal preference forces the winner's hand to be turned face up even if the hand did not go to a showdown. This allows you to see a victorious AI player's holding even if you didn't pay to do so.
While this feature can obviously be used to your advantage, or to satisfy one's curiosity, it is meant primarily for those players who wish to see if they accurately put their opponent on the proper range of hands without having to manually peek each time. It can also be used to reinforce over time the types of good or bad decisions you're making at the table, as you get to see the hand of the opponent who got you to lay yours down. Was it a good laydown or not?
Show All Winning Hands for Session
It's often beneficial for novices and students of the game to look over a summarized version of the results of a long session to get a big-picture understanding of how many hands are actually going to the river, and what types of hands are winning when a showdown actually occurs. Viewing Master Poker's 'Session Summary Grid' you can view the results of every hand played in the session up to that point (to in excess of 16,000 recorded hands).
I've found that people who tend to chase cards too often can make the most use of a quick glance of this display grid. As you can see in the simple example above, of the 21 hands played so far in a 100% Dead Money tourney, only three hands have actually gone all the way to the river. And this is among a group of 100% Dead Money players, the closest thing Master Poker has to amateurs and novices. Even novice computer players know better than to chase cards too often, or allow their opponents to chase them too often. My novice human shoppers should learn this valuable lesson as well. Tough players (in both MP and the real world) are MUCH less likely to let you cheaply chase your draws to the river.
The Hand Archive
Any poker player who has more than a casual interest in the game will at some point wish to discuss a specific hand with a family member, friend or co-worker, or perhaps on an Internet discussion forum. Instead of forcing you to type out the details of a given hand MP gives you the ability to manually cut and paste the running text summary of any given hand directly from the running text review box as the hand unfolds. But this isn't all ... you also have the option to permanently save any given hand (with notes) to your own personal hand archive where it can be accessed at any time in the future as well.
Archived hands may then be viewed at any time between sessions by going to your history screen and clicking the 'Hand Archive' button. This will give you a viewing screen like the one below (click to enlarge) where you can cycle through all the hands you have saved in your archive over time.
If you were inside MP right now, the scroll bar to the right could be used to view the remaining text that is currently out of view. This will include the entire running text summary of the hand as it unfolded, including every fold, call, bet and raise that occurred, as well as the pot results, including all split-pot information. As you can see in the enlarged view, when a hand is archived, MP also attaches the chipstacks and starting hands of all players at the table for the recorded hand.
'Record Every Hand I Play'
This option instructs Master Poker to record the running text summary of EVERY hand in which you're involved during the next session or event.
This hand data will then be saved in a dated text file in your Master Poker directory which can be viewed and manipulated with any text editor or word processing program at your convenience. This is much easier than trying to record every individual hand to your Hand Archive (for those users who wish to evaluate every move they make). This is how you answer that common question, "But where did I go wrong?"