Upswing Poker Lab Review: Your Elite Coaches
Each part of Upswing Poker Lab is covered by a top player in that particular game, which gives a lot of value to the viewer. MTT players are not trying to teach you deep stack strategies, and cash games specialists are not explaining ICM spots, so I like that everyone concentrates on the areas they excel in.
The main instructors are the well known Doug Polk and Ryan Fee, but they are often joined by other top-notch players to help them better explain particular strategic aspects.
Doug Polk – advanced strategies, ranges, and deep stack play
Doug Polk is the main man behind Upswing poker. Although Polk has recently taken a step back from battling it out at the tables, he has achieved the kind of results the very few players out there can boast.
Doug is primarily an online player, and he’s been known to play in the highest stakes cash games under his moniker ‘WCGRider’. For a long time, he’s been considered the best heads-up player around, the title he’s earned primarily through hard work and meticulous analysis. Through Upswing poker, he’s set out to share his knowledge with the rest of the poker community.
Ryan Fee – overall strategy
In 2008, Ryan took down an LAPT event in Costa Rica for $285,000, which was a huge boost for his career. From that, he moved forward to win more than $3,000,000 in live tournament earnings and notable online results, so he certainly has a thing or two to teach about poker.
Fried Maulders – online 6-max and solvers
Fried Maulders is better known by his online alias ‘mynameiskarl’. Hailing from Belgium, Maulders has been playing 6-max cash games on PokerStars since 2012, and to date, he’s played more than 3,500,000 hands, with the average stake of NL500 and a lot of action in ZOOM format.
Since he’s discovered solvers, these have been his main way of studying the game, and the reason for constant success, so now he is sharing his approach to learning with the rest of the world.
Jason McConnon – high-stakes cash games
Jason McConnon took up poker full-time relatively late and started playing only in 2015. However, with incredible progress on the way, he soon switched from playing heads-up to 6-max online, where he finally skyrocketed.
These days, he plays anything from NL1,000 to NL20,000 across different sites.
Daniel ‘DANMERR’ Merrilees – cash games, heads-up
Dan Merrilees, aka. ‘DANMERR’, is one of the most recent professional poker players to join Upswing Poker. His poker career started when he was very young as he was playing €10 sit and go’s on PokerStars when he was just 17. From those, he grinded his way up in the world, reaching nosebleeds in just three years. His poker ability is impressive across the board, but ‘DANMERR’ is especially recognized for his heads-up play.
Moritz ‘Mo’ Dietrich – high-stakes tournaments
Mo initially focused on tournaments and managed to build his bankroll quickly. In 2014, he became one of Polk’s students, and from that point on, his career took off as he went on to post many great live and online tournament results.
Parker ‘tonkaaaap’ Talbot – MTTs short stack play
If you keep up with poker content producers, you’ve probably heard of Tonka. He has built one of the biggest poker channels on Twitch streaming high stakes tournament action, and he’s joined the Upswing Poker team to help with his insights on the area he knows best – MTTs.
Mike Finestein – Live games
Mike discovered the appeal of live games, and these became his bread and butter. Finestein can be rightfully called a live cash game master as he’s been crushing high stakes in Vegas and Macau, and in the Upswing Poker Lab, he is sharing some of his secrets to success in a live environment.
Upswing Lab Review – Core Poker Strategy
If you’re looking for a course that will introduce you to general poker concepts and fundamental strategies, the Upswing Lab Core Strategy segment has you covered. With 30 written lessons and videos to go through, this segment covers everything. From the core poker terminology to strategic basics, and outside factors such as poker software, bankroll management, and mental game considerations.
It is worth mentioning that this segment is delivered by Doug Polk, the Upswing Poker founder, and a well established high stakes pro.
The first several videos of the Lab Core Strategy cover things such as:
- Hand categories
In these videos, Polk explains how you should be looking at poker in an organized and understandable fashion.
For many new to the game (or at least to these concepts), this is an important first step towards becoming a good player. Without understanding these core ideas, it is virtually impossible to properly understand any later talks even about basic strategy, let alone some more advanced concepts.
This introductory segment is what’s missing from many poker courses targeting novice players as they assume everyone is familiar with concepts such as ranges and categories of hands. But that is not always the case.
So, these first few introductory videos are a must-watch if you are new to this game.
After explaining these core ideas and terminology, the course continues to deliver well over a dozen videos covering the basics of poker strategy.
Many of the things discussed in these videos are nothing new to those who have been playing seriously for a while, but they can be a real eye-opener to someone who’s been playing poker recreationally and has been trying to improve their game.
- Preflop raise (raising first in, playing against the raiser)
- Postflop bet sizing
- Value and advantages of position
- Playing in single raised and 3-bet pots with and without initiative
- Navigating the river
This is just a brief overview of what you’ll find inside the Upswing Lab Core Strategy segment. All these various concepts are in several videos to cover specific angles, i.e. playing as the aggressor or playing against the aggressor, different bet sizing ideas depending on what you’re looking to achieve, etc.
Keep in mind that this part is intended primarily for new players, so that is not a surprise that Doug does a good job of bringing various ideas down to earth and explaining them in a way that is understandable and logical for those just starting their Hold’em journey.
A lot of vital poker parts are away from the tables, which is why the module wraps up with several articles discussing things like:
- Best poker tools
- Mental game & tilt
- Bankroll management
- Game selection
All of it is very important for someone looking to take poker seriously and make it into something more than a hobby or a pass-time.
For example, the poker software is must-have these days if you’re playing online at any significant stakes. Everybody’s using it, and if you’re the one without it, you’ll be at a serious disadvantage.
Despite what we all would like to think about our playing abilities, going up against someone who has much more information on us is already a huge disadvantage.
If you do not have any of the tools yet, you should grab a FREE trial of tracking software (read the detailed comparison between Holdem Manager and Poker Tracker).
The bankroll management, game selection, and mental game segments offer insights into some of the most common issues every poker player has to deal with: tilt, variance, dealing with pressure, and maintaining a healthy life balance, which is vital for long-term success.
It is essential to get all that information to reach long-term success.
Members’ Hand Reviews
UPDATED. In 2019, Upswing Poker Lab added a new module that focuses on analyzing hand samples sent by the members. In this segment, the course moves from a theoretical discussion to real play.
Ryan Fee and Doug Polk sit down together to go through some interesting spots found in the samples from Lab members and look into hands referring back to theoretical concepts discussed in previous lessons.
It’s good to see that the course covers several different stakes, ranging anything from NL5 to higher ones. Since there is a big difference between these stakes, this approach ensures that players’ who are just starting to build their bankroll are getting the type of advice they need and understand necessary adjustments in different stakes.
Upswing Lab Review – Advanced Strategies
The Core part delivers many of the fundamental strategies required to play good Texas Hold’em, but it just scratches the surface.
However, the Upswing Poker Lab certainly goes a long way towards advanced adjustments in their next module, entitled Beyond Core Strategy.
It is primarily delivered by Fried ‘mynameiskarl’ Meulders, a successful online cash game player who may not be a big “star” but has impressive results over a huge sample of hands, making him more than qualified to deliver on what’s promised.
These concepts are going beyond the fundamental strategy and taking things to the next level. Most players who have been around for some time already know the basic strategy, so to beat them, you’ll need to understand more advanced ideas.
Playing a Flush Draw
It may seem fairly simple and straightforward at first glance, but you may change your thoughts after seeing 11 videos explaining the ins and outs of playing a flush draw.
Videos break down strategies and considerations of how to proceed depending on things such as:
- Whether you’re the aggressor
- Are you in position or not
- The board textures
- Backdoor flush draws
- Flush draws in 3-bet pots
All of the videos are full of actual gameplay examples so that all the theory is tested in practice and backed up by real results.
Aside from this, there is a nice video entitled „20 Rules for Playing Flush Draws“, covering some basic rules that you can use when not sure how to prosed with your draw, which is very helpful info to have.
Playing Multiway Pots
Navigating multiway pots might be one of the more difficult things in the game.
Instead of having to figure out just one opponent, you have to put multiple players on ranges and realistically assign possible poker hands. On top of that, you need to account for their potential actions and how these will influence your odds, which could be a hard task.
Meulders does a good job of explaining many of these intricacies over 13 different videos, divided into three main sections:
- Raise First In (RFI)
- Playing as a caller
- Playing from the big blind
Videos are further broken down according to board textures (high and low boards) and their favorability for the big blind (in the big blind play subsection).
While it is impossible to answer every possible question that comes to mind when talking about multiway pots, these videos offer many valuable insights and will help you improve your play in many sticky situations.
3-bet & 4-bet Pots
Things can get heated very quickly when you find yourself in a 3-bet or a 4-bet pot. As your stack to pot ratio diminishes, and every single decision becomes more important as you’re forced to decide for a higher percentage of your chips.
That’s why the Beyond Core Strategy module offers more than 30 videos covering these particular spots in all sorts of different scenarios, such as:
- Playing 3-bet pots IP (in position)
- Playing 3-bet pots OOP (out of position)
- 4-bet pots play
- When to fold to 3-bets
All these ideas are discussed across dozens of actual in-play examples. Meulders also take a lot of time to explain some additional ideas, such as going for thin value or figuring out where you stand, as they appear during the hands. Which is a nice bonus.
Extracting value in poker is one of the most important things to understand and adapt, which is why Doug Polk takes over to deliver nine videos about the idea of overbets, i.e. betting bigger to get the maximum value or improve your fold equity.
Doug firstly goes to explain basic motivations behind overbets and also why it is under-used in practice.
After explaining the reasons and motivations, Polk goes on to explain various situations where overbets can be most effective. He also gives plenty of examples where such play should be avoided.
These videos are well worth watching because they contain the “out of box” approach that is usually vital for all successful players. So, understanding the reasons for these moves can help you tremendously improve your overall gameplay.
Check-raising from the Big Blind
UPDATED. Guys behind the Upswing Lab continue to deliver on their promise to make this course alive with new content. An extensive segment on check-raising from the big blind was added to the module after the initial release, and it is presented by Jason McConnon.
While being in a big blind is disadvantageous by default, McConnon goes at length over several modules to explain how to build your check-raise ranges vs. different positions and continuation bet sizes to make you a very tricky opponent to play.
In this segment, you’ll find hand examples and different boards analyzed with solvers so that you will get all the information. All in all, although these videos are quite technical at times, they are worth watching as they’ll likely help you vastly improve your play from the big blind.
Deep Stack Play and Blind vs Blind Battles
This part of the course covers deep stack play and blind vs blind situations. In these videos, you’ll learn how to approach some common spots differently to make things either easier for you and more difficult for your opponent.
The deep stack play segment is particularly interesting as it includes 12 videos dealing with situations where you have 200 big blinds or more, which isn’t unusual when playing longer cash game sessions.
As stacks get deeper and there are more blinds in play, things start to change significantly, and we need to adjust our decisions on all streets, starting with the preflop.
For example, with deeper stacks, people are more inclined to defend wider from the big blind, which should influence you raise sizing as well as continuation bet frequency on different boards, etc.
High Stakes Pot Analysis by DANMERR
UPDATED. Another fresh addition to the Upswing Lab is the analysis of some high stakes pots done by Dan Merrilees ‘DANMERR’. Merrilees is one of the latest additions to the Upswing team, and he’s another success story, having moved up from playing NL50 to dominating nosebleeds in a few years.
‘DANMERR’s’ analysis offers insights into the way high stakes pros think about poker, and it is a valuable addition.
However, you might not want to focus too much on this particular segment of the course early on. Mastering basics and utilizing the available information to build your ranges and strategy is more important than trying to understand the high-level thinking that often occurs at nosebleeds.
So, check it out, but don’t let it confuse you or throw you off the balance if you are just starting.
UPDATED. In the Beyond Core Strategy segment, there is also the part containing a wide scope of handy downloadable resources you can use at any time. These include things such as:
- Online cash ranges graph
- Live poker ranges
- Ranges for online multi-table tournaments
- PokerRanger files you can import in the app
- Custom HUDs, stats, and filters for HM2 and PT4
All of these are very useful as they make it much easier to utilize many of the concepts explained throughout the lessons. Instead of having to memorize things or create your charts as you go along, these “ready to go” tools provide you with all the information you require to put the newly-acquired knowledge to use.
Upswing Poker Chart Viewer App
UPDATED. Upswing Lab prepared their mobile app that contains all sorts of charts presented throughout different modules all in one place. In total, there are more than 240 ready-made charts from the Lab.
This app is extremely handy as it makes it possible to have your ranges with you wherever you go. You’ll have easy access to them during your live poker sessions and online play, without the need to constantly switch between different screens on PC.
These charts are truly one of the best parts of the course because they provide an answer for pretty much every situation out there. While it is always great to be flexible and analyze your play, if you stick to these charts, you can pretty much be certain that you’re playing a very solid and fundamentally healthy game.