By Joe Ewens
The last few years has seen a variety of subscription tutorial sites enter the fray. Often these are organized and staffed by a group of young online experts who have proven expertise by crushing high-stakes cash games or running deep in large multi-table tournaments. These sites are usually packed with instructional videos and are aimed at mid-stakes grinders looking to improve their game.
In March of 2009 the second largest online site in the world launched their own teaching site - The Full Tilt Poker Academy. Where the traditional tutorial sites are exclusive and highly targeted, Full Tilt’s offering is an incredibly broad but free to access collection. Full Tilt was conceived by the pros, for the pros, and has therefore collected an enviable list of sponsored players. This wealth of knowledge provides the perfect platform for a learning resource that is informative and well crafted.
Most of the teaching is done via videos, generally between 3 and 15 minutes in length. These feature a Full Tilt pro conducting a mini seminar with the help of example hands and fact-filled interstitials. The teachers will often run through different situations using the familiar Full Tilt software, while some of the most engaging videos make use of footage from TV poker shows. Full Tilt sponsored programs such as Poker After Dark are often employed to demonstrate specific tactics, or even as the basis for an entire lesson. Other video content on offer includes cash game sessions, where online pros explain their thought processes as they play at live tables against real opponents.
Some of the shorter tips and tricks videos are offered in podcast form via the iTunes store. One tends to appear every day or so, although it seems that not all of them make the transition from the Academy website to iTunes.
The official deans of the Full Tilt Poker Academy are Howard Lederer and Phil Gordon. These debonair gentlemen can be found in a number of videos, although there are a wide variety of other pros on hand to offer advice. Among the many video hosts are Chris Ferguson, Jennifer Harman, Erick Lindgren, Andy Bloch, Allen Cunningham, and Patrick Antonius. One of the major strengths of the FT Academy over similar teaching sites is the depth of poker talent they have to draw from.
Look past the star names fronting the Academy and you’ll find a very well designed system. The more comprehensive videos are often linked to Sit-N-Learn Leaderboards and online Challenges. The former are interactive quizzes in which the key concepts of a specific lesson are recapped. You are prompted to answer questions inside a time limit, with your points per question score decreasing the longer you take. Many questions are preceded by video clips designed to remind you of the ideas you’ve learned or to set up a question in a more interesting way. The tests are usually fairly easy, but do a good job of reinforcing the main points you should have learned from the video. Scores are tracked on per-quiz leaderboards, with the highest scorers winning freeroll entries.
The real test of memory arrives in the form of the excellent Challenge system. A small portion of the videos are connected to challenges, which task you with applying a video’s key concepts in real games. When you click to confirm your entry into a challenge you’ll be whisked to the ‘My Academy’ section of the website where you’ll see a breakdown of what actions you need to perform. For example, one section of the ‘Power of Position’ Challenge requires you to open fold a selection of marginal hands in early position, 3 times.
Completing the challenges will earn you Full Tilt Poker Academy Credits. These credits can be used in the Full Tilt store to buy clothing, books, poker equipment and a host of other products. They will also come in handy for reaching a Gold Level account. The FT Academy is free, but still contains four levels of service.
As a guest you have access to as many podcasts as you like, but otherwise a very limited selection. Anyone with a Full Tilt account automatically becomes a Bronze user and gains unlimited access to Pro Bios and Challenges. At this level you can view a limited number of live Sessions and Pro Lessons and are only permitted to enter two Sit-N-Learn leaderboards. To get to Silver you need to earn 10 FT points or 10 Academy Credits, both of which are extremely easy to do. The only major change at this stage is the ability to enter more of the Sit-N-Learn leaderboards. Rack up 500 Academy Credits of FT Points and you’ll reach the Gold Level. At this stage you have unlimited access to every facet of the Academy.
The Full Tilt Poker Academy is an excellent resource for players looking to improve their game. To get the most from the Academy you need to be a Full Tilt member, but the instructional videos will be helpful to anyone. Although most of the learning resources are Hold ‘em based, there’s plenty of time spent on Omaha, Razz, and Stud games as well.
Overall, the Full Tilt Poker Academy will be most useful for low-stakes players looking to make general improvements to their game. The videos on offer cover a very board range, but are not as targeted as subscription based coaching sites. To get the most from the site you should dip into it regularly, and perhaps keep a challenge or two on the go to help you tighten your game - rather than treating it as a comprehensive training site. It’s an extremely well designed system that is free for all to access, serviced by the kind of talent only the star-studded Full Tilt roster can muster.
Have you ever come across a confusing poker term? Our poker dictionary has 1224 definitions!
Play for FREE and practice your game at...
Would you like to submit your own poker article to be featured on FTR? You can by clicking here - Submit a Poker Article!