Awhile back when I was first exposed to the announcement of the Upswing Mixed Games course one of the first things I noticed was the winnings graph of instructor, Jake Abdalla.
It goes without saying that his constant upward trajectory to 1.3 million in winnings against the toughest competition is most impressive but what really caught my eye was what happened at the beginning of the graph.
Initially, it is fair to say that things did not go well for Jake right from the onset, in fact, a better way to describe it is that he appeared to have gotten his teeth kicked being down a cool 150K more than a year into his foray into mixed games. Now that’s not a huge downswing at the highest levels but as you will realize from the course that’s not where he started as he reviews past hands from stakes as “small” as $20/$40.
When someone struggles initially it is often a blessing in disguise as it will cause a tough competitor to hunker down and really strive to improve all aspects of their game. In contrast when someone runs hotter than the sun right from the onset they will often blame variance when things go south and will never conduct a true introspection of what they are doing. Many times their poker careers come to a halt when their graphs look like the mountain climber game on the Price is Right.
What to expect in the Upswing Mixed Game Course
The course covers five of the most popular games currently played in mixed games all over the world: Stud Eight or Better, Deuce to Seven Triple Draw Lowball, Omaha Eight or Better, Stud High, and Razz.
For each game covered there are approximately fifteen videos each of length of around 20 to 30 minutes long. For example the Omaha 8 section covers the following:
- O8 Basics
- Pre-flop Frequencies
- Big Blind Defense
- Small Blind Defense
- Pre-flop Examples Part 1
- Pre-flop Examples Part 2
- Introduction to Flop Play
- Multi-way Flops
- Checking Back Single Raised Pots
- Turn Check-raised Pots
- Hand Examples, Turn Emphasis
- Flop Check-raise
- Facing Flop Check-raise
- Tips on Turn Play
- River Play Part 1
- River Play Part 2
This format is great because the best way to learn any subject is to take it in pieces and focus on one building block at a time. Below are screen shots taken from the Omaha High/Low course:
Walkthroughs of hands played by Jake:
Analysis of WCOOP Events with all hole cards visible:
In addition to a section on each of the five covered games, Jake concludes with a final analysis of a HORSE SCOOP (skipping Hold’em):
Pros: Here’s what we liked about the course
Jake has an incredible attention to detail and instructs how to take certain factors such as blockers and dead cards into account in a way that many other players do not. Personally I did not think I would learn anything new in Triple Draw because I have really studied the game in addition to watching countless training videos from some of the best draw players in the world but I couldn’t have been more wrong.
One specific example from Triple Draw is that the vast majority of players take a simplified linear approach in their river play when both players have drawn one on the last draw. Jake teaches how to use the cards that we have seen to play this situation much more optimally than our opponents. After going through this course I’m confidently folding bluff catchers when I have seen certain key cards but correctly calling down with hands as bad as medium pairs the times when I have not.
Throughout the course Jake also does a great job stressing the importance of realizing your equity while taking steps to try and deny your opponents their rightful share of the pot. For example, I had never considered calling and drawing two on the last draw in Triple Draw, however, Jake showed me the error of my ways due the odds offered by the pot and mistakes commonly made by our opponents in river play when we do so.
In Stud and Omaha Eight or Better the course clearly indicated to me that I was not defending my bring-in and blinds not nearly enough. His discussions and hand examples have made me much more confident in playing more marginal hands for profit. Everyone can play their strong hands correctly, however, to make a nice profit in these games one must be able to play their marginal hands very well and in this area of instruction Jake really shines.
Our favorite part of the course has to be the numerous videos taken from nosebleed cash games and WCOOP Final Tables. In the videos taken from past WCOOP we get to see every single player’s holdings which provide an incredible insight into how several world class players such as Scott Seiver, James Obst, and Calvin Anderson play.
Cons: Here’s what can be improved
At certain times within the instruction Jake was not always specific as he could have been. For example in one of the Razz videos he advocated that when your opponent is on a possible steal you should re-raise with any holding that you will continue with, yet he did not take the opportunity to describe what exactly this range should be. Some of that is indeed player and situation specific but was slightly disappointed in the lack of some guidelines. However, one of the nice things about the course is that all customers have access to a private Facebook group where questions such as these and other topics can be discussed further.
Analyzing past WCOOP Final Tables is great due to the fact that we can see all of the hole cards for many of best mixed players in the world. However, one consequence of a final table is that ICM considerations are in play and thus players may often play a holding differently than they would in cash game where you can just reach into your pocket for extra funds.
Certainly the pros outweigh the cons by a large margin and would highly recommend this course for any reasonably experienced player looking to take their game to the next level.