The Upswing Poker Lab is the hottest new training site to hit the market. Co-founded by Doug Polk and Ryan Fee, it is generating a huge amount of buzz. Prospective members are wondering if the hefty initial cost is worth the price. Are they demanding money up front because they have a small amount of content and want to squeeze the most out of customers before they unsubscribe? Is Doug Polk too busy with his youtube career and near-constant roasting of other poker player to focus on a training website? At playonlinepoker, we have an unbiased review of whether Upswing Poker is good value for you. While there are many things that Upswing Poker does well, we aren’t going to pull any punches on the negatives.
How much does the Upswing Poker Lab Cost?
1st Month: $99
Consequent months: $49
Semi-Annual plan: $299 ($40 savings) – is anyone really going to buy this plan or is it just there to make the annual plan’s savings look good? We’re here, asking the tough questions.
Annual Plan: $499 ($139 savings)
Upswing Poker Pro’s and Con’s
The Upswing Lab does a lot of things right. Here are the most important positives that set them above other training websites.
Highly regimented, logical training layout
The Upswing Lab is designed to take a beginner to intermediate player and walk them through the foundations of solid play from A-Z. Set up like an online course, the Lab begins with broad, general concepts and leads into specific strategy for each segment of poker – from pre-flop to post-flop on the flop, turn and river. It lays out how your strategy changes as the pre-flop raiser or the pre-flop caller, as well as offering groundwork for understanding 3-bet+ and multiway pots.
The Upswing Lab is perfect for those who are able to beat the fish easily but find themselves lost in spots against regs. The Lab teaches the fundamentals of balanced play, allowing you to categorize different hands within your range and decide what to do with each group of hands function as a whole.
This is a huge strength of Upswing Poker when compared with other training sites such as Run it Once Essential, which has a massive amount of videos but lacks a logical progression. With Upswing Poker, you can go from a novice microstakes player to having a solid understanding of how to win at poker.
Hand charts on another level
The hand charts available on Upswing Poker are the most detailed, in depth hand charts that you will find. These include ranges from each position, what to do when 3-bet, and what to do when facing an earlier position’s raise. While you obviously have to use your own reads and HUD stats on opponents to determine whether how wide you should be raising and bluffing, the Upswing Poker hand ranges are the perfect foundations of a laggy preflop style.
The Upswing Poker strategy – laggy preflop, solid postflop
The Upswing Poker hand charts lead to quite a laggy style preflop. What is a lag? A tag is a tight aggressive player, and a lag is a loose aggressive player. These terms feel a little bit outdated to the modern grinder, but they still have their roots in the truth.
A lag is opening wider preflop. You may find that you have VPIP/PFR of around 27/20 when using the preflop charts in 6max. This involves quite a bit more cold calling in position than you may be used to, which can be less profitable on some sites and stakes that have higher rake. You will also find yourself doing things you may never have considered before – like 3-betting 54o in certain specific situations!
The postflop play seems very different in comparison to the loose preflop ranges. While there is check-raising, and a huge focus on bluffing and barreling turns and rivers, you will find that your flop continuation bets will hover around 40%, with similar numbers for your turn percentages.
This may seem much lower than usual to you. It is completely different to the microstakes strategy of a decade ago, where winning regs were cbetting 70%+.
Learn how to protect your checking range
Why is the flop continuation betting percentage so low? Because the Upswing Poker strategy is one in which your range is protected.
You are going to quickly be able to understand which hands you want to be check-calling, and which to be raising for value. When you use the Upswing Poker strategy, you are going to notice that you are able to call down on many more turns and rivers, and have much more value in spots where in the past you would have a very weak range of hands because of over-cbetting.
It is up to you to be able to change this default strategy against opponents who it makes more sense to play exploitatively against.
Depth of strategy
These are not your rudimentary training videos that may explain that “position is good, so play more hands in position,” but not delve into why, exactly, position is so key to poker. Without going into a math based approach, Doug Polk and Ryan Fee are able to get to the basics of what each concept is based on.
You learn the foundations of each concept in a way that allows you to understand why you are doing each decision. With Upswing Poker, you are never just making decisions at random. Upswing Poker changes you from a button clicker to a player who thinks through and understands not just a single hand, but how their entire range of hands wants to interact with different boards and runouts.
Upswing Poker Engage Facebook Group
A membership in Upswing Poker also allows access to the Upswing Engage group on Facebook. In this group, players discuss hands, talk about the modules, and are able to interact with both Ryan Fee and, to a lesser degree, Doug Polk.
On the Upswing Poker Engage group, a helpful member has actually converted the hand charts to excel format. Another member made a spreadsheet of all the replies that Doug Polk and Ryan Fee have made to group questions. This is an incredibly high level of value from completely unpaid, passionate Upswing Poker members.
The Upswing Poker Lab is still new when compared to other training sites. They still have quite a few rough edges to work through. Let’s delve into them.
Using microstakes hands instead of hands from Upswing Coaches
Some of the modules are done using one of the Upswing Poker student’s hand histories and databases. This is generally the 3-bet and flush draw modules. These modules are lower value than the ones which use Ryan Fee’s and Doug Polk’s hand histories. In the future, Ryan Fee has expressed that he will be focusing more on using his own hand histories, which is going to increase the value of Upswing Poker modules.
The highest value modules are the ones in which Doug Polk has spent hours looking through his own hands to find the perfect ones to illustrate his points. That doesn’t mean picking or choosing hands where bluffs went well or his value bet got called. He spent the time finding hands that show how different parts of his range interact with the board, and explains how he balances his play with a mix of value and bluffs.
Some videos are poorly planned
Some videos, especially those based on microstakes hands, feel haphazard and poorly planned out. This is because they are done “on the fly” rather than with the videos based on Doug Polk’s database, where hands are carefully selected before the video is made.
Unfortunately, this occurs in many videos where (mostly Ryan Fee) seems to be brainstorming while recording, often pausing his train of thought to write down a “rule” that will be the base of another video.
While there is a huge amount of value in hearing the thought process of a crusher, the Upswing Lab stands out as a training site in how regimented and organized their training videos are. When you have “stream of consciousness” modules, it feels less like going from A-Z and more like jumping from A-Y-C and hopefully getting to Z by the end of it.
Limited MTT section
If you are an MTT player, you might want to skip Upswing Poker. At this point, while the cash game modules can greatly help your MTT game, the MTT section is quite limited with only 5 videos. There are rumours that the MTT content is going to be expanded.
Limited database analysis
The Upswing Poker strategy is based around balanced play, and mostly focuses on Equilab and hand ranges. While there is most likely to be in depth database analyis using Pokertracker4 in the future, at this point you may find yourself questioning whether your stats are correct for the strategies being taught.
Lower level of professionalism
There is a lower level of professionalism in Upswing Poker than in other training sites. Be prepared for instant messaging sounds such as skype messages throughout, and even interruptions as other people walk into the video. At one point in a video, it even looks like Ryan Fee is handing money to a woman who comes to his door!
Is Upswing Poker a sales platform?
Upswing Poker has many pros. But once criticism is that it may be acting as a sales platform for higher value products, such as the Advanced Heads Up Mastery course which retails for $999. The sales funnel seems to be as follows – free hand charts leads to purchasing the $19 Postflop Gameplan, which has had a “limited time offer” price of $7 which has increased to $19 recently, which then leads to the more expensive Lab, which then allows Doug Polk and Ryan Fee to market higher priced products such as the Heads Up course and a new PLO course which is yet to be released which will also be at a higher price point.
It is perfectly normal for a business to function like this. But when the Upswing Lab is being used as a sales platform for higher value products, it does make you question the priorities of the creators. While Ryan Fee is active in the Engage Facebook group and has been responsible for a huge volume of the recent Upswing Content, Doug Polk has been very busy growing his social media and youtube presence.
Which begs the questions: Is Upswing Poker as a training site still a priority for Doug Polk?
Should you buy Upswing Poker?
In conclusion, despite some controversy, the Upswing Poker training site is a very high value for beginner players, microstakes players, and those who have not had much formal training in poker beyond strategy books.
Upswing Poker is already solid value for a huge range of poker players. It is only going to keep growing in value as more modules are created.
The key value of Upswing Poker is the structure of the training site. It is exactly what players have been looking for, explaining the fundamentals of strategy and gameplay in a logical, step by step manner. This alone makes it the best training site for beginners currently offered.
Upswing Poker could make a few huge steps towards professionalism which would show more respect for their members. Yes, we understand that it takes time to edit out someone popping their head into the room, and that the Upswing Poker creators are very in demand. But would it hurt to turn your alerts to silent when you are recording a video?
We hope you enjoyed our Upswing Poker review. Not ready to sign up for a training site yet? We have the next best thing. Our microstakes guide to poker gives you the tools you need to start your poker journey profitably, at no charge to you at all.