In the beginning, this started out as a regular review - highlighting the pros and cons of a shareware program devoted to poker players. I got my list of features together, added my personal thoughts, summed it all up in a nice article-ending paragraph, and then trashed the whole article..
Let me say this first; Poker Academy Pro Texas Hold'em is NOT for everyone. PA PRO is, to the best of my knowledge, the most powerful Texas hold'em program on the market. Designed for players who are truly serious about learning the intricacies of poker, the price reflects the enormous amount of work that goes into a project of this nature.
After searching for the right words to best describe my experience with PA PRO, I read and re-read my article, and each time I felt as if I were reading an ad. When you're attempting to offer a heart-felt review, that's not a good thing..
But... it's got all these bells and whistles. The problem is - how do I best describe the features without coming across like a press release? After testing PA PRO almost daily for over a month I couldn't find any chinks in the Armour. And the best way to avoid coming across as a sales rep is to have a few negative comments about the product you're reviewing, right?
Here's my negative take on Poker Academy Pro:
I'm a magician. I'm also somewhat of a math whiz, although you didn't hear that from me. I have regularly kicked you-know-what when I got my buddies on the table for a friendly game of poker. Yes, their my friends.. but I have this thing about winning.
After downloading Poker Academy, I decided to start my play with the "full ring standard' level of play, although I could have gone directly to the "tournament" level and displayed my skills to all the 'bots. I thought the $ 4/8 dollar limits would suit my style just fine and give me a chance to quickly add to my initial $1000.00 bank roll.
After an extended session, I was down about two hundred dollars. One thing I noticed was that certain "players" seemed to pick up on my style of play (loose) and played the necessary strategy to keep me from bullying my way to pots. I'll bluff in a heartbeat.. and they wouldn't have any part in my walking off with uncontested pots. Oh sure, I stole a few - we all did. But as I said, when all was done, I was down. I contributed this to my inexperience with the new program, and knew that I would make a better showing next go-round.
Poker Academy Pro doesn't let you forget. Equipped with a virtual arsenal of statistics, it keeps a running total of every single hand you play... ever. Your win-loss amounts, total hands played, total won, percentage won, and hand history. I can actually look back at the history of every single hand I've played and see the results, including which of the ten players won, what was played when, and what I played to on the flop, turn, and on the river... as if I want to be reminded.
Twenty-one sessions later I was down over seven hundred dollars, and had not been ahead of the game since briefly in the second session.
I didn't understand "artificial intelligence"... until about my sixth or seventh session. PA PRO utilizes the same type of intelligent play that 'Deep Blue' used in 1997 to defeat then-world chess champion Garry Kasparov. Unlike earlier computers which responded to each move with pre-determined counter moves, Deep Blue employed a generalized form of intelligence and to-be-determined parameters which determined the best move only after analyzing past moves.
And that best describes my negative take on Poker Academy Pro. I don't like being out-maneuvered by a machine. The law of averages has long ago determined that I'm not the poker player I imagined. The way I play, and the way top pros play, are two diametrically-opposed universes..
I can add this though.. my winning's are starting to equal my losses. I hope that means I'm getting better. One thing, I've learned to use the provided tools to analyze hand strength and make smarter decisions. The 'Hand Evaluator' will quickly give me the overall strength of my hand against all hands or against my opponents hand. A 'hand bias' indicator will also help determine my overall chances of winning by taking into consideration my opponents 'pre-flop tightness'.
You can select limit and no-limit ring games, limit and no-limit tournament play, as well as single table or multiple table. Don't be intimidated. They provide an online tutorial taking you from rank beginner to pro. A 'wizard' will appear at just the right moment, as in.. just before you "lose the farm", to offer friendly guidance. And Poker Academy Pro is "gender friendly", caring less whether you're a hulking guy like me, or a demure lady playing her very first hand of Texas hold'em.
I could go on and on about the features, but I won't. I think you get the point. Top pros on the WPT give the same evaluation of Poker Academy Pro as I do. Again, I don't want to sound over-the-top, so I won't get into who said what. You can go to PA PROs site and read the kind words if you want, while I try to stick to just-the-facts.
One feature I do want to mention before closing is the unique ability of Poker Academy Pro to allow you to host your own game. Using their servers, you can set up your own table and invite your friends to play and chat online. I must admit that time constraints ( I work while my friends are sleeping) kept me from setting up my own game, but I have no doubt as to your ability to do so.
I do know that Phil Hellmuth has selected PA PRO as one of the teaching tools for his students at his "Camp Hellmuth" at Caesars Palace. After getting my rookie rear-end kicked around the table this past month I can see why he would...
The Poker Academy Pro download is $129.00, which I consider a very reasonable investment if you're serious about playing professionally. A free download is available to anyone wanting to sample the software before buying. Also, a Poker Academy Standard version is available, without the complex analysis and players stats, for $29.95
My recommendation.. If you're serious about Texas hold'em, get the Pro program. I generally suggest potential customers get the free download, play with it for a few days, and see if it's for you.
Poker Academy also offers gift certificates, purchasable online.
System Requirements: Windows 98/Me/NT/2000/XP or Mac OS X 10.2.8 (Jaguar) or higher, 128MB RAM, 200MB disk space, 800 MHz CPU.
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