Learn from the Best: Improve your Poker Study Strategy

Learn from the Best: Improve your Poker Study Strategy

I want to impress upon you the power and importance of personal poker study. Typically in our quest for greater wisdom, we look outside of ourselves to poker books, videos, coaches, and peers. I explored this part of the process last week: learning from the wise. Just as important though is the work we do on our own. In fact, some of the best professional poker players like Patrik Antonius and Viktor Blom (Isildur1) are entirely self-taught!

Use a Feedback Loop

Watching poker videos at best leaves you with a bunch of data. Thoroughly comprehending and internalizing this data requires an iterative process of application and review. This starts with taking good notes. Then as you try out new ideas during game play, you capture hands that relate. Finally you review these hands and revise your understanding based on your observations. Repeating this process over and over helps you to fully internalize the learnings as well as deepen your understanding.

This structure and feedback loop is imperative to effective, efficient development. If you find your game is stagnating, take a cold hard look at your current methods. Are you actively absorbing what you read and watch such that you come away with lots of notes and ideas? It often takes multiple passes. Are you going into your sessions with an idea of what you want to focus on? I find formally stating this intention makes it more likely that you’ll recognize relevant situations. And are you regularly conducting your session reviews or do you need to work on your self-discipline? For me, I consider these the most important piece of my study routine. I never start my next session, until I’ve reviewed all hands from my previous session.

PERFECT Practice Makes Perfect

Let me offer one more perspective on why this is so important. There have been some significant studies conducted and subsequent books written about what it takes to be the best at something. For example, Malcolm Gladwell popularized the idea that it takes roughly 10,000 hours to truly become an expert. However, researchers have discovered that that alone is not enough to reach the top. The vast majority of us spend far more time than that at our jobs in our lifetime and are usually a far cry from industry leaders (my apologies if you are one!)

No, there is another critical aspect that separates Mozart and Tiger Woods from others that put in the same amount of time. It is the quality of your practice. The world’s greatest performers employ extremely challenging, carefully designed practice routines that push them to ever higher levels. Another thing they do is break their practice down into very precise, discrete components that can be optimized via high repetitions and proper feedback.

This is what you can aim for with your poker study! Treat every poker session as a chance to rigorously practice and explore a specific concept (e.g. balanced vs. exploitative turn bet sizings). Then use your post session reviews and summaries as your time for feedback while you analyze the results. Just make sure you are as objective as possible with this analysis and remember to put your opponent on a range of hands as opposed to focusing on the specific hand that he had.

I go into much more detail about how to setup and execute a proper study routine in my video series if you’re interested. Or feel free to inquire using the comment section below.


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