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Poker Mental Game & Planning

How to Study Poker in 2020

4,340 Views on 14/8/20

Here are some tips and tricks for making sure you get the most out of your time spent in the lab

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Poker is getting tougher year after year. It is no longer enough to learn some strategy and stick with it. You must be constantly searching for improvements because your opponents will be working hard.

Improvement at poker is difficult. Not only is the game extremely complex but knowing how to learn effectively is an art in itself.

There are numerous pitfalls when learning a new skill. Some people will try to learn too much one once and get overwhelmed. Others will learn strategy from many different sources without understanding how they all work as a coherent whole.

If you have any ambition to rise through the poker ranks you have to make every hour of study pay dividends. Your plan for improvement must be time-effective.

Here are some tips and tricks for making sure you get the most out of your time spent in the lab.

Study/Play Ratio

Many players do not appreciate that playing poker is an integral part of the learning process. They think that the concepts and strategy are learned away from the table and refrain from playing until they mentally feel they have mastered whatever they were learning.

The truth is that you must figure out the best ratio that suits your needs at the time, and this can change depending on where you are with learning a concept.

A golden rule when learning brand new material is to use more of your time to study. As the information starts to sink in you should increase the playing hours to finalise the process.

Concentrate on Your Weaknesses

The learning process for poker skills is circular. This means that your experience is about  referring to previous experiences as well as anticipating outcomes.

In a nutshell no matter how well you think you learned a concept when you come back to it in a year’s time with more experience you will see the information in a new light. This allows you to delve ever deeper giving you greater scope for gaining an edge on your opponents.

Now you can see that there is always a danger of wasting time trying to go too far when you are not really ready for the next step in the process.

Fix your weakest areas. Focus on them during playing sessions, and when you no longer feel unsure of yourself in those spots it’s time to move on and work on another area.

The law of diminishing returns is at play here and can cause you to use your time ineffectively.

Master the Fundamentals

Poker success is always built on sound fundamentals. If they are not sound then you cannot expect to build powerful strategies into your skill set. The basics are a prerequisite for the more advanced concepts to work otherwise you are just wasting your time.

With NL Hold’em and PLO pre flop comes under the fundamental banner. Any learning you do for post flop situations will be distorted by poor choices before the flop comes down.

Many improving players put in a great effort to understand an obscure post flop spot only to discover that if they had played the hand correctly pre flop they would never arrive in that situation anyway.

There are a lot of players in the small stakes player pool who still misuse pot odds and implied odds when these things should be nailed down in the very smallest micro stakes.

Don’t be one of these players who can’t be bothered to really master the easy stuff because you think it isn’t interesting.

In fact the win rate increase you will see from taking this approach will be more than what a more advanced concept gives you.

High Frequency Spot vs Low Frequency Spot

When prioritising your learning schedule you must assess how frequently the spot arises. This does not generally line up with the average pot size for that particular situation.

An example would be four-bet pots post flop versus a continuation bet in position in a heads up pot. In one the pot is already huge and in the other it is tiny, yet it is the continuation bet spot that is the most important by far because of how often it crops up.

You might have more interest in the rarer spots but you simply won’t see as much opportunity to profit from mastering it.

Do Not Keep on Switching Topics 

When you set a topic for learning do not bounce around to new material until you have set out what you aimed to do.

The learning process can feel like it is complete when you understand what you have to do but have yet to achieve this in practice. 

Jared Tendler’s masterpiece The Mental Game of Poker explains in detail how the adult learning process really works and why you should always complete the exercise to avoid only partially mastering what you set out to do.


Mark Patrickson

Mark Patrickson is a professional cash game player grinding stakes up to 100nl 6 Max NL Hold'em13 years experience of poker, across MTT SnG and cash, FL PL NL.Currently living in South East Asia and trying to make it back to mid-stakes befo ... Read More


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