Poker Study Guide to Move Forward in 2024

 «SmartPokerStudy» 
03 Jun 2024
Strategy
03 Jun 2024

Are you trying to improve your poker skills and results with a ton of study, but it seems like no matter what you do, you just can't improve? No matter how many books you read, podcasts you listen to, poker videos you watch, courses you take, or how much time you spend in Flopzilla Pro or some kind of GTO software, it doesn't matter. You're not improving.

Well then, you, my friend, are a poker hard gainer. In this episode, I'm going to teach you study strategies to get beyond the hard gaining and start packing on that muscle, improving those strategies, and increasing your win rates.

The study strategies that I'm about to give you — namely, how much time you should study, what you should study, and the number one concept for turning studies into skills and results — are going to help propel you throughout the rest of the year, helping you achieve everything you want this year and beyond.

How much should I study?

So, how much should you study? I have a three-part answer for this right here.

Part 1: Number of Sessions

I recommend one study session for every play session. Think of study sessions as sharpening the saw before cutting down the tree. If your goal is poker improvement and better results, then sharpening that saw with proper study and actively practicing what you learn will help you cut down that tree more efficiently. 

You'll have more fun and sweat less in the process.

Part 2: Time Commitment

Follow a 3:1 play-to-study ratio, meaning 25% of your time should be dedicated to study and 75% to play. While many coaches advocate for a 1:1 ratio (one hour of play for one hour of study), I consider the 3:1 ratio as the minimum. The great thing about this approach is that committing to this minimum often leads to doing more. 

For example, if you sit down with Flopzilla Pro to review some hands from your database with the goal of doing hand reading, a planned 15-minute session can easily extend to 20, 30 minutes, or even a full hour. 

You're learning, taking notes, and enjoying the process, knowing it will benefit your gameplay later.

Part 3: Tournament Players

For tournament players, I recommend one study session for every tournament you play, roughly 30 minutes. As mentioned earlier, that 30 minutes can easily translate into an hour or more, depending on what you're learning and how your studies progress. Now, what should you study?

Top 3 Ways to Study

Let's start with the different ways to study poker. Obviously, there are videos to watch, books to read, audiobooks to listen to, podcasts to follow, articles to read online, forum posting and responding to forum posts, coaching sessions, range and board work with Flopzilla Pro, hand reading or hand history reviews, and GTO work. There's so much to choose from, but these are my top-3 ways.

#1: Hand Reading

Hand reading is the most important skill to learn in poker. It's not only great for studying and improving your efficiency in studies, but it's also the best skill for making reads and exploiting your opponents.

#2: Videos

The second-best way to study, in my recommendation, is through videos like the one you're watching right now. However, the key thing is not to watch passively. Your job is to take notes as you're studying. Notes are crucial because they help you take your studies from the present into the future. For example, when you watch a 15-minute video now, later on, during your play session, you can simply open those notes for a quick two-minute refresh on the strategies discussed.

Three months from now, you might wonder, "What was that thing I learned back three months ago?" Open your notes, refresh yourself, and boom, you don't need to rewatch that video or restudy that topic again; it's all right there for you. And very importantly, we're going to use those notes for a key idea in a little bit.

#3: Follow Along (then do it for yourself)

Now, the third way to study is to follow along and then do it for yourself. Let's take those 66 days of hand reading videos, for example. As you watch the first one, follow along. Open up Flopzilla Pro and click all the same things I do when I assign the range. Sign the exact same range, enter the board, enter your hand, look at the equities, and narrow the range through the streets. 

Your goal is to get the exact same output that I do or that somebody else does in some other training video. Once you follow along perfectly, go into your database, find a hand similar to it, and then repeat the process but with your own hand. 

That's how you're truly going to learn any new poker skill, and this isn't just for video learning but also applies to books as well.

For example, Alex Fitzgerald includes a ton of big Flopzilla Pro readouts or screenshots of the work he's doing in all of his books. When you're reading his book, you're taking notes at the same time. But then, all of a sudden, you see a Flopzilla demonstration right there — awesome! 

Open up Flopzilla Pro, try to put the exact same range on the board, and do the hand narrowing — everything he does to get that exact same output. Then, whatever situation he's talking about, and this is in a book, not in a video, pull up those hands in PokerTracker 4 and do the same work for yourself.

Top 3 Things to Study

Let's talk about the things to study. There is so much you can study when it comes to poker. Of course, let's break it down big picture. There's pre-flop versus post-flop. Okay, pre-flop, you could study two-betting, 3-betting, ISO raising, limp raising, so much pre-flop. Post-flop, check-raising, probing, floating, check-calling, board structure, range versus board interaction in tournaments, ICM, bubble play, and the math behind short-stacked play.

There is so much to study, but I'm going to give you my top three recommendations, and this is great, especially for those who find a bit of overwhelm. Like you don't know what to study, you don't know where to go next, these top three will truly help you out.

#1: Big Losing and Tilting Hands

Number one is big losing and tilting hands. So, you want to tag these hands as you're playing — when you lose a big stack, when you get angry on a hand, tag those so you can review them later on. Here's the thing: mistakes often lead to big losses. So, all, if not most, of your big losing hands, you made a mistake somewhere — pre-flop, flop, turn, river (multiple mistakes). 

Studying those, find your mistakes, take note of them, work on those issues so that you can work to not repeat those mistakes in the future. And then when it comes to tilt, well, tilt and anger, they are super big results killers, and not just results, motivation killers. I know when I had a big tilting spell back in December, I had to take three or four days off after, just because I was so angry and frustrated with poker for a time. Right, you want to definitely work on these issues. 

So, these are great hands to review. If you don't know what to study for this next study session, boom, piece of cake right there, you found it.

#2: Finding and Plugging Leaks

Thing number two: finding and plugging leaks. This is critical to becoming the poker player that you want to be. Leaks are those things that you constantly do that are causing you losses. So, what you want to do is use PokerTracker 4 to analyze your statistics and win rates. Find those leaks and then work diligently to plug those leaks.

Now, when I say analyzing stats, that's a key thing because just looking at your stats, you might notice something. Oh, I see I bet the flop 74%, but on the turn, I see bet 38%. Holy cow, it goes from here down to here. I am super exploitable right there. Awesome, that's a great thing to discover about yourself because now you know what you need to work on: double barreling.

Now, the other thing when it comes to win rates, let's imagine you're looking at your win rates. That's the big blinds per 100 hands. Anything positive is good, negative is bad, and of course, the more negative it is, the worse it is. Let's imagine your raise and then call three bet is at -450 big blinds. Holy cow, that means every time you raise and then call, you're losing 4.5 big blinds on average. 

Your calls are costing you more losses than if you would just fold against every single three bet. Huge leak to discover and a perfect one to work on.

#3: Stealing Pots

My third recommendation for things to study is stealing pots, and this is a focus for myself this year. I love stealing pots. First off, it's fun and profitable. The more pots you steal, the more you enjoy poker, and the better your winnings are. Now, showdown winnings truly are the lion's share of most players' profit — getting to showdown and winning with a superior made hand.

But stealing pots and getting opponents to fold, that is the mark of a great player, and all of you want to be great players. 

So, I recommend studying ways to steal pots. And lastly, a great way to steal spots is when you spot weakness in a player, you attack. For example, if he makes a tiny two big blind c-bet in a 10 big blind pot, oh, he feels pretty weak. Let me attack him with a check-raise or an in-position pot-size raise - whatever you feel will get him to fold.

#1 Concept for Poker Growth

The number one concept to turn your studies into skills and results is simple: Learn something, then do something. Think about when you were a kid and your mom or dad taught you how to tie your shoes. They showed you once, guided your little fingers through it, and then made you do it 10 times in a row. Every day from then on, you had to practice. Initially, it took time, but eventually, probably after a week or two, you could do it in 10 seconds. The same principle applies to poker. 

Action is the greatest teacher.

You need to practice what you learn. Note-taking is critical, regardless of what you're studying — whether it's a video, podcast, book chapter, or entire course. Here's what you'll do to practice: Study, take notes, and then review your notes. 

Identify the strategies you want to incorporate into your game, and circle them. Spend some time thinking about how to practice these strategies in-game: What situations should you put yourself in? What hands should you hold? Which players should you target? What boards are you looking for? What pot sizes or stack sizes are relevant? 

Then, play a session and practice these strategies as many times as you can. Keep a tick sheet — just a piece of paper with ticks from 1 to 5.

Every time you actively practice a strategy, make a tick, even if you're not directly involved in the hand.

Imagine you're focusing on C-bet bluffing on the flop. You're trying to identify flops that are ideal for this strategy. Even if you folded pre-flop, analyze each flop to determine if it's favorable for a C-bet bluff, regardless of whether you're in or out of position. Repeat this process for every flop, actively engaging in the thought process of whether you would bluff on it.

Additionally, utilize PokerTracker 4 to analyze as many flops as possible. Identify which ones are suitable for bluffing and which ones are not. Similarly, use Flopzilla Pro to generate random flops and evaluate their bluffing potential. Practice this exercise repeatedly during gameplay and during your study sessions.

Take Action

The greatest teacher is action. Step one: if you enjoyed the video, please like it and share in the comments the next topic you plan to study. Commit to studying after each play session or tournament, maintaining a 3:1 play-to-study ratio. Take a moment to schedule your study and play sessions for the upcoming week on your calendar to ensure they happen.

Select one topic and method of study, then get to work.

If you're unsure, prioritize learning hand reading — it's crucial for success. If you're already familiar with hand reading, dedicate time each day to practicing it with hands from your database. Analyze significant losing and tilting hands, identifying mistakes and working to avoid repeating them. Thanks for reading, and we'll see you in the next one!
 

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