Have you ever felt like your poker learning has stalled, while others are slowly improving around you? Do you wish that you could wake up tomorrow with a higher level of understanding about important areas of the game?
In this article, we seek to examine a few key concepts when it comes to reigniting your learning process. Always keep in mind that with poker, if you are playing regularly, but simply going through the motions of automated response, and aren't putting in any work away from the table, your skill level will regress compared to the field around you. If you put in a little work, then perhaps you tread water – but, only through working consistently to improve pinpointed areas of your game, will you become a noticeably better player. Here are a few key point to keep you on the right track.
1) Understand and Accept Your Differing Levels
Understand and accept that you will not always play your absolute best poker. We all know the goal is to play with the efficient unwavering brilliance of a machine, but that's a very hard goal to reach. For many years before you even think about getting close to that level of self control, you'll have to work very hard, and accept your B or C game sometimes showing itself when you sit down to play at the tables. Denying that you have a B or C game is of great detriment to you, so be honest with yourself. When you tilt, or are distracted and demotivated, you are likely to play your C game. If you want to improve, you should consider that you can slowly change the level of quality in your A,B, and C game, but you should also work on ways to ensure your C game almost never appears, and your A game comes to the party more often.
Poker is not all about that one amazing call you made, or bluff you ran, it's about where your average game is, across the span of your whole life.
2) Focus on The Basics and Avoid Unnecessary Complication
In poker, it's very important to target your learning to a specific part of your game that is weakest. If you watch videos about things you're already very good at, you aren't really making the best use of your time. As poker players, we begin our learning by not even being aware of the things we are doing wrong, so uncovering our own flaws with honesty, is the place where the learning journey must begin. If you ever find yourself in a learning crisis where you feel you are playing your C game almost all of the time, you'll often do better if you put complicate concepts aside for a short while and focus everything on doing the basics extremely well. When you can show yourself that you can execute the basics perfectly, then you can start revisiting more advanced aspects of your game.
Before learning advanced concepts make sure that you know your basics
3) Work to Strengthen Every Area
Poker ability and knowledge can be viewed in multiple different categories, and it isn't uncommon for one player to work extremely hard on a single area, while completely neglecting others. Mathematics form a key area of poker ability, but the same can be said of how you manage your time and bankroll, game selection, how you control your emotions, and in the live arena – physical tells and speech. You must be willing to honestly embrace the areas where you are weak, and devote your time to strengthening them. They won't be the most enjoyable areas to work on because they are your least comfortable skill sets, but that's precisely why you must force yourself to work at them.
Poker is not only about mathematics: work also on your bankroll management, your game selection, your mental game…
When sharpening your skills, be aware that learning the theory means nothing unless you can consistently put the ideas into practice. It's like reading about sword fighting but never picking up a sword. Don't go and challenge someone to a duel if the only weapon you've ever picked up is a book. Online poker should be your key training ground, because you can apply learnt ideas to many more hands per hour, and examine the feedback from a relevant sample size, in order to know what works and what doesn't. The strong short term luck factor in live play makes it near impossible to get meaningful results back that show what you need to alter or improve.
Experience is key in the learning process
5) Work With Methodology
Becoming a better poker player means that you will inadvertently gather false information along the way, either from misguided players, or from your own experiences where you tried something and variance gave the illusion it worked well. The flip side is, you could be doing something right and have bad outcomes in several hands and be discouraged. You must be gathering plenty of data and examining it after sessions – filtering and adjusting your approach as you go along. Organise your learning through equity calculators, tracking sites, books, videos, and even good old fashioned pen and paper. Thinking about strategy can allow you to formulate new ideas sometimes, but unless you can write those ideas down, make a list of why they should work, and then implement them and judge the outcomes without bias – You aren't improving your game. When the time is right and you can afford to, there is a great deal of value in taking advice from professional coaches, as they have already completed the trial and error themselves and know exactly what works best.
Thinking about strategy is not enough, you need a real work plan
6) Don't Work Alone
As the saying goes “Two heads are better than one.” In poker, the more heads the merrier. Pooling knowledge and sharing ideas will greatly accelerate the learning process, which is why poker players often have a network of poker playing friends. Don't be afraid to reach out to players better than you, and ask them questions. When you reach a high enough level, you can consider professional coaching options, but until then, having good friends with shared interests will help a lot.
Having a great network is instrumental to your progression as poker player
Always remember that no matter how strongly you wish to be a great poker player, your happiness and health is essential to you in terms of getting there. If your life is balanced, and you are eating well and sleeping well, you will have the framework to learn optimally. Becoming an excellent poker player requires a huge effort, particularly in times when variance keeps knocking you back. If you can meet new friends, challenge yourself every day, and enjoy every step of the journey, then poker can really enrich your life and help you see everyday situations from a fresh perspective. If you win world titles and millions of dollars along the way – well that's likely to do a whole lot for your happiness in life too.
Don't forget that poker is only a game
Article by Craig B.