Poker Improvement Comes AFTER Making a Plan

poker study

Poker players love playing poker, but often neglect their studies. They fantasize that someday they’ll be up at the top, playing head to head with the greats in the game. Or, making a lovely side income with their poker skills. But the reality is that most people aren’t willing to put in the hard work it takes to get there.  They love the playing part of poker, but the studying?  “Nah, I’ll just do it tomorrow.”

To succeed in poker, you must become a dedicated and hardworking student of the game. And it all begins with making a poker study plan.

A Weekly Poker Study Plan

I plan my studies on a weekly basis and I focus on just one strategy per week. This gives me enough time to study a few videos, articles or podcasts all around one strategy as I experiment on-the-felt with the strategies I’m learning. I enjoy this process and I love how it helps me avoid poker content overload as well. Here’s the simple 4-step weekly plan I use:

Step 1. Choose Your Strategy Focus for the Week

I bet you already know the skills you’re lacking in. Maybe you’ve never studied 3betting strategies nor how to play draws effectively.

Maybe you also know you lose a lot of money because you call preflop raises too often. And maybe you don’t feel comfortable making bluff continuation bets, so you don’t pull the trigger when you miss the flop.

You MUST work from big-to-small in poker because fixing big issues has a direct impact on the little ones. For example, improving your preflop calling will help you fix problems when flopping a draw… because better preflop choices make post-flop play easier and more profitable.

You’ll approach your studies starting with common preflop spots on your way to uncommon post-flop spots. If your 4 areas of focus were the ones listed above, here’s the order I recommend you tackle them over the coming weeks:

  1. Improve your preflop calling strategies
  2. Learn profitable preflop 3betting strategies
  3. Learn to make profitable continuation bets for value and as bluffs
  4. Learn to play draws profitably

You’ll study one item at a time, starting with #1, and only move on to #2 when you feel comfortable enough with the first. This has the added benefit of avoiding the poker overwhelm that comes from trying to learn multiple strategies simultaneously.

Step 2. Schedule Your Week of Study and Play

Having a schedule in place makes it more likely you’ll actually hit the books to study or hit the felt to play.

Everyone’s lifestyle is different, so your schedule will have to be tailor made to fit yours. But here’s one thing that holds true no matter your schedule: choose one skill to focus on each week. If you’re trying to improve your preflop calling strategies this week, skip the cbetting videos or the river raising articles or that video about playing T8s in a 3bet pot.

Here’s a sample schedule to help you plan your week of study and play:

    • Monday: 6:30am – wake up and watch a video; 8pm – play with purpose for 2 hours
    • Tuesday: 8pm – review yesterday’s session then play with purpose until 10pm
    • Wednesday: Day off
    • Thursday: 6:30am – wake up and read an article; 8pm – play with purpose for 2 hours
    • <li

>Friday

    : 7pm review yesterday’s session then play in the weekly home game

  • Saturday: 1pm – watch a video and then play with purpose for 90 minutes
  • Sunday: 1pm – play with purpose and grind for as long as my wife will let me

Step 3. Take Notes and Create Action Steps

Do you remember why you took notes back at university or high school? Yeah, it was to help you learn so you can pass the test. So why don’t you take poker notes now?

Taking study notes in your poker journal makes it more likely you’ll remember things. Plus, these notes will help to refresh yourself on the strategies you’re supposed to be experimenting with.
I recommend dusting off some of those old paper notebooks or making a digital one with Word or Evernote.

You must also create your own action steps that help you experiment with the strategies you learned. You have to do this on your own because most poker study material teaches you a strategy, but doesn’t teach you how to experiment with it.

Let’s say you watched a training video about calling preflop. The coach recommends that before you call, always look at the remaining players to gauge how they will respond to your call. Your action step could be, “Before I call preflop, I will look at the remaining players and gauge who is likely to call behind or 3bet me. If calling looks like it puts me in a tough situation, I’ll raise or fold instead.”

Bam! Now you can take action and play with purpose as you practice what you just learned.

Step 4. Play with Purpose

Action is the greatest teacher and will help you learn new strategies beyond anything else you can do.

For every session you play, experiment with the action step(s) you created. Take note of hands that you want to study later.

Stay focused on the strategy even when you’re not involved in a hand. Maybe you’re studying preflop calls this week and you just folded in the cutoff. The button open-raised and the big blind called. Watch the action of the hand from the big blind’s perspective and try to think of the plays you would make if you were in his shoes right now.

Action is the greatest teacher, so here’s your action step from this article…

Plan a Week of Study and Play

Follow the 4 steps above right now. Start by listing the strategies you want to learn and choose just one for this week. Create a daily study and play plan for the next 7 days. Take notes and create action steps from the items you study, then play with purpose.

Sky Matsuhashi