An Introduction On How To Study Poker Strategy
Studying poker strategies is an essential part of improving in today’s climate. Even if you are primarily a live poker pro, you need to study and learn in order to improve.
This article is mainly geared towards players who are trying to learn and improve for the first time. One of the most common questions that I have heard and seen are: How do I improve? Where do I start and how do I start ‘studying’ poker?
The Short Explanation
The short explanation for studying poker is to read, watch, simulate, and discuss poker as much as you can. Some forms of studying are much more valuable than others (ie. PIO solver studying vs. talking strategy with your average casino regular) but it is still important to diversify as much as you can. Putting in the effort and time is the most important thing with studying. And if you find studying poker to be very boring, difficult, and tedious, you should ask yourself some core questions: Why am I playing poker? Do I do it for enjoyment or am I doing it purely for financial reasons?
If you truly enjoy playing poker, studying should not come as a difficult task and putting in the time to learn poker strategy should be something you look forward to. If you truly hate it, you should reconsider poker as a serious hobby or profession.
Carve out specific times to study and be sure to dedicate a percentage of your playing time towards studying. You may be able to improve simply by playing lots of poker (and trial and error), but dedicated study time will allow you to improve at a faster rate. Be sure to read, watch, and solve as much as you can. If you do not know how to use a program, then learn!
People often say “I have a hard time with poker forums and videos because I do not know who is right and who I should listen to.” The beautiful thing about poker is that you can think about it in many different ways and approaches. There are an infinite amount of successful styles that work (though, as you get higher and higher, people will try to move closer to GTO and solver play). The biggest take away from ANY study tool is that it makes you think about poker and, even if the information that you are studying may be incorrect, it will give you a thought provoking idea. This critical thinking process of why something may or not be correct is the best way to grow as a poker player.
If you ARE interested in studying poker, check the resources tab at the top for some of the recommended programs.
Tier 1 Studying
This is the top tier and the best way to study poker in terms of time efficiency. These methods will give you the most information in the least amount of time (but are arguably the most tedious).
PIO Solver/Simple Postflop/Monksolver- These programs are the best way to improve at poker. Solvers are newer programs developed in the last few years and have had a game changing effect on the overall climate and metagame for regulars. They will give you a solution on a hand and show you how ‘they’ (the machine/solver/quasi GTO solution) would play it, which is obviously a very nice thing. That being said, make sure that you know how to use these programs well or they will give you incorrect solutions.
Cons: If you do not input the correct ranges or have incorrect assumptions about the population, solvers can hurt your game more than help it. Be sure to do adequate research and talk to poker friends about your assumptions. Furthermore, learn the software that you use and become an expert in using it in different situations.
Poker Strategy Discussion with Top Tier Players- This is invaluable and a great way to improve. The problem with this is that it’s often hard to find players of higher caliber who want to discuss strategy openly with lesser skilled players. Furthermore, these situations can generally only be found in poker houses or other rare occasions. Note when I say top tier players (obviously everything is relative)- talking poker strategy with your average casino regular is not the same as talking to a 500 zoom regular. When talking strategy, be sure to go deeper than just the standard hand history review. Go into theoretical topics and other strategy talk, as they are more beneficial in the long run.
Cons: It can be difficult to arrange these sessions on a regular basis unless you live in a poker house. Furthermore, skill differences can make it hard for players to learn and understand the theory behind the play.
Tier 2 Studying
Secondary Software Programs- Studying with other programs such as Equilab, Poker Snowie, Flopzilla, SNG Wizard, Cardrunners EV, Holdem Manager, Poker Tracker, and more. These are all very beneficial programs and can arguably just as valuable as Tier 1 studying, depending on how you use them. In order to get better at these programs, you should watch tutorials and seek out videos on youtube and poker instruction sites in order to properly use them. As with PIO Solver, you will need to input the correct ranges in order to get the best solutions.
Cons: Like PIO Solver, poker software study is often dependent on inputting correct ranges and assumptions. Learn each program that you use in and out and be sure to fully understand all of the utilities that they offer.
Poker Training Sites- Upswing Poker and Run It Once are two of the best (and only) poker training sites available and both provide immense value to their clients. When watching these videos, be sure to ACTIVELY watch and not passively watch. If you closely watch and learn the concepts that the instructor is teaching (and, most importantly, actually understand the theory behind his plays), you will benefit.
Cons: Poker training sites are often composed of instructors doing live sweat sessions, which can be hard to learn from. Watching instructors apply concepts that would not work in your particular game or player pool can lead to misapplication and mistakes. Be sure to understand the theory before executing the concepts and plays you see instructors do on training sites.
Sweat Sessions and Poker Discussions- Poker discussions with friends and sweat sessions can be very beneficial to your game. Getting an outside perspective is a nice way to learn new theories and ideas about your own game and the player pool. That being said, sweat sessions are generally not the best use of your time, given the variance and how there can often be dead time and no action on the tables.
Cons: Be sure to select your poker study partners carefully. Bad information can lead to incorrect thought patterns and assumptions. Sweat sessions can also be a poor use of study time, as there are often times when few interesting hands happen in a single session.
Tier 3 Studying
Poker Forums- Poker forums once might have been in the tier 2 category but they have unfortunately fallen to tier 3. Poker forums are still a good way to discuss poker and get feedback on your hands, and you can see communities on Run It Once, 2+2, Poker Strategy, and more.
Cons: Players are much more hesitant to share good, solid strategy these days and many prefer to study with close knitted groups. Forums are a tier 3 way of studying; not because they are not useful, but because you may not get as much feedback as you would in 2008.
Poker Books- Poker books are a good way to formulate a foundational knowledge of poker, simply because the fundamentals stay (relatively) the same across the years. Ranges may change but the underlying theoretical concepts still apply. Poker books such as the Applications of No Limit Holdem and Theory of Poker are still solid reads, even in today’s games.
Cons: Poker books generally have become extinct with the introduction of poker video sites and solvers. Poker strategy has evolved and moved to a point where the strategies presented in the books are often extinct shortly after they are printed.
Twitch TV Poker and other Streamers- Watching twitch and youtube streams are both okay ways to improve. Essentially, you are watching a poker player that is likely better than you and this may not be so different than watching a video on a poker training site. Twitch is easy in the sense that you can watch several streamers throughout the day as well.
Cons: Watching twitch streams is usually not the most efficient way to spend studying poker. Much like a sweat session, there are sometimes only 1-4 interesting hands per session. Viewing and finding an interesting play that the streamer did is nice to add to your own playbook, but more importantly, you need to understand the theory behind it and WHY a player did what he did. Just because you see him 3-barrel air on a 33TA2 board does not mean you should do it 100% of the time.
Poker studying is an essential way of improving and players can only get so far by purely playing. Learning by trial and error is a common way to improve in live games, but players also advance a lot slower in these situations as well. As stated previously, the most important thing to do is to carve out dedicated time to study and actually do it consistently. Having a mix for your study routine is important but be sure to make efficient use of your time.
Links for each:
PIO Solver: https://www.piosolver.com/
Simple Postflop: http://simplepoker.com/en/
Cardrunners EV: http://www.cardrunnersev.com/
Poker Snowie: https://www.pokersnowie.com/
Holdem Manager and Poker Tracker:
Poker Training Sites:
Run It Once: https://www.runitonce.com/
Upswing Poker : https://www.upswingpoker.com/
The Grinders Manual by Carroters:
Applications of No Limit Holdem by Matthew Janda:
No Limit Holdem for Advanced Players by Matthew Janda:
The Theory of Poker by David Sklansky
Twitch Poker: https://www.twitch.tv/directory/game/Poker