I discuss some off-the-felt study session mindset techniques I use to get the most out of my poker study time.
In episode 165, I discussed the poker mindset techniques I use throughout my play sessions to stay in a +EV, A-game mindset.
Study Challenges & Solutions (2:55)
1st Challenge: I was averse to studying in general
- From years of being “forced” to study in school, studying felt like a chore, and of course, I hate doing chores. Weeding the flower beds, cleaning the toilet, dusting the house. All of that crap is no fun.
- Conversely, fun things get done. Watching a movie, reading a good book, playing with my boys, building Lego sets.
- Realizing there are two things in life that we have control over; our actions and our attitude. Sometimes, we need to force ourselves into action. Here’s how you do it: just study for 5 minutes. This 5 minutes can easily turn into :30 or a full hour.
- For controlling our attitude, we have to adopt a study-loving mindset. I used to use negative self-talk like, “I hate studying” and “studying is boring.” I eventually learned to use positive self-talk to convince myself to study, things like “studying helps me make money” and “studying adds skills to my game”.
- When you combine action and a positive attitude, you’ll start studying more. With more study comes better play and more profits. This will solidify the value of study in your mind, and you’ll study more, make more money, enjoy poker more. This will just create a positive feedback loop.
2nd Challenge: I didn’t know what to study
- From the get go, I was completely overwhelmed with so much poker content. Free videos on YT, articles, blogs, mailing lists, books, training sites like TPE. With so much available to me, I didn’t know where to go.
A. Follow my list of MED’s starting with episode #87 for an overview, then onto episode 90 for pre-flop ranges.
B. Study uncomfortable spots. In the last episode I discussed tagging hands with an “uncomfortable” tag. If you’re uncomfortable with a spot, this is a great area to study.
C. Get yourself a coach. Coaches can spot hidden issues that will lead to big improvements in your game.
3rd Challenge: I didn’t know how to study properly
- When I started working on my game, I didn’t do much more than read books and watch videos. I didn’t know about studying individual hands or sessions, looking at ranges, running simulators, looking at HUD’s and stats or discussing hands with friends.
- Get How to Study Poker Volume 1 and Volume 2. V1 shows you how plan your studies and it gives you 25 study techniques to get the most out of your studies. V2 shows you how I used everything I taught in V1 through 28 days of actual study that I went through.
- Study hands using Flopzilla or another equity calculator so you can start to see how equities change street by street as new cards hit the board. You can also pit range vs range or range vs hand to see how they fare against each other.
- Post questionable hands in forums and ask for input from others. Analyze their suggestions and question their ideas. Treat it like you’re a scientist trying to figure out answers for yourself. Sure, you’ll take the input of others, but you’ll run the math for yourself and test out strategies before you’ll incorporate them into your game.
The key here is to just study and try out different things. You’ll only learn how to study by studying, so get to work.
The FAST Method (8:40)
I learn a lot about studying and memory from Jim Kwik, the founder of www.KWIKLearning.com. He’s a brain and memory trainer and has his own podcast called “Kwik Brain”. Jim Kwik taught me a great technique for learning anything faster, and he calls it the FAST Method.
The “F” in FAST stands for “forget”. We need to forget everything that we already know about the subject at hand. He explains that full cups can’t hold any more water. We need to empty our cup and delete any working knowledge of the study topic at hand. We also need to forget our limitations. No more negative self-talk and we need to get positive in our minds. It goes back to my prior point of controlling our attitudes. A can-do, growth-minded attitude is much more beneficial for learning. Say things like, “I WILL learn outs and odds” or “I will learn to use math to my advantage.”
The “A” stands for “active”. Our brains learn better through creating rather than just sitting there consuming. I’m sure some of this podcast is sinking in. But if you don’t put into action the things I’m telling you, then you might only be getting 10-15% out of this episode.
“What you put in is what you get out.”
Whatever piece of content you’re studying, you’ve got to consume it, take notes, create action steps then finally, do, do, DO!
Let’s take this episode for example:
1. Listen – consume the content
2. Take notes – this is actively consuming the content and physical notes are the best for memory
3. Create notes – think about how you can put into action what you’re learning and how the information applies to your game. These questions might help:
- How do I change my off-the-felt study mindset?
- What does the content make me think of?
- Where am I facing similar issues?
- Can this be used outside of poker in my life?
4. Act – act on things that will benefit you.
The “S” stands for “state”. Something that Jim Kwik talks about is that learning is state dependent. You learn more when you’re excited or happy or inquisitive or fascinated or emotionally satisfied with what you’re doing.
Information plus emotion equals long time learning. If you love what you’re studying, if you know that it will benefit you and if you get active with it, you’re gonna get so much more out of it.
The “T” stands for “teach”. When I teach something, just like I’m teaching you Jim’s FAST method right now, this reinforces the concepts for myself. I’m basically learning it twice. The more I teach something, the more it becomes ingrained in my subconsciousness. What I want you to do is learn everything with the idea that you are going to be teaching it to others. This is having a teacher’s mindset, and has been proven in studies to be more effective for retaining information. You’ll naturally try harder to learn if you’re expecting to teach it to others.
Start teaching what you learn. It can be as simple as posting your thoughts in a forum or the SPS Facebook group, maybe posting a hand history review and talking about it in terms of what you’re learning. You’re not necessarily being a teacher this way, but you’re sharing what you’re learning with others.
Mindset: Learning Over Earning (17:25)
I find that when my focus is on learning over earning, I do a better job. With a focus on learning over earning, your motivation behind studying and playing poker is a little bit stronger than just the motivation of making money. When you learn new techniques, you improve your skills which will naturally lead to more profitability.
Planning Your Studies (18:00)
Too many of us fail to plan our studies. Without a plan, our studies are either half-assed or non-existent. Planning your studies leads to systematic improvement of your game, as opposed to hopscotching back and forth between various skills or techniques. When you hopscotch from cbets to 3bets to donk bets to opening ranges, you’re never going to attain mastery in any one of those areas.
Here’s a simple 3-part plan:
- Choose one theme per week. Study and practice that one theme until you feel confident in your understanding and skills before you move on to the next.
- Consume and Act. Every day you should learn from one piece of poker content then put at least one thing into action. It doesn’t matter if it’s a podcast, video, article, book chapter, webinar or a discussion with your coach. Learn from it then act on it.
- Review your play sessions. You played a session yesterday, today you should review that session. Spend 20 to 30 minutes; look at the biggest winning hands and the biggest losing hands and learn from them. Check out each hand dealt and watch how the table action unfolds. Analyze your opponents and assess whether or not your approach to the table was a profitable one. And, you want to review hands that relate to your week’s study theme.
4-part Study Routine = GSD (19:30)
Another thing I recommend is for you to develop a study routine. Here’s a simple 4-part routine to help you get your butt in the study chair more often.
- Have a set study time. You’re more likely to study if you block off some time each day for it.
- Ditch the distractions. We do it for play sessions, why not for study sessions as well? Turn off your Internet browser, turn off your email, put your phone on airplane mode.
- Have a plan and execute it.
- Get that mind warmed up. Remember how the “S” in FAST stood for “state”? You want to get your mind and body in a state that’s conducive to study. I recommend mind-body exercises for this. My favorite one is juggling. I do this before every study session and actually do it now before most of my play sessions as well. It’s just a way to get my mind firing. You can also circle your hand around your belly while you pat your head with the other hand. I’m basically doing something physical that simultaneously engages my mind.
Here’s my challenge to you for this episode: Put one thing I discussed into action starting today. Is it going to be Jim Kwik’s FAST Method? Maybe you’re facing some of those same study challenges I faced, so you’ll implement one of my solutions. Or, are you going to focus on learning over earning, planning your studies or maybe create a study routine so you get it done more often?
Now it’s your turn to take action and do something positive for your poker game.
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In episode 167, I’ll hold another 4-question Q&A.
Until next time, study smart, play much and make your next session the best one yet.