Leak 6: Willy-Nilly Poker Studies | Podcast #197

In this episode, I discuss self-planning your weekly poker studies so you can build important skills into your game.

In episode 196, I answered 3 questions about getting beyond the micros and avoiding Zoom poker, taking LIVE poker notes and learning to use popup stats.

Quantity of Study and Play (3:10)

Too many people are willy-nilly about their studies.  They hit random topics here and there throughout the week, and often days pass between study sessions.

You want the biggest poker bang for your study buck.

For this, you need to control the Quantity and the Quality of your studies and play time.

The quantity of study and play comes from your dedication to a minimum amount of each on a daily basis.

  • Study and play 5 days per week, with 6 or 7 being optimal.
  • I recommend you spend between 20% to 33% of your poker time studying. This would make a Study : Play ratio between 1:2 and 1:4. So for every hour you study, you play between 2 to 4 hours.
  • Minimums: 20 minutes of study and 40 minutes of play daily.
  • Don’t cram all of your studies for the week into one day. This doesn’t help you learn efficiently. Your mind needs down time to help process the information it’s taking in. This also helps you make connections between poker concepts and gives you more time to practice what you’re learning between sessions.

Quality of Study and Play

The Quality of your study and play comes from focusing all of it around one specific strategy. You may want to improve your 3bet game, your board texture understanding, your utilization of poker math or you want to plug the leak of open-limping. With a singular weekly focus, you’ll get more out of your time on and off the felt.  You will:

  • create a weekly plan that keeps you on track and hits your chosen strategy topic from a variety of angles.
  • study content (videos, articles, books, podcasts) from a variety of creators.
  • track your progress by recording before and after statistics related to your strategy topic.
  • Play with Purpose and intentionally put into practice the strategies you’re learning off the felt.
  • treat your study and play time as sacrosanct and you’ll time block them and remove distractions.

The 6-part Weekly Poker Study Plan (5:45)

Download, print and use the plan: www.smartpokerstudy.com/htspweeklystudyplan

6 parts might sound daunting, but I assure you it’s quick and easy to complete. Plan your week ahead of time, say on Sunday for a week of study and play starting Monday.

I’m going to go over the 6 steps here with the idea that you want to improve your poker math utilization.

Maybe you feel you draw with bad pot odds, or maybe you never know how often you must win to make a profitable river call. Or maybe you don’t understand implied odds nor how to calculate the chances you’ll hit your draw. Maybe you don’t want to be a “feel player” anymore and want a more logical approach to the game.

Whatever the reasons, you’ve decided to improve your poker math skills.

1. Committing to a Singular Weekly Theme (7:15)

You are no longer a willy-nilly studier. No more cbet video on Monday, preflop ranges on Tuesday then no studying until Sunday.

Flitting from one topic to the next, without fully diving into any one is how you’re going to prolong your poker journey. For many of you stuck at 25nl for the past 3 years, I bet this is how you’ve been approaching your studies.

Because we’re committing to a full week of poker math study, everything we do will be math-centric. But, there are so many avenues of poker math study that we can go down. We don’t want to simultaneously study EV math, break-even math, outs and odds math, ranges and percentage form, implied odds and negative implied odds. That’s just too much for one week. We need to get granular with our math studies this week.

Maybe we think our biggest problem is drawing with poor odds being offered. We draw to the gs, oesd and flush draws too often and lose a lot of money doing so. We don’t know if the price we’re paying is worth it or not, we’re basically just going by feel and we call in hopes we’ll hit our draw.

This week’s theme: Outs and Odds Math

2. Creating Knowledge Seeking Questions (8:55)

I love asking myself questions that help guide my studies. Great questions lead to great answers and a better understanding of the topic at hand.

So you need to write down 3-5 questions that will put you on the right path to learning. This makes you a more active participant and answering your own questions is a way to challenge yourself to learn all you can.

5 Questions:

1. How often do different draws hit on the next street?

2. How do I calculate pot odds?

3. How do I compare pot odds with outs?

4. What bet sizing can I call to profitably continue with a) gut-shot straight draws; b) an open-ended straight draws; c) a flush draws; d) two overcards?

5. How can I practice my math skills on the felt?

Of course, additional questions and avenues to explore will present themselves to you as you study and play with purpose this week.

3. Tracking Quantifiables (10:15)

We can’t improve what we don’t track.

You want to track the progress of your study and play, and the best way to do that is with statistics and win rates from your database. You want to record “before” numbers of 30,000 or more hands up until the day you begin your studies. Then at the end of your week of study and play, record these numbers again to see how you’ve progressed.

Quantifiables to track:

:: Total BB/100 hands win rate

:: # of hands saw the flop and the associated win rate

:: # of flopped flush draws and win rate

  • The # of calls with flopped flush draws and win rate
  • # of raises with flopped flush draws and win rate
  • # of folds with flopped flush draws

:: Same as above with open-ended straight and gut-shot draws

Once you’ve decided on your quantifiables, you must have an idea of what you want to see from your numbers.

Since we’re working here with the idea that you are approaching draws with a lack of mathematical understanding, it’s possible you’re not folding enough. So, you may want to see your fold numbers increase. It may also be a good idea to find more spots to turn your draws into semi-bluffing opportunities, so you’ll want to see an increase in raising numbers.

As you go about your studies and play, over time you’ll learn how to interpret the numbers you’re generating. Also, throughout your week you may realize you want to track even more numbers. If you start with tracking only flush and straight draw situations, you might realize that you flop 2 over cards even more frequently than any other drawing hand so you can add that situation to your quantifiable tracking.

4. Choosing Your Study Methods and Content (14:30)

There are multiple ways to study the theme of your choice each week. Beyond PokerTracker 4 and Flopzilla for hand history reviews, there is almost too much poker strategy content out there just waiting to be consumed.

Videos, books, articles, podcasts and forums are all readily available on the interwebs for you. To keep yourself focused on the topic at hand, it pays to make a list of the items you want to study that week. Do this on Sunday as you plan the week. Spend a little time on Google, YouTube and within your favorite training sites searching for quality content from different content producers.

You’re consuming different viewpoints because no single producer has all the answers. They’re each going to hit a topic from different angles, and each will emphasize different aspects. This will give you a well-rounded understanding of the topic at hand.

List of Content:

Article: ‘Poker Mathematics’ by The Poker Bank

Article: ‘Outs, Probabilities, and Odds in Poker’ by Mark Warner at ExceptionalPoker.com

Video: ‘How To Use Pot Odds In Poker | Poker Quick Plays’ by The Poker Bank on YouTube

Video: ‘How to Quickly Calculate Pot Odds and the Probability of Hitting your Outs?’ by Goku Poker on YouTube

Book Chapter: ‘Secrets of Professional Tournament Poker Volume 1’ by Jonathan Little. Chapter 1, “Pot Odds” section on pages 28-33

With a list like this you’ll hit a different piece of poker math content each day, and you’ll watch/read/listen to it with a critical ear. And most importantly, you’ll take notes on all you learn. You can do it in a physical journal, Word document or Evernote.

Study Methods

The other aspect of study methods is your in-game and off-the-felt types of purposeful practice. In How to Study Poker Volume 1, I give you (25) different ways to study poker. You can just consume content from others, or you can do self-imposed purposeful practice like:

  • Game tape
  • Tick sheets
  • Dedicated warm-ups
  • Reviewing notes
  • Creating one-sheets
  • Forum posting or study group help
  • Many more…

5. Planning Day By Day – Combining Daily Studies with a Daily In-game Focus (18:00)

Now you must build out your week to create a daily plan that you can follow and keep your studies on track.

For the five pieces of poker math content listed before, you could study an article on Monday and Wednesday, the videos on Tuesday and Thursday, and read the chapter on Friday. You can mix in some database analysis as well as some game tape reviews or even some forum hand posting on different days as well.

The second part of this step is having an in-game focus as you play each daily session. This is your chance to actively put into practice the things you’re learning. In every session of poker play, you will strive to use the tactics and strategies that you worked on off-the-felt, hopefully the same ones you studied earlier that day.

For the theme of outs and odds math, an in-game focus you may use is to actively plan preflop for how you’ll approach your flop draws. A typical 20% preflop calling range hits a straight draw or flush draw 18% of the time. If you include 2 over card draws, then the range hits one of these 32.4% of the time. With one out of every 3 calling hands hitting a draw, planning for these draws to hit is a prudent measure.

6. Taking Notes, Quantifiables 2nd Round and Reflection (19:50)

Note taking is extremely important. You want to record the most important details from the content you study and the lessons you learn from playing with purpose and your hand history reviews. Good notes are your opportunity to put your thoughts and findings down on paper. This helps you remember what you learned and it’s easy to go back at any time to familiarize yourself with your studies.

At the end of your week of study and focused play, you must record a 2nd round of quantifiables for the hands you played. Hopefully you’ve played 3,000 or more hands, with the more the merrier.

Now, reflect on all you’ve learned and the development of your stats. Try condensing your notes into a one-sheet summary of the most important findings. Think of this sheet as “The Ultimate Guide to ___.” In this case, “The Ultimate Guide to Outs and Odds Math.”

Challenge (21:05)

Here’s my challenge to you for this episode:  Plan your next week of study in 3 steps:

  1. Choose any strategy that you want to build skills around.
  2. Download a blank copy of the plan.
  3. Take 30 minutes to plan your next 7 days of purposeful study and play on your chosen strategy.

Now it’s your turn to take action and do something positive for your poker game.

Sky Matsuhashi
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