We all started playing poker for different reasons. Maybe your family taught you, or perhaps you just showed up at the table one day and got lucky. However you may have begun, your poker journey has culminated in you opening this article and reading at least the first few sentences (hopefully). This likely means you are reading for at least a couple of the following reasons: you are bored at work, you are bored at the tables (stop reading, pay attention!), you enjoy tackling the challenges of the game, or you want to make more money playing poker. While relief from the toils of the grind may be an added bonus, the latter two reasons are the primary focus of this article.
So, you want to tackle the challenges of the game and make more money? Me too! I suppose that makes the next logical question, “How?” Well, the short answer is to study, but there is a longer answer that doesn’t get enough attention.
Many of us already have ways of studying the game. If you are here, you probably listen to our podcast. Hopefully you also have been checking out our podcast breakdowns for the last few episodes as well as our other thoughts off the felt series. Maybe you have even read all of our recommended books and have watched our event with Greg Raymer. Or maybe you’re studying the game independently of Just Hands sources!
But here is the secret. While choosing great sources of information is crucial, the most important thing to do while studying is to attack your weaknesses as a player. This is what will lead to long-term success. Now that may sound obvious, but while it is a simple concept to understand, it is a difficult one to implement. Why is that? The difficulty lies in recognizing one’s weaknesses in the first place! Once you have done that, the studying is the easy part and the increases in winrate are just a matter of time.
So thank you to all of you have gotten to this point in the article. Now I’m going to make it worth your time. Below is a list of things you can do to try and identify your own weaknesses. The list is not exhaustive, but it is an excellent start. If you have any questions about these methods or about how to study to improve your weakness once it has been identified, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Alright, here we go!
1) Get coaching: Coaching is easily the most fool proof and effective way to identify your weaknesses. A good coach will hear you talk through hands and identify holes in your thought process. An even better coach will find mistakes you hadn’t even considered. My personal coaching method is to have my students play online so I can go through their database of hands. I find students are often surprised at the hands I choose for lessons. That’s because the spots they were unsure about were really just marginal spots where there isn’t much money to be made or lost. The spots they were confident about is almost always where the winrate was being hemorrhaged. I really recommend all poker players try and find a better player to help them go through hands, and for information about coaching with Zach and I, check out our coaching page.
2) Understand your decisions: Whenever you make a decision at the poker table, you should know why. Maybe you made a bet but can’t identify whether you were bluffing or value betting. Maybe you knew to value bet but picked a sizing arbitrarily. Maybe you felt like someone was bluffing, but you didn’t know which hands would be good bluff-catchers. Any of these are really just a big red flag telling you to study this spot. Now when you do have a reason for an action that isn’t sound, this method won’t expose that weakness. That’s where coaching comes in. However, the absence of reason is always an indicator of a leak.
3) Identify plays outside of your arsenal: Do you ever check raise the river? If you don’t, you probably should. There are certain plays that are fine to exclude from a strategy. Avoiding limping and donk betting the flop is a perfectly acceptable strategy in low stakes cash. However, the more predictable you become, the more good players will be able to exploit you. Also, any time you don’t consider a line or a sizing, an overbet for example, you are potentially missing out on max value or on getting certain folds. Pay attention to your play. Review your online database if you have one. Try and identify plays you aren’t considering and use your study to find spots where those lines are best.
4) Begin to tackle mental game leaks: Before I write another sentence on this subject, let me recommend Jared Tendler’s Mental Game of Poker. Jared Tendler is a mental game expert. Most of what I have to say on the subject comes from his work and using his work on my own game. In fact, I’m not really going to say much about this since I think you should just read the book. What I will say is that even a strategically sound strategy can be undermined by a weak mental game. The sooner you can identify the reasons you tilt and the ways in which you do, the sooner you will be saving yourself precious winrate.
If you have reached this point, then I know you are serious about improving your game. I feel extremely confident that doing the four things listed about will provide serious dividends. I also recommend keeping the idea of tackling weaknesses in your mind as you interact with the game of poker. As you listen to podcasts or enjoy other forms of poker content, keep an eye or ear out for things that contradict your way of thinking or present options you had not considered. Exploring these will give you the best results. Once again, please contact me with any questions at email@example.com and feel free to leave any comments below. Thanks for reading!