The Best Way to Study Poker at the Table!

The other day I was playing $2/$5 at the Jack in Cleveland and the game got really bad. With only one table running, I made the disciplined move down to $1/$3. When I move down in stakes, boredom tends to be an issue. Life seems just a little duller sitting with $300 when I had 5x as much at $2/$5. I suppose I could have spiced things up with some prop-betting, but my table didn't seem up for that. I had to find a way to stay engaged.

On a day where you just have to grind it out and you aren't feeling your most inspired, I highly recommend studying at the table. However, I definitely don't mean pulling out your laptop or pen and paper. There is a certain kind of study that is actually best done at the table during a game. I call this kind of study real-time hypothetical analysis.

Real-time hypothetical analysis is done at the table but not while playing a hand. Basically, we want to put ourself in the shoes of a participant in the hand and then ask ourself a specific question. For example, maybe we always pick an opponent and try and think about what they should be check-raising OTF. The real-time element comes from trying to answer this question by the next street.

The benefit of this type of study is that it really tests and helps our ability to answer these types of questions in game. Trust me that if you you've thought about the last 15 of your opponent's check-raising ranges, you will recognize your next check-raise much more readily. Sometimes this type of study will mostly be reinforcing what you have learned away from the table. That is still an excellent use of time.

Of course, when we are doing this type of study, we will not be as locked into the game. However, sometimes it is hard to lock into the game without specific things on which to focus. These are the instances where studying at the table can really benefit you. 

So go try it at your next session when you are feeling a little distracted but aren't ready for a break. Here are some ideas for study questions.

  • What would I 3-bet in that spot?
  • What would I 4-bet in that spot?
  • What am I bet-folding here?
  • Look for bet-sizing tells and try and figure out what they mean.
  • Do I have a bluff-raising range in this spot?
  • What are my opponent's bluffs?
  • What should I be bluffing in this spot?
  • What would an overbetting range look like here? Does this make sense?
  • Is this a spot to check my whole range?
  • How will my opponent respond to a very small bet?
  • Any other suggestions? Let us know in the comments!

As always, feel free to email me at with any questions.