A game which draws focus on decision-making in poker, High Score Challenge is an invaluable resource for all players. As a beginner, I find that this has been an essential tool to help me get accustomed to the thought process required when making decisions about sizing bets appropriately in poker.

Although it is mainly aimed at new players, I think that even those who have more experience will benefit from this training exercise!  More information about this can be found here:


13 is a magic number
It’s interesting how the number ‘13’ has different meanings in different contexts: for the superstitious it is an unlucky number, whereas in ancient cultures it is a symbol of femininity because ‘13’ corresponds to the number of lunar cycles in a year. 

As for me, ‘13’ is the number of attempts it took me (just today) to reach 4800 in the High Score Poker Challenge!
In the game you are given guidance so initially I followed the instructions. It is not mandatory to follow the guidance – you are given the flexibility to size bets in a way you think is most appropriate. So after a while, I began to adjust the amounts. What I found was most useful in this exercise, is that even though ultimately I made the decisions, the game is formatted in such a way that it made me realise the importance of making the right sized bets and the consequences of making ‘bad’ decisions during a hand.  

To bet or not to bet...
This leads on to bet-sizing as a thinking process. Prior to using this resource, I underestimated the power of adjusting my bets and raises during a poker game. For instance, my bet sizing was limited to min-raising and betting up to half pot (or whatever it says automatically on the tabs in the software)!!
There are many articles and lessons about bet sizing, but some things need to be put into practice – it is not enough to learn a concept passively, when it is meant to be put into practice.

When I play this challenge, I think of it as a learning tool and it has helped me consolidate what I’ve read about. This is because even though you are faced with the same cards and the same options, it is the decisions you make which influence the outcome of the game. As I played more games (yesterday I played this game 24 times….yes I have a lot of free time lol), I thought more and more about the significance of sizing bets. For example, types of bets, reasons to bet, and whether the size of the bet reflects the purpose (do I want my opponent to fold/call etc). I think that for more expert players, choosing the right bet-size to suit a specific purpose is spontaneous, and hopefully I will improve this skill now that I am aware of the importance of bet-sizing, and of course, by gaining more experience at the tables.

Distributed practice
Now, yes I do have a lot of spare time at the moment, but I didn’t play the High Score Challenge game several times, for several days just for fun or to kill time!

In fact, having several short training sessions over a long period of time (instead of cramming everything in one long session) is a learning strategy known as “distributed practice.” I use this when I study for my Law degree and have found that it works well for me. I don’t want to bore anyone, but I think that this method is very effective especially within the context of poker. This is because poker involves continuous learning and the concepts we learn must be effectively put into practice for us to succeed and improve. 

To demonstrate the effectiveness of this technique, in 1978 Alan Baddeley (UK Psychologist) researched how this technique influenced learning: postmen were taught how to use new typewriter systems with different learning schedules. 

The outcome of the investigation suggested that those who had learned the new systems through short sessions over several days acquired a deeper understanding than those who had longer sessions in fewer sittings.

This type of learning is referred to as ‘procedural learning’ because it is a process whereby a specific activity is repeated over and over again until, ‘all of the relevant neural systems work together' to automatically implement the new skill.

To bring everything into the context of poker again, we can maximise our learning potential and efficiency of learning a particular skill relevant to us (such as sizing bets appropriately, hand-reading etc), by conducting our training sessions frequently and in a consistent fashion. An example of this may be scheduling one 30 minute training session per day, for the duration of five days. The good thing about this technique is that it is specific to each individual and is subjective. For instance, part of my degree is to know the sources of legislation - I can learn this well by studying it for 30 minutes over a couple of days, as I find it more effective than spending several hours in one day trying to learn numerous elements all at once, then not remember all the detail the next day. However, for poker, I feel that improving my decision-making at the tables will take longer than a few days because it is not only an abstract concept to memorise. It has to be understood well and executed well in practice, as sometimes experience takes precedence over knowledge.



School Pass Ticket!
Overall, this training exercise has been very fun and productive at the same time. I think that being able to play this game repeatedly (with the aim of understanding the fundamental principle of making correct decisions in poker) is a great feature because it has enabled me to use a learning technique which I am comfortable with and feel is most effective when learning new concepts to apply in practical situations. 

Another great feature is that the first time you reach 4800 as your high score, you are given a School Pass Ticket (another fantastic resource for us recreational players). Yay! Bring on the Freerolls!

I hope to not have bored anyone with my 'waffling' (lol), but if you do get a chance to apply this learning method to help you with your poker studies, I definitely recommend it, and using it with  the High Score Poker Challenge is a great way to keep it fun. It has definitely opened my eyes - now I will never go back to carelessly clicking the 'bet' button on the software! 


Until next time!