In this strategy article we look at ways in which we can work socially on our weaknesses and improve our poker game.
When I was first coming up the ranks, I was fortunate enough to be part of a thriving community back in the days of free information. Before training sites started charging subscriptions, some top players were handing out golden information for free. Today, the number of elite players teaching at reasonable prices is dwindling, but there are still many effective ways of boosting your poker development through social learning. Here are some of them:
Finding the right poker study group for you is all about joining a group of individuals with similar goals and work ethics to your own. As a 5NL player, it would be sensible to work with players who are trying to beat 5NL, or who have already successfully done so. Study groups are useful for discussing hand histories for improving technical understanding as well as for supervised live play (known as sweats) for application. Even working with weaker players than yourself, in moderation, can help clarify things in your own mind. The responsibility of teaching enforces the need for succinct articulation, imposing standards on your own logic. By far the most enlightening poker discoveries in my career have been those unearthed while working with one of my students on a topic I claimed to already have solved!
Hand review for poker players is what hay is for horses. It should become a ritual. Between 2010 and 2011, I spent two or three hours of my poker day analysing and discussing the hands of myself and others. This was the year I moved from 25NL to 200NL online cash games and saved up enough money to hit Vegas for the first time. As a broke student, this was the point of no return; where I knew poker was going to be my career one day. The reason why myself and a group of close online poker buddies had a great year that year was primarily the massive amount of hand review we did. Hand review is practicing your thought process in a controlled environment; away from the time and monetary pressures that cloud your decision-making in game. Repeated hand review strengthens the mental muscle of logical analysis. Doing this with like-minded poker players serves as a catalyst to this development. Check out this article on how to get the most out of your hand review for more information.
PokerStars School’s forums provide a great place to seek opinions on hands that you’ve played as well as ask general questions. Forums are a very convenient way to seek clarification. You can post a few queries or hands that are bothering you and then log on the next day to reap the rewards. Be aware, however, the most dramatic and confusing hands are not necessarily the right ones to post. Why not try posting common situations that you frequently play in the same way. Unearthing a mistake in the most mundane situations can often lead to a long-term fix that slowly nets you a fortune. Check out this article on the importance of analysing small pots for more information on which hands to review.
Interactive training is one of the most enjoyable and educational ways of working on your game. Every Wednesday and Thursday evening from 6pm BST to 10pm BST you can watch a live educational stream from a PokerStars School instructor. On my Wednesday night stream, I leave the floor permanently open for questions. This allows you, the audience, the unique opportunity to pick the brain of a professional about any topic that you find confusing. This is a service that normally costs a great deal of money in the form of private coaching. Following along with an experienced player’s train of thought in real time is also a valuable resource because it allows concepts to be understood in the same fast-paced environment that will be present in your next poker session. Even of you miss a stream, you can catch all the replays you need on the live training archive.
A Word of Caution
Hand review, live sweats, and general poker chat with fellow amateur players can be useful for bouncing ideas around, but if you accept too much at face value, you run the risk of implementing bad advice. All poker players are fallible. During a four-hour stream, I am likely to give out a few pieces of suboptimal advice. What separates a professional from a casual player is not perfection, but how often the advice is faulty. Accepting as gospel the advice of a poker buddy without thorough scrutinisation is a recipe for going broke. Before implementing the criticisms of your peers, ask yourself: ‘does this reasoning cohere well with the set of poker beliefs I have already established as solid?’ If the answer is ‘no’, then either the advice is faulty, or there is a problem in your existing understanding of the game. The next step is to determine which of these is the case and then fix it. It really is so crucial to keep your web of understanding intact. Jumping around between different people’s opinions is a sure way to stunt your own development. Therefore, have conviction in your own web of concepts and challenge anything that does not make sense at first inspection, even if comes from an instructor. We, too, can get things wrong from time to time.
- Finding a study group can be a great motivator in the quest to getting better at poker.
- Use forums to clear up puzzling concepts and to check the quality of your play in common spots. These are the nuts and bolts of your game.
- Use the live training sessions on PokerStars School as a resource for getting real time poker education and for picking the brains of the professionals.
- Beware the dangers of accepting advice at face value, ensure concepts cohere well with the rest of your poker beliefs before making them a part of your game.
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