Happy New Year everybody! Every new year brings with it the perfect opportunity to reengage with poker and to pursue success in this game you love. How can you get on the path to successful poker? It’s gonna take lots of studying and playing with purpose and working on specific areas of your game to learn the strategies it takes to beat the competition. Many players may put in the time studying and playing, but there’s a common mistake many of them make: they proceed on their journey blindly by NOT measuring their performance as they go. If you don’t know your performance, how can you know the areas you need to work on to improve your game? Players who don’t know what to work on find themselves on a spinning hamster wheel of poker. They feel like they’re doing something, but they’re going nowhere. via GIPHY They half-heartedly watch the next video in their YouTube queue, or read the newest article on their favorite strategy site or buy the latest poker book and read it within a week. If they’re lucky, they put in a little practice with the random thing they just learned from. But for the most part, the strategies they learn while consuming content goes in one end and out the other without affecting their strategies in any meaningful way. This is how most poker players pursue their journey and it’s why 95% of players are losers. And… this is great for you! Their losing ways make poker profitable for players like you who proceed smartly on their poker journey. So, what are you going to do that’s different from all the losers out there? First, you’re going to measure your poker performance. If you’re an online player it’s really easy with a program like PokerTracker 4. You want to record statistics like VPIP, PFR, 3bet, Cbet and Fold to Cbet. You want to record win rates like total $ won or lost, BB/100 hands win rate, your win rate when open-raising, calling preflop, calling cbets and betting on the river (here’s a tracker with 41 statistics and win rates that will measure your online performance). For LIVE players, you want to take live poker notes: track your time spent on the felt, the amount of money that you win or lose per hour/session and the situations where you feel uncomfortable or don’t know what to do. These feelings are indications that your skills are lacking in these areas. Record your performance once or twice per month or even weekly if you play 20+ hours per week. Over time, you’ll see how your studies and in-game focus are working to change your performance and you’ll uncover new areas to focus your studies on. Speaking of that, let’s say your recent performance has indicated that you don’t 3bet enough. For online players, maybe your 3bet is at an honest 2%. For LIVE players, maybe you realize you never 3bet without QQ+. And with other hands, you often think about 3betting but fail to pull the trigger and just call instead. So, you want to become a more frequent preflop 3bettor. It’s critical that you study and play with focus around making profitable 3bets. I recommend you approach your studies 1 week at a time around one specific topic. via GIPHY You’re going to find 2 videos or articles or book chapters that will teach you 3betting skills. Take notes as you consume the first piece of content (ignore the other piece for now and any other bit of poker strategy content that crosses your path). Presumably, the piece of content you consumed will teach you things like good opponents to 3bet, what stats to look for, how to 3bet from different positions, the bet size you should use and what hands make for good 3bets. Now your task is to actively use the strategies you learn to 3bet more frequently over your next 3 play sessions. Review your notes prior to each session to refresh yourself on important strategies. Then as you play, look for good 3betting opportunities and force yourself to pull the trigger. Drop down in stakes if necessary so the money on the line doesn’t scare you. Tag hands or take notes on each good 3betting opportunity so you can review your play later. After your 3 focused play sessions, consume the second piece of content, take notes then play with purpose once again for 3 more sessions. If you record your end-of-week results, you might not find more profit when 3betting. However, you should see that you’ve been making more 3bets than ever before as your percentage increased from 2% to 5%. If you’re a LIVE player, you won’t know your percentages but you will have noted that you made 3bets with more than just QQ+, maybe hands like JJ and TT and AQs and A5s. Lastly, at the end of your week of 3betting focus, you must now decide whether or not to continue with a 3betting focus or switch to another strategy. Doing this over and over, week-in and week-out, removes you from the hamster wheel of poker and puts you on a profitable poker journey. In Summary Approaching your poker journey smartly like this is going to take experience, so don’t overthink this process. Just get to work right now doing these 3 things for week 1: Measure your current performance Choose one strategy to focus on this week Find 2 pieces of content, study and play with focus At the start of the next week, repeat steps 1-3 above for your next focus. Good luck and enjoy your poker journey through 2021! About Sky MatsuhashiSky Matsuhashi is the creator of the Smart Poker Study Podcast. He has authored 3 poker books including 'How to Study Poker Volumes 1 & 2' and 'Preflop Online Poker'. As a poker coach, Sky is dedicated to helping his students play more effectively, earn more money and be 1% better every day. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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