Despite the general caricature of poker players as lazy slackers who sleep until noon every day, the truth is that to get the upper levels of the poker world usually requires putting in 15-hour days for months and years, including playing cards, but also studying the game.
To be a winning poker player you need to not only be a practitioner, but also a student of the game. Poker evolves so rapidly (you can see it evolving during a session as players constantly adjust to their opponents) that if you’re not learning you’re falling behind. In the book “The Raiser’s Edge”, professional poker player Tony Dunst describes how after a month of playing live poker he’ll come back to find the online game has already evolved to the point he has to make severe adjustments to his strategies!
Complicating things is the simple matter that hard work is simply not enough to be a great player. You have to have an extremely strong work ethic, but you also need to put in the hours of actual play, otherwise you’ll be nothing more than what the NBA and NFL calls “a great practice player”.
Hard work in poker begins at home, in the way you study and think about the game. It extends to your circle of friends, and is completed with the way you approach your poker sessions (staying disciplined and focused on the game).
There are two components to being a student of poker: One is learning the theories and concepts of the game, and the other is how you study your own play and that of your opponents.
So, how much time do you need to devote to studying the game before you are proficient? The answer is likely to be different for every player, as some players will learn better with a little bit of study and then through their own trial and error at the poker tables. Other players will fare much better by devoting extra time to studying, especially when they first start out in the game.
What is known is that to remain at the top of the game you’ll need to constantly be working on your game, devoting up to 10 hours a week on keeping current with the latest strategies and trends.
The way you decide to study the strategies and concepts of poker is entirely up to you. There are numerous outlets that can be used, including:
- Poker Training Sites
- Browsing and Contributing at Poker Forums
When it comes to the second part of studying, studying your own game and your opponents, you’re required to pore over hand histories, discuss questionable plays you have made, be honest with yourself over how you played recent sessions, dig through your PokerTracker or HEM databases, and so on.
While you need to use a critical eye when you’re reading a book or article as well as when you are looking at your own play, the difference is that critiquing another players ideas and trying to determine the veracity of their ideas is far easier than turning that same critical eye on your own play.
Your Poker Circle
In addition to the work you do in solitude, one of the best ways to improve your poker game is to surround yourself with like-minded poker players, and form what amounts to a study-group, where you pick each other’s brains.
This circle can be close friends, players in your game who you respect, or even people online in poker forums.
100% Effort (Playing your “A” Game)
When you’re playing poker you need to stay focused, disciplined, looking for tells, taking notes, and most importantly taking this gathered information and poring over it in your home study sessions.
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