Studying Tournament Poker

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You have been playing well for hours and finally make the final table of a tournament. This is an opportunity you do NOT want to squander – but your results at this point are governed by luck, preparation, and mental game. The truth is, if you don’t prepare correctly, you are left relying on luck – and I don’t ever want luck to be the leg you stand on!

So today I want to share the best resource for preparing yourself for crushing final tables. And to make your life even easier, I’m going to lay out your study plan too.

That way you know EXACTLY how to prepare yourself to take down the big money up top more often.

Step 1: Your Study Guide

Let’s be honest – studying poker is tough. The game is extremely vast so knowing where to even start is a challenge. Do you start by working on your 3betting strategy? What about turn check-raising? Or maybe you should start with sizing your CBets in multi-way pots?

My personal opinion is that once you have the basics down (pot odds, SPR, understanding of value vs. bluffs, etc.) – you should turn your attention to hand reading. Now don’t get me wrong – hand reading is a complex skill set. But hand reading is at the crux of every decision you make.

Want to light 3bet? You need to know what your opponent open-raised with and how much of that range is likely to continue when you 3bet…

Want to check-raise the turn with a bluff? You need to know what your opponent double barreled with and how many combos in their range could actually stand up to the pressure of a check-raise…

Want to size your CB with AA in a multi-way pot? You need to know what density of your opponent’s continuance range is inelastic to larger bet sizes…

You get the idea.

If you play tournaments, you are going to absolutely love my new workbook Tournament Final Tables. I teamed up with tournament-specialist Ben Hayles (author of the Postflop Poker series), and together we built 40 exercises to help you study hand reading as if we were coaching you through final table spots.

Every exercise puts you right in the action and covers 9-handed spots all the way down to heads up, gives you all the tournament-specific information you need (blind levels, payout tables, etc.) and guides you through the range building process. With prompting questions to get you thinking about the right things at the right times, you’ll begin to develop a stronger intuition of ranges, combos, and frequency issues in your opponent’s strategy. I cannot stress how important this skill set is, nor how freeing it is to identify real-time spots where your cards simply do not matter because you know your opponent’s ranges and mistakes so well.

I cannot stress how important this skill set is, nor how freeing it is to identify real-time spots where your cards simply do not matter because you know your opponent’s ranges and mistakes so well. And whether you play live poker or at the best online casino UK, this workbook has hands and spots that you need to be working on!

Step 2: Your Study Plan

I don’t want you to buy this workbook and then let it collect dust on your bookshelf. I want you to get through this workbook, grow your skills, and then go back to the workbook a stronger player. I then want you to take your new skill set and capitalize on every final table opportunity you get. 8th isn’t good enough when you could have worked a bit harder to set yourself up for a top-3 finish.

Your study plan, if you choose to accept it, is this:

1. Buy the workbook

If you do not have Flopzilla and HRC yet, I HIGHLY recommend you grab at least the book+software edition. It will save you tons of time and make your studying way more efficient.

2. Read the first 30 pages.

They are a quick read and give you information about the hand reading process, ICM, and how to do the workbook.

3. Complete the first exercise.

In it, you will explore your ranges in a common spot – you open-raise from EP2 and triple barrel OOP.

4. Review your answers for hand #1.

Look for any streets where your “% of previous range” is under 50% or above 80%. Then consider if any players you regularly play against would have similar ranges on any/all streets. If they do, write a small paragraph on how would you exploit them. (For bonus credit, write another paragraph and about which players in your pool are likely exploiting you in a similar way)

5. Share your answers in the forum.

Use the free Red Chip Poker forum to share your answers, comment on other player’s answers, and get direct feedback on your ranges.

6. Repeat steps 3-5.

Every day, for the next 9 days, complete another hand from the workbook. Go in order, and take your time.

Give yourself at least a 20-minute window to complete each exercise.

7. Journal your progress through Section 1.

The day after you complete section 1, take 15 minutes and write down everything you learned in the last ten days.

Focus on areas where you are folding too much, folding too rarely, and ultimately giving your opponents easy opportunities to exploit you.

Now spend 15 minutes reviewing 2 hands that you feel you played well in the last couple weeks – it doesn’t matter if you won or lost them.

Analyze these hands as if you were doing a poker workbook exercise, pausing at each inflection point and jotting down your range, combos, and frequency.

Now spend 15 minutes jotting down what you learned and any mistakes you are going to actively avoid repeating in the upcoming week of play.

(This process will be denoted as the “15/15/15 exercise” going forward)

8. Now start with Section 2.

Again, do one exercise per day and focus on the range leaks that your opponents have.

Use the free poker templates, enjoy the exploration, and write everything down so you can review it later.

9. Take 2 days off.

After twenty days (once section 2 is complete), you will have been working on this workbook for a solid month. That’s seriously impressive considering the daily work is intense.

Give yourself two days off from study and then complete step 7 again, but this time for section 2.

Again, 15 minutes of writing down what you learned, 15 minutes reviewing some hands that you played recently, and 15 minutes writing down what leaks you’ve identified in players you see often and your plan for exploiting them in your upcoming sessions.

10. Now repeat the rest for section 3.

These exercises are by far and away the toughest ones in the book and it’s not uncommon for each one to take 1-2 hours to truly complete.

If you can only do a couple of these per week, so be it.

But your poker brain will stretch the most in this section and I don’t want you to get nervous and avoid doing these exercises. Embrace the discomfort and get in there.

11. Do the 15/15/15 exercise.

Congrats, you’ve finished Section 3! Now do the 15/15/15 exercise for this final section.

12. Take 2 more days off.

Give yourself two days off from study and then go back and read all of your 15/15/15 exercises from the last month or so.

I want you to pay special attention to how weak your first 15/15/15 looks compared to now. If that’s the case, then congrats, you know you’ve been growing as a player.

Doesn’t that feel good!?

13. Restart the book from hand #1.

You will complete exercises much faster this time, and you can compare your answers and speed to your first pass.

14. Continue doing the 15/15/15 exercise after each section.

15. Challenge Mode.

Once you’ve done the book twice, it’s time to read the “Challenge Mode” chapter of the book and get to work.


Essentially, you can turn this workbook into years of study. I know that may not seem like a sexy thing to hear – but once you feel the pride and growth that comes from getting stronger at hand reading – you’ll fully appreciate how awesome this experience is. Every exercise will challenge you in one way or another – but each challenge prepares you for your next final tables. And I don’t ever want you to feel the disappointment of bricking a final table opportunity again. Let luck be the reason you missed your 6-figure score – don’t ever let unpreparedness be the reason.

PS.┬áIf you are a bit of a perfectionist, I fully recommend the TITAN edition since it comes with heaps of training videos and extras. But whichever version you go with, you won’t be disappointed when you see what real study can do to your real-time decision making =)

SplitSuit

My name is James "SplitSuit" Sweeney and I'm a poker player, coach, and author. I've released 300+ videos, coached 500+ players, and co-founded the training site Red Chip Poker. Contact me if you need any help improving your poker game!

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