Studying Poker: Your Weekly Study Guide

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Today I want to talk to you about studying poker in 2020 and share my study routine with you. This is especially useful if you don’t already have one, but if you do have a study routine, you can take bits and pieces of this process and improve your own.

The thing that we have to keep in mind is that we’re not going to become the best poker player in the world overnight, or in a week, or even in a month. It’s going to take long periods of time. Even just becoming the best poker player you can be is going to take a long period of time, but we can break poker study into week-long sprints and we can say, “Okay, this week I’m going to try to fix this leak, the next week another, the next week another, etc.” When we do that and continue improving our game and decreasing our poker leaks, we’re going to become MUCH better players over time.

So press play and see how to structure your study:

The way that I set this up is through a week-long time box. With that said, let’s talk about the way that that week should break down:

DAY #ACTIONTIME TO COMPLETE
1Choose your topic for the week15 minutes
2Read two articles/chapters20 minutes
3Watch one related poker video15 minutes
4Post a question in the forum5 minutes
5Play with extra focus-
6Play again and try to implement-
7Journal and prepare for next week25 minutes

Choose Your Poker Study Topic

First, you want to start by choosing your topic and major focus for the week. That’s not to say that you’re not going to work on other things simultaneously though. Say you wanted to work on squeezing this week. Well, you’re also going to also be working on things like sizing that squeeze and hand-reading preflop and setting up for postflop, etc.

Make it your goal to focus on just one major topic for the week and understand that you will touch on other things simultaneously.

What Should I Study First?

The topic that you choose needs to hit both of these requirements:

  1. It needs to be something that you know you need improvement on
  2. It needs to be something that most heavily impacts your win rate

Now, here’s the thing. Some people will read this and say, “Well, I don’t really think I need too much work on things.” I’m just going to call major BS on you. Every single poker player needs work on certain parts of their game. Some more than others. Some less than others. That’s fine, but everyone has aspects of their poker strategy that need improvement.

Focus on hands and situations that are going to impact your win rate the most

Choose something that’s going to not only be something that you need work on, but also impact your win rate. If you’re newer to poker, it’s more important that you learn how to play your strong hands right this moment than learning how to river bluff check-raise in very specific situations.

But I Don’t Know What To Focus On…

If you don’t know where to start, or if you’ve never really thought about this before, spend the next 20 minutes writing a brain dump all of the spots where you feel uncomfortable or confused. Jot down situations where you’ve heard people talk about something, be it squeezing or double-barreling or when to turn check-raise.

Then rank all of those by importance and by order of win rate impact.

Is something going to impact your win rate more if you study right at this moment? If so, that might be the thing that you choose for this week. Again, choose a topic that works best for you and is something that you need to work on right at this moment.

Newer players benefit the most from studying preflop and flop strategies at first. Intermediate & advanced players tend to need study time for turn and river play.

Start Researching Your Poker Topic

After you choose your topic, it’s time to actually get working.

During a given week that you should make it a goal to read at least two poker guides on your topic. If you are currently reading a book, or have a poker book in your library with some solid chapters on your topic, then definitely use those. They can either replace the two articles or they can be with the two articles, but definitely make sure you spend some time reading this topic.

FWIW, you don’t have to read the 2 articles right away, but definitely make sure that you’re doing your reading earlier in the week.

Take Notes While Studying

If you are doing this diligently, and you should be, you want to keep a journal while you’re doing this kind of stuff. It can be a Word document or a Google Drive doc, it doesn’t really matter. Just make sure that you’re writing.

Most people don’t consider themselves great writers, but if nothing else, focus on jotting down these things while studying during a given week:

  • Any new insights you learned
  • Any questions you develop
  • Any jargon you are unsure about
  • Any shortcuts you find
  • Any hands that come to mind while researching
  • Any poker math formulas

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While you’re studying this stuff, you want to write down what your learn, but also write down any new questions that come up while you’re studying.

If you’re reading an article and a coach suggests squeezing X, Y or Z hand, then think about why that’s the case. If you can’t come up with a clear answer, write it down. While you’re studying throughout the rest of the week, you’re going to be looking to answer all of those questions that come up. And if you are struggling to find answers, you may have found a great topic for next week!

Ask Questions & Find Answers

When you first choose a topic, you typically being with a very basic question like “how do I squeeze?”, or “when should I double bluff?” And then when you’re digging down deeper and deeper, more and more questions will arise. Your goal is to answer those questions too in an effort to develop a well-rounded understanding of the directly and tangential subject matter.

Use Poker Videos To Study

Videos are an excellent way to study poker between sessions, so long as you are ACTIVELY watching. So make sure you’re watching at least one poker video related to your topic throughout the week.

If you have a training site subscription, then definitely look through their videos first and you should be able to find at least one video on your topic. Any training site that has a decent-sized video database will have something for you. If you don’t have a video site subscription yet, I would definitely suggest checking out the PRO Membership over at Red Chip Poker.

If you don’t have a training site subscription because you’re saving bankroll right now, no problem whatsoever. Youtube and Google are going to be your best friend. Just search for your topic via YouTube and you’ll likely find a few videos that will help.

To find my content specifically, you can use this little trick. Just search for splitsuit [your topic]. Whether you’re doing that on Youtube or Google, chances are you’re going to find at least something that can get you started.

Remember, you might have to search a few different ways. If you’re looking for “how to play AA”, search for “splitsuit AA” or “splitsuit pocket Aces”. Google search is getting smarter, but it doesn’t fully understand poker jargon and parallel topics quite yet.

So make sure throughout the week you’re watching at least one video. The more study time you have, maybe you’ll make that two or three videos. The more work you need on a topic, maybe even add a couple more. But make sure to make this a habit and constantly looking for new ways to study. Yes, articles are one way, books are one way, videos are another way, but there are plenty of other ways too.

Poker Forums For Studying

Also throughout the week, I’d like you to use a poker forum to your advantage. Either:

  • Find an existing thread, read it, and post a follow-up question
  • Start a new thread about your topic

Always start by trying to find a thread that already exists on your topic. Then read it, digest it, and maybe ask a follow-up question or a clarifying question. If no threads exist, or if your questions is very specific, you can start a new thread about your topic. Either ask your question, or post a related hand and say, “Hey, I’m working on X TOPIC. Here’s a hand that came up. Here’s why I made this play. Am I thinking about this correctly?”

I know that posting is not everyone’s favorite thing and I know that a lot of players are very against posting. Either they posted on bad forums in the past and they’ve gotten trolled, or they really just don’t feel comfortable with the whole thing.

But I promise you, using a good forum is incredibly beneficial.

If you don’t already have a forum, I would definitely suggest using the free forum at Red Chip Poker. It is extremely friendly and players post on everything from cash games to tournaments and everything in between.

Remember, you get what you give when it comes to poker forums. Also offer your own opions on other player’s hands. Your insights can help keep a conversation moving and help the community as a whole!

Focus More While Playing

The next thing I want you to do is spend some extra energy focusing on this topic while you’re playing sessions during the week. It’s not that you abandon the other facets of your strategy or you only focus on this one concept that you’re working on, but I want you to spend some extra energy focusing on it. Even if you don’t run the plays you’re studying in real-time yet, at least be looking for spots that might be good to run the play. Jot down any spots and the factors that make you believe an action would be have been +EV.

Take a situation where you’re working on squeezing better preflop. Maybe you don’t feel comfortable pulling the trigger and running a bluff squeeze yet. Okay, that’s fine. But when you’re playing sessions this week, look for spots and say, “Would this be a good spot for a squeeze?” Even if you fold instead of making the squeeze, you are training your brain to look for extra opportunities. If you constantly answer that question with “I don’t know” – then you need to continue studying the topic because you don’t fully understand the concept yet.

You want to get to the point where it’s your action at the table and you can quickly discern what would be good AND bad about making a specific play in that spot. If you can’t do that, you don’t understand the spot well enough yet!

Don’t Overly-Focus & Miss +EV Plays

You’re not abandoning other parts of your strategy. You’re just giving a little bit more time and attention to this when you’re in real-time. Even if you don’t pull the trigger yet, that’s okay. Just be thinking about this. I assure you, it’s going to help in the long run.

It may seem a little bit weird at first, but you’ll get used to this over time. Especially when you’re choosing the right topics for you. You’re going to notice situations like this coming up, and you’re going to notice spots that you’ve been passing up in the past.

Check Your Notes

As you get later into the week, be sure to check your journal. Remember, throughout the week you’ve been keeping this journal. You’ve been writing down things that you’ve learned, new questions that you’ve developed, any ideas for future study topics that may have been related to this.

Again, if you’re working on squeezing, you might realize that you need a little work on flop play first. Maybe that’s what you end up working on the next week or the week after that…

At the end of this week of study, I want you to go back and read your journal real quick. Read your notes, and see if you’ve managed to answer any of those questions that you’ve written down along the way. Maybe you have, maybe you haven’t. If you haven’t, it’s something that you want to read a quick article on or watch a quick video on or maybe just add that as your study topic for next week.

Write Down Things You’ve Learned

What I also challenge you to do is spend this time at the end of the week and write a few paragraphs about your topic as if you were writing a strategy chapter in a poker book.

It may seem a little bit weird and you will likely feel incredibly under-qualified. That’s okay. Just do you best to write about it. Because in writing about it, you’re going to notice spots where you’re like “Wait…my reasoning doesn’t make 100% sense here.”

This writing process is going to help you put not only words to paper, but also be able to say, “This isn’t clear yet and here are the weaker spots in my thought process”. Trust me, this can be a very illuminating experience, especially if you’ve never done it before.

What Should I Study Next?

Then in preparation for the next week, think about your next topic and prepare to do this process all over again next week.

Every couple of months, I want you to go back and review your journal that you’ve been keeping, and especially keep track of those strategy chapters that you wrote. Go back, reread those and say, “Wait, am I improving on this? Am I understanding this deeper? Did I write something about this in the past?” Go back and change that and update it with your new information because over time as you’re continually studying, you’re going to get more and more information, you’re going to think more logically and more strategically giving you a better understanding of the stuff you wrote months ago.

Once a quarter, I want you to make sure you zoom out, look at your current leaks, and then plan your next few weeks of study topics. Study topics should be used for one of two things:

  • To add to your playbook
  • To remove leaks

Often with leaks, if we’re not looking for them, we can get lazy, we can brush over them, and leaks are really what we want to be studying. Because once we identify a leak, we work on it, we study it, and all of a sudden, that leak is no longer impacting us and no longer becoming a loss rate scenario. Instead, it’s being fixed and flipped into a win rate scenario.

Repeat This Study Process

Make sure you’re doing this process, and then repeat it each and every week.

I know it’s a little cumbersome and takes time. But if you make this a habit, it won’t feel hellish. Even if you’ve been out of formal study for a long time, trust me, a good habit will make your life easier.

If you put the time and effort into it, your poker strategy as a whole is definitely going to benefit. So make sure to be diligent with this, don’t be lazy, and don’t skimp on it.

Being serious about playing better poker takes effort and time, but it’s really not too much. If you really break it down, maybe it’s a couple of hours per week. And trust me, fixing up your leaks in just a few hours is going to be hugely profitable.

This is the study routine that I would suggest, especially if you don’t already have one. It’s not too difficult. Choose a topic that’s going to impact your win rate. Read some articles on that topic. Watch at least one video on that topic. Post a little bit on that topic. Spend some extra energy on that topic when you’re actually playing in real-time and make sure to keep that journal.

Remember, if you can get used to that, write down extra questions that come up, try to answer those questions. At the end of every week, write a few paragraphs as if you were writing a strategy chapter in a book. It’s going to be extremely beneficial in the long run, so you can go back, you can review those, you can continue patching leaks and improving your strategy along the way.


This entire video is actually inspired by a very small subsection of one of the chapters in my book Unfolding Poker. In this book, I give advanced answers to some of the most frequently asked poker questions. These are questions I get from students, forums, Youtube comments, etc.. It’s my chance to give you clear and actionable answers that you can start putting to use in your next session. This book comes in e-book form, paperback form, and also the audiobook form if you really like listening to content instead of just having to read it.

Click here to pick up your copy of Unfolding Poker today. There are also chapters on running it twice, cbetting on multiway flops, when to change bet sizes, and more. It’s a quick read and great for getting applicable answers to questions you want to study!

New Poker Book

And that’s going to wrap it up for this article. Hopefully, you’ve learned a little bit about how to study better and this helps you start building your own study routine. Good luck out there!

SplitSuit

My name is James "SplitSuit" Sweeney and I'm a poker player, coach, and author. I've released 500+ 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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