Poker Strategy: The Benefits of Poker Study and Self Assessment

Posted at 18:46 2009-12-24

Today I want to talk about the importance of studying as you work your way through the low stakes and move up in games. Poker strategy is so complex, and is not an exact science, so you need to understand as many different styles as possible in order to exploit your opponents. These days there are many mediums which you can access in order to develop your own style and your own game. These are:

  • Reading poker strategy books that have been written by successful players
  • Reading strategy forums/articles on the Internet
  • Analysing your play and asking the advice of more successful players - this could be one or a group of friends, or even more formal coaching
  • Joining a training site and watching videos of the pros as they explain their thought process as they play crucial pots

Truth be told, you do also need table experience, but you should allocate say about 15% of your "poker time" to working on your game. Now let’s go through each of the above in some more detail.

Most successful players have read poker books along their journey. With the explosion of poker in the last 4-5 years, there is a plethora of books available, and it goes without saying that some will be better than others. These specific books are generally available from most of the sites in exchange for Frequent Player Points, but you can also purchase them from sites like Amazon. Book stores in Australia, generally do not stock an elaborate supply of the better titles, but I am sure you could have them order specific books.

After speaking to a number of successful tournament pros and using my own experience I have narrowed down to just a few books which would be beneficial for the new player who wants to play tournaments.

Harrington on Hold’em Vols: I, II and III (by Dan Harrington) - Harrington won the WSOP Main Event in 1995, and also made the Final Table in 2003 and 2004, and this series is widely regarded as the Bible of tournament poker. Harrington plays a very tight, aggressive style generally, and his concepts have formed the backbone of many a successful players core style. This series is a must for anybody wanting to expand their knowledge and become a better player.

Kill Everyone (by Lee Nelson) - Only written a few years ago, Nelson's book has earned the raptures of many a great player. It is the sequel of Kill Phil, which is in its own right a very good book, but there is no need to have read Kill Phil before reading Kill Everyone. Nelson brings a very mathematical approach to the felt and is a must for any budding poker player.

Winning Poker Tournaments One Hand At A Time (by Rizen, PearlJammer and  Apestyles) - This is a relatively new book and sees each of the authors discuss 50 different hands each individually, before a 'group' discussion of a further 50 hands. New players are bound to get a lot out of this well written book. It is more up-to-date than most worthwhile strategy books and is a must for all tournament players.

Tournament Poker for Advanced Players (by David Sklansky) - As the title suggests, this is for the more advanced player, but it certainly is a worthwhile read after you have read the above titles and had quite a bit of practical experience. As with Harrington, this book was written some time ago, and whilst some of the concepts may have evolved over time, the core principles are still in play, and still worthwhile.

Whilst I recommend you reading these books, over time, changes in the way the game is played do occur, and as such, the importance of staying abreast of these modifications is crucial. Up-to-date information is readily available on various strategy forums and the Hand Discussion area of PokerNetwork has developed into a valuable source of information both to learn from other players hands and for you to post your own hands and receive valuable feedback.

It is a good idea whilst you are playing a session to identify a number of hands that you struggled with, or thought you played badly, and cut and past the hand history into a separate file. Once your session is finished spend some time going through these hands and if need be, seek advice from more experienced players by either asking a friend, or posting the hand on the forum.

You could even take this one step further and get a group together of similar stake/level players and discuss these hands in greater detail, drawing on the knowledge that everybody in your group has picked up through their own experiences over time.

Another important way of keeping up to date is to join a training site. These sites have educational videos where pros and winning players have analysed their own play, either live, or replayed it through a hand replayer. There are many of these sites around these days, and not all are specific to the tournament player (most have both cash and tournaments) but the main ones that I believe suitable for tournaments are PokerXFactor, Leggo and Deuces Cracked. Many top players around value this as one of the best ways of staying abreast of the changes to the game, as opposed to a book which, outlays the basic principles but cannot stay current to the slight changes of thinking of top players that is very important for success.

Until next time, play well.

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The importance of poker stufy and self assessment The importance of poker stufy and self assessment

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