So you want to be a cash game player?
One of the questions I get asked the most is: how should I study poker? What books should I read? How can I improve my game? A few months ago my fellow Team Pro Online member André Coimbra wrote an excellent series on how to study poker, both for low stakes and mid-stakes players. If you haven't read it yet, then you should because I'm sure it will be useful for you (it was for me!). Neverhless, I would like to add my two cents to the topic and try to help those of you who are just starting out at cash games.
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The first topic I would like to talk about is books. Sometimes I feel that most beginners expect me to recommend them a book where they can learn everything they need to crush the games and become winning players overnight. Unfortunately it is not that simple! First of all, I believe that beginners can find tons of useful information on internet forums, poker schools, etc., so you don't really need to buy a book at this point. In my opinion most books that aim at beginners are a bit outdated (don't get me wrong, there are excellent cash games books out there but they are for more advanced players) and you can find fresh and free study material if you search online. However if you really want to read something, I think that "The Poker Blueprint" by Tri Nguyen and Aaron Davis is an excellent option. This book was published in 2010 and it was probably useful for NL100 players back then, but I think that nowadays it would be quite interesting for those of you playing NL5-NL25. It will help you to start thinking about each decision instead of blindly following charts.
So if you are completely new to cash games, your best source of information is a training site. Poker School Online is completely free and will give you access to tons of videos and articles from PokerStars pros and coaches. Check out the Cash Games course and try to set study goals, for example, watching one video and reading one article per week. Most people are very enthusiastic when they are learning new concepts and set unrealistic goals, but remember to take your time to make sure you understand all the information instead of trying to absorb too much at a time. And what if you have questions about the concepts you are studying? Simple: use the forum! Never be scared to post your doubts and ask for help. Discussing hand histories with others is another great way to learn.
If you are using tracking software, you have an excellent tool to review your database and find mistakes in your game. However most people don't know how to perform a database review. You might have seen in training videos some players with an outstanding understanding of advanced filters and reports who can find very specific leaks. But you can benefit a lot from doing a very basic review. Tracking software comes with default reports where you can easily see the most obvious leaks (always check the data by position!). But something I like to do is to think of situations where I don't feel comfortable while I'm playing. For example, maybe you call a 3-bet out of position and feel a bit lost post-flop. Instead of just marking that hand and reviewing it afterwards, you can create a custom filter for calling 3-bets OOP in your database and see how you are doing overall. Check you win-rate/loss-rate, what your range looks like from every position, and then review individual hands to see how you are doing in different flop textures and how you are adjusting to different players. Write down your conclusions, apply what you've learned during your next session, and see how it goes. I can guarantee you your game will vastly improve if you follow this method.
I really hope these guidelines were interesting for you and help you become a better player. However studying poker is quite personal and different strategies might work differently for each person. This is what I've found useful during my career, but you should always try to see what works best for you. Some people learn more from videos, others like to read articles, while some people benefit more from discussing hands with their friends. What really matters is that you never stop studying.
Celeste 'LadyMaCe86' Orona is a member of Team PokerStars Pro Online