How to Improve at Poker
Once you’ve learned the basics of poker, how do you progress from there? Just play and hope to learn from experience? There was a time, long ago, where that was the primary way people improved at poker. Unfortunately, that is a long and expensive process. Fortunately for you, there are many resources available in the modern day for accelerating the learning curve with more beginner, intermediate, and advanced skills and strategies. Below are some tips on how to progress and the types of learning modes you may choose:
Budget time for study
While gaining experience through practice (playing) is important, there is no substitute for study time. Early on in your poker career, you will need to budget a fair bit of your “poker time” towards study.
Budget time for review
Reviewing your play may also fall into the category of study, but it’s still separate and unique. How are you going to know if the new skills you’re incorporating are being applied properly? How are you going to spot leaks in your game and plug them? There’s only one way… make time to review your play. You can do this by saving your hand histories and loading them to a replayer to review, or by purchasing tracking software like PokerTracker4 or HM2. These software’s are fantastic for self-review, as they load all your hand histories and can provide data on win rates, stats for how you’re playing different streets, and a wide array of filtering options. For instance, say you are struggling with open raising the button and facing a 3-bet from out of the blinds… you can filter for this exact scenario to really drill down and review what’s worked, and not worked in this spot.
Discussing hand and concepts with other players and students of the game can help accelerate everyone’s learning curve. This can be with a group of friends who play, via forums like the one here at PokerStars School, or in group chats like the School Channel in PokerStars Discord.
As far as what type of learning modes are best, everyone learns differently… some do better with oral or video presentations, while some like to read for example. There is no right or wrong method, and while you may well dabble in multiple methods of learning; try to choose modes which work best for you. Those may include:
Books – There are countless poker books on the markets today. Some are really good, and some, maybe not so much. Ask your poker groups for advice. One thing to note here, the game of poker evolves over time as players in general improve at current strategies and develop new ones to counter that. Some concepts are timeless, while others may become dated. An excellent, cutting edge book on tournament poker 10 years ago will likely have ideas still relevant today, as well as ideas that are too dated to apply to the modern evolution of the game. Bear this in mind when reading older books, and always be on the lookout for newer more modern materials.
Videos – While some learn best from reading, others learn well from watching videos. There are numerous training sites that, mostly, offer video training content (more on that in a minute). One of the benefits of this mode of learning is being able to see the instructor address concepts and topics in their own way, often recorded from live play which provides situations and the instructors thoughts in game on the fly.
Targeted Lesson Plans – These could come from a book series, or more commonly a video series. Some educational sites offer specific lesson plans designed to take you through experience levels, or specific concepts from introduction to application. For learners that like targeted direction, these work especially well.
As a long time poker player, learner, and instructor, I think there’s benefit in many different venues. But I think an excellent recommendation is to start right here at PokerStars School. The school offers targeted lesson plans that can take you right from a complete beginner level to a competent player. They have strategy articles for reading, forums for discussing hands and contents, and videos… the school possesses an extensive video library, and offers Live Training streams where you can interact with the instructor in real time. In other words, something for everyone. And it’s all free, compliments of PokerStars. Why not take advantage of it?