There’s one big secret to becoming a winning player, but it sure isn’t some quick fix. When we watch the pros, on the WSOP for instance, we’re often left wondering and amazed. How did they know to make this play? How did they figure out that they were beat with that hand?
Besides having an incredible amount of practice under their belt, these players all have this one thing in common: they study.
That’s right. Poker has elements of psychology and intuition built into it, but, at its core, it’s a game of mathematical probabilities. If you want to make the highest EV play, you need to be able to figure out what the EV of different lines is in the first place.
If you are the type of player who makes decisions based on ‘feeling,’ you may win some pots, but you will never win in the long run. There are many counterintuitive and complex situations that come up in this game, and the only way to navigate them with any proficiency is to put in the off-table work.
Building a Routine
Do you have the desire to become a winning poker player? Do you have the drive? Well, we hope you have the dedication because you’re going to need it.
Start off by building a routine. It’s easy and fun to dedicate time to playing poker, yet sitting by yourself in front of a laptop and crunching numbers is a little less sexy. Nonetheless, this time will pay higher dividends than anything else you can do.
Work on establishing a schedule—and it doesn’t need to be crazy. Try devoting 15 minutes a day, five days a week to studying poker. Get in the habit and you will grow to value this time.
Notes and Software
The two most important tools in your study-time toolbox are notes and software. When you’re playing, make a note on your phone or open up a small notebook. Then, whenever you come across a hand that you find interesting or puzzling, make some notes.
Write down what you had in the hole, record the action, and, if you’ve picked up on any frequencies of opponents in the pot, make a note of that as well. At this stage, you want to collect as much data as possible.
Once you’ve got a collection of hands to study, you’ll need to crunch some numbers. While you can do calculations with just a pencil and paper, your time will often be better spent if you employ some software. Popular options like Equilab and Flopzilla will become some of your best friends.
These tools let you calculate your equity at various points in the hand. Take some time to play around here as well. For instance, keep your hand the same, change the opponent’s range, and see how that affects your equity. By spending time with becoming familiar with these calculations, you’ll begin to recognize more situations in-game.
You’ll make better decisions. And you’ll win more chips.