In my prior article called How to Study Poker: Learn Something, Do Something, I gave you a 4-step process for weekly studies.
Step 1 was to choose a strategy topic to focus on for the week. Yet, how do you know what topic to choose?
My recommendation is to take the next item from your list of weaknesses.
What? You don’t have one? Let me help you create a list of weaknesses that you can work from to improve your skills.
Find Your Weaknesses
It doesn’t matter how good you are at poker, there’s always something that you can improve upon.
For many micro stakes and low-stakes players, maybe you’re weak at the fundamentals: 3-betting and c-betting and pre-flop bet sizing and going for value when you flop a strong hand.
For pros, they probably have the fundamentals down pat. However, maybe their weaknesses revolve around intricate stuff like check-raising the turn on dry boards or knowing when to bluff 25% pot versus 33% pot versus 150% pot.
There are two ways that I recommend for the “lone studier” (without a coach) to find their weaknesses.
1. Pay attention to “unsure” spots
Maybe this past week, you experienced this “unsure” spot four different times:
- Your opponent bet on the flop and you called.
- An overcard hit on the turn and your opponent checked to you.
- You sensed weakness, so maybe you should bet. But, you were unsure of your chance of success. So you checked back instead of bluffing… all four times.
This is a sure sign that you need to study this situation to get more comfortable with these bluffing opportunities.
2. Use PokerTracker 4
For online players, PokerTracker 4 is the #1 tool for spotting your weaknesses. It shows your tendencies in every situation and calculates your win rates when making different plays.
Maybe you think your game is spot on and you 3-bet bluff plenty, double-barrel c-bet all the time and you’re a winner when calling rivers.
But sometimes what we think about ourselves isn’t the truth. PokerTracker 4, however, shows us exactly the results of our time on-the-felt. There’s no hiding from this info.
Perhaps in your last 10,000 hands, PT4 shows you that:
- You 3-bet only 2.8% of the time >>> this means you’re mainly a value 3-bettor.
- You make the flop c-bet 74% of the time, but barrel the turn only 42% of the time >>> you’re an honest turn c-bettor.
- You called the river 83 times and have lost a whopping 18bb’s on average each time >>> you’re actually a huge loser when calling rivers.
Record Your Weaknesses
When you find your weaknesses through paying attention to your play or via PT4, write them down.
You can do this however you want: in your poker journal, on your weekly calendar- or even on sticky notes attached to your monitor.
This is the list of weaknesses you’ll target on a weekly basis.
Moreover, to improve most efficiently, you need to prioritize your weaknesses.
Prioritize Your Weaknesses
Let’s imagine you’ve written these five weaknesses in your poker journal:
- I Don’t 3-bet Bluff Enough: I 3-bet only 2.8% of the time and my Call PF 2-bet is a whopping 15%.
- I Don’t Double-Barrel C-bet Enough: My c-bet drops 32% from the flop to the turn. This makes it easy for them to steal the pot when I check the turn.
- I Lose Too Much When Calling Rivers: Losing 18BBs on average when calling the prior 83 river bets is terrible for my bankroll and morale.
- I Don’t Table Select: I stay on tables with too many strong players, allowing loose and aggressive players to sit on my left. This makes poker very difficult.
- I Fail to Target Players: I don’t consider who my opponent is before entering the pot.
Before you begin working on your weaknesses one at a time, you must prioritize the list to maximize your study efficiency and to get the biggest bang for your study buck.
General rule: Work on the most common spots first, as well as quick fixes that yield great results.
Here’s how and why I would prioritize the list of weaknesses above:
#1: I Don’t Table Select
This is a very quick fix. If I target this weakness first, I’ll be at tables full of fish which makes poker easier and more fun. Plus, my bluff 3-bets will be more effective, I’ll be able to double-barrel more because they can’t stand the pressure and I won’t face as many river calling opportunities.
#2: I Fail to Target Players
Another quick fix. If I actively search for the weakest players to play hands against, poker will naturally be easier, more fun and more profitable. Plus, weak players won’t put me in tough post-flop spots as often.
#3: I Don’t 3-bet Bluff Enough
This one will take a bit longer to fix. However, if I can turn bad calls into good 3bet bluffs, I’ll be the one pressuring my opponents. I won’t face as many c-bets nor river bets, and I’ll be the one c-betting more often with stronger ranges.
#4: I Don’t Double-Barrel C-bet Enough
Now that I’m 3-betting more often and calling less, I’ll have stronger ranges with which to pressure my opponents on all three streets. I’ll include some range and board interaction studies to help me pull the trigger on more turn c-bets.
#5: I Lose Too Much When Calling Rivers
This could take a long time to fix without the above four fixes. With the above four in place, the players I get to the river against won’t be able to put so much post-flop pressure on me, so river decisions should be improved. And I will do some additional study into finding the fold when I know I’m beat.
Now Get to Work
With this prioritized list of weaknesses to tackle, you’ve got your work cut out for you.
Simply put all your focus on #1 until you feel comfortable with it and you see positive results.
I was going to end with “Good luck!” But, I recall that Louis Pasteur once said, “Luck favors the prepared mind.”
So, skip the luck and get to work to prepare your mind for better play!