FOCUS Sessions for Skill Building

By Sky Matsuhashi
June 17, 2022

In my last poker strategy article called 8 Common Poker Leaks and Quick Fixes, I made mention of an in-game tactic called FOCUS sessions. Let’s dive into that now.

FOCUS stands for “follow one course until success”. This is an important tactic in training to use new poker strategies.

A FOCUS session is where you play with the specific goal of putting all of your focus around one strategy. You look for every opportunity to use the strategy, and you pull the trigger on it as many times as is profitable.


Some examples:

Want to become a better 3-bet bluffer?

Play a session where you consider 3-bet bluffing no matter your starting hand. Bob open-raised and you hold 92o. Before folding, consider what hand you would 3-bet bluff with here. What size would you make it? Can Bob find a fold versus your 3-bet? If you 3-bet and he calls, what’s your flop plan? Now, fold, call or raise and play out the hand.

And, keep paying attention after you fold. Maybe you fold J9o in the EP, but then Suzy open-raises in the CO. If you were Bob on the BTN, would you 3-bet bluff her? What cards would you need? What size would you make it? What’s your flop plan?

Want to learn board texture?

Pay attention to every flop, even when you’re not involved. Is this a good board to bluff on? What’s the best draw you could hold? What’s the nuts? How does your opponent’s range interact with this board? If you bluff now and he calls, what are good/bad turn cards to barrel on?

Want to learn to target the weakest players at the table?

You must pay attention to the actions of everyone and decide who your targets are. Maybe it’s Bob in seat 1 and Suzy in seat 5. They’re the weakest, so it’s now your job to play as many hands against them when you have position. So, when they’re in the blinds you’ll open-raise with anything playable in an attempt to get them to yourself post-flop.

And if you have a hand you don’t want to raise with, like 92o? Before folding, consider what is the weakest hand you would try to isolate Bob or Suzy with right now. Is it 97o, 98o, T9o, etc.?

How to Play Successful FOCUS Sessions

Your goal is to practice a new strategy. You’re not just playing to play or to earn money. You want to be focused on a strategy and look for every opportunity to use it. Then, you pull the trigger on it whenever profitable. Take note of important hands so you can review and learn from them in future study sessions.

Choose ONE strategy to work on. Remember the idea of “follow one course until success” and don’t overwhelm your mind by working on 3-betting, iso-raising, learning board texture, play targeting and calling rivers all at the same time. Just select one per FOCUS session to maximize your chances of learning the strategy and using it successfully.

Limit the number of tables you play. If you’re a LIVE player, no sweat, you’re only on one at a time anyway. BUT, don’t allow yourself to get distracted by Candy Crush or ESPN on the TV.

For online players, limit yourself to 2 tables. Playing 4+ tables at a time is great for profit making, but not great for skill building. You need more brain space to consider the new strategy you’re working on, and 12-tabling doesn’t allow your mind the time to actively think deeply about each hand you play.

Keep your notes open as you play, referring to them frequently. Ideally, this new strategy you’re working on is something you took notes on as you learned it. Keeping them in front of you as you play will make it more likely you’ll practice the strategy. These notes are a great pre-session warm-up, too.

Keeping your notes open also allows you to take notes on important hands or new ideas that popup as you play.

Conduct a post-session review. You’ll want to conduct your post-session review the next day so you can look at your plays more objectively.  Review your notes, any marked hands in your poker tracking software, and watch your game tape (if you recorded one).


Here’s my challenge to you: make your next session a FOCUS session. Choose one strategy you’re working on, and follow the tips above as you play with purpose to use the strategy as often as is profitable. Make sure to review the entire session and see how well you employed your new skill.

Good luck at the tables!



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Sky Matsuhashi poker author
Written By.

Sky Matsuhashi

Sky Matsuhashi is the creator of the Smart Poker Study Podcast. He has authored 4 poker books including ‘How to Study Poker Volumes 1 & 2’, ‘Preflop Online Poker’ and ‘Post-flop Online Poker’. As a poker coach, Sky is dedicated to helping his students play more effectively, earn more money and be 1% better every […]

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