How to Study Poker: Learn Something, Do Something

By Sky Matsuhashi
July 11, 2021

We treat poker education like entertainment.

We go willy-nilly from one video to the next, or binge listen to dozens of podcasts without even putting one piece of poker strategy to use. Or we read an entire poker book in five days without taking any notes or putting anything into play.

Well, no more!

I want you to treat your poker education like anything you learned as a kid…

Learn something, do something.

studying poker

Remember when your dad taught you how to tie your shoes? He showed you his method, he helped your little hands hold and maneuver the laces, then he had you tie them over and over 10 times in a row. Then from that point forward, he expected you to do it on your own.

Why did we get out of this “learn something, do something” mode as we got older?

I’m not diving into that question here, but I will give you a simple 4-step poker study process that will have you learning and doing over an over on your way to poker excellence.

4-Step Poker Study Process

Step 1: Choose a Strategy Topic for the Week

I love the acronym FOCUS: Follow One Course Until Success.

It’s not efficient to bounce from studying 3-bets today, facing c-bets tomorrow, and poker math the following day (even worse would be all three of these topics in one day, thoroughly overwhelming your mind and ensuring that nothing sticks).

Sure, these topics can be interrelated. However, you’re better off focusing on ONE at a time, cementing the strategies into your game before bombarding your mind with new strategies.

Write your singular chosen strategy topic for the week at the top of your notes (notebook or digital document).

It could be as broad as “3-bet bluffing”, or as narrow as “3-bet bluffing from the BB versus the BTN”.

This will keep your studies FOCUSed for the entire week and avoid overwhelm.

Step 2: Record Current Results

You can only improve what you measure.

I’m a firm believer in this concept. Can a business owner improve their results without measuring the effects of their business decisions on income, costs and profits?

Maybe a little, but not as effectively as possible. And as poker players, we’re in the same boat.

If we’ve chosen 3-bet bluffing as this week’s strategy topic, we want to see positive changes in our 3bet-related statistics and results.

This is easy to measure for online players using software like PokerTracker 4.

For LIVE players, it’s a bit tougher, but you can measure things like the number of 3-bet bluffs made, the 3-bet success rate (they all fold versus getting called) and the number of post-flop hands you’ve successfully won after 3-betting. Plus, record your hourly win rate and/or winnings per session.

For online players, you want to record your statistics and win rates for anything related to 3-bet bluffing. Here’s what I would record:


  • VPIP & PFR
  • Call Preflop 2-bet
  • Preflop 3-bet
  • 3-bet Success (the percentage of the time your 3bet wins the pot preflop)
  • Call Preflop 3-bet (studying 3-bet bluffing will inform you of the negative aspects of calling 3-bets, so you’ll probably call less often)
  • C-bet Flop/Turn/River
  • C-bet Flop/Turn/River in 3-bet Pots

Win Rates:

  • Total Win Rate
  • 3-betting
  • Calling preflop 2-bets
  • Calling 3-bets
  • C-betting Flop/Turn/River in 3-bet pots
  • C-betting Flop/Turn/River

Write down the numbers from last week in one column of your notes, then write your end-of-week numbers in the next column. Record the variance in a third column (the difference between the two numbers, positive or negative).

Step 3: Choose and Study Two Items

Take a few moments to run Google or YouTube searches for two items to study. Choose one for the first three days of the week (Monday-Wednesday), and the other for Thursday-Saturday. It could be a video, article, podcast or a chapter in a book.  Whatever you choose, it’s something that you think will help you become better at using the strategy you’re FOCUSed on.

On Monday, record the name of the item in your notes so that you can easily find it again in the future (and the URL if applicable). And, this is the only item you’ll consume during these three days to avoid overwhelming your mind and keeping you FOCUSed on your chosen strategy.

Consume the item (watch, listen, read) and take notes. It’s a great idea to use your notes as pre-session warm-ups and keep them open during your play sessions for quick reference.

Action is your greatest teacher, so you must create and write down action steps for you to take that force you to practice what you learned.

Sometimes, one piece of content might yield five action steps. Sweet! You’ve got five ways to practice the strategies you learned.

For Example

Let’s imagine you watched a 3-bet bluffing video from the Preflop Hand Selection Course within the Poker Forge.

In the video, I taught you that suited Aces like A5s-A2s and AKs-ATs make for great 3-betting hands due to their Ace-blocking power as well as equity when called (top pair, straight and flush possibilities).

Well, the action step you write down for yourself could be, “Every time I’m facing a raise while holding A5s-A2s and AKs-ATs, I must consider whether this is a good spot to 3-bet bluff and if so… pull the trigger!”

Now that this step is written down, it’s your time to shine and pull the trigger at every opportunity in your next play session.

Step 4: Repeat Consuming and Taking Action Until Success

Now that you’ve consumed the item on Monday and taken action in a play session that night, have you mastered the strategy?

Probably not.

This is where you have to self-assess your skills with the strategy you’re working on. If you feel confident you can make these plays in the future, then you’re ready to move on to the next item to study.

However, it’ll often take 3-10+ play sessions of continued focus on ONE strategy at a time until you feel confident with it.

If this is the case for you, just stick with the same piece of content for as long as necessary.

Re-consume it over and over as you revise your notes and continue playing with focus on the action steps you created.

By taking your time like this and taking action with everything you learn (learn something, do something), you’ll avoid overwhelm and see more progress in your poker journey than you ever have in the past.

Good luck!



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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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