A recreational player recently asked me if I only had a small amount of time to study poker, what would I study? This is quite a common question both from serious players who don’t like studying and amateurs who do, but inevitably have other commitments getting in their way.
In terms of technical study, it’s much better to study things that come up a lot. So blind vs button, blind vs blind, single raised pots, continuation bets etc. A lot of people when they start either concentrate on unusual hands where they did not know what to do or cooler type hands that play themselves.
Often those are bizarre situations that do not happen all that often. While they are interesting to look at they don’t make a big difference to your bottom line.
Nail your ranges from every seat
Nailing your ranges from every seat, knowing your c-betting strategy, knowing how to pick bluffs – all the stuff that happens over and over again, that’s the most important thing from a technical perspective.
In my new book PKO Poker Strategy we took this to something of an extreme and used just one hand example to cover the entirety of ICM. That hand example was Button vs Small Blind and Big Blind. We did this because we didn’t want people to get too married to the examples we gave in the book and instead we wanted them to use it as a jumping off point for further study. However, we picked Button vs Blinds as the example because it comes up the most often.
You simply will make the most progress in a short space of time if you can internalise the spots that come up most often. It takes a lot of stress and uncertainty out of 90% of your session which will free up mental energy for the tricky spots.
Study the ‘other stuff’
Beyond advice on what to study, if you want to be long term profitable but do not have much time to study, game selection is probably as important as what you choose to study.
There are players who have had long profitable careers in poker who from a technical perspective are not brilliant and players I know who were very talented who went bust very quickly – the difference is always the other stuff. Game selection, bankroll management, discipline and mental game.
I would focus some of your study on making sure all those things are solid, but particularly game selection. If you are studying for a game type that isn’t beatable by much it doesn’t matter how good you get at it.
Dara O’Kearney’s new book PKO Poker Strategy is available on kindle or paperback at Amazon right now.