Managing Your Overall Poker Time Effectively

Guide To Winning Poker (5)

  • Learning to get good at poker involves much more than just playing
  • Make sure you spend enough time learning the game
  • Your choice of poker learning materials matters a great deal

You Need To Spend Enough Time Learning The Game

Regardless of how inexperienced or how accomplished we are as poker players, we always want to seek out the best balance between playing and working on developing our game away from the table. Even the pros do this, although a lot of them don’t devote enough time to getting better, and a few even spend too much time at this and don’t play as much as they should. The same applies to players of all skill levels, although with newer or losing players the tendency is to not devote anywhere near as much time as they should to their poker education.

So how do we know how much time is right to spend on learning and improving our poker game? First of all, we need to see this time away from the table as an investment, one that we expect to pay dividends both in the present and in the future in terms of enhancing our overall profitability, including both looking to expand profit and managing losses better if we’re not at the stage of being winning players yet.

How Much Time Should You Devote To Off Table Study?

So what we need to do first is to compare what we learn from playing with what we can learn off table. As a rule, the less experienced you are, the more you can potentially benefit from off table learning rather than what you gain by playing. The reason is that your education away from the table at this stage will have a greater impact, since the difference between your playing skill and what you can learn is the greatest. In comparison, if you’re an expert player, you’d probably be just looking to tweak your game here and there, and while that is still important, it has less of an impact to be sure.

The second criterion that we need to factor in is the opportunity cost of spending your time doing something else besides poker. So for instance, if you make $50 an hour playing, the benefit you need to get overall, meaning now and down the road, must be greater than this. That’s not hard to accomplish at all, but once again you will see a difference here depending on how accomplished you are at present. If you’re not a winning player yet, then sleeping is going to give you a higher earn rate per hour than playing, so this isn’t an issue at all. In that case we’d just need to compare the amount of learning playing versus studying, and that will have us justified to spend at least a fair bit of our time studying and less time playing.

You Need To Use Your Poker Resources Wisely Here

Another issue is the quality of the time spent, and the cost involved, if any. You do want to focus on high quality material that doesn’t cost you money, since any money spent could be contributed to your bankroll instead. For instance, this series of poker instruction is free of course, and will really benefit your game once you work your way through it, but to be honest with you there really isn’t that much good material that will help you very much that you don’t have to pay for.

For instance, there are a number of very good poker video sites out there, offering hundreds of good instructional videos, but they require a monthly fee. There are also programs which you can use to analyse and study your own game, but you generally need to purchase the software. You can also higher experienced coaches to help you improve with one on one or group sessions, although this can be rather expensive, even hundreds of dollars per hour, and generally only makes sense for better players looking to improve even more.

There Are A Variety Of Learning Options Available

So what is pretty clear though is that if you’re not making a profit overall yet, you really need to devote a fair bit of time to training. In fact at this stage, training is what it is all about, and you can’t really spend too much time away from the table, as long as you are focusing on things which truly will benefit your game. For instance, what you really don’t want to do is to go to a whole bunch of internet sites offering the same old introductory articles. Almost all sites like this don’t have much to offer, and often the people who are writing the material aren’t even winning players themselves. The material that’s covered tend to be the same tired old topics, and the advice isn’t particularly well thought out. You don’t really need anyone to tell you that something is a waste of your time though, but you do need to make sure that you’re not wasting it.

Another way to learn is to read and post on the top poker forums. Not only will this give you an opportunity to get other people’s perspective on your game, it will allow you to comment on theirs, which is particularly valuable in terms of getting you to think about the game more. You do need to be careful though not to take anyone’s viewpoint as innately correct, even if they seem to be more sophisticated than you. The goal is to always question things or at least attempt to do so, there’s no poker perspective that is beyond examination, even though there’s some things that few poker players wish to examine.

I once went to a forum and asked the people there to explain to me why position matters in poker. It does of course, but I knew the people there hadn’t really thought about it very much, and no doubt had some misconceptions about it. Well they told me I was crazy to even ask such a question, said things like everyone knows it’s important, thinking about poker theory is useless, and so on, and I finally gave up trying to help them. You never want to become like that, and the so called poker truths are never beyond at least thinking about and often are to be challenged. In any case, these forums can be very helpful, but not to the point where you waste your time and even worse, get insulted for trying to think outside the box. In addition to forums, you can also look to put together a peer group and share ideas among each other.

Poker Tracking Software Can Really Help You

Investing in one of the main poker analysis products like Holdem Manager or Poker Tracker 3 is something you should do as early on as possible. If you don’t have the money to invest, there are deals out there where you can even get it for free. Not only is this important as far as tracking the play of your opponents in real time at the table, but you can track and analyze your own play as well.

You can spend a considerable amount of time doing this in fact, for instance going over hands that you lost money at, looking at how you play any number of given situations and figure out how you could play them better, and so on. This can be extremely helpful in improving your game and all good players make use of this. I recommend that you spend at least some time after every session looking at what happened. It’s very helpful to take notes, both at and away from the table, where you can spot trends as far as what may be leaks and come up with a plan to improve.

Stick To Quality Poker Teaching Resources

Reading poker books can also help a fair bit in the early stages of one’s poker development, although the quality of the books out there vary a great deal. Don’t spend your money until you’ve read some reviews on them, as many are a waste of time. There are some though that are well worth reading, but you need to make sure that they are targeted to both your level of understanding of the game and address game variations that you either play or are interested in learning. Once again though, even though the author may be a world class poker player, you never want to stop thinking about and even questioning the rationale behind the advice. Mastering the game of poker is much less about knowing the what as it is understanding the why. So when you stop asking why, you pretty much stop learning.

As mentioned, there are a number of good poker video training sites that are worth considering, and in fact, aside from reading this series, where I will be taking you places where even they don’t go, I’d put this at the top of my list as far as getting access to valuable learning material goes. If at some point you can afford private coaching sessions, that’s even better, provided that you really do find a good coach, but in the mean time $20 or so a month at one of these training sites will set you up with hundreds of hours of decent to very good instruction. You should at least wait until you get a decent grasp of the game though before you subscribe, as the material generally presumes a good general knowledge of the game.

Overall, you are going to be the judge of how much time you should spend at the table and how much you should spend on poker away from it, although in the early stages you really can’t go too far wrong spending a fair bit of it, even two thirds of your time, learning as opposed to playing. As you improve, you will require less time, but you should spend at least a third of it regardless of how good you become. As long as the time is well spent, it is an investment that will pay dividends both now and down the road.

In the next section I’ll talk aboutthe importance of the mental side of things, and what is important to focus on and think about.

Ken’s Guide To Winning Poker – Index

Starting With A Solid Foundation

Aggression Series

Position Series

Various Poker Strategies

Mistakes Series