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  1. Establishing A Deliberate Poker Practice A frequent area of concern for most poker beginners is how to manage the process of learning the game. After all, poker is a unique pursuit that requires a learning process very different to almost any other discipline. It’s very hard to construct a focused, structured learning program because every concept is related to every other concept, so there’s no obvious starting or ending point. However, it is indeed possible to construct a more deliberate, step-by-step learning process for yourself if you’re the kind of person who learns best via th
  2. [caption width="640"] Dominik Nitsche has a few tips to help you get better at No Limit Hold'em.[/caption] Every poker player starts their poker education somewhere, even someone with over $10 million in combined live and online tournament earnings like Dominik Nitsche. He may be one of the best No Limit tournament players in the world now, but Nitche’s poker beginnings probably look more like yours than you would expect. While many probably think these high rolling Germans just roll off the assembly line at the Willy Wonka Poker Factory, it took years of work for Nitsche to get his game whe
  3. [caption width="640"] EPT Barcelona winner Sebastian Malec may have understood the truth about variance (PokerStars photo / Neil Stoddart)[/caption] If you spend a lot of time discussing hands on poker forums, with friends and fellow players, or with a poker coach (or, like me, with poker students), there’s a certain type of thought process with which I guarantee you’ve come into contact. It goes a little bit like this: “Well, I could have called villain’s shove here, but I figured the best case scenario is that I’m flipping, and I don’t really want to take a flip at this stage. If I fo
  4. [caption width="640"] Winning at poker means learning what it really means to be competitive[/caption] Living in Poker’s Competitive Paradigm An often overlooked aspect of the mental game in today's poker environment is the extent to which taking poker seriously and making an effort to improve your game requires a transformation in the way you look at the world. Becoming a professional poker player in particular forces you to re-evaluate the way you approach life. In many cases, it can mean going from a lifestyle where your paycheck is only loosely related to your performance a
  5. As 2016 becomes 2017, we reach the time of year when everyone starts manically trying to plan the next 12 months of their future in the space of a few days. While many poker players are ahead of the curve in understanding where they want to go in life, it's easy to go through a whole year without thinking much about what you'll be doing the year after. In the case of many recreational poker players, evaluating one’s goals for the year ahead requires making decisions about exactly what kind of role poker will play in their lives. Those with families and careers outside of poker to worry a
  6. The more one begins to understand the nuances of the game of poker, the easier it is to start believing that the concepts central to comprehending the game on a deep level are inapplicable in any other field. After all, in what other areas of our lives do we find ourselves regularly attributing mathematical denominations to other people's actions and trying to figure out how to best exploit their weaknesses? Hopefully none, otherwise we would be exhibiting some decidedly sociopathic tendencies. However, when we flip this dynamic around and start applying 'real-world' concepts to poker, th
  7. It's something most of us do hundreds, even thousands of times a day: decide how we want to continue with a hand. The information in a given hand is massively clarified from where it stood pre-flop. It's a huge turning point and one of the most important decision points in tournament poker. Do we c-bet or not? If so, what size? What's the board like and what can the turn and river hold for us? This article is not meant to be an exhaustive guide on things to consider, but it will list a lot of the factors in play. Most of you already know these things, but I think it helps to clarify, even
  8. Consider the following scenario: You're a new poker player who is invested in a strategy coach to get you on the track to making steady income at the tables. You end up in a hand with Kh2h on a board of AsTh9h4c and your opponent accidentally flashes you his hand of Ac6d. You want to know what your chances were of winning, so you review the hand with your coach during your next session. Your coach tells you there was a 20% chance that you'd catch a flush on the river and moves on to the next hand you want to review. Technically, your coach is correct, but has he improved your game? Not rea
  9. I’ve done roughly 750 hours of one-to-one poker coaching over the last two and a half years, and one trend has become evident to me recently among lower-stakes players who are learning the game and trying to take their performance to the next level. It occurs to me that many people who believe they’re taking the right path to poker success are, in fact, more or less attempting to do things in reverse. Yes, that’s right, they’re pretty much doing it the wrong way around, with the harder, more specific parts first and the more useful, broad-strokes parts last. Let me explain. What do we mea
  10. Playing poker for a living or even taking it seriously as a way to make money recreationally puts a lot of strain on your mental processes. It forces you to examine in great detail the way you think and behave and allows you to get to know your own brain better than you ever have before. This can be both a blessing and a curse at times. One of the primary reasons why poker is so taxing on your brain is because of variance. Your brain doesn't always get positive feedback from a good decision, so you have to rewire it not to need the feedback at all. This is completely contrary to how human
  11. “A minute to learn, a lifetime to master” - that’s the old cliché about poker (along with a variety of other games, but we’ll forget about them), and it’s a well-founded statement to a degree. Of course the game is easy to pick up and learn, and of course, it takes time and effort to become a good player. However, one of the main reasons it takes so long is because the nature of the game’s learning path is so obscured - in learning an individual sport like golf or tennis, for example, some degree of physical technique is necessary before you can even compete at any level, while that’s obv
  12. One of the most common questions I get asked early on in the coaching process is about putting together a structured, well-thought-out playing schedule for poker. Recreational players and aspiring professionals alike all have to deal with the reality that poker often has to take a back seat to ‘real-life’ issues - family, work, and social commitments often make it difficult to make time for poker, especially if you’re not yet seeing significant financial returns. The issue is doubly complex for tournament players, who don’t usually have full control over how long their playing sessions la
  13. [caption width="640"] Poker's learning curve is steep - but the payoff can be huge[/caption] Making Economical Learning Decisions One of the most difficult aspects of attempting to make the leap from losing poker player to long-term winner is knowing what to learn, and when. Without a coach to guide you, it can be easy to get lost and develop a learning pattern that is somewhat scattered or haphazard. But even with the aid of a coach or a training site, it’s easy to spin your wheels for a long time learning things that just aren’t that useful. The reality of poker is that certain s
  14. [caption width="640"] With practice, poker players can learn to use their emotions to their advantage.[/caption] As poker players, we’re frequently encouraged to believe that regular everyday human emotions are the enemy, and that they’re something we should strive to eliminate in order to play better poker. While this is grounded in some logic to the extent that it is true that our brains are better at logical calculation when they are unencumbered by emotional stimuli, it’s absurd to think that we can completely eliminate the attachment of any emotion whatsoever to our poker endeavou
  15. How to Improve Your Poker EQ It doesn’t take much reading to find someone equating poker success with intelligence, or the other way around. It seems relatively obvious that successful poker players are, at least as a population, of above average intelligence. What doesn’t get discussed, though, is the other side of the equation, and the extent to which being a successful poker player requires not only a high IQ, but a high EQ as well. What is EQ? EQ stands for Emotional Quotient (in contrast to IQ, Intelligence Quotient). EQ isn’t discussed as often as IQ outside of poker eithe
  16. [caption width="640"] Poker players need to follow these tips to avoid losing focus easily over longer sessions.[/caption] Staying Focused During Long Live Sessions With the 2016 World Series of Poker currently in full flow, many poker players are spending a lot of time at the poker table this summer. With the average day’s play in a WSOP event lasting anywhere between eight and 12 hours, this can be a gruelling schedule, especially for professionals grinding five to seven days a week throughout most of June and July. A lot of recreational players might be unaccustomed to playing s
  17. In the 3rd part of our series (read Part 1 here, read Part 2 here), we will focus on a very obvious weakness of tournament players in cash games: Overplaying hands on the Turn and River It's not your fault. You rarely, if ever, have to make any real decision like bet-folding the river or calling a turn check-raise just to fold (or call) a river bet. Because of the shallow stacks in tournaments, you are rarely getting into these situations and, as such, you don't have the practice, experience, and perhaps know-how of what the right play should be. There are two main reasons: 1. I
  18. [caption width="640"] Creating new habits could be they key to becoming a winning poker player.[/caption] We all have habits, both inside and outside of poker. Some are good, some are bad, but if you’ve ever tried to break a bad one, you’ll know how difficult it can be. But developing positive habits is crucial to success in any area of life, and poker players struggle against bad habits more than most. Let’s take a closer look at how your poker habits might be costing you money. How do we develop poker habits? In poker, many of our habits are a product of deep-seated, subconscious
  19. There are many qualities possessed to varying degrees by poker players all over the world - some are positive and some are negative, as with all things. One consistently intriguing and perhaps confusing reality, however, is that there is often some ambiguity as to which exact qualities belong in each category. An aptitude for simplicity and a no-nonsense approach are often regarded as positives in a variety of domains, but most people’s instinct is to assume that a form of psychological warfare such as poker would not be one of them. In fact, given the level of conceptual difficulty invo
  20. As a coach, I’ve had several experiences where students have discussed their recent playing sessions or hand histories with me and said something along the lines of, “I really felt like I was playing well at this point in the tournament”. What’s interesting about this statement is that it is actually entirely self-contradictory, for reasons that aren’t always obvious. The reality of playing one’s ‘A-game’ is that to do so would involve being so attentive to the action at hand, so focused on the players at the table and on the game itself, that we’re not able to spend valuable mental ener
  21. [caption width="640"] Poker players need to learn to trust their instincts, even if they're underdeveloped[/caption] Learning to Trust Your Instincts In a variety of walks of life, we often hear the phrase “trust your instincts”. Whether it’s in sports, relationships, business, the arts or anything else, there seems to be an innate recognition of the role of ‘instinct’ in success at almost any level of almost any discipline. But what of poker? In a domain so clearly founded on the idea of mental competition, where physical skill, timing and technique don’t exist, but where decision
  22. [caption width="640"] Poker players need to learn how to eliminate cognitive dissonance from their thinking[/caption] If you’ve ever argued about anything on the Internet, you’ve probably encountered pretty much every kind of flawed logic and fallacy imaginable. You’re probably deeply versed in cognitive dissonance even if you’re not the type to post online about politics or your favourite movies, since most of us are victims of this thought pattern at one point or another in our lives, and it’s very common to encounter this phenomenon in everyday life, even if we’re not able to specifically
  23. [CAPTION=100%]The way you talk about poker Watch Your Language: Why Words Matter in Poker There are many different ways in which we conceptualize poker in order to make it easier to talk about. We talk about it as a mathematical construct, we talk about it as a psychological battle between opponents, we increasingly talk about it as a sport, we talk about it as a gambling pastime. One way in which we almost never talk about it, however, is in meta-discussion - in other words, talking about the ways in which we talk about poker. This article contends that the language we use in ord
  24. You Never Know if You’re Right or Wrong If you spend a lot of time discussing poker, you’ve almost certainly had a discussion with someone about a situation where they encountered a simple ‘call or fold’ decision. Very often, these discussions will come up purely because the player made the decision to call and ended up losing the hand. Of course, it almost goes without saying that this is a form of results orientation that should be avoided at all costs - after all, losing a hand doesn’t necessarily mean we made a mistake. We can lose our whole stack and still make a profitable play
  25. A large part of what makes poker such a difficult skill to learn is the sheer breadth and depth of the game. Not only are there a lot of theoretical and practical concepts with which a skilled poker player must be familiar in order to succeed, but in order to improve beyond a certain level, he or she must go further than a mere surface-level understanding of these ideas and delve into the game's mechanics to discover how each concept relates to all the others. This can be a daunting task. It can also, however, be extremely rewarding and enjoyable for a poker player to actively acknowledge t
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