Experience

Among more skilled competition than ever, impressive new players are still finding their way to the highest stakes at rapid speed. GTO training tools have provided an opportunity for someone who excels at studying to become technically strong faster than ever. Combine that training with online poker, allowing millions of hands to be played in just a few years, and you've got a recipe for success.


It's easy for these players to look down on the (lack of) skill displayed by the older generation of talent. Seemingly washed-up professionals who beat the game through logic and intuition, with nothing more than an expired Poker Tracker 3 license on their home PC. They often choose the wrong bet size, and bluff with the wrong combo. How could someone who's never studied a sim be a good poker player? Perhaps they shouldn't be so quick to judge, however, as players of this description continue to have great success in almost every format outside of the toughest lineups. What can be said about the strengths acquired through experience in poker?


For the first 6-7 years of my poker career, I didn't have any study tools. My learning path was to play, question my decisions, discuss those decisions with others, and play some more. Occasionally, I'd come across a mathematical formula in a book that made my hand selection more precise or my bet sizing more intentional. I paid attention to how my opponents played, and I internalized the way that my peers thought about strategy. There was no effort made to be unexploitable; every action was an attempt to exploit. Had I never spent those years developing intuition and jumped straight into GTO theory, my game would not be as strong as it is today.


The primary weakness of any highly studied player is their reluctance to deviate. I continue to struggle with this myself, after studying unexploitable strategies for the second 6-7 years of my career. Poker is a dynamic game played among humans with dynamic approaches, and the edges gained by adjusting to those dynamics can still dwarf those gained by imitating equilibrium play. I am not sure if the following is a quote or something that I wrote, because it was sitting in my drafts for several months, so I'll put it in quotes just to be safe.


"Procedure is the enemy of intuition."


When we lock ourselves into a strategic routine for too long - memorized preflop ranges, range betting flops, randomized bluffing frequencies - we shut out the possibility of adapting for the better.


I believe the strongest skill an intuitive player has is translating an observation into a strategy. To develop this skill, it is supremely important to observe often and to observe not with judgment but with intention. Your opponents' mistakes are no good to you if you aren't adjusting your strategy to take advantage. Second, if you do not already have the knowledge to exploit that particular mistake, you've found a great spot to add to your study plan! Note down this scenario, and take full advantage of those GTO tools your opponents still aren't using. Through both equilibrium study and node locking, you can equip yourself with the right tools to use the next time that opportunity arises.


To learn more about how I think about poker, subscribe to my newsletter, where I'll send tips for effective studying, game planning, and exclusive updates on my upcoming course with Run It Once.

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