It seems to be one of the most frequent requests I get in my private lessons: “How can I study on my own?”
Often, people want to ask me this because they can’t afford $200.00 an hour to always have me teach them. This is understandable. However, every single one of my students should be asking the same questions. To get as far as we can in this game we have to insure that we are getting the most out of the hours we can contribute to the game. Assuming a trainer or a friend will not be available 24/7 means that we will not do much of our learning ourselves.
One great way to improve your game on your own is to record your play. In every sport on Earth the best performers watch themselves after they are done playing. Separated from the emotion it is very likely we will see angles that didn’t occur to us in the heat of the moment.
Recording your sessions can be made more fruitful by also announcing why you’re doing your plays as you do them. When you are betting for value say, “I am betting X amount to get ____ hands to call.” When you’re bluffing, change it up and say, “I am betting X amount to get ____ hands to fold.” It is revealing when you do this process to see how often you’re auto-piloting. Many of the plays you will consider won’t even make sense once clearly enunciated.
When you go through your footage you can hear the logic that you were applying. This makes the game far more interesting too. You will start looking for reasons for everything. “I am opening because the stacks to my left are 22 big blinds effective, and I know this particular player thinks he can’t threebet/fold from these stacks.”
Many times recreational players believe professional grinders must have a superior acumen to possess the reads they have. I honestly believe all the average man needs to do is challenge himself consistently to inject as much information as possible into his decisions.
To get a program that records your sessions I’d recommend Camtasia. There’s even a free trial period.
For further ideas on self-analysis I’d recommend reading the memoir The Art Of Learning. It’s a memoir by a chess master who turns himself into a champion martial artist. His rants about analyzing himself and growing up within this mindset are incredibly insightful.
The best way to teach yourself beyond this method is to put yourself in a number of hypotheticals. I read when I was very young about how Doyle Brunson would pull out a deck of cards and run through hand situations on the floor of dirty hotel rooms. As a kid, I sought to emulate this, and it served me well when I got into the game.
Thankfully, now there are a number of programs which can help you set up a situation and count the combinations of hands your opponent could possibly have. My favorite one is Flopzilla.
Another good practice is to just take a situation you felt uncomfortable with and run through it this way. Say you continuation bet a 7h-5h-2c board. You had 9c-9s. Your opponent calls. On the turn, your opponent checks to you. You bet and your opponent checkraise jams on you. You fold.
The hand replays again and again in your mind. This is a good. I actually think this is a reduced form of grieving, because it mimics much of what people do when they lose a loved one. They go through everything again and again. You, fortunately, are just lamenting the loss of some chips, and this is a good thing. This will get you to the simulators.
Ask yourself some questions: What hands does he just flat with preflop? What does he checkraise with on the flop? What does he just call with? What does he do with those hands on this turn? What cards are good for you if you check? Count them. What hands call if you bet turn? Count them. What produces the best result on average? How many people have you really seen check/jam that turn as a bluff?
The more you question the more your mind expands. Good luck to all of you.