Your poker education is never-ending

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As a poker coach, I see many new players with great enthusiasm and lofty goals, yet unprepared and unarmed to compete at the same levels as those they’re about to encounter at the tables. However, unlimited resources are at their disposal (videos, audios, written lessons, quizzes, tests and articles) on a plethora of poker subjects, providing a mechanism for a transition from novice to learned student. Many members take full advantage of these resources.

Applying these new skills and approaches to situations will result in improved play and precise (often correct), decision-making. After all, poker isn’t about winning pots; it’s about making correct decisions that lead to overall poker success.

When armed with new weaponry, those same individuals who had been abused at the tables since inception of their play continue to look like the same player. However, they are equipped to handle the onslaught dished out by more experienced players. Opponents who have labeled them soft, loose and indefensible (just mere weeks earlier), soon find out that change has indeed occurred and a worthy opponent has risen from the rail, offering new challenges and obstacles that will succeed against them.

Many players take copious notes on opponents. Some clever players will date their entries: (for example: 4/1/12, defends blinds with any two; 4/3/12 draws out of position, without pot odds). These notes are helpful to define tendencies and history and when dated, will allow the student to make changes, when new observations indicate the poker prowess of their recent “poorly playing prey” have dramatically changed.

Players choose to play the game of poker for many reasons and most start playing with the intention of learning all they can, while becoming successful. However, there will be those who play for other reasons (fun, relieve stress, etc.). Luckily for us, we occasionally get to play with players with deep pockets who often play at stakes they can afford. These are new players who play just wanting to be part of the latest fad and don’t want to feel left out by all their friends, who play poker more frequently.

Their task is two-fold: First, to identify and recognize opponents’ weaknesses and acknowledge their gained skills as they’re developed. Second, improve one self’s skill in exploiting those weaker opponents at the table.

— Al Spath is the former Dean of PokerSchoolOnline, author of Poker Journal, and a private poker coach (at Delaware Park Casino, Atlantic City and Las Vegas). He can be reached for private poker mentoring at alspath@alspath.com.