I was obsessed with Zynga Poker when I was in college. Every morning I would wake up excited, and then wait to receive the Zynga Poker briefcase, which would let me unlock more virtual coins. After years of playing offline (not regularly), I spent 6 months last year learning the game. I must have spent most of my waking minute, apart from work, on adda52.

Here is my guide on how to become a better Poker player

  • Start with understanding the math behind Poker. Mandatory read: Essential Poker Math - Alton Hardin. Can’t stress how important it is to start with the fundamentals.

  • Learn more poker theory, especially the fundamental theory of Poker from David Sklansky.

  • Proceed to learn how to play various Poker styles. Here is how you play a TAG game like Helmuth: Play Poker Like the Pros - Phil Hellmuth, another on Doyle Brunson’s style of play: Doyle Brunson’s Super System.

  • There are countless other books on: tournament play, cash games, micro stakes, high stakes. I read a bunch of these but ended up completing none when I realized that most of these were written way back, and are no longer relevant for the current tournament scene.

  • There are 2 different schools of Poker: One is Game Theory Optimal, while the other is Exploitative Strategy. One relies on Game Theory while the other is around exploiting opponents. The best players play a mixed strategy.

  • Complete these masterclasses: Daniel Negreanu Teaches Poker & Phil Ivey Teaches Poker Strategy.

  • The masterclass by Negreanu is really good, and my fortunes on the Poker table changed thanks to incorporating his insights in my tournament play. I highly recommend it. Ivey’s is a little more advanced and something I would recommend once you master the basics.

  • One of the main aspects of playing Poker is mastering the mental side: Avoiding tilt, learning from your mistakes, realizing that the Gita teaching “karm kar without focussing on results” is true both in Poker and in life. For this, I recommend reading: The Mental Game of Poker - Barry Carter, Jared Tendler.

  • Bad beats will happen. That is part of the game. But you can’t change your strategy based on how the last hands went. AA shove might run into a J2 flush and lose out. Does not mean that it was a bad play. Believe in the math. Believe in your own strategy. I also read Blackrain79’s Massive Profit at the Micros.

  • If you are a beginner you need to track your performances and see how you are faring. Here are 3 sheets I maintained.

Deposit details

Cash strategy

Tournament details

Once I improved, I did stop measuring at this level. But this is something you need to do for the first few months for sure.

  • After each bad beat, each hand where I learned something new, I added to this note.

Poker learnings

I learn everything the same way. Doing. Measuring. Iterating.

Also making tons of mistakes :)

  • I also had a note with how I went out in all the tournaments I played so that I don’t keep making the same mistakes.

Tournament exits

  • Take loads of notes. Taking notes, and learning through a tight feedback loop is how I learn most things. You can see notes taken from various books, as well as blogs I read on Poker below.

Learnings 6

Learnings 7

Learnings 8

Learnings 9

Learnings 10

  • Apart from things mentioned above, I also watched 100s of hours of Twitch streams, 100s of hours of Youtube videos of tournament play, as I had decided to focus more on Tournaments instead of Cash games. The entire recommended section on my Youtube Home was Poker videos.

  • It is all about putting in the hours. For these 6 months, Poker had become like a 2nd full-time job. I spent 6-10 hours every day on Poker. It was all I did after coming back from Office, as well as during weekends when I had more free time.

It requires a lot of effort to be good at something.

  • Finally, you have to be willing to make sacrifices. Thankfully my amazing girl friend supported me, was okay with me spending so many hours on it, and even consoled me when I had bad beats.

Hope this was useful.

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