This week’s topic is that of motivation, something that a lot of players have trouble with when it comes to studying to get better. Extrinsic motivation in the form of more money and a better win-rate will only carry you so far, but here we’re going to show you how to develop a constant source of intrinsic motivation that will help you effortlessly put in more quality time studying the game.
Tackling the Lack of Motivation
There are a lot of different models for motivation, how it works, and what types of motivation there are. A lot of players find that they have a lack of motivation when it comes to their study habits. I think that there are two primary reasons that people have a lack of motivation when it comes to studying, and I believe that these two reasons can be beaten with a strategic approach.
The first source of low motivation comes from having a hard time seeing how your poker study is directly affecting your bottom line. Poker requires larger sample sizes to measure progress, and even then the information is shaky. Because of this, it’s hard to get immediate feedback on how your thought processes are affecting your skill level. To this problem, I propose that you have a group of people to talk with whether it’s in an online chat or an online forum (or both) where you’re able to talk through hands and share ideas. You’ll be getting social feedback on your skill level that will hold you over until you see monetary results.
The second source of low motivation comes from feeling like studying poker is boring. The thing about it is that studying poker can become very boring if you’re not making any progress. When you first started studying poker, there are so much new material that you were very excited to read through it all. Once that material stops becoming so abundant, studying poker seems boring because it feels like you’re covering the same ground over and over again. The way to make progress in spite of this is to go deeper, find new ideas, and find new revelations about the game that will spur you to investigate to improve. And again, one key way to dig deeper into situations is to have a group of people that you talk with regularly about the game.
Depth Over Breadth
There are only so many poker topics that you can talk about if you’re trying to make a list of them. Continuation betting, the three-betting game, stealing blinds, bluffing, semi-bluffing, calling, implied odds, reverse implied odds, recognizing tilt, calculating odds, reading players, etc. Eventually you run out of topics to know. Having a list of topics and being able to explain what each of them mean on a basic level will help you to get started in poker, but it won’t take you very far.
If you want to get better, then your study has to become more about how deep you go into individual topics compared to how many topics you cover. This leads us to our fundamental maxim for studying poker:
Always ask yourself, “How can I go deeper?”
Here’s an example of this progression. Maybe you want to learn more about continuation betting. You could get more detailed by looking at continuation betting in position or out of position. You could look at deep stacks or small stacks. You could look at dry flops and wet flops. You could look at being against a loose/passive or a tight/aggressive. The more detailed you get, the more you learn about what really drives the learning process for poker.
Individual Hand Analysis
When you sit down to analyze a hand, it should take you a while if you go deep enough. You can break down exactly what you think Villain’s range is, exactly what you think Hero’s range is, how those ranges should be played, and how future streets will play out based on that information. Then you can back up a step and think about what you would do if Villain was a different kind of player by going through all of that again. What if the flop was slightly different? What if the stacks were different?
If you go deep on individual hands, then you’re feeding your brain the detailed information that it needs to teach your unconscious mind how to play better. Do you want to get better at 3-betting scenarios before the flop? Then find 25 hands that you’ve played with 3-betting before the flop and break them down in a lot of detail. If each one takes you 12 minutes, then it will take you only five hours to go through them all. Then you can post your analysis for other players to look at and comment on. This will only increase your understanding.
How much better do you think you would be if you spent five hours on each individual topic studying instructive hands that related to that topic? Probably a bit. Now imagine if you kept doing that in a rotation of topics to make yourself improve at a steady pace. You would uncover new ideas from going so deep, and this would spur you to stay motivated and avoid boredom. You would effortlessly push through hours of study because you were so interested in the new information you were digesting.
The Motivational Feedback Loop
The idea here is to create a feedback loop within the context of deep studying. Your study and discussion with fellow players will push you to get better while simultaneously providing you with the motivation and social pressure to continue to improve. In short, the group becomes stronger than the sum of their parts, and that can only help your bottom line.