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Building Skills Into Your Unconscious Competence | #216


Sky Matsuhashi

on January 3, 2019

In this episode, I discuss how you can build skills into your unconscious competence through Focus Sessions.

In episode 215, I interviewed Steve Fredlund and we talk about his recreational poker history and LIVE tournaments.

Challenge (2:20)

Here’s my challenge to you for this episode:  Play three 30-minute Focus Sessions this week where you focus on one strategy that you're trying to learn. By playing just 1 or 2 tables, you have plenty of time to look for every opportunity to employ your new strategy. Tag all relevant hands, and make sure to review each Focus Session in its entirety the next day.

Now it’s your turn to pull the trigger and do something positive for your poker game.


Why are Focus Sessions so Effective? (4:00)

Focus Sessions give you more time to think through your actions and to pay attention to your opponent's actions. When you play just 1 or 2 tables, you've got less distractions to pull you away from the current hand whether you're involved in it or not. Less distractions means there is more time for you to consider all the relevant information before you click a button.

Most players play a normal Volume Session whenever they turn on the poker software. This might be anywhere from 3 up to 20 tables at a time. When you're multi-tabling like this your mind doesn't have the time to actively think deeply about the hand you're playing. So if you're trying to ingrain new skills into your game, Volume Sessions just don't allow it.

The intent with every Focus Session you play is to put into action new strategies that you're studying off the felt, and you do this one strategy at a time. Playing a focus session while working on both 3bets and double barrels just doesn't jive well. You're better off working on 3bets in one focus session, then the next day work on double barrel betting.

My focus sessions are always 2 tables at most.

Example: 3bet Focus Session (5:20)

You're doing some off-the-felt 3bet studies. You are creating ranges by position and doing work with Flopzilla on your 3bet range equities versus an opponent's likely 3bet calling range. You're entering in different types of flops to see how these ranges interact with various boards. All of this study off the felt is very helpful, but in order to truly ingrain 3bet strategy into your game, you've decided to play 3 Focus Sessions on 3betting.

Here are the things you can spend extra time focusing on in these Focus Sessions:

  • Which opponents at your table are most likely to open/fold?
  • Which opponents are more likely to open/call?
  • Each time an opponent open raises, you take the time to look at their RFI stat in that position along with their Raise/Fold to 3bet stat.
  • Before you 3bet, you look at their Fold to Cbet in 3bet pots stat first to get a feel for how they play 3bet pots on the flop.
  • When you open and then face a 3bet, you look at your opponent's 3bet stat by position to gauge the range they are 3betting you with.

There are many other things you can focus on in your sessions, but these 5 will get you focused on making better 3bets.

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Unconscious Competence (8:05)

The goal with our studies and our focus to play is to build things into our unconscious competence. This is something I first learned from Jared Tendler in his book called The Mental Game of Poker.

If the skill falls within your unconscious competence this means that you've learned a skill so well that you perform it automatically even while you're concentrating on other things. It's like driving a stick shift while talking to your fellow passenger and you're continuously up-shifting and downshifting without even consciously being aware that you're doing it.

I bet right now, you fold hands UTG like J4o, T3s and A8o without even thinking about it. You see these hands and your cursor automatically travels to the FOLD button without you being really aware that you're doing it.

This is where we want all of our poker skills to be. The more you study and practice your skills in the game the sooner they will be ingrained into your unconscious competence.

Quick question:

What skill do you want to ingrain into your unconscious competence right now? Is it 3betting, cbetting the flop, double barreling, stealing the blinds or something else?

The goal with our studies and our focused play every week must be centered on putting one skill into our unconscious competence. Sometimes this can take multiple weeks to accomplish. But it's worth it.

How many skills do you think you added to your unconscious competence in 2018? If you can't think of any, then you need to start incorporating Focus Sessions into your routines.


Effective Focus Sessions in 4 Steps (10:25)

1. Start with the proper warm-up. Your warm-up can take any form that you want: meditating, exercising, looking at your study notes, listening to a podcast or whatever. But make sure that part of your warm-up is deciding on your session focus.

2. Limit the number of tables. I recommend playing 2 tables at most for every Focus Session. Set yourself up for unconscious competence success by giving yourself more time to consider every decision with less tables than you're used to.

3. Notes. Have your notes out in front of you as you play, and take additional notes on important things that come to you during your session. Also tag every relevant hand where you practiced the strategy you're working on.

4. Session review. Review every hand that you play that session, with particular emphasis on any hand you tagged. This is like watching game tape for a football coach to help him see what their players need to focus on for the next game. Session reviews allow you to catch your mistakes and help you refine your strategies.


Support the Show

Brave One and Graham Blair both purchased the Smart HUD for PokerTracker 4.  In addition to the 3-part HUD, they also received loads of video links to help them get the most from the HUD and from PT4.


Up Next…

In episode 217, I'll hit you with some more action to take in 2019: The Year of Action.

Until next time, study smart, play much and make your next session the best one yet.


Sky Matsuhashi

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