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Improve Your Poker Game – Inchworm and the Process Model


Sky Matsuhashi

on July 19, 2015


The Inchworm Concept was popularized within poker by Jared Tendler in his timeless book, The Mental Game of Poker.

The inchworm moves by planting it's back foot, stretching forward, grasping with the front foot then arching it's body up and pulling the back foot forward.

The Inchworm Concept is a metaphor for how we learn:

1) We add new skills to our Unconscious Competence (front foot forward)

2) We improve our C-game by lopping off weakness (back foot forward)

3) Overall skill set and level of play has improved (moved the whole body forward 1 inch)

To help illustrate this point, Jared Tendler provided this bell curve graph which shows the quality of your decisions on the X-axis, and the frequency of these decisions on the Y-axis:


The Inchworm Concept, if applied to your poker learning correctly, helps you to gradually improve and strengthen your overall play, taking each of your games, A, B & C and improving all three.  Your C-game will contain less mistakes than previously, your A-game will have new skills added to it, and the level of your B-game (average decisions when you're not fully engaged nor tilting) will be better than that of your opponents.

One of the great things about the Inchworm Concept is that it gives you a great framework for making consistent improvements your poker skills:

  1. Discovering your particular C-game mistakes and working to remove these from your game
  2. Adding necessary skills to your repertoire
  3. Developing Current skills to the level of Unconscious Competence

Now, the question is, how do we develop a system to help us do the above three things to improve our game?  The answer to that is the Learning Process Model.

The Learning Process Model

This is a common-sense approach to learning.  In fact, we do this naturally already in lots of areas in our lives, but doing so purposefully and planning our poker learning will help immensely.  It's a cycle of five parts that when used correctly helps to progress our skills systematically and effectively:

1. Prepare: This is what you do to prepare for a poker session

2. Perform: The session you play

3. Results: The outcome of your session

4. Evaluate: Reviewing your results after your session

5. Analysis: Time off-the-felt working on your game



Preparation is key for great poker performance, and spending a few minutes to a dedicated warm-up before each session is mandatory.  Pro sports players, stand-up comics, presentation speakers and actors always warm-up before they get to work, and as poker players, we should as well. Check out the podcast Warm-ups and Cool-downs for some great strategies you can implement.


During your poker sessions, you must keep the following in mind:

  • Have a couple different areas of focus for your session.  You should be working on specific skills you're trying to put into your unconscious competence.  Are you working on your 3bet game, focusing on playing in position only, cbetting with equity, or something else?
  • Make a goal ahead of time for your session length or # of hands you'll play, and strive to hit those goals.
  • Be aware of any tilt issues (add this to your warm-up routine) and be on the look-out for any triggers during your session.  Have your logic statements at hand in case you need them.
  • Don't multi-task while playing (Skype, Twitter, web surfing, etc) and just FOCUS on your play.
  • Don't spend so much time mid-session reviewing hands that just happened.  Mark them for later review, jot a quick note, then get back to the action.


You don't want to be results oriented as poker is a long term game, and wins/losses in one session don't really matter in the long run.  But every session ends with a few quantitative numbers you can record:

  • $ won/lost
  • # of tourneys/SNG's/hands played
  • Session length (time)


There is great value in evaluating your session, beyond just the results you've achieved.  This is the first opportunity you have to objectively asses the session and determine what your upcoming Analysis needs to focus on.  Here are some ways to evaluate your session:

  • Rate Play – Give yourself a rating of how well you played: A, B or C-game.  Did you focus on the things you set out to do in your warm-up?  Tilt avoided?  Did you make good ‘in the moment’ decisions?
  • Rate Session – Did variance effect your results?  Did you get it in with the best hand only to lose (or maybe suck out) a lot?
  • Post-Session Notes – Take notes for review during Analysis on anything important that you need to look further into.  This can include notes you made in-session on hands as you played them, but can also include things that you later think of while reflecting on the session.
  • Lessons Learned – If you could go back and tell yourself three things before the session started to help you have a better session, those are your lessons learned.  They are things that you need to take with you into every future session to help you play your A-game.


Other than actually playing poker, this is where you get to develop your game the most.  Analysis could include many ways to review your past session, dissect opponent's play, address weaknesses or to learn new skills:

  • Reviewing Game Tape
  • Reviewing notes from the previous session
  • Hand history reviews from your database
  • Posting in forums (either your own questions or responding to others)
  • Watching training videos
  • Working with a coach
  • Reading books/articles
  • Talking with poker friends about the game and issues you're facing

Knowing how we improve your game (the Inchworm Concept) and how we can actively control our focus our learning (the Process Model) will help us all to become better poker players.  Please put these two ideas together and create a dedicated system for improving your game.

Please tell me how you actively improve your game in the comments below.

Make your next session the best one yet!


Sky Matsuhashi

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