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Learning Poker by Teaching | Podcast #114


Sky Matsuhashi

on January 4, 2017

In this episode I discuss how learning poker is a benefit of teaching poker to others. You help fellow players while you ingrain skills in your own game.

Episode 113 was the 2nd class in the Blind Play MED.  I talked about post-flop blind defense and the plays you can employ when OOP.

Learning Poker by Teaching

“While we teach, we learn.” – Seneca

When you teach a concept, there are 4 benefits we gain from it:

1. A greater understanding of the subject matter

In order to teach something, we should fully understand it.  The test of how well we understand a concept is if we can teach it to somebody so they can put it to use in their own lives.  If you can explain a poker concept like 3betting to your Aunt Susie well enough so she can apply it and blow the table away with well-timed and perfectly sized 3bets the first time she sits at a table, then you prolly understand the concept pretty well.  If you can teach your 10 year old nephew Johnny what an opening range is and how it should get wider as your position at the table gets later, and he fully understands and is able to stack you at the next family home game, then you must understand that concept as well.

When you’re responsible for teaching something to others, then you naturally work harder to understand the material.  There might be a few reasons for this such as not wanting to appear a fool, not wanting to fail in the teaching task or to simply do the best job you can and to give your students the best shot at understanding the material.  Whatever the reason, most teachers feel compelled to know the subject matter backwards and forwards.

The experience of teaching also builds your knowledge over time because of the questions and insights your students give you.  Students react to what you’re teaching in different ways.  Some will get it straight off the bat, and that’s great.  Others will have question after question or need a different explanation, one that appeals to them and that they will understand.  These interactions will cause you to think and explain the material in different ways.  This re-thinking of ideas and creating different explanations will further help you to ingrain the material in your brain.

2. Improved social and communication skills

As a teacher, you’re working with others all the time, so social and communication skills will naturally improve.  And this is obvious, in order to communicate ideas, the person you’re speaking to needs to understand what you’re saying and it’s helpful if they can relate to you.  If they don’t, you’re forced to change what you’re saying or act differently in order to find a way for them to understand.  The practice of teaching will make you very good at communicating your ideas to others.

3. Increased self-esteem and self-confidence

When you’re teaching, the element of emotions comes into play.  You don’t want to be embarrassed by any lack of knowledge and conversely, you feel a sense of satisfaction and a bump in pride when your students understand a concept and are able to put it to use in their game.  Successfully teaching something is validation for all the hard work you’ve put into studying the topic for yourself.  So, the emotions involved in teaching help you to work harder to understand the material.

4. Personal growth through challenging oneself

This last benefit is very simple; the more you do, the more you can do.  When you challenge yourself to do new things, the better you get at doing things you haven’t done before.  I started this whole thing off with writing a blog.  Never wrote one before, but I wrote papers in high school and college, so I knew the basics of communicating through the written word.  The blog led to making some videos.  Never did those before, but just got started and now I do poker training videos.  This led to the podcast.  Always loved podcasts, never did one before, but made my first podcast less than a year ago and I’m still going strong.  Haven’t written a book before, but I’m writing my first one now.

All of these things are new to me, and doing one led to the next which led to the next and so on.  If you’ve never taught before and don’t know how, so what?  You’ve had teachers, experienced poker studying and communicating your thoughts, so just challenge yourself to something new and do it!

A study

There was a study put out in a publication called ‘Memory and Cognition’ back in 2014 by a few different researchers:

“In two experiments, participants studied passages either in preparation for a later test or in preparation for teaching the passage to another student who would then be tested. In reality, all participants were tested, and no one actually engaged in teaching. Participants expecting to teach produced more complete and better organized free recall of the passage (Experiment 1) and, in general, correctly answered more questions about the passage than did participants expecting a test (Experiment 1), particularly questions covering main points (Experiment 2), consistent with their having engaged in more effective learning strategies. Instilling an expectation to teach thus seems to be a simple, inexpensive intervention with the potential to increase learning efficiency at home and in the classroom.”


First off, it makes total sense to me because ever since I started the blog and podcast, I study things much more deeply and take very detailed notes because I know I’m going to use my studies to teach others at some point.  So, if all of you listening want to push yourselves to study better and to recall more of what you study, do your studies with the intent of teaching it to others.

Another implication is that the way many of us study probably isn’t helping much.  If studying to teach is best, and studying to test is good but not as good, then how good can it be to study just because we feel we have to?  Many of us poker players watch videos without taking notes, we do half-hearted hand history reviews, read books or articles without planning on how to put to use what we’re reading… basically we’re lazy poker studiers.  We aren’t being tested on the stuff we study… you could consider playing being a test of our knowledge, but we don’t know when our studies of bubble dynamics, short stacked play, double-barreling or anything else will be used in a poker session.

Recommendation: Study With Intent to Teach

This will get your mind working it’s hardest, will keep you and your note taking organized, and will lead to better understanding.  If you also make it a goal of putting yourself out there and making a video or writing a blog post or making an epic forum post for every topic you study, you’ll learn that info all the better and you’ll have increased recall and be a stronger player for it.

How you can practice teaching poker

Here are some areas where you can teach others what you know about poker:

Post in forums

  • Hit up the forums of your choice and find some posts with questions to answer.
  • Think through the question you want to answer and answer it as completely as possible. Don’t just give the answer that first comes to your dome.
  • Treat your answer like it’s THE ANSWER – don’t do those quick one line responses that you often see in forums
  • Respond to responses – you’ll find that others will see things you didn’t see

Lead Study Groups

  • Start a poker study group with friends or acquaintances you know from Facebook.
  • It can by via Skype, Google Hangout, in-person, whatever.
  • Since you’re the one who started it, act as if you’re the organizer. Create topics of study and come to each session fully prepared to teach the subject matter.
  • Don’t act like the teacher, though. You want to express all of your opinions and ideas, but you aren’t giving a lecture.  Start with one point at a time and elicit feedback and thoughts from others.
  • If you’re leading a study session all about double-barreling for example, come prepared with 2 or 3 hands to discuss. You should have your thoughts fully put together and listed out so you can hit every point.  Know these hands inside and out, run the math and do the Flopzilla work ahead of time.  Come prepared with your own questions as well.
  • At every study session, you should be the most prepared out of all the participants just as if you were the teacher. Like I mentioned before from that research study, if you prepare with the idea of having to teach it in mind, you’ll learn the subject matter better than if you were studying to take a test.

Make Videos

  • This might be a scary thing, to make videos and put your own hand histories and thoughts out there for others to watch and comment on, but so what. Just do it!
  • Create your own YouTube channel and start making videos. Actually, you don’t even have to make a YouTube channel.  Put your first video up in the SPS Facebook Group.  Everyone there is pretty cool and any kind of feedback you get will only help to improve your game and the understanding of the concept you teach.
  • Get something like OBS (Open Broadcaster Software), a free software for recording your screen and microphone, and make your first video.
  • Plan the concept you want to teach, and you can even fully script it if you want. Record your screen and your microphone, watch the video to make sure there are no mistakes, then put it out in the world for others to see and give you feedback on.


Here’s my challenge to you for this episode:  Make a poker strategy video on any concept you feel confident in, and post it in the SPS Facebook Group.  Just do it, poker people!  It can be any concept you want and as short or as long as you want it to be, your goal is to simply teach a concept.  Maybe it’s about cbetting profitably, or 3betting or defending the blinds.  Whatever the topic, just create a video to teach your knowledge to others.  Treat this as a growth opportunity; put yourself out there and learn from doing something new.

Now it’s your turn to take action and do something positive for your poker game.


Sky Matsuhashi

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