Skip to content


Your Poker Leaks #4: Poker Study Apathy #42


Sky Matsuhashi

on March 8, 2016

Poker study apathy is preventing you from improving your game.  Get beyond it with a little motivation and developing study as a new habit.

Download and listen to this episode as you follow along below.


Leak Plugging: Poker Study Apathy | #42

Podcast Mission

My mission for today is to show you how you can get beyond your poker study apathy and build daily study as a habit into your routine.

Today’s leak comes via email from Dom:

Hello Sky,

My leaks I’d like to address is studying, making time and effective study. I have listened to your podcast and I'm going to start a poker journal.

Another leak for me, happens in MTT’s and I’m the big stack and deep, say the last 18 and I'm not sure what to do.  What should I open vs the 10-15bb stacks and what do I do vs a shove.  And vs a call, what do I cbet?


Thank you for sending this in, Dom.  You mention two leaks here, but today I’ll just discuss the first one, which I’m calling “Poker Study Apathy.”

Why is it that we often find it difficult to study?

I think it’s because there’s no immediate gratification in studying, and we’re all about instant gratification.  Reading a book now is gratifying, watching a movie now is gratifying, cleaning the kitchen now is gratifying and playing poker now is gratifying.  But study?  It can take a long time for the benefits of study to really kick in.  Instant gratification leads to enjoyment in doing whatever it is.

I know you want to study and you know the importance of it, that’s why you’re reading these show notes.  So I won’t dive into why you should study, that won’t help at all.

Let me say something that might make a difference and get you to study: We make time for the things we want to do.

I know you’re busy and have a zillion balls in the air at any one time.  But did you skip dinner last night because you were busy?  Did you skip your shower today, yesterday and the day before because you were busy?  Did you forego taking your kids to a movie, skip that night out with your buds at the bar or not watch last week's episode of TWD b/c you were busy?  No, you wanted to do these things so you made the time.

Poker study needs to fall within that same category of your life, that category that I call “Stuff I want to do.”  So, how do we get poker study within that category?

The answer is motivation I don’t know what motivates you to study, so I’ll just tell you what motivates me and I’m sure some of these will help you.



I Want to Win

  • I know that study and improving my game will give me an edge over my opponents, which will allow me to win more.  Some people also have a desire to not lose, which is kind of similar to wanting to win.  But I remember a movie with Tom Selleck called “Mr. Baseball.”  In it, Tom’s an aging player who’s in a slump and gets sold to a Japanese professional team.  He explains at one point in the movie (during a sexy bath tub scene) when his slump began.  He said that he remembers the time when his thoughts went from “I want to hit the ball” to “Please, don't miss the ball.” That has stuck with me and I’ve used it ever since.  It’s a mantra… “I will hit… I will hit.”

See the Benefits

  • I remember the first time I created a 3bet range for cash games. I finally felt like I had things under control.  I knew what hands I would 3bet for value and which I would 3bet bluff with.  I no longer had to waste time thinking, “What am I going to do with this ATs?  Is it good enough to 3bet?”  That major benefit from studying 3bets pre-flop, saving myself time and the mental work of considering each hand I’m dealt, made the study totally worth it.  If you keep these instances in mind, and know that eventually this study will pay off, you’ll be motivated to keep on keepin on.

Have a List of Weaknesses

  • Having a list of weaknesses to fix is a motivator for me.  It’s like having a daily to do list.  It feels great each time you complete a task and cross it off your list.  Having a list of weaknesses does the same thing.  When I finally crossed off the weaknesses “Learn your SNG HUD” that felt like a major accomplishment.  Make your own list of weaknesses, then see for yourself how good it feels to knock ‘em off one at a time.

Study with Others

  • Accountability is a great motivator. I touched on accountability a bit back in episode 2 about SMART Poker Goals.  Accountability is being responsible to commitments made to yourself and others.  I’m involved in two different study groups, and letting these guys down is one thing that pushes me to study.  The fact that we’re going to cover a specific topic or video or article in our next session spurs me to read and study it to be fully prepared.  I’ve got to bring my A-game to each study session or else I feel like I’ve let my study partners down.  I recommend getting involved in a study group, and you can start that by joining with other Smart Poker Study Podcast listeners in our FB group at  Make some poker friends, create a group, and help each other improve.

Schedule it Into My Day

  • Things that get scheduled get done. I’ve scheduled daily study time for myself, from 5:30 every morning until my boys wake up at 6:30.  I start my day with study, because if I wait too long, I won’t study at all.  Once 2pm rolls around I find it very difficult crack open the proverbial books.

Develop it as a Habit

  • The biggest thing that’s helped me to study is to develop it as a habit.  I got myself to do daily study by doing a 30 day challenge, then I continued it for another 30 days.  With that in mind, I’ve created a 30 Day Study Challenge Tracker for you.

30 Day Study Challenge

For the 30 Day Study Challenge Tracker, I’ve made it really easy for you to use and create a plan.  Now, this isn’t designed for you to make vast improvements in your game, to fix leaks or to become a poker master.  This challenge is designed for you to develop study as a habit using some simple study techniques.  The key is to create your plan, commit to it, then work the plan.  There’s 5 parts to this challenge:

  1. You’ll choose 6 topics to study. It can be opening ranges, cbetting, 3betting, push/fold game, bubble play and HU play.  Whatever 6 topics you want to study is what you’ll plan your studies around.
  2. Each topic will be studied for 5 days. You’ll do the same basic tasks on each day for each topic.
    • Day 1: watch a training video related to the topic from a source of your choosing
    • Day 2: read two articles related to the topic from a source of your choosing
    • Day 3: 1 hour hand history review w/ proper filters related to the topic
    • Day 4: watch 30 mins of game tape and do 30 minutes of HH review
    • Day 5: watch 30 mins of game tape and do 30 minutes of HH review
    • *During the HH review you’ll review hands specifically filtered for the topic you’re studying. Use whatever software to help your analysis.  If there’s a software that you don’t know yet, but want to learn, this could be one of your topics of study for the 5 days.
  3. You’ll take notes on all you’ve learned throughout the 5 days and during each session as you play with a focus on the topic at hand.
  4. Each play session you’ll record 30 minutes of game tape. One of the great things about recording game tape is that just by pushing record, even if you know nobody will ever see the game tape but you, you don’t want to let your “viewers” down and you automatically play more focused in the session.  You’ll play these sessions with your current study topic at top of mind and have your notes out in front of you as you play for quick reference.
  5. Summarize everything learned on one page for future reference. You’ll keep all the notes you’ve made up to this point, but this summary is like a one-sheet with all the most important info you’ve gathered over the 5 days.  If you had to, this one-page summary could be a blog post about the topic. It’s everything you know.

You can see that watching one video, reading some articles and playing with focus won’t make you a cbetting wiz, but you’ll have a plan outlined for study, and having a plan makes it easier to study b/c you know exactly what you’re doing for that day and you’ll be less likely to skip it.

Remember, this challenge is all about building study as a habit into our lives, not to become a master at any given topic.  That will come later after you’re a poker study lover.

The other part of Dom’s study leak was doing effective study.  That’s beyond the scope of this podcast because really, effective study varies with each topic studied.  But I can tell you this:

Everything you do leads to more doing.  Experiences accumulate, and the more accomplishments you have the more you think you can do, so the more you take on, and the more you end up accomplishing.  It’s a benevolent cycle (not a vicious cycle).

If you have no idea how to study a topic, that’s fine.  Start with videos and articles.  The coaches there will show you how they study.  Did they whip out Flopzilla or CREV?  Take notes on this, get the program and start practicing.  Did they reference a HUD and you don’t use one yet?  Get one (PokerTracker 4) and start practicing.  Did they mention certain statistics you’ve never heard of?  Start researching and learn more.

What can derail your studies?

  • No plan – plans are no-brainers and they’re easy to follow. Plans are a built in guide to what you'll study.
  • No schedule – Failing to schedule your study time will lead to no studying that day.
  • Shiny object syndrome – it’s so easy to get distracted by that new Splitsuit video or an article on PokerNews. Don’t let that happen.  You planned to study 3betting today, so ignore everything else.

As a fortuitous coincidence, Alex Fitzgerald, an awesome MTT coach is coming out with a new webinar next Saturday, March 12th called ‘The Professional’s Mindset.’  He’ll discuss the optimal style for growth and financial success in today’s game, study methods he recommends and has seen great results from, and even a way to simulate 1,000 hours of study in one hour.  I can’t wait for this webinar and I hope to see you there as well.

Podcast Challenge

Here’s my challenge to you for this episode:  Get your butt in gear and develop study as a habit in your life.  Get the 30 Day Study Challenge Tracker, select 6 topics, plan out the 30 days then work the plan.  I guarantee you’ll be a better player for it.


Sky Matsuhashi

Don’t Miss Out!

Get expert tips and strategies straight to your inbox each week!