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‘The Course’ Skill #1 ‘Play a Simple and Effective Pre-flop Strategy’


Sky Matsuhashi

on February 3, 2016

‘The Course' is an incredible poker strategy book written by Ed Miller.  In today's episode I show you how to use my 7 Step Process to get the most out of Skill #1 of the book.

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


‘The Course' Skill #1 | Podcast #22

Podcast Mission

My mission for today:  I will demonstrate my 7 Steps to Poker Book Learning and show you how to use it to get the most out of every chapter you read by demonstrating how I do it with Skill #1 in ‘The Course'.

7 Step Process for getting the most from Skill #1


We're looking for the main ideas of a text; for key words and important details that stick out to us.  The goal isn’t to read everything, but to internalize the major concepts we are about to apply to our game.

  • Title: Skill #1. Play a Simple And Effective Pre-Flop Strategy; Hitting Flops is not where the money comes from; Suitedness; Big Cards; Connectedness; Small Pairs; Pre-flop Frequencies (EP, CO, BTN, Blinds); Multi-way Pots & Loose Games; 37 pages long

Set a Goal

Now that we have a basic understanding of the chapter, we want to read productively and effectively.  To do this, I’ve devised 3 questions, and finding the answers to these is our goal while reading.

  • What skills can I learn from this chapter?
  • Why are they important or relevant to my game?
  • How can I implement them in my game?


I've read this chapter 3 times so far, and I wrote a ton of notes in the margins and underlined a lot of lines.  One of the great things about Ed Miller’s books is there is almost no fluff.  He dives right in and any stories he tells are only there to illustrate perfectly the concepts he’s driving at.

Summarize and Analyze

So, let’s continue the rest of the 7 steps with the idea of learning more about the CO opening range that Ed Miller recommends.


  • 22% range CO opening range
  • Pairs: 22+
  • Suited hands: A2s+, K7s+, Q9s+, JTs-43s, J9s-53s
  • Off-suit hands: ATo+, KJo+
Ed Miller's 22% Opening Range

Ed Miller's 22% Opening Range


  • Looking at this range it’s obvious he prefers pairs & suited hands.
    • pp 27% of range
    • suited 49%
    • off-suit broadway 25%
  • My range before reading this chapter was about 26%: 22+,A2s+,K9s+,Q9s+,J8s+,T8s+,98s,87s,76s,A7o+,KTo+,QTo+,JTo
Sky's 26% CO Opening Range

Sky's 26% CO Opening Range

  • If you don’t have an opening range already established, you can find your actual range by doing one of the following:
    1. Whip out a poker range chart and highlight the hands that you would open in the CO. Think about each hand: KTs, yep, K9s, yep, K8s, nope, until you’ve gone through every hand.  There’s your range.
    2. The other way is to filter your history by position and mark down all the hands you opened with in the CO over a good sample size.
  • Pitting my 26% range v his 22% range in Equilab shows his is slightly ahead at 50.1% vs my 49.9%, basically a flip between our ranges. So let’s now pit the two ranges against the likely calling ranges of our opp’s.
    • Let’s look at our ranges vs a 20% calling range, a 30% and a 40%. These calling ranges don’t contain TT+, AQs+ and AKo as I’m assuming those are getting 3bet by opponents.
20% Calling Range

20% Calling Range

30% Calling Range

30% Calling Range

40% Calling Range

40% Calling Range


  • The results are pretty negligible. My range has a tiny bit more equity than his b/c he’s got so many more suited connectors and one gappers whereas I have a lot of off-suit A’s and K’s for some bigger card equity.

Our Results

Flopzilla Analysis

  • So my range vs his is about even vs likely callers, so what other benefits might his range have over mine?
    • Let’s turn to Flopzilla for this
    • Ed’s 22% range hits the flop 64.9% of the time. By hitting the flop I’m talking about flopping a weak pair or better, or a gs draw or better (so that includes flush draws and pair+draws).  My range only hits 61.3%.
    • So that’s one area where his range is better. He hits flops more often (almost 4%), allowing him to cbet and barrel more frequently b/c he’s got more equity or more equity when called.

Ed hits the flop

Sky hits the flop

  • There’s another way in which his range is better: he has a lot less hands that can be dominated by his opp’s hand when he hits a flop.
    • My range contains a lot of weaker A’s and offsuit K’s and Q’s. His range has a lot more sc and suited gappers.  When he hits a flop with these hands, he’s likely got a good 2p hand, made straight or flush or a really good draw.  When I hit flops with these weak A, K and Q’s I can easily be dominated by the opp’s hands and mostly his kickers.  My A7 loses quite often to his A9, AT, AJ.  Plus, these weak off-suit hands don’t have a lot of backdoor equity to his runner-runner straights and flushes equity.

Take Action

Now for the most important part in this whole process – taking action on what we’ve learned.  Do a FOCUS Session for this with 4 tables maximum.

Your goal in this session is to put to the test the skills you’re trying to adopt into your game.  You want to put yourself into as many spots as possible to test what you’ve learned and to make the best decisions possible.

Every time we’re in the CO and look down at our hand and it’s within the range, we open or raise over limpers.  No matter what.  If it’s not in the range we just ditch it without even thinking.  If you’re going to really put the range to the test, then follow it strictly.  No variations just yet.

Take notes on hands you'd like to play but that aren't in the range.  You can research these later and see if you'd like to add them in.

At the end of your session, answer the following Q’s:

  • How do I feel about the session played?
  • How did I like employing the skills learned? (in this case it’s the 22% opening range)
  • Do I think this skill has some value and does it merit further review before fully integrating it into my repertoire?


The next day you’ll do an assessment of your session.  This step is doing a hand history review of the entire FOCUS Session, with major emphasis on any hands that pertain directly to the skill you tested.  But, I want to make sure you look at the session as a whole because you weren’t playing in a vacuum, and what happened on one hand could’ve affected the way you played other hands and could’ve affected the way your opp’s played.

Use the proper tools (tracking software, analysis software, calculator, pencil/paper) to determine if you made good plays and great decisions.  Take out your notes from the night before and consider them.

This is also a good time to seek out opinions from your peers through submitting hand histories and questions to poker forums, study groups or your poker coach. See what they say and if they jive with your own opinions.  If so, great, you’re on the right path.  If not, then why?  You may have to go back to the drawing board.

Rinse, Repeat, Review

Now that you’ve made the initial assessment, it’s time to take action again in another focus session or a Volume session with your new skill and any adjustments you want to make, and then assess again afterwards.  We’re just going to repeat steps 5-7 until we decide to fully commit to this new skill, in this case the CO opening range.


Here’s my challenge to you for this episode:  Follow my 7 steps for the current chapter you’re reading.  And if you’re not reading a poker book right now, pick any up off your shelf, dust it off, and pick a chapter that you think you might gain something from.  Put into action one important thing you learn from the chapter (or more than one if you’re so inclined), assess the session the next day, make any necessary changes, then act on it again in another session.  Rinse and repeat until you’ve added a new skill to your game.  Please let me know what skill you’re working on as I’d love to hear your results in this process.

Purchase your own copy of ‘The Course'.

Check out the rest of the episodes in this 11-part series:

  1. How to Learn from Poker Strategy Books
  2. Play a Simple and Effective Preflop Strategy | Skill #1
  3. Don't Pay People Off | Skill #2
  4. Assess Your Hand Value | Skill #3
  5. Barreling | Skill #4
  6. Evaluating Board Texture | Skill #5
  7. Making LIVE Reads | Skill #6
  8. Emotional Numbing | Skill #7
  9. Exploiting Aggression | Skill #8
  10. Playing Deep | Skill #9
  11. Taking on the Pros | Skill #10


Sky Matsuhashi

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