What To Study In Poker? Best Bang for Your Buck

Updated: Oct 17, 2021

There is an enormous of online resources and topics in poker, it's never been easier to become a profitable player off of your own back.

This wealth of information comes with a price- confusion.

There's quite possibly hundreds of topics and millions of situations that you could look into with great detail, all of which you need to some degree for progress, but the question is: What will give you the greatest return on your study time? What in poker will give you the best results in the shortest amount of time? In other words: What will give you the best bang for your buck!

There are two to three key areas that I would suggest you study as a player. The answer depends if you are new to studying poker, or you have already studied before. After all, just by playing poker you will pick up some form of poker strategy. I'll be offering my expert advice for new poker players, and suggesting some tips for how any current players can progress.

What a New Poker Player Should Study

Some areas of poker theory matter much more than others, and for newer players it's important that they eliminate big mistakes from their game straight away. It's also crucial to provide good foundations for your future learning. Compounding on solid previous knowledge is far more important than learning a novelty. Especially if it's one that you may not have the current general poker skill to successfully implement.

If you are brand new to poker, then you will find the most benefit looking at topics which provide you the best improvement with the least amount of effort. As mentioned, a player should be researching subjects that they will have success adding to their play and should choose topics that provide good foundations for their future success.

Therefore, the number one most important area that a new player should study is their pre-flop ranges and sizing.

Why Focus on Pre-Flop?

You should be studying both opening ranges and sizings before you even sit down at a poker table. Yes really, they're that important!

A strong range always beats a weak range when there is no difference in skill

In poker, we don't talk exclusively about the individual hand, we instead like to choose what we do with a specific hand in relation to all the other possible hands that we could have in that situation. This variety of hands is called a "range". As a hand progresses, and there are rounds of betting, this range of hands gets smaller and smaller. Your range should be at its widest (biggest) pre-flop and then its narrowest (smallest) by the river.

A player playing with a pre-flop range of hands that has a combined equity (chance to win when there are no other factors at play) of 55% vs 45% comes off better in the long run. Therefore, looking into the optimal opening ranges will give you an advantage against your opposition without you having to even look at any post-flop strategy.

Another reason that these pre-flop decisions are so important is that pre-flop strategies are the foundations of your post-flop strategy. As mentioned, good players are making decisions based off of the range of hands that they decide to play with. To get better at poker you must develop a good understanding of which hands you will have in a specific situation. You do this by having a solid and consistent pre-flop range.

This is an example of a poker preflop range chart
What you can expect a pre-flop range chart to look like

Ultimately, the best thing about focusing on pre-flop strategy is that it's an area of the game that's perhaps the most straight forward to learn. You just need some good range charts and a good sizing guide and you're good to go. This increase in the playing of solid starting hands will immediately provide results in your game.

What Should Players Study

If you are a returning player or, a player who has spent some time playing or studying in the past, you should already have a good knowledge of pre-flop play but may be lacking in knowledge elsewhere. In poker, incomplete knowledge or misunderstanding is similar in result as simply not knowing the theory at all.

At this stage, it's still important that you have a good understanding of the more common areas of the game. Remember, this article is about telling you which area will give you the best return on your time investment if you are a newer or unprofitable player.

This means we want to look now at an area of the game that occurs the most frequently and is also one of the more easier subjects to learn about. There are a couple of topics that come to mind as a coach: Single Raise Pots and also 3bet pots.

Single Raised Pots

If you are a returning player, or now have a handle on your pre-flop ranges, then the next area to look at is Single Raise Pots (SRP's), Specifically Button (BTN) versus Big Blind (BB) interactions. Initially I would only look at this on the flop, as the strategy you need to learn from the flop will dictate how you approach turn play and subsequently the strategy for rivers.

SRP's are the most important areas to learn because they're perhaps the most common areas in the game. Also, a vast amount of profit is made by correct continuation betting decisions in this spot. Becoming familiar with which strategies to use on different board textures will be of unprecedented benefit to your ability.

You should also look at the most common, GTO based bet sizing strategy. They're easy to start using straight away and are a good thing to get used to doing if you want to play a GTO style of poker in the long-run. You want to maximise winnings while mitigating losses, so different board textures therefore have different optimal sizing strategy.

Learning about cbetting shouldn't consume too much time and again will provide solid foundations for any player looking to add to their game and knowledge. Due to the frequency that this occurs it's a no-brainer as to why this is a must-study area of the game.

You can optionally also look into playing as the caller from the Big Blind against all positions you come across. This will be helpful as you'll be in the big blind 1/6th of the time in a 6-Max game. Strategies for this position can become complicated quickly, so proceed with caution and initially only look at the basics.

3bet Pots as the Aggressor

I see players make huge errors in 3bet post all the time when both playing and coaching. Due to the high risk of capitol in theses pots you must try your hardest to prevent mistakes from occurring in this area. Fortunately, the theory behind 3bet pots is relatively straightforward especially when you only focus on the most common form that these situations occur. Those are:

  1. 3betting from the Small Blind

  2. 3betting an Early Position Opener

If you look into playing as the aggressor you will watch your profitability skyrocket. The elimination of smaller mistakes will have a dramatic impact on how much you take away from the tables. You'll notice we don't want to look at playing as the caller in a 3bet pot, while as important as that is, it's a much harder topic to get right.


- New Players should look at Pre-Flop Strategy

- Ranges

- Sizings

- From there, players should look into:

- Single Raised Pots

- BTN vs BB

- Possibly Defending the BB

- 3bet Pots

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