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.