The key of having a successful career in poker is surprisingly simple:



Your talent, your logic and your work ethic obviously matter a lot, but being conscious about allocating your resources is definitely the most important skill of all.

Although I made numerous mistakes in this area, I’m lucky enough to know some of the top winners of today’s games personally, and having observed their habits it’s clear what they have in common when it comes to improving their strategy:

1. They maximize the synergy of their study group

2. They focus on spots that have real impact on their winrate


Let me start with some bad news: having some friends you like talking poker with doesn’t necessarily mean you qualify as a real study group.
The key characteristics of a successful study group are as follows:

1. All the members shall have strong mental game.
Poker can be really cruel and it’s essential to surround yourself with personalities who don’t accept complaining, who are genuinely happy to face any difficulty, taking any challenge as a chance to prove their superior mental skills. Being a member of such a group can make your life miles easier, on and off the felt.

2. Your study group shall not be too big
It’s easy to become lazy in a big group, waiting for others to do the hard work and provide the valuable results. In my experience a study group of 3 or 4 guys is ideal, with that size individual responsibility can remain clear. You need very special guys to keep a bigger group functional.

3. Members shall have different approach to the game.
It can be based on expertise in different forms of the game (SNG, Spin, HU, CG, MTT, Turbos&Hypers, PLO) or it can root in natural differences (genuine talent in interpreting solver results vs unique reads on the population or strong psychological skills, different risk appetite, diverse approach to competitions). Almost any difference can make a study group stronger.
In fact when you notice you agree too often, it’s usually a good sign to move on and look for new partners who can actually catalyze your game by questioning your standards.


You’ve spent an hour discussing a tough river decision where your opponent took a wierd line?
Well, that was probably not the optimal way to allocate your time and energy. Sure, we all love breaking down complex questions and coming to a conclusion, but you should never forget about the golden rule:


Simply put: fixing a $1 mistake you make 500 times a month is much more important than fixing a $1000 mistake you may make once a year.

If you are not sure how to cbet certain type of flops with different stack sizes, you should not spend too much time improving your strategy against river checkraises. If you have no clue how to openraise/limp/openshove with 20-25 bb in a bounty tournament, you should probably not do any other type of work until you have that bounty-leak fixed.

Should I restart my career, I’d spend 95% of my study time on:
    > bounty tournaments: opens, resteals, postflop effects, late game specialties. You like it or not, bounty tournaments are here and they are going to stay with us. There are infinite spots where you can get ahead of the field, the sooner you do your home work, the more profit it results for you.
    > ICM: HRC can always surprise you, make sure you don’t make costly mistakes on a daily basis
    > short-stack game: getting familiar with all the small tricks of 15-35bb stacks (pre- and postflop) is probably the best way to spend your time. Especially given that these spots mostly appear in the end-game, so their effect on your winrate is huge.
    > discussing population tendencies. There are infinite spots where population is way off GTO. One of the big advantages of being member of a study group is the chance to discuss your reads and get them confirmed/ questioned/ elaborated by your partners

How can CheckDecide boost the efficiency of your study group? is designed to help you find the spots where you disagree:
– upload your marked hands in a package and ask your friends to click them through
– review end-games for each other super quickly
– send your heads-up to a HU-expert to review
– filter questionable hands for a thematic spot (e.g. opening with bounties or cbetting with short stacks) and get them reviewed by a guy who is stronger than you in that particular area

>>> Check the match percentages and focus on the hands where your plays differed!

NOTE: while we are happy to see more and more public content shared, one of the unique features of CheckDecide is the sophisticated system of privacy. Restrict access and share your hands with your study mates only!

Valdemar 'Luigi' Kwaysser

13 years as professional poker player 10 years experience as poker coach. Born Hungarian, living in Valencia, Spain. 36 yo, married, happy father of two. Founder of CheckDecide

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Mark

    Thanks for the article, very useful!

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