Is enjoying study the master trait in poker?

Is the biggest problem many players have is they don't enjoy, or know how to, study away from the tables?

Dominik Nitsche WSOPE
Some players enjoy learning as much, or more, than results

I’ve been having a lot of conversations with poker players recently in different forums and on social media, all around the same theme of what are they struggling with at the moment in poker? One massive theme that came up again and again is they wish they were better at studying. When you dig deep, it wasn’t necessarily the way they study, they just wish they enjoyed it more.

I’ve interviewed all the best players in the world and I’ve always said that what separates them is that they remain enthusiastic talking about poker with their peers to this day. When somebody brings up a hand, they cannot help but talk about it, no matter how standard it may be. I think this is just a reliable sign of somebody who has as much enthusiasm for learning poker as they do playing it.

I interviewed Dominik Nitsche recently and one of the things I asked him about was after his WSOPE One Drop win he said he was happier with his performance than the result. I used to think comments like this was lip service by poker pros but I now genuinely believe that’s how many of them think. I’ve recently got friendly with online MTT legend Dara O’Kearney and one of the thing that impresses me about him is how quickly and enthusiastically he will start doing maths in otherwise casual conversations we have about poker. There is just a trait some people have where a well-reasoned hand analysis feels as good as a well-played hand.

Known unknowns

known unknown
Study is hard because you don't always know what you don't know

I think the reason why some players find it so hard to study is less because it is not as fun as playing, and more because it involves even more unknowns. When you are learning something you sometimes don’t know what you don’t know, so when you arrive at a conclusion you don’t know if you have arrived at the correct one.

I recall times in my life where I would learn a new poker concept and once I truly understood it, an enthusiasm for learning would accompany it. For example, when I first learned how to do an EV calculation or calling ranges in ICM. Once I learned how to do those, I really enjoyed that aspect of study. The reason being was that even though I didn’t ‘know’ the answer, I knew how to get to the answer.

This is what I think the top players do better. They have a much more reliable and robust methodology of how to answer a question that poker poses. They know what questions to ask and what they would need to know to be confident in their answer. Somewhere in there also has to be a decent process of gathering opinions from other likeminded top players, to make sure they are not too biased in their answers.

Learning in itself is a skill, a master skill in fact because how well you learn impacts how well you pick up everything else. Next time you are looking at our video library or joining a webinar, maybe spend more time looking at how the coach structures their hand analysis and the questions they ask themselves, rather than just whether they think Ace Queen is a fold.

Do you have problems ‘learning to learn’? Share your thoughts in the comments:

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Comments (2)

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  • adelaar


    " enthusiastically he will start doing maths in otherwise casual conversations we have about poker. "

    Lol, this is what I remark about myself also. Not completely math, but I think in %chance.
    In daily conversations about things that have nothing to do with poker I often say: I give it 50% chance that X will happen. Lol.
  • urmo1


    Think it depends about if you are intuitive or more sensing player. Sensing player find study fun and likes to work off tables. There are many cash game top pros(not talking about nosebleed but guys at 5/10 up to50-100) who dont work at their game. Most of their skill came from intuitive personality and work discipline.

    There is great article in upswing about it: