Between PokerCoaching.com and my 1 on 1 private clients, I have dedicated a good portion of my time to coaching. I don’t think it is a coincidence that I have seen an uptick in my play and overall confidence rise in my poker game over time as I continue to coach more and more. Coaching forces me to identify weaknesses in my game. Prior to sessions with a student or a webinar I am prepping, I will be presented with a topic to discuss. While prepping, I find out how well I know the topic. I will often do my own study sessions on the topic to reinforce and learn more, in turn increasing my understanding and ability to present it.
Albert Einstein was quoted, “You really don’t understand something unless you can explain it to your Grandmother”. This is a very powerful quote for poker players as it forces us to think about the “WHY”. I can simply tell my students that they should fold in a certain situation and they can copy that advice. It is the “why” that will change their decision-making process and help them apply the concept in other situations. I myself need to search more for the why when prepping topics. Whether it is basic fundamentals like why we do not raise A-5 offsuit from under the gun, or why a blocker bet is the most effective bet size from out of position with a range advantage in certain situations. I need to be able to explain the why to my students for them to fully understand the topic.
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Sometimes a student will ask me a theoretical question to explain a topic or in a hand I will recommend a specific action. They ask me why, and sometimes I struggle to explain why. I may know it is the right answer, but do not know why it is the right answer. This shows a hole in my game and where I need to do more study to fully understand topics. This gives me my own work to study on.
Over the past year, I have spent a lot of time studying situations with PIOSolver, a game theory optimal calculator. PioSolver can output some pretty complex strategies in certain situations. My goal when I study is not to copy the strategy. In fact, I rarely ever copy the strategy. My goal when studying with PioSolver is to learn WHY it does what it does. For example, why does it check-raise 7-6 suited on A-7-2 rainbow at full frequency big blind v under the gun but not K-7 suited, a much stronger hand. The reason? If we check raise 7-6 suited, our opponent folds K-Q suited, K-J suited, K-T suited, and K-9 suited. That is a win for us when we fold out the over cards. But when we have K-7 suited, we don’t want his K-x hands to fold as we want to make a dominated two pair against him. Here instead of copying a strategy, I have learned to understand the depth of the strategy. It allows me to make many exploitable plays against my opponents and fully understand why I am making the plays that I do.
In conclusion, a good way to find out how well you understand a topic is to explain the theory behind it to another player. If you can’t answer their questions or explain it in a very simplistic way, you need to do more work. I do this with my students all the time, I ask them WHY they made a certain play almost every hand. I am not saying they made a right or wrong play. I am trying to identify weaknesses or strengths in their decision making to find out where they need work.