HomeThe ShuffleHow Do Poker Players Profit from Peers, Study Groups?

How Do Poker Players Profit from Peers, Study Groups?

Want to become a better poker player? If you don’t have a poker mentor then look for poker peers or study groups to help you analyze hands and perfect your strategies.

If you’re not fortunate to have a mentor, then it’s important that you find a group of poker friends. These are not just drinking buddies who will show up on the rail to cheer you on during a televised final table, but true poker confidants who will discuss hands and strategy with you. Study groups will help you and your peers sift through hand histories and reverse engineer trouble hands.

The term “crew” sounds cheesy, but a “study group” sounds a little too dorky, but you get the gist. If you can find the right tribe of poker enthusiasts, you can collectively improve over the long term, while everyone helps elevate and inspire each other.

Poker is a lonely and solitary pursuit, especially when you’re bogged down in a losing streak, which is why peer groups can help get you back on track. Your poker friends don’t necessarily have to live in your hometown. Thanks to technology, you can share hand histories and strategy on Slack or Telegram, or discuss hands via text messages or Zoom.

As you move up in stakes, poker evolves from a social activity to a cutthroat pursuit, so it’s important to find a trustworthy poker friend who is a hybrid of a therapist and boxing cornerman.

Real life friends provide emotional support at your lowest moments, and pick you up when you’re down. However, if they’re not serious poker players, then it might be difficult for your non-gambling friends to relate to the ups and downs of the poker world. Poker can be utterly cruel and demoralizing, so it’s good to know that you have at least one close poker friend, or a group of friends to commiserate with when you’re running bad at the tables.

Poker Enthusiasts make Good Listeners

First of all, you need to find someone who’s a good listener. A true poker friend will sympathetically listen to your bad beats, and let you vent about the donkeys at your table.

Bad beats happen to everyone, but the last person you need is someone who cannot wait to top your bad beat story. There’s always one braggart among a group of friends, or someone who is always annoyingly one-upping the rest of the group.

“Oh, so you lost to runner-runner quad Kings? That’s nothing compared to the time I lost to runner-runner quad Aces!”

It’s rare to find a close friend who is a true listener and not someone who is more focused on what they’ll say next. Of course, this is a two-way street. It’s just as important to have great listening skills and be there for your friends when they’re having a horrible session.

Engage and share your opinions, but avoid being that selfish person who never gives back to the group. Don’t be the egocentric friend who incessantly whines about bad beats and wants validation for their triumphs.

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Poorly Played on All Streets

In the earliest days of internet gambling, poker players would share bad beat stories or unusual situations on internet forums. When you’re dealing with forum denizens, there’s no shortage of wiseasses and trolls from the peanut gallery. The phrase “poorly played on all streets” became a popular and witty repartee during hand discussions to lampoon bad players.

Of course, you need to surround yourself with friends who are not afraid to tell you when you made multiple mistakes in a hand. You don’t need lackeys, sycophants, or a “yes man” among your crew. Honesty is the key to meaningful conversations and constructive criticism.

Mistakes can be costly at the poker table, and if you don’t have a quick learning curve, you’ll end up broke.

You must learn from your mistakes, but sometimes your ego gets in the way and you fail to acknowledge that you did something wrong. It’s easier to blame someone else, or chalk up a poor result to a bad beat or crappy luck. It’s in those instances when you have tunnel vision or lack self-awareness that it’s important when friends are quick to point out your mistakes and follow up with a game plan to avoid them in the future.

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Surround Yourself with Smart Poker People

I first started taking poker seriously when I lived New York City, and played in a weekly home game with lawyers. They were some of the top legal minds in Gotham and serious poker nerds who gathered every Monday night to play dealer’s choice into the wee hours.

A couple of those lawyers co-wrote a poker blog together using pseudonyms. They were cerebral types who were always up for a serious discussion about hands. Sometimes we’d engage in a week-long email thread about a specific hand from the Monday night game. Their analysis was in-depth. Some of them treated these hands like they were writing a brief for a Supreme Court judge.

The best teachers are the ones who can explain complex or difficult concepts in a very clear and concise matter. Sometimes the simple things are the hardest to explain, which is why it’s important to surround yourself with trustworthy teachers. Communication and clarity of ideas is important, especially when there’s money on the line. A cabal of smart friends will find a way, or even multiple ways, to figure out the best possible strategy.

Buffets and Baseball

There’s added value if you have poker-playing family members, or roommates that love the game. I had an advantageous situation with both instances.

When I first moved to Las Vegas, my roommate Grubby was a professional gambler and poker player. He was generous enough to share his wisdom.  Grubby had two passions: buffets and online poker. I played a lot of limit hold’em online, but Grubby convinced me to play live no-limit cash games — especially on weekends at Strip casinos when tourists flocked to town. We spent a lot of time together crushing the buffet at the Bellagio while discussing hands, especially how to play against flush-chasing tourists.

Grubby was a stellar online poker player and Sit-n-Go (SNG) specialist, especially in shorthanded situations. We had numerous symposiums on SNG strategy during our sojourns to various buffets all over Sin City. I also had the added benefit of watching him play online SNGs – sometimes three or four simultaneously – in our apartment while he provided a running commentary.

My brother and I had a shared affinity for poker. We often made trips to Atlantic City and Las Vegas together. My brother was one of the best baseball players from our neighborhood when we were kids. He was a star pitcher. He could’ve played minor league baseball if he didn’t blow out his arm in high school.

When it came to poker, my brother became an expert heads-up player. Pitching and heads-up poker had many similarities, and his deft skills on the mound translated to the felt. He specifically reminded me how it’s important for pitchers to avoid recognizable patterns. They have to set up batters for their next plate appearance while keeping them constantly guessing about what’s coming next. We discussed heads-up poker situations during the downtime while watching Yankees games. My brother helped me become a better poker player by using baseball lingo and pitching strategy.

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