Tournament Player Study Habits

uglytunauglytuna Red Chipper Posts: 130 ✭✭
I was asked recently by @persuadeo how I prepare or improve at poker as a tournament player.

Although I consider myself an amateur because poker is not my number one source of income, I’m never complacent and always trying to improve. When Persuadeo asked me this question I did not give him an accurate answer at the time. So below I would like to share what I do as a tournament player to improve at this game. I believe my work ethic has validated some recent success I had at this game over the last 5 years.

I’m not prioritizing the order of my study habits or tournament preparation below. Some of the items I do more than others. I’ve not invented anything new here but these are just what has worked for me. I would also love to hear what others do that are not on this list already.

(1) Inner poker circle – it's important to have an inner poker circle among poker friends who you respect at the game. These are players/friends who are looking to develop their games along with yours. These discussions can be valuable as they can be about anything related to poker. I detach myself from any player who stunts my growth in this game. I welcome constructive criticism as my mistakes are a poker education.

(2) Reviewing Hand Histories – I review Hand Histories of tournaments of which I’ve played online or live. Bad decisions make interesting hand histories. Reviewing hand histories are important, you can share them with your inner circle or you can review them and see what errors occurred. Generally, when I don’t know the correct decision on a particular hand history, I email them to my inner circle for their opinions or posted here on this forum.

a. Online – I use Poker Tracker 4 (PT4), I play a lot of online poker when I’m in New Jersey. So I have thousands of hands in my poker database. I maximize filter within my database to study certain spots. For example, I’ll filter my hands to show me all hand I’ve played with less than 20BB, where I was first to open a pot. This can help me learn correct push/fold strategies. PT4 makes it very easy to mark any hand while playing that you would like to review after your session or tournaments. This makes it very easy to refer to those hands. I typically share any of interesting these hands with my inner group.

b. Live – I have an app called ‘One Note’ by Microsoft on my smartphone. Before any event, I’ll copy a blank Hand History template into my ‘One Note’ Hand History page for that event. This template includes My Hand, Blinds, Stack Size, My Position, then I will have a section to record the Preflop action, the Flop cards with its action, then Turn and River. Typically I can have about 6-10 HH per tournament for a 12 hour day. I only record hands that are interesting or where I think I made a mistake.

(3) Journals – Keep a poker journal is a great tool to get better. My journals are broken down in sections. I have two journals one is an app on my iPhone called ‘Day One’ and the other is my ‘One Note’ app. Below I have a list of things I do with these journals.

a. Record my Live Hand Histories – As I describe above I have all my live tournaments HH record in my journal.

b. I subscribe to a lot of poker strategy content from numerous sources that are delivered to my inbox. Any interesting articles or anything noteworthy, I cut and paste them into my journals. This way I have one repository for all my poker strategy content.

c. Tournament Summary Journals – I have a separate journal which I write a full review of any tournament I play. It includes a grade performance of my play for that typical event. Then I write down ONLY 3 things I did good in the event and ONLY 3 things I did poorly in that tournament. Put this in writing helps you become mentally aware of your poker mistakes.

d. Pregame Preparation – Typically I review my prior makes from the tournaments. I then select ONLY 3 things that I will not do and ONLY 3 things I’ll try to improve upon. For example, I will 3B any openers from the button with a wide range. I will never open limp into a pot. I will not flat a raise with less than 20BB.

e. I’ll save any Poker Strategy YouTube videos links, Red Chip Content links or Forum posts threads into my ‘One Note’ notebook.

f. Inspiration Quotes – I use my Day One notebook to records tons of inspirational quotes. These quotes inspire me to play my ‘A’ Game or simply motivate me. Here are a few and you can see they are all related to poker and life. Enjoy!

i. Learning is Power – “I once met a man who had a sollar. I too had a dollar. We exchanged dollars, We each still had one dollar.” “I once met a man who had an idea. I too had an idea. We exchanged ideas. Now, we both had two ideas.” One of the kindes things another human being can do is teach you something.

ii. “Why would you get upset when you lose? Losing happens so much often. You basically, lose, lose, lose and then you Win!”

iii. “We do not rise to the occasion. We fall to the level of our training”

iv. “The best swordsman in the world doesn’t need to fear the second best swordsman in the world; no, the person for him to be afraid of is some ignorant antagonist who has never had a sword in his hand before; he doesn’t do the thing he ought to do, and so the expert isn’t prepared for him” – Mark Twain

v. “Poker players get caught up with outcomes. Can not be results-oriented. In the long run, making the best decisions will have a favorable outcome” – Greg Candido

(4) Poker Results – I have an app on my iPhone called Poker Analytics 5. I’ve recorded every tournament I ever played. Good or bad, this is very motivating as I like to see my winning graph and try to outperform last years results. This application allows you to see the results of every tournament played along with stats and graphs.

(5) Coaching – I am no expert, as I’m always talking to players who are better and smarter than me at poker. However, I take what I’ve had learned and been able to coach others who are trying to take their game to the next level. Teaching others instills what I’ve learned and makes me thoroughly understand what I am teaching. Coaching gives me great pride when I see a student have success and has told me I am part of that success.

(6) Poker Software – I’ve used a few tools which I use all the time that either helps me improve my game or help me coach others. Below is the software I use on a regular basis.

a. Poker Tracker 4 – Reviewing Hand Histories, HUD while playing

b. Flopzilla – Create scenarios with HH and simulate play on different board textures against different ranges.

c. Equilab Equity Calculator – Understand hand equities and a particular hands equity vs a defined ranged.

d. Tech Smith Camtasia – creating, recording and publish poker content for myself or students.

(7) Books – I’ve read so many poker books. I have a long commute to my office which is about an hour train ride. It's this ride where I do most of my studying. My entire poker library is typing a Kindle book on my iPad. I also have numerous audio versions of poker books which I listen during my commute or my long drives to casinos. Below are some of my favorite poker books

a. The Mental Game of Poker
b. Anything Jonathan Little
c. Anything James Sweeney
d. Moorman’s Book of Poker
e. Your Poker Mastermind
f. Kill Everyone
g. Poker Diaries Series by Andrew Brokos
h. Winning Poker Tournaments Series
i. Playing the Player by Ed Miller
j. The Raisers Edge

(8) Podcast – I’ve listened to a few Podcast which typing I listen to when I’m traveling on a long commute. Some of my favorite Podcasts:

a. Red Chip Poker
b. The Benard Lee Poker Show
c. Thinking Poker
d. One Outer
e. Recently the Poker Zoo

(9) Streams – I’m a visual guy, so watching streams or videos are a great way to learn. I generally will record notes of streams into my One Note notebook. Below are some I recommend.

a. PokerGo – watching WSOP Main Event Coverage, Super High Rollers, Triton and etc.
b. Twitch Streams – Allin Pav, Kevin Martin, Jamie Staples, Ricky Guan, LexVeldhuis, Spraggy, easywithaces
c. YouTube Content – Doug Polk, Daniel Negreanu Vlogs, James Sweeney, Andrew Neeme
d. Watching my own private poker video content I’ve had made.

(10) Poker Training Sites – Joining poker training sites has been very valuable to my growth in this game. There are some great sites I’ve to subscribe too or have been.

(11) Social Media – I follow numerous poker professionals on social media, this keeps me in tune with the latest poker scene and up and coming events. Keeps me in the know. I also have a poker group on Facebook called ‘uglytuna rounders’ with my poker community. Typical posts include our community success at the poker tables. From time to time we talk strategy.

(12) Playing Poker – playing poker live or online is the number one way to get better at poker. Developing experience at the table is a valuable asset. You need to fail and fail again and learn from those mistakes. You never lose at poker you only learn. I play 6 days a week so you can have an idea of my experience. Playing online really gives you an excellent playground to try new things or put to use what you have just learned.

If you are curious or want me to elaborate on anything, just ask. Hope this helps any aspiring tournament player who is looking to improve their study habits and game.

Thanks for reading...

-uglytuna aka Greg Candido


  • TheGameKatTheGameKat Posts: 3,654 -
    Thanks for all that Greg, solid advice.

    One thing surprises me though. I see no mention of HoldemResources Calculator or similar. I would think this is essential for an online player and close to essential for a live one, partly because ICM decisions can be quite counter-intuitive at first.
    Moderation In Moderation

Leave a Comment

BoldItalicStrikethroughOrdered listUnordered list
Align leftAlign centerAlign rightToggle HTML viewToggle full pageToggle lights
Drop image/file