As the title says I would like to know what do you most focus when studying poker. Math? Human behavior? MTT strategy? Poker theory? Analyse session errors? Cash games strategy? Videos of live/online tournaments? What is most relevant for online MTT's (in my case is what I most play).

I think there is so much that we could study that I don't even know what people should focus more at.

I would like to know what should I study/focus on to improve my MTT's sessions. I recently found a good article about MTT's and I found it quite useful, though I would like to be more effective in my study.

  • 1
    Could you get more specific, this is really general.
    – Jon
    Dec 4, 2014 at 15:08
  • Your weaknesses. If you don't have a handle on these - start mining your hand histories.
    – Robbie Dee
    Dec 5, 2014 at 13:16

4 Answers 4


I'll give you my perspective as someone who has abandoned cash games in favor of only doing live MTTs.

I think a lot of this will depend on your current level of experience and your game will change over time. Of course, you need to be sound in things like picking your pre-flop hands, but these are some things that I know I need to work on for my tourneys:

1 - MTTs constantly have you playing with new people, new tables. When I sit down I try to pause and take stock - how many players? Who are the big stacks? Who are the small stacks? Where are they? Get a sense of where you're at in the lineup.

2 - On your way to the final table, you're going to play everything from full tables to short handed. Make sure that you are comfortable "switching gears" between both of those. For example, think about an MTT and there's only 12 of you left. That's two tables, six-handed that then becomes one final table, ten-handed. Can you make the right adjustments for a full table after playing six-handed for a few hours? That's not always an easy thing and I know it's tripped me up in some tourneys.

3 - Be quick on your preflop math. Most people make mistakes when it comes to antes. ALWAYS know how much is in the pot pre-flop. Know what an appropriate half-pot and pot size bet is to open. Don't sit there and watch the dealer shuffle, watch the tourney clock and figure out the ante, the blinds and know what that means for the pre-flop pot.

Hope this helps.


I think it's important to not try to bite off too much at once. You're right that you have a lot of options, but focusing on one thing and really attacking that is IMO always going to be more productive than a casual perusal of a variety of topics.

You might want to look at some of the online coaching sites like CardRunners, Run It Once, or Tournament Poker Edge. They all offer some level of free content and ability to explore a little before committing to a subscription. They can help you identify areas for improvement, then you can select video series based on that need. I was really happy with some of the TPE content when I subscribed in the past. Some of the pros there have some really good tournament-focused content, and it covers the range from microstakes on up.

You mention "videos of live/online tournaments" as an option. I'd suggest that an edited feed like the main ESPN broadcasts of the WSOP will not help you at all. If you can find a knowledgeable pro who is discussing his thought processes during a live sweat video, then that might be a great choice for general tournament training.

  • 4
    +1 for the last paragraph alone. Eating cake doesn't make you a baker.
    – Robbie Dee
    Dec 5, 2014 at 13:10

You start with yourself. Poker is broad, a few minutes to learn then a lifetime to master. You discover were you are weak, and were you are strong. Then exploit and learn accordingly.

There are huge resources and no silver bullets. Your question is not a good question in the sense that it can not be answered simply. It cannot be answered easily because what you are asking is the stuff of thousands of pages in books, hundreds of thousands of web posts and articles. Your answer is the product of years of playing and study on your part.

Your answer is granular, it is in a thousand questions. Come ask them.


I've only been playing a couple of years, but poker has become my retirement strategy. Malcolm Gladwell describes the requirements of success in any field in a book called Outliers. Bottom line, it takes about 10,000 hours of focused effort to become an expert at anything (unless you lack the minimum necessary talent). The most important IMO is time at the table. If there is a free tavern league in your area I would join it. Some of the players are very good and you will get to play a lot of hands for almost no money. The next most important is reading the books by the experts. The list of books is open to opinion so I won't address that here, but some are better than others. It is amazing to learn something in a book and use it successfully at a table. As far as watching the big tournaments, I find it entertaining, but don't understand many of the hands they play. As I said at the outset, I've only been playing a couple of years. Perhaps one day I'll know how to play the elusive 10/2.

  • Gladwell books are entertaining, but I'm not sure I would rely on many of his claims as actual fact. The truth of the matter is that mastery is not as simple as he portrays it, particularly in a subject with a large parameter space. And bar leagues are not really good practice for winning poker IMO. They usually take a tournament format where the blind increases are fast and the SPR is always extremely low after the first blind level. The incentive structures that some leagues use to help the host bar make it possible to chip-up by buying drinks, so you can mitigate risk by drinking lots. Dec 7, 2014 at 22:10
  • And when it's free and there's no substantive prize at the end of the night, players have different motivations and you can't rely on those motivations to be at all similar to those in cash games or a typical cash MTT. Bar leagues are fun, don't get me wrong. It's social, it's a great way to learn the mechanics of the game, and it's a great way to maybe meet other people who want to study poker more seriously, but it's not at all the same game you'd see at even a live 1/2 NL cash game. Dec 7, 2014 at 22:15
  • It occurs to me that not all states have the same view of organized poker, and since you live in FL, you might have leagues that more closely approximate "real" poker. I live in TN, and it's a night and day difference. It's lots of fun though! Dec 7, 2014 at 22:19

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