The Poker Player’s Guide to Learning More From Videos, Books, Podcasts, & Articles

A student recently asked me a fantastic question about getting the most out of his poker training materials and he was most interested in improving his note-taking abilities. Taking notes can either be one of the most productive things you do during your study time or one of the biggest time wasters. To get the most out of your limited study time, it is crucial that you follow a few simple steps.

Most of us jump right into the latest video or podcast without any sort of planning and we likely don’t take notes at all. This can be a huge time waster because we have no way of capturing the ideas and human memory is highly fallible!

Use Priming Questions

The first thing you should do before you click play or open to page 1 is to prime your mind with some relevant questions that you expect to (or hope to) get out of your content. Suppose you’re about to watch a video (or listen to a podcast episode) on the topic of preflop range construction. A few good priming questions could be:

  • Why is preflop range construction important?

  • What role does preflop range construction play in my overall poker strategy?

  • What do I need to learn about preflop range construction?

  • How should I construct a calling, 3 betting, or raise bluffing range?

  • In what situations should I use a bluff raising range?

  • In what situations should I expand my 3-bet for value range?

Extract Key Information

Listing out a few questions before you even start the video will prime your mind to pay attention to the information being presented and can act as a guide to your note-taking. Also, thinking about the questions you currently have is a great way to transform what can be a passive activity into a more active one.

Next up, it’s time to watch your video (or read the book chapter or listen to the podcast episode). As you watch (or read or listen), take notes on answers to your priming questions and make a note of any additional questions that are answered as you go along. Your goal is to extract the most important information your selected content contains and to retain and remember that information so that you can use and apply it at the tables.

Summarize What You’ve Learned

Once you’ve finished your notes, it’s time to take your learning to the next level. You can do this by summarizing the material (and it’s critically important that you put the summary into your own words). Try answering the following:

What was the core thesis of the video/book/podcast?

What were the 3-5 most important points?

How does knowing this information influence my practical abilities?

In what situations will I use this information?

How does this relate to what I already know?

With any luck, your summary will be 1 page or less. This gives you the most important information which you can review quickly and easily. This is far more efficient than trying to wade through pages of notes!

Ask “What if?”

Bonus tip: Come up with some “What if” questions. In the case of preflop construction, what if the opener is a very strong player? How will that impact your strategy. What if the opener is weak? What if the effective stacks are 20bbs or less?

See how many of your “what ifs” you can answer right now and if there are knowledge gaps, you know what to do next!

Like this article? Well you’ll love my new book Purposeful Practice for Poker which is all about how to build poker expertise through deliberate practice!

Patricia Cardner