Poker Exercise #1 Table Awareness



Oct 9, 2006
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For players new to the game, new to online poker, or perhaps wanting to put some structure into their existing game.

I suggest doing many of these with Play Money. You will lose your stake in each of these exercises, since they are not intended to help you play your cards, rather they are intended to develop something else, which in the long run will help you do better at the real game of poker.

Table awareness. I've been playing online for 4 or more years now, and it still amazes me how table UNaware I still am.

For this exercise you will get into a SnG (single table Sit'n'Go), and then NOT PLAY A SINGLE HAND! You will not fold fast. Your goal here is OBSERVATION. You will be working on the following things, ideally until they become 2nd nature to you. The more effort you put into this upfront, the faster the game will come to you.

You need to consciously note the following things for each hand dealt;

-Your stack size, and the stack sizes of each player still sitting. This will eventually lead to you having an appreciation for the 'M' concept and its consequences.

-Your position. Relative to the button, this is critically important. At a full table if you are first to act, you might be getting into a hand that could potentially have 9 or 10 other players involved. If you are on the button and the first to act there can be no more than 3 other players in this hand. Obviously a 3 person hand will offer you more control than a 9 person hand.

-Your cards. Even though this exercise requires you to fold regardless of your cards, you need to determine what the relative strength of your cards are. Consult a relative opening card strength chart if necessary.

(You fold here even the strongest possible hands, AA, KK, QQ. This is an exercise, and it is not intended for you to do anything other than develop a few skills to build on later. By folding everything you will be working on the ability to lay down big hands. More important to this exercise though is that you are developing your poker table observational skills. You also ensure you are lasting well into each game by folding every hand. You will be amazed at how often you get into the money (ITM) by folding every hand in a SnG. You can, by definition, never win it, but 2nd is not undoable.)

-Take notes. You will want to watch the action during hand play. Here the important thing is to note who is playing how. You will want to correlate who is betting big with what hand they bet big with, who might be limping big hands, who might slow play, etc. This will eventually lead to the main ongoing learning experience in poker, reading players. At first you might want to develop your own system about note taking. Pencil and paper or if you type fast use the site note capability. You will develop your own shorthand for poker notes, it will happen naturally, but only if you start taking notes.

In time these things will become 2nd nature to you. You could do it the way many have, poorly, without structure, and taking a very long time to do it. Or you could structure a few SnG's per day for this particular exercise and shorten your total poker education in a very large way.

Play Money S'n'G's tend to play fast, and the cheapest ones go really fast. So even just 2 of these a day, totalling maybe 40 minutes to an hour a day will work wonders in short order.

After the exercise period each day you can go ahead and play for stakes.

Have fun.:D

Edit add.

Learning to fold in itself is a good exercise. New players tend to play way too many hands. Folding a whole S'nG will work in your favor in larger tourneys when the cards are not flowing like sweet wine, and you want to outlast the donkey play that is typical of the early stages of every tourney.
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Oct 1, 2007
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mmmm now that i have read this, i understand why when i play sitngo's there are players who sit there and never play a hand. they are taking notes on my plays.:p


Is drawing with AK
Jan 2, 2007
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Nice post. I don't know how many times I/others have raised some suited connectors on the button when there's a loose short stack in the big blind.


Advanced beginner
Sep 20, 2006
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Nice idea, dj.

I've run a few projects using play money Sit and Goes as well but this hasn't been one of them. I know you've done others as well and posting them here is a great idea.

Dayne G.

May 30, 2008
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I like to play with peice of paper covering my hole cards... and reacting to the action.

You'll be amazed at the observational skills you develop!


Rising Star
Jul 22, 2008
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Great idea. I would also recommended watching $10/20 or higher ring games and trying to read the players.


Oct 28, 2007
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The best players are the ones who are consistent, and can shake off a bad beat and perservere. Patience is an absolute requirement,my downfall, as is timing. It's sometimes the move you DON'T make instead of the move you DO that can be the difference in your success or failure.