Studying poker strategy and reviewing hands on your own can be boring. You may eventually be unmotivated to improve your skills as a result.
Enter poker study groups, which give you an opportunity to work with fellow players to boost your skill level. By studying with others, you stand a better chance of sticking to strategy and winning more money.
These groups seem like a cure-all to becoming a stronger poker player. However, you also need to consider the downsides as well.
I’m going to discuss more on poker study groups along with their pros and cons. I’ll also offer advice on whether you should seriously consider joining one of these study circles.
How Does a Poker Study Group Work?
A poker study group involves multiple players working together to help each other improve. Members can discuss books, mull over strategy concepts, sweat each other’s sessions, provide motivation, and more.
No limits exist when it comes to poker study groups. However, the person in charge usually lays down guidelines as to what will be covered.
For example, the leader may suggest that hand analysis, sweating sessions, and book discussions take precedent.
In addition to laying down what will be discussed, the leader will also help dictate the schedule and methods of communication.
These are all perfectly fine ways to communicate online. However, they also require each member to be on their phone or computer at a given time.
This is easier said than done when considering that everybody in the group will have different schedules. The collective must agree on meeting times so that nobody is left out.
Requirements to Join a Study Group
The great thing about poker study groups is that they’re free to join. However, those in charge don’t just let anybody into the fold.
Another leader duty is to enforce requirements for members. These requirements serve two purposes:
- Recruiting relevant players
- Screening out non-serious members
As for the first point, mid-stakes cash players don’t want to discuss multi-table tournaments. Likewise, they don’t wish to cover basic strategy for micro-stakes beginners.
Membership guidelines are key to ensuring only relevant people join. Only then will everybody be contributing and benefiting from the discussions.
No serious study group wants unmotivated members involved. Requirements also help to ensure that such players are barred from participating.
Pros of Poker Study Groups
You don’t necessarily have to join a study circle just to become a better player. However, you might certainly think about the matter after reading the following benefits.
Great Way to Improve Your Game
Study groups have become more popular within the past few years for one reason—they work.
I’m not saying that every single group ever formed will be a winner. By and large, though, all participants have a stronger chance of improving than when working by themselves.
What’s great is that setting up or joining a poker strategy group isn’t a monumental task. You should be able to get started within a relatively short amount of time.
More Accountability for Learning Strategy
You may have the desire to get better as a poker player. But will you force yourself to make the time?
The best groups have strict schedules on when they meet. Therefore, you need to be on time and know your strategy in order to contribute.
Gain Access to New Concepts and Viewpoints
Another problem with learning strategy solo is that you only have one viewpoint. Your opinion won’t always be the correct one in every situation either.
You’ll especially have a difficult time during post-session poker analysis. Sometimes, it’s hard to be your own critic.
Different opinions are yet another major benefit of poker study groups. You’ll receive different viewpoints on hands and other strategy concepts.
Much like your own opinions, these views aren’t always going to be right. However, a collection of opinions is often better than a single person’s thoughts.
Make Poker Friends
You’ve likely gotten into poker so that you can make money or at least be entertained. This experience is even more fun, though, when you have a few poker buddies.
Making friends at cash tables and in live tournaments can be difficult, especially if you’re not a live regular. Study groups, however, make the matter easier.
Assuming you and the other members meet consistently, then you’ll develop relationships with them. Even though these friendships may only be online, you’ll at least feel closer to the game.
Cons of Poker Study Groups
You might be eager to go with a study group after seeing the benefits. But you should also consider the downsides before jumping headfirst.
Barriers to Entry
The vast majority of study groups have guidelines and requirements. They don’t want just anybody joining their inner circle.
If you take the game seriously and continue playing, then you’ll eventually be accepted into one of these groups. Unfortunately, though, you might also experience some rejections along the way.
Hopefully, you can get over any such rejections and keep trying. But you may feel down if you’re turned away from too many groups.
The alternative is that you can always form your own study band. But the downside here is that you must do more work in order to recruit members and run the discussions.
Groupthink Can Arise
Earlier, I mentioned that poker study groups can lead to making friends. But the problem with these friendships is that they can also result in “groupthink.”
Those involved in such situations are more concerned with getting along than finding the best solutions.
Playing US poker is no different in this regard. Friends, or at least friendly acquaintances, may agree with one another just to avoid conflict.
The best study groups are able to offer constructive criticism to each other without getting angry or, even worse, disbanding.
Some Groups Don’t Last Long
Poker study circles aren’t built to last. Some of these groups don’t even last for a month before they dissolve.
Here’s a typical scenario when a study group formed:
- An enthusiastic leader makes an announcement that they’re looking to form a study circle.
- A seemingly perfect collection of individuals come together.
- Certain members start becoming unreliable and missing agreed-upon meetings.
- Soon, only half of the members are actually contributing anything meaningful.
- Eventually, only the leader and a couple others are actually doing anything in the group.
- They also give up their efforts upon realizing nobody else is on board.
The hope is that you can keep a study group going for years. The reality, though, is that you’ll have a difficult time making this happen.
Certain Members Won’t Contribute Much
Virtually everybody who starts or joins one of these groups does so with the intention of becoming a better player. But over time, some players lose their passion for the game or their group.
The same people will eventually stop contributing much. They should theoretically be cut loose at this point, but they’re sometimes able to hang around in the groups for a long time.
The leader needs to be willing to cut non-contributing members. Otherwise, the overall morale of the participants go down.
Is a Study Group the Answer to Boosting Your Poker Skills?
You can see that poker study groups aren’t a guaranteed path towards dominating the game. In fact, they feature a number of drawbacks that can make them a waste of time.
Overall, though, you stand to benefit by trying a study group at least once. The best aspects in my opinion include the accountability and different viewpoints.
You’ll have a tough time sticking to poker strategy by yourself on a consistent basis. It’s just not fun to review hands, read books, and learn ICM by yourself.
Varying viewpoints help you see different spots and strategy concepts in a new light. This is preferable to only seeing the poker world through your own lens.
At the end of the day, you are the only gambling with real money. It’s up to you to learn through different methods to really understand the game and what kind of player you really are.
Poker study groups can be incredibly effective when done right. The key phrase is “when done right,” because these groups aren’t perfect by design.
If you’re the leader, you have to set some hard requirements in the beginning. You don’t necessarily need the world’s best players in your group to succeed. But you do want dedicated individuals who care about improving.
Having these types of members takes some pressure off you. As a result, you don’t have to worry as much about guiding everybody and potentially kicking out non-contributors.
But even with the right mix, you still have to work to ensure everything stays on track. Two big things you want to avoid include groupthink and fizzling out. Some groups tend to agree with each other just to avoid conflict. This scenario doesn’t help anybody involved.
Additionally, study circles can eventually dissipate, as members grow less passionate. You can help prevent this by make sure that schedules are met and players stay engaged.
The ultimate goal is for all members to improve greatly at the game. To do this, you need to take care of all the details along the way.