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OTB #010: How to learn any poker concept on a deeper level

Updated: Jan 24


If you had to explain something like ICM, turn double barreling, bluff catching or blockers to a 10-year old, do you think you could do it?


Do you think you could explain it simply enough for them to understand?


Today I want to share with you the Feynman Technique, a 4-step process that will unlock your ability to simplify complex concepts and help you develop a deeper understanding of this wonderful game.


Here’s how, step by step:


Step 1: Choose a topic


Start by selecting the specific poker topic or concept that you want to learn.


Maybe it’s something you’ve been working on for a while, but can’t quite crack. Or maybe it’s a brand new concept that you want to tackle.


Write the topic or concept at the top of the page.


Step 2: Teach it (to a child)

"Law 2: To master it, you must create an obligation to teach it." - Steven Bartlett's 'The Diary of a CEO: The 33 Laws of Business & Life'

Use your own words to explain the idea to yourself as if you were teaching it to someone who didn’t understand it at all. It’s useful to try to explain it to a child so that you force yourself to simplify the language and don’t get bogged down in jargon or complicated terminology.


This step is crucial because in explaining it you will quickly pinpoint the areas you don’t yet fully understand. It also forces you to break down the concept into its most basic parts and ensures your own understanding is solid.


Any time you write a convoluted explanation about something, simplify the language or create an analogy to help understand it better.


Let’s say you want to develop a much deeper understanding of ICM so you start with the definition from Wikipedia:



Now you might be able to understand it, but very few 10-year olds could. And a newer player to the game might also struggle to understand it fully.


In fact, the Hemingway app grades this at Grade 16: Poor in terms of readability.


2 sentences are hard to read and 2 phrases have simpler alternatives.


Go to hemingwayapp.com right now and see if you can simplify this explanation for improved readability (a lower grade level).


A high grade level often means it’s tough to read and confusing. And it’s likely filled with unnecessary jargon. As the Hemingway app itself says, “… unless you’re writing a textbook, you don’t want it to sound like a textbook.”


Now, of course, this app is designed to measure readability, but I like to use it to highlight complicated explanations and show me where I can simplify.


Quick tip: don’t cheat and use AI like Chat GPT to simplify the language. You need to go through the process of explaining the topic or concept yourself to quickly highlight the areas you don’t yet fully understand.


Step 3: Identify the gaps in your knowledge and simplify


As you begin to explain the concept, you'll notice areas where you struggle to explain it clearly or where you realise you don’t fully understand it yourself.


This step is essential in the process.


Whenever you get stuck, go back to the reference material, which might be a book, video, article or podcast episode and re-read, re-listen, re-watch or re-learn the material until you get it enough that you can explain it.


Keep reading, listening or watching it and repeating this process until you can explain it simply enough on the paper.


Step 4: Review and simplify further


Once you have filled in the gaps and simplified your explanations, it’s time to review your understanding and your ability to teach the concept.


Continue the process until you can explain the concept clearly, concisely and without hesitation.


Actively process and rephrase.


Repeating this cycle of explaining, identifying gaps, and refining your understanding reinforces your learning.


Whenever you write down a wordy or a confusing explanation for something, try either to simplify the language, or create an analogy to understand it better.


Work to simplify the words of your explanation even more or create better analogies so you can understand it more vividly.


Summary


To unlock your ability to simplify complex concepts and help develop a deeper understanding of any thing you're learning, not just poker topics and concepts, follow these steps:


Step 1: Choose the topic

Step 2: Teach it (to a child)

Step 3: Identify the gaps in your understanding

Step 4: Review and simplify further


This process will force you to articulate your ideas, which in turn will improve your ability to explain your thought process.


This should then have a big impact on how you think through poker hands.


Good luck out there!

 

Whenever you're ready, here's how I can help you:


The Final Table: Play your best poker when the most is at stake. Detailed analysis of over 100 hand examples at different stages of play. Learn how to make great decisions every time and set yourself up for daily progress.


Poker On The Mind: Listen to my podcast with Dr Tricia Cardner as we discuss peak poker performance and tournament poker strategy.


Train & Play Like The Pros: Join the next cohort of my flagship program that will take you from amateur to training and playing like the pros in the next 8 weeks. There are only 12 spots for each cohort, and when they're gone, they're gone and I close enrolment until the next one.


Purposeful Practice for Poker: Gain a clear theoretical understanding of the science of purposeful practice and how you can apply it to your poker study & training. Includes specific exercises designed to create an infallible plan for poker improvement.

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