Among this summer’s offerings from D&B Poker is a book designed to help poker players learn how to learn, so to speak. Purposeful Practice for Poker by Dr. Patricia Cardner and Gareth James provides a wealth of concrete advice about the “right sort of practice” they should pursue in order to improve their games.

In this one Cardner builds upon her previous titles Peak Poker Performance and Positive Poker, sharing knowledge gained while earning two doctorates (including one in psychology), working as a licensed professional counselor, and her time at the poker tables where she’s earned more than six figures’ worth of cashes in tournaments.

For Purposeful Practice for Poker, Cardner collaborates with tournament coach Gareth “Gazellig” James to show players how to make the most out of their study time away from the tables. They present and explain “purposeful practice” and how it can apply to poker, providing numerous techniques and exercises players can do to start improving right away.

The book is divided into two sections — “The Theory” and “The Practice.” The first section on “The Theory” takes a broad approach to poker learning, addressing the importance of having goals and the right mindset when setting about improving your game.

“The Practice” then gets into more “nuts-and-bolts” in-game situations such as preflop opening ranges, blind defense, playing from out of position postflop, and short-stacked strategy while also covering ICM and final table strategy (among other tips). Each topic is presented as a “Learning Project,” incorporating both specific advice about the situation being addressed and ideas for how to continue your study of that topic going forward.

Below find an excerpt from “The Practice” section in which Cardner and James introduce the topic of defending your big blind, here addressing the topic in a general way before going on to address how to go about improving one’s skill in this area.


Defending Your Big Blind

This learning project is very similar to learning your preflop opening ranges but now you have a few more options when facing a raise — you can call, 3-bet or shove, depending on your stack size.

The strategies for defending your big blind in cash games and tournaments can be vastly different. There is generally no ante, the raise sizes are bigger and there’s usually a rake taken in cash games; whereas there is regularly an ante, the raise sizes tend to be smaller and there is no ongoing rake once you start playing in tournaments.

This means that defending your big blind in tournaments is way more attractive, but if you apply the same strategies in both formats without considering raise size, ante and rake, you’re probably costing yourself EV.

This means you have to play much wider from the Big Blind in tournaments than you do in a cash game. If there’s an open and a call before you, then your ranges should change again. One common misconception is that the better price you’re getting, because of the extra money in the pot from the caller(s), the wider you should defend. The problem with this thinking is it that it is much more difficult to realize equity multiway.

If you’re calling too many hands versus an open then you’re probably leaking EV. It’s tough to gain that EV back out of position however good you think you are at playing postflop. If you’re folding too many hands then you’re making it too easy for other players to steal your big blind. You’re also passing on opportunities to improve your win rate. Similarly, if you’re flatting hands that are more profitable as a 3-bet then you’re missing out on EV by just flatting. If you start defending your big blind at the right frequency through calls and 3-bets then you become tougher to play against and this can lead to future improvement in EV since your op- ponents will look to find easier targets at the table. Think about it like this: If you see a Big Blind defending his blinds at the right frequency and playing back at you, do you want to continue to open his big blind or will you target the player who folds too much and/or doesn’t 3-bet enough?

Remember, defending the big blind isn’t just about calling, but 3-betting too. Sometimes attack is the best form of defense.


Purposeful Practice for Poker is available to order in paperback and as an e-book at D&B Poker.

D&B Publishing (using the imprint D&B Poker) was created by Dan Addelman and Byron Jacobs 15 years ago. Since then it has become one of the leading publishers of poker books with titles by Phil Hellmuth, Jonathan Little, Mike Sexton, Chris Moorman, Lance Bradley, Martin Harris and more, all of which are available at D&B Poker.

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