I always think that there are two critical areas when it comes to studying poker theory. The first is to become aware of how to play the game to a decent level. Doing so leaves us with a “theoretically sound” poker game. This is often referred to as “ABC” or “standard” or “default lines”…….in short then whatever descriptive you care to put on it. To study poker theory and take your game to a solid but rather unimaginative level would probably take an advanced amateur at least a few months.
I would be hesitant to go under this figure as that would imply that the game was easier to master than what it actually was. For an absolute novice then I think reaching a top class level would be very difficult in anything under a year although some people are truly gifted when it comes to playing poker and could do it in less. The second reason for studying theory and one that is equally as important as the first reason is to go contrary to what you have read and to understand what your opponents know.
This and only this will get you ahead of the curve with regards to your opponents because you can then take the next step. For example when it has been folded around to you in the cut-off seat then you would raise with a much wider range than when you were say under the gun. This is the theory part of understanding poker. However once you get beyond the absolute beginner levels then your opponents also know what you are likely to be doing.
This means that we have to allow for what they know about how we play. As soon as we are aware of what they know that we know then poker gets very interesting. So we need to be aware of how our opponents perceive our range and look to adjust to their knowledge of our game. When players were open raising with wider ranges then more of their opponents started 3/betting with wider ranges also. Then when this happened players started 4/betting wider and in the tougher games opponents began 5/bet shoving.
So we had a sort of evolutionary process at work and although the online poker games are still evolving, they have more or less evolved to a large extent at the higher levels. However we do have to be aware of what our opponents both know and what they expect. When we open raise with the 7c-6c from the cut-off then our opponents expect us to have a wide range. This means that their 3/betting ranges and bluffing ranges will be wider than usual.
So if we are called for example on the button by a good regular then we need to be careful how we proceed. If the flop comes 9d-8h-3s and we make a c-bet and they call and the turn card is a low card then our fold equity will be quite low against aggressive players who expect our range to be wide. So a good line in this situation may be to try a check-raise and attempt to blow them from the hand.