10 Questions with Sky Matsuhashi

In the sixth grade, Sky found his inspiration to become a teacher from Mr. Zoller, his teacher. Ever since that moment, Sky has been an educator at heart. In his senior year of high school, he started his journey as teacher. He was a teacher’s assistance at a nearby elementary school for first graders. In college while working to complete his degree in math, Sky became an SAT Math teacher for The Princeton Review. Sky taught in classrooms and 1-on-1 settings. He loved helping his students improve their SAT math scores. After graduating college, he decided to go to Japan to teach conversational English, an experience that he will cherish for the rest of his life.  

Upon returning to the U.S., Sky bounced around from job to job until he landed a gig at Tahoe Joe’s Famous Steakhouse as a server. It was during this time that he was introduced to poker. He fell in love with cash games at the local cardroom and family home games on weekends. The job as a server was great and it was not long until Sky stepped up to a new role as a server trainer, back to his passion, teaching. Every new hire spent a few shifts with him learning the ropes. Eventually, Sky started to get more promotions. He went from Assistant Manager, then Service Manager, and then to General Manager where he ran his own location. After that Sky received another promotion to corporate, he became an Office Manager, thankfully leaving the restaurant grind behind. As the Office Manager, one of his responsibilities was to create training guides for every restaurant position. Sky once again was putting to use his teaching skills. 

In 2014, Sky decided to pursue poker as more than just a profitable hobby. Without knowing what would eventually become of this venture, he decided to start SmartPokerStudy.com blog. Sky wanted to combine his passion for teaching and poker into a possible business. He started with a blog, then decided to make videos and ultimately a podcast. Somewhere during the first couple years, Sky developed the idea that “action is the greatest teacher”. So, all his training revolves around students acting on what they learn both on and off the felt. You can always find action steps given at the end of Sky’s content because the idea is to act on what you learned. Hopefully making you 1% better today than you were yesterday.

Sky has built a strong following with his podcast, which led him to releasing webinars, 4 books, and eventually his own training site ThePokerForge.com. He still makes weekly free YouTube videos and podcast episodes, but much of his time is spent within his training site creating content or helping his 1-on-1 students.

When you discovered poker, what is that one thing that made you fall in love with it?
I started with a family home game with cousins and uncles. We played quick $5 buy-in tournaments and I looked forward to those every Friday night. They were just a ton of fun and the tournament structure was great. Also, watching the World Poker Tour on the Travel Channel was great.

What has been the hardest lesson you have learned through poker?
The hardest lesson has been trying to ignore results. I play poker for the enjoyment and the challenge of improving myself. But, I also play to take my opponent’s chips. It’s always been tough to stay calm and not get angry when I have losing sessions or I lose big hands. It’s tough to maintain equanimity sometimes, but I’m working on it.

Why did you decide to focus on online poker over live poker?
I enjoy online so much more. I don’t like sitting in a cardroom with people I don’t know, chatting about things that don’t matter. I’d rather put in more hands in a shorter amount of time and just stay focused on playing good poker instead of being surrounded by people I don’t know. Plus, the ease and convenience of just turning on my computer, I could be playing poker within 30 seconds. I don’t like the inconvenience of having to get dressed, jump in the car, drive to the poker room sign up for a table and wait for something to be available.

How do you think technology and your skills as an educator influenced your path in poker?
Technology had everything to do with my path in becoming a poker coach. Without the internet and the ability to create your own websites and create podcast and training video super easily, I wouldn’t be a coach. I would just be a poker player and pursuing whatever career I would be in. The internet age makes it possible to put out content easily, develop a following and offer products for them to buy. That’s what’s led to this being a sustainable business for me. Technology also makes it possible for me to have my own online training website, ThePokerForge.com. This is a much better learning source than just publishing loads of books or selling DVD video courses like they used to do in the 90’s and early 2000’s.

Aside from poker what is another game you love to play?
I enjoy playing Fortnite with my son. I play on the PS4 and he’s on his computer and we play as a team. He’s a lot better than me. Also, I love paintball.

What attracted you to cash games over tournaments?
I still love tournaments. But cash games allow you to get in and out with no time commitment and in just 30 minutes playing 4 tables, I put in hundreds of hands already and get some good experience. Tournaments take 4+ hours and “ain’t nobody got time for that”.

What is one non-poker related resource that inspires you to improve your game?
There’s a businessman with a podcast I follow named Gary Vaynerchuk. He’s all about giving and giving and giving which leads to a strong and loyal following and eventually a strong business. This is my philosophy towards all the free stuff I’ve been putting out there for years. And in order for me to keep giving free content, I have to keep working on my game. I find areas of opportunity in my own game, work on them, then use what I learn in videos or podcast episodes. So, the drive to continually create new useful content is what propels me to continually improve my game. If I just stagnate and fail to improve my skills in any way, I won’t have anything new to teach my students.

What is the best piece of advice that you have received for poker?
I learned about Bread & Butter Poker from Tommy Angelo in his book, Elements of Poker. B&B is when you’re IP as the preflop raiser against 1 or 2 players. This is the most profitable spot to be in. Make poker easier and more enjoyable and more profitable by striving for B&B as much as possible and think twice before entering into any non-B&B spots.

What is the best piece of advice that you can give for a poker player reading this?
To go along with the advice above, call out of the blinds much, much, MUCH less than you do now. Stop giving ’em Bread & Butter and your bankroll, win rate and poker sanity will thank you.
And, if this is hard for you, think of folding as “reallocating your chips”. So, if you want to call with K9s for 2 more bb’s, just don’t. Instead, reallocate those 2 bb’s for a future hand where you can raise and potentially put yourself into a B&B spot. It’s like thinking of the 2bb’s as an investment. You can invest them in the blinds and put yourself OOP with a weak hand on the flop, or invest them into a raising spot where you might just take the pot down preflop or get to the flop in a money-making B&B spot.


How much are you up for 2020?
I played around 25,000 hands last year and my final win rate was only +1.5bb/100 hands. So far this year, almost 5,000 hands played and +13.3bb/100 hands.

If you want to find out more about what Sky is teaching and how he studies the game of poker you can check out his content on his site at https://www.smartpokerstudy.com.

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