Why Poker Flash Cards?

Learn Poker: Research Proves Why Color Up’s Poker Flash Cards Work

by Caroline Mar

“A minute to learn, a lifetime to master.” This saying about poker is well known and often used. Why is poker so hard to learn and master? Is it simply the memorization of odds and hand rankings that makes it hard? Is it learning to read other people? Of course, in a game of chance it’s hard to say that one skill makes one an expert, but there is clear evidence that learning poker and learning poker strategy make one a better poker player. However, there is a gap in the instruction of Texas hold’em poker. Many books, videos, and websites explain the basics of Texas Hold’em. Some even provide examples or opportunities to practice. And of course, players can always take the risk and learn poker by playing. Unfortunately, this often also means learning by losing.

Much of the existing poker literature is authored or presented by experts – those who already “get” poker. Unfortunately, being a poker expert does not make one an expert poker teacher. What existing poker books, videos, and websites usually lack are the educationally sound practices that those in the education field have long understood to be crucial to teaching any subject, academic or not. Ask any sixteen year old how great their parents were at teaching them to drive – we may know how to do it without thinking, but trying to explain it to a teenager has most of us slamming on the imaginary brakes and gritting our teeth. The human brain works and learns in particular ways, and psychologists and teachers have studied how to maximize human learning for decades.

The Value of Flash Cards

scaffolding information

Many people have experienced flash cards in an educational context. Flash cards have been used to teach reading, math, vocabulary, and foreign languages for decades. Part of the reason flash cards have such a long tenure in education is their efficacy. Presenting information in sequences and steps allows students to absorb information one piece at a time. This is true whether the student is a five-year-old learning sight words or a fifty-year-old practicing vocabulary for a business trip to France.

While memorizing small pieces of information is useful, it alone will not advance a learner’s knowledge. Information must progress in difficulty from basic to advanced, building momentum and skill. Known in education jargon as “scaffolding,” flash cards to teach poker should be building from simple (vocabulary practice, memorization of a formula) to advanced tasks (decision-making, real-hand scenarios). Also important is the concept of “differentiation,” where students working at different paces require different amounts of information and support. In the absence of one-on-one Texas Hold’em tutoring sessions, poker flash cards can provide chances for learners to self-monitor and focus their practice. Research has shown that learners do best when given opportunities for rest between sessions of learning, a context provided perfectly by flash cards (Pashler et al., 2007). In the same study, Pashler and his colleagues found that learning and memory of learned information were improved when students received immediate corrective feedback for wrong answers, with explanations, and later showed markedly improved results on future tests (2007).

The Value of Learning by Doing

immediate corrective feedback

Even if flash cards are great for memorization, what starts as “drill and skill” can quickly become “drill and kill.” Learners do best when given the opportunity to take an active role in their self-education.. Any flash cards that teach terms must also allow practice, achieving a balance of memorization and application that helps poker players learn, retain, and practice the knowledge they are building.

Educators have long understood that for students to learn, they must apply their learning in what has been dubbed “opportunity to respond” (Greenwood et al., 1984). After learning material, the learner must have a chance to apply their knowledge in an appropriate way. Flash cards can provide this opportunity in the form of “situational practice” cards. In these scenarios, the poker player is provided all the information in a hand, and must make the decision to call or fold using the mathematical tools and understanding of strategy that they practiced earlier in the deck. The question-and-answer format of flash cards ensures that learners are constantly engaging with the text of the deck, as opposed to passively reading a book or watching a video with no opportunity to test or practice their skills.

Color Up: Applying Flash Cards to Learning Poker

The creator of Color Up comes from a psychology and education background, with nearly a decade of experience in working to support learners, particularly struggling students. Working with those who face the greatest obstacles to learning the basics (such as reading or math) is an illuminating way to see how the brain works.

put your new skills to the test

Color Up has applied the educational research cited above to create a faster, easier way to learn poker that actually works. Players learn, practice, and encode into memory basic Hold’em rules and strategy, and then are given opportunities to make decisions with their newly acquired skills. Flash cards are a proven teaching tool that improves recall over time, and allows opportunities for repeated practice in an engaging format – all crucial to true mastery of any skill.

Color Up’s flash cards allow each player to learn poker at his or her own pace, incorporating the scaffolding and differentiation crucial to effective learning. Color Up products contain scenarios and applied practice cards so that the player who needs situational practice can apply his knowledge of mathematical skills to those flash cards with specific scenarios on them and decide whether to call, raise, or fold. Color Up has successfully applied the value of flash cards to the practice of learning poker. Learn more about Color Up poker flash card products and learn to play poker the most effective way.


Greenwood, C.R., Delquadri, J.C., and Hall, R.V. (1984). Opportunity to respond and student academic performance. In W.L. Heward, T.E. Heron, D.S. Hill, & J. Trap-Porter (Eds.) Focus on Behavior Analysis in Education. Columbus, OH: Charles Merrill.

“Improving science education.” (2006, May). National Human Genome Research Institute, National Institutes of Health. Retrieved from http://www.genome.gov/12012400

Pashler, H., Rohrer, D., Cepeda, N. J., & Carpenter, S. K. (2007). Enhancing learning and retarding forgetting: Choices and consequences. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 14(2), 187-193.

Caroline Mar is a teacher and writer from San Francisco. She has a Master’s in Education and works as department chair for the Special Education department at one of San Francisco Unified School District’s secondary schools. Her areas of expertise include curriculum design, differentiation, and Special Education. She’s also a beginner-level poker player.