One of the great things about poker is that no matter how long you've been playing the game there's no real limit to how much you can learn about it. This is even more the case than even a game like chess, since the play of our opponents at the poker table is so much more varied, and there's so much more of a range of talent you'll find yourself up against. Like chess though, you have your basic strategy and tactics, which every player must master in order to do well. Then there's adjusting those strategies and tactics to the play of your opponents, in order to best exploit their play to your advantage.
Experience alone will serve you well, and there's no real substitute for it in fact. There's a lot of skills, particularly ones like patience, discipline, dedication, always thinking through your decisions, proper focus, avoiding frustration, courage, and so on that you can't obtain simply from study. You've got to both know how to execute properly and have the fortitude to do so. However, without the proper knowledge, the experience becomes a wasted effort. There are legions of players who have been playing for a fairly long time, but still play fairly badly, since they don't take the game seriously enough to further their poker education enough.
In any pursuit, education plays a central role, and the more complex the pursuit the more vital it becomes. In spite of its seemingly simple nature, the art of playing online hold'em can be a fairly complex matter indeed. Moreover, in order to understand one's opponents to the optimal degree, we have to not only become intimate with our own thinking processes at the table, we also have to become intimate with those of our opponents. And there's no other way to achieve this properly then to study the play of others, and in particular, various popular poker thinking and cultures.
So this becomes a twofold effort: we want to know what the correct play in any given situation, and we want to know what opponents think is the correct play. As far as our own decisions go, we can very often benefit from the thinking of others. Starting out, this is certainly valuable as it can set us on the right path to winning by using ideas and techniques of others who were once in our shoes and have successfully navigated the path towards successful play. As you develop your understanding of the game though, the task becomes a more critical one, as you start to develop your own ideas and seek to integrate the thoughts and ideas of others within it. Each of us develops a personal style of sorts, and at more advanced levels what we do is take an idea from someone else and look at it more critically, seeing how well the particular idea fits into our own personal style and philosophy and the extent it may or may not work for us.
Sometimes we end up accepting the idea into our thinking, sometimes we may modify it, and sometimes we may even reject it. Even the ones we reject though can contribute to the learning process significantly. Some of the most beneficial readings I've had in fact resulted from my finding the author's ideas completely wrong, and this prompted me to think more about how they were wrong, and led me to some new ideas about the game.
Another benefit of reading the thoughts and ideas of others is to gain some insight into how other players think. This usually extends far beyond the author's perspective, as a great many other players will read and adopt these ideas themselves. An excellent example of this is Doyle Brunson's writings. He's produced some excellent works, but the best part of them is that you get to look into the mind of an ultra aggressive player. You get to see how he thinks and approaches the game, and in your reflecting upon that, weaknesses become exposed, and you'll be much better prepared the next time you run into a player of this type at the table. This does require that you think critically about the material though of course, which is a skill you'll develop more and more as you progress.
In a very real sense, the ultimate goal of these lessons is to get you to think about poker more critically, much more so than just merely providing instruction in fact. This will become more and more apparent to you as we proceed into more advanced topics later in the series. I'm sure there will be some interesting discussions in the forum at that time, as some of the concepts provided will no doubt shake up your thinking at least somewhat, and when that's happening, then the process is working to your benefit.
In terms of the path toward not only obtaining knowledge but developing your own thinking about poker as well, it's strongly suggested that you devote part of your poker playing time to education. In addition to the lessons I'll be providing you, there's a whole wealth of poker books, articles, forums, and so on out there waiting for you to take advantage of. Although they are of varying qualities, some good, some great, some not so great, some not very good at all, some even seemingly bad, there's something to be gained by reading them all. Personally, I'll read pretty much anything I can get my hands on, and there's at least some benefit in pretty much everything, if only to see how other people think about the game, which is pretty valuable in itself.