The Importance of Reviewing Poker Hands

It’s been a while since my last post. I’ve been slacking! If I told you I’ve spent all this time reviewing my poker hands, I’d be lying. But I have recently spent some time looking over hands – and I found some massive leaks in my game. I’m aware that there are still a lot of poker players who don’t review their hands. So, my comeback post is going to focus on the importance of reviewing your poker hands.

In order to improve your poker game and gain an edge over your opponents it’s important to regularly analyse how you played hands and fix leaks or flawed logic. There are hand replaying tools out there if you prefer the more visual version, but even reading the raw hand history itself is also fine. The most obvious place to start is your losing hands. How many big blinds did you have left? What position did you get involved from? How did the betting go? (was it all-in pre-flop, or all-in on the flop with a hand, or chasing a draw, etc). Note down these details along with obviously the starting hand. As you go through more of your losing hands you will likely start to see trends that can indicate weaknesses. For example you might always find yourself pushing all-in from a short stack, or you might bust regularly with weak aces, getting dominating calls.

When you look at hands individually try not to be too results orientated. i.e. just because you lost the hand doesn’t necessarily mean you played it badly. Don’t try to fit a better line to all hands with the benefit of hindsight, some hands you can just write-off as unlucky. Take 5 minutes on the crucial hands to think through the betting line and if anything else could have been done better. And don’t just focus on hands you’ve lost, but pick out winning hands too. Yes, you might have won the hand, but was there a better way of playing it?

There are some great tools to help you analyze your poker hands, some are free, others are not. Some of the paid options include Poker Tracker and Hold’em Manager (I prefer Hold’em Manager – just a personal preference). These allow you to filter hand types or hand groups, so you can more easily see leaks. For example you may want to pull up the outcomes of all low pocket pairs. If these are showing as a loss then it could be that you’re over playing them.

If you find you’re regularly getting knocked out from a shortstack of around 12BBs or less, then you should go back over some of those whole tournaments and details. Are you passing up good chances to build a stack. Are you playing too cautiously and fearing your opponents have a decent hand too often? Sometimes it is better to take some more risks when your stack is more in the 20-30BB range rather than getting chipped down so often.

Another crucial anaylsis method is to use simulators. One of my favorite sites is Hold’em Resources, which is completely free. Use their tools to simulate the equity of your crucial hands. Pick out or note down hands where you had more than a 30% chip swing and got a showdown. Run the hands through a simulator at the points where the majority of chips went in. From this you will be able to simulate the EV of the hand, and compare the EV to the pot odds. So if it’s costing you 2000 chips to win a potential pot of 7000 then the pot odds are 2000/7000 or 26.6%. In ratios that is 2:7 or 1:3.5. Now if the simulated EV for your hand when those chips went in is greater than 26.6% then it was a good decision. There are some sites that take this process to a slighlty higher level such as Poker Stove (another free tool), where the simulation will be done against an opponent’s range of cards rather than their specific cards. Obviously whatever you use it is only really as good as the data you put in it, so if you are trying to work with ranges then take some time to think through what is most realistic.

It is also useful to discuss some hands with others and poker forums are ideal for this. You will usually get a very wide range of answers so the importance is to concentrate on the ones that make most sense to you. There are a lot of bad players out there and they will be offering opinions too. So use the forum replies to make you think more and consider different lines, or approaches, or elements, or factors. Never just blindly take the advice as gospel.

And remember, don’t rush to change a million things at once, but try to incorporate elements and see how they work out for you at your level.

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