Poker players who wish to grow and improve their game must learn how to review their hands. While a game of chance, poker is also a game of skill. Therefore, learning how to study your hands makes the difference between a weak and a strong poker player.
Here are some steps that you can apply if you want to become good at analyzing your poker hands.
Acknowledge the Importance of Past Mistakes
Don’t play poker hands and just forget about them. Good players look back on their poker hands and analyze them thoroughly. The objective is to find the exact point where they acted inappropriately so that this doesn’t happen again the next time a similar situation arises.
Once you adapt a routine, you can use it to study your hands after a poker session, as a warm-up before a game or simply as off-table practice.
Record Your Hand History
Whether you play poker online or offline, you ought to find a way to record your hand history. Live poker may not allow a thorough recording, but you should be able to make note of particularly interesting hands to study afterwards.
Write the hands down. There are various apps you can use, or you can simply keep a poker player’s journal. Alternatively, you can use other digital tools such as memos, Google doc or the like.
Doing this quickly and efficiently is the key. Find a way that works for you. To deeply study your hands, your notes need to be clean and organized, If they are sloppy, you will just make it hard on yourself.
Use the same format every time, so that your notes are easy to read.
Don’t Miss Important Details
Before you can save a hand for later review, you have to make sure that you have recorded all the important details. Make note of your position, your hole cards, preflop actions (not just yours but all players), flop cards and suits, flop actions, turn/river cards with suits and following actions.
Record the showdown if applicable and any doubts you may have immediately after the hand concluded. Any gut reactions and intuition bursts will also help.
Calculate the Numbers
Upon first review, check exact pot sizes for each street. This will help you see whether your bet sizing was too small, or perhaps you missed something when choosing your line.
Run the math – there are also digital tools to help you with this (Equilab, Flopzilla). You should always be able to find a clear and logical explanation for your line of action or your bet size.
Whenever you can’t, that is what you need to work on.
Advanced Hand History Analysis
After you have reviewed the hand as it happened, it is time to go over it again. Stop at any significant points and study not what happened but also what could have happened. Take the original hand and try changing certain variables.
For instance, ask yourself what would your decisions have been if the initial stacks had doubled? What if the hole cards were different? Take that single hand and turn it into multiple setups, questioning your reasoning and play in these hypothetical situations.
Develop a Study Routine
It can take up to several days to deeply study a single hand in poker. The first review can take hours. Give yourself time and establish a routine.
You will unlikely be able to find the optimal answers right away, and that is perfectly fine. Work towards them and you will eventually develop a skill set that will manifest itself through significant improvement in your gameplay and results.