Post Play Analysis
Nobody likes to spend hours pouring over hand histories and post-flop statistics. In fact, most people would rather just learn more poker strategy, and spend more time on the tables. But by failing to analyze your poker sessions, you’re cutting out a huge improvement tool. And if you look at advice from any of the top online poker players, one of the biggest things they do is look at their play after the fact. Seeing as how post-play analysis is so important, let’s discuss some methods for how you can study your own play.
The short-term variance in poker will cause you to suffer through losing sessions no matter how good of a player you are. However, as long as you’re normally making plays with positive expected value, you will be a winning player in the long-term - especially in cash games.
In most cases, making plays when you’ve got good pot odds or implied odds is enough to guarantee positive expected value. However, there are plenty of other plays that will affect your EV including value betting, stealing, etc. Since positive EV plays aren’t always quite so clear, it’s important that you use as many methods as possible to find out when you are and aren’t making solid plays, such as the ones mentioned below.
Okay, we’re not telling you anything new here by saying that looking at hand histories is a great way to improve in poker. Chances are that if you’ve played poker for several hours, you know about hand histories. However, it’s still worth mentioning that hand histories are a very useful post-play analysis tool for the simple fact that not enough people take advantage of these.
The first thing you should know about hand histories is that poker rooms don’t always automatically record this data for you. Instead, you need to go into your account and make sure your hand history options are checked. Once you’ve done this, the poker site will begin recording your hand histories, and either make this information available on your hard drive or send it to you through email.
Once you’ve got the hand history information, you can look over big hands and/or decipher small hands too. If you struggle with the whole concept of looking at hand histories, just going over your big hands is fine; this will help you see where you made good plays, and what could be improved in the future. Assuming you don’t mind looking at hand histories and have the time, you can also look at every hand to find out where your small leaks are.
In any case, make sure to pay special attention to your betting patterns as well as opponents’ betting when looking at hand histories. This will help you get a read on where you’re leaving money on the table during hands.
When we refer to table stats, we’re not talking about the lobby statistics such as flop-viewed percentage and average pot size that you use to find soft games . Instead, table stats in this instance refer to the stats that poker rooms keep on your individual play during a session. For example, you can access what percentage of flops you’ve seen, how many hands you won after seeing the flop, etc.
At most poker rooms, all you need to do to see this information is click on the “stats” button, and the statistics will show up while you’re playing. This is always a helpful feature because these stats give you a good idea as to how you’re performing on each street. Of course, to really get an accurate read on how you’re doing on each street, you need to know how much money you’re winning/losing on a each street, which can be obtained with poker software.
Perhaps the most useful tool at your disposal when it comes to self-analysis is poker software. Poker software is great because it tracks all kinds of information on your play, and digests it into usable numbers. Some of the things you can see with poker software include seeing how much money you’re winning/losing on each hand, looking at past hands with stats included, the ability to see players’ mucked hands, and more.
The one problem with poker software is that some of the best programs cost $100 or more, which is a bit too much for the average recreational player. However, serious players who want to get detailed stats on their own play, as well as on opponents, usually find poker software to be a good investment. If you don’t have the money and still want to try software, you can always download free trials or use the free software programs that are available.
If you think poker software is expensive, poker coaching can get really pricey. In some cases, poker coaches charge $1,000 or more an hour! Of course, it’s also the best way to improve your play since there’s an outside set of eyes watching you play and making suggestions. Depending on the skill of your coach, you could learn a number of tips and strategy that will improve your play immensely!
What poker coaching normally entails is the instructor watching your play from their computer monitor, then making suggestions in real-time. Afterwards, they’ll further analyze your play, and make more suggestions on where you could’ve extracted more value from hands, what situations you should’ve folded in, where your bet sizing could improve, etc. If you have several hundred dollars to spend, this is usually the best route to go in terms of post-flop play analysis and real-time advice.
Of course, any of the aforementioned methods for analyzing your play after sessions will help you improve as a player. It all just depends on how much work and/or money you want to invest in developing your game. As you can see, poker definitely falls into the old adage of “what you reap is what you sow.”