Reviewing Hands

Importance of Reviewing Hands

If you want to improve as an online poker player, it’s critically important that you look back at hands that you’ve played and analyse your play, and that of your opponent. Tracking software like Holdem Manager can record all of your hands and display them in the built-in replayer so that you can review them after your session.

Reviewing hands isn’t simply a matter of looking through it in 20 seconds and saying to yourself “yes, I played that fine, just got unlucky” or something similar. You’ll never improve and receive little benefit from your hand history review sessions if you approach them this way. In fact, critically appraising your own play is a skill in itself.

To really benefit from it, you should construct a hand range for your opponent(s) on every street and think about how it narrows as the hand progresses. This is called hand-reading and it’s the key to being a successful player. To take things a level deeper, you should construct a range for what your possible holdings are in your opponent’s eyes. As you do this, you’ll find that your thought process when actually playing becomes clearer and in time you’ll be able to evaluate ranges quickly and accurately.

Getting More From Hand History Review Sessions

To get even more from your hand history reviews, try to think of questions for yourself to answer, such as what are the worst hands that you would call/raise/bet with, every time the action is on you, and do the same for the opponent. Ask yourself the following questions when looking back at each action you make:

What was I hoping he would do next?
Did my action make him do that?
What range of hands did I want him to fold?
What range of hands did I want him to call with?
What range of hands did I want him to raise with?
What am I representing with the action I took?
What would I be representing with a different action?

When you are playing a session, particularly if you are multi-tabling, it can be quite difficult to take detailed notes and it’s possible to miss important hands that you aren’t involved in. If you play in games with a small player pool, it’s very important that you also review these hands so you can get extra information about your opponents and see what hole cards they showed down after various actions. Hands which went to showdown are invaluable free information for you about how they think about poker. Make sure to take detailed and accurate notes which can help your decision making when playing them in the future.

The final important point about reviewing hands is to give as much time to reviewing the small pots as the big ones. It’s often the case that the biggest pots were simply coolers where there was no other logical way to play the hand, but the small pots which occur more often, where you have a number of possible actions and could be making the same mistakes frequently are a good place to look for leaks in your game.