How to analyze your poker hands and eliminate the leaks
Your hands breakdown (and the opponents’ hands) is certainly the best way to improve the play because it allows you to find your leaks and learn from your own mistakes. It means that you can change the decisions you make at the poker tables and finally achieve the good results that will lead you to the win.
But here's the thing… You cannot understand what to change without your hands’ analysis in order to see where exactly the mistake is (or vice versa!).
Most of the players don’t analyze their hands and don’t try to find out the leaks at all. And this is just insane if you really set out to become a very successful poker player.
In this article, we will consider how to analyze your hands and guide the leaks in the right direction.
You should use the stat tracking programs if you play online poker
If you are online-player, you should use the poker programs such as PokerTracker and Hold’em Manager for example. These programs record the history of every hand you have played and then allow you to review it step by step whenever you want. They also give you a lot of specific data and the statistics about you and your opponents. You can also use HUD (heads-up display) in order to place this information next to your opponents at the poker tables.
The PokerTracker program is probably the most difficult and the simplest at the same time. It allows you to learn more about the game of your opponents and analyze every aspect of your own game.
This program also includes extensive filters in order to help you to determine where exactly your weaknesses are. We are going to examine how to use the program right now.
On top of that, these programs are crucial to online players because they allow to keep track of the results and also display them in a graphical form. Thus, you will always know the truth of the situation you are in. No more guesses.
If you are serious about online poker then you should try a free trial version. And it doesn't matter whether you plan to use HUD or not.
Many people don’t even realize that HUD is only the tip of the iceberg and these programs are capable of much more in order to improve your play.
How to analyze your poker hands
So, as it was mentioned above, the main reason to use programs is to analyze the hands. Over time, you shouldn’t review every single hand after every played session. You should analyze the most of losing hands in order to learn from your mistakes.
In poker, we either win or we learn. Let this be your motto.
When you win you know that you probably made a lot of things correctly. Most of the people intend to play correctly when they are lucky. However, if they have lost, it means they played certain hands badly. Probably, they missed the fortune, but we need to make sure of this.
So, before you start analyzing your poker hands you should check that you are downloading the hands history from the poker site.
The hands history is the text files from which PokerTracker records and processes all information. It also includes the data-in-use that allows you to playback your hands and analyze them in more details.
Most poker-rooms will have an option in the lobby just to download your hands history. Make sure that this option is available and your history will be retained on your computer.
Then enter PokerTracker and check whether the hands are transferred to the program.
Make sure that you choose the tab
that is situated at the top, and then double-check the poker-room settings on the bottom.
And finally, press “Get Hands While Playing” and all your hands will be automatically fixed by PokerTracker.
The next thing you should do is to set up the settings in order to get the hands from only the last session.
Click the tab “View Stats” and make sure that you have pointed out the date “today” and the limit you are playing at.
After that, your played hands will be downloaded in the history. Press the tab “won column” in order to sort out the most winnings and losing pots.
In order to extract the replayer tab and start to review your hands, just click with the right mouse button on the hand and then choose “replay hand”.
You can also use the button “shift” on your keyboard in order to choose as many hands as you want and import all of them in the replayer (it is recommended).
Now, when you are reviewing each hand step by step, ask yourself the following 3 questions:
- What is the player type?
- What is your opponent’s range here?
- What is the most appropriate play method in this situation?
If you decided that you made optimal decisions at every stage of the hand then you should just put up with the result and move on to the next hand.
However, if you feel that you made non-optimal decisions (for example, the call instead of raise or fold), then you can draw a lesson from it when you face with a similar situation in the future.
Let's consider an example.
An example of the hand analysis - double barrel with an overpair against the nit
NL10 – 6-max
Hero raises from the early position with the ace of diamond and the ace of hearts. (A♢A♡). The opponent-nit calls on the button.
Hero makes the bet. The opponent calls.
Hero makes the bet again. The opponent raises. Hero goes all-in.
It is an excellent hand example where you can notice a big mistake at once. It is a serious leak that should be eliminated as soon as possible. The reason has direct relevance to the players’ type. In this case, the player’s type is a nit. When such tight/passive opponent makes the raise on the turn or river after our double barreling then we will almost always be beaten.
It doesn't matter that we have a strong overpair of AA here. The line that was taken by this specific player clearly indicates that he has 2 pairs or better. Most likely, he has a set on this board with such hands as 44, 55, 99 or 88.
It means that in this situation his range absolutely beats our hand with one pair. Fold would be an ideal decision. In fact, our play was far from the perfect one and fold is the right decision here. That’s why after reviewing the hand you can see the big leak and if a similar situation appears next time you will make a better decision.
Poker is a real-time game under the pressure
It is not a fact that next time you will play correctly at the crucial moment. Poker is a game that is easy in the theory but difficult in reality. It is always difficult to play correctly when there is pressure and you should fight.
This analysis essence is to remind yourself about the mistakes that cost you money. Sooner or later you get tired of losing and start making the necessary amendments in your game. It can take you a lot of time to finally make a decision about fold in this situation when you put the double barrel and you are raised by the nit.
Most of the people keep doing the same bad calls, silly bluffs for years, they miss the value-bets and never learn. This is one of the main reasons why they don’t achieve those results they want.
That’s why the regular session reviews and main hand analysis is so important. It lets you make a sober estimation of all the bad decisions you made and leads to self-control and changing the situation.
The leaks search and its elimination
Another extremely valuable PokerTracker peculiarity is that it helps you to find your leaks and eliminate them.
It means that you can run the filters for your entire hands’ base and find the specific problem spots. And what is even more importantly, you can see the background information in these situations for yourself. Whether you play is profitable or loss-making? The figures don't lie.
For example, you can analyze the situation where you:
- 3-bet without the position
- Took away all the money on preflop
- Put double barreling
- Floated on the flop and then made the bet on the turn
- Bluffed on the river and etc.
You also have the possibility to analyze in detail one specific hand. For example, you can run the filter for all pushes with AK on the preflop and see whether you are in the winning situation or not. The possibilities are endless and the data you get is incredibly useful.
In order to shift into the tab “filter” make sure that you pressed “View Stats”. Then click “All Dates” and press “More Filters” in the bottom.
Let’s focus on losing situations (i.e. the negative results). For example, if it is indicated that you lose the money when making a double barrel on the turn, as it was indicated in the previous example, then you have a problem.
Because the winning player should demonstrate the profit in this situation. So, it is a leak in the game that must be eliminated. You should filter this specific situation and then attach a lot of hands to the replayer and start analyzing them one by one.
And once again you should know:
- What is the player type?
- What is your opponent’s range in this situation?
- What is the most optimal play in this situation?
This information will help you to figure out the reason of loss in this situation. Perhaps you don’t consider the nit range as it has already been mentioned. But the reason can be in another fact: for example, you try to bluff too much against recreational calling stations.
You can sit and analyze one specific hand and review the dozens of hands for hours until you finally understand the reason of your losing. Accordingly, you can adjust your play.
In order to make sure that the play changes are right you should review the data in a month or so once again. Probably, you will see that you are already profitable in this situation. In a nutshell, this is the thing that can help you make a progress in the game. Most likely, 95% your opponents at the micro-limits don’t do this.
You cannot always win in poker
It is important to note here that some poker situations won’t be profitable and no matter how hard you try. The classic example is a play on the blinds. You won’t win in poker on the blinds no matter how good you are, even if you are Negreanu or Ivey.
Due to the basic game structure (it is the forced money investment in the pot every time with a random hand and the play without a position), the blinds are just non-winning positions at the table.
However, poker is a game, where every detail is still important, and smaller losses can have a serious positive impact on your entire winrate. You should still analyze the hands and improve the game on the blinds even if it is impossible to get profit from these positions.
The point is that if you really want to find out what exactly impede you at the poker tables then you should analyze your hands and Pokertracker is the best variant to find your leaks.
It allows you to get to the root of the problems and crack them out.
It is also recommended to analyze the best regs play in these situations. A big advantage of these programs is that you also collect the hand history on them. The best regulars in your games win massively for a reason!
Don’t think your poker success is a matter of chance. Drown yourself in work not only by sitting and playing at the table but also use Pokertracker and you will notice the results improvement.
As you see, it is not so difficult to work with Pokertracker. There is a common misconception that these programs are good only for HUD (i.e. getting all statistics at the screen during the game). But in reality, it is the opposite.
The main purpose of these programs is to analyze your game, find the leaks and improve the results. Study your opponents play and create your own strategies in order to beat them.
Start follow these 2 tips more often and you will notice that your results are constantly improving.