5 Tips to Successfully Analyze Your Poker Results
I constantly get asked by aspiring professional poker players and people looking to improve their results what they can do to improve their poker game. Sometimes I feel like they are looking for a magic pill or a secretly hidden tip that will instantly make them the best in the world. It’s never fun to burst their bubble or to potentially burst yours now, but like most things, the secret to becoming a better poker player is hard work.
Now, I’m not going to be a complete tool and just tell you to work hard and leave it at that. Plenty of people work hard to improve their poker games and get nowhere. The problem is that it does not just take hard work; it takes working hard on the right aspects of the game and in a way that produces results.
If you asked me to go dig a hole and I spent 23 hours a day digging with my shovel, you might say that I am working hard. But if I went out and dug for 2 hours using a bulldozer, you would say that I am working hard and working smart. While this isn’t that groundbreaking of an analogy (get it, ground breaking), hopefully, it helps to illustrate my point. If you want to improve your poker game, you need to work hard, but it has to be in a way that produces results.
So, what is the best way to improve your poker game now that you’re ready to work hard and work smart? One of the best things that you can do starting today is to analyze your results effectively. People always ask what aspects of their game they need to work on. Well, the only way to figure that out is to look through your results and find out where you are struggling.
When I talk about results, I don’t just mean the bottom line of your sessions. I also am referring to going through hand histories, thought processes, studying and learning processes, and anything else that you do to improve your game. You need to take an honest look at everything that you are doing when you are playing AND when you are working to get better.
Today I want to give you a few tips and suggestions to help you better analyze your results. Hopefully, this will help you ultimately to improve your profits and results.
Can’t Stress Honesty Enough
The number one reason I see that people become stagnant and do not get any better at poker is ego. Nobody ever wants to admit that they aren’t the best at something. Sadly, this can be the death of a successful poker career. I think I heard the statistic of poker players who are long-term is somewhere around 5 to 10%. I can tell you from my experience that the percentage of poker players who claim to be successful long-term winners is closer to 99%.
You HAVE to be honest with yourself if you ever want to make strides in the right direction. When you’re telling hand histories for review, tell the truth about what happened even if you think it was a bonehead play. If you’re calculating your win rate, don’t lie and forget about certain sessions or say they aren’t important because you were drunk and that’s not how you normally play. The more accurate that you are with everything, the better you can develop your plan of attack.
This all might sound “basic “, and you might be just skimming this, but take a second and really analyze what you do. The number of poker players I know that lie to themselves in some sense and are oblivious to it is astronomical. There is zero way you will plug leaks if you are always denying you have them and covering them up to protect your ego and not get embarrassed.
Be Careful with a Results Oriented Approach
Analyzing your results is a double edged sword. When you are looking at your overall results and profits, being results oriented (looking at the final outcomes) is smart. When you are analyzing if certain are working, being results-oriented is smart.
However, when you start to analyze hand histories and tournament outcomes, being results oriented can get you in a lot of trouble. I’ve coached a lot of people who will tell me that they played a hand a certain way and then tell me that they aren’t going to play it that way in the future because of the results. For example, I had a player this week explain to me that they shoved all in with pocket Queens from the big blind versus a button open and were called by Ace Jack and lost. Now, this is a standard play and a situation that you want your opponent to call with Ace Jack.
But, because the player lost the hand and bubbled the tournament, they assumed that this was an incorrect move and now want to change their strategy. This is a situation where being results-oriented is a bad idea. Analyzing the hand, they made the 100% optimal move and only lost because they were unlucky. It baffles me, though, that players are so quick to abandon what they know to be correct just because it did not work out once.
The takeaway here is that you want to make sure that you are only being results-oriented when it is correct to do so. The cliché phrase hindsight is 20-20 could not be more fitting here.
All of this begs the question, what exactly are you looking for when you are analyzing your results? The answer to that is that you are looking for trends. You are looking for situations that continue to come up where things seem always to go well or seem always to go wrong.
For example, let’s say that you start to notice that you seem to lose a ton of big pots with pocket aces. You notice that you win a lot of big pots with them, but you also lose quite a few big ones.
This would be a trend that you absolutely want to investigate further. I used this example because it is one that I come across a lot when I am coaching players. Typically, amateur players tend to over play big pocket pairs.
You want to identify as many specifics with these trends as possible. Continuing with our pocket aces example, I started to look at what specific situations they were losing the big pots. For the most part, it looks to be situations where the player was very deep stacked and was struggling to fold on coordinated boards. The more specific you can get with the trends, the easier it will be to correct. Changing how you play pocket aces 100% of the time is A LOT harder to correct than only having to fix how you play them at the beginning of tournaments.
The takeaway here is that you need to start keeping as detailed of results as possible. Once you have a large enough sample size, start to draw conclusions and begin investigating if there are areas that you need work. Identifying your problem areas is the toughest part of getting better at poker. Solving the problems is easy.
Just be careful that you don’t try and “force” trends that aren’t really there or try and find them in too small of a sample size.
Make and Track Changes
Once you have identified your problem areas, it’s time to make changes. I’m not necessarily going to tell you what the best way to go about that is (at least in this article) but I highly recommend starting with some internet research and reaching out to other players that you know are successful. In my early years when there weren’t a lot of resources available for training, the way I improved was talking with other successful players about the problem areas I had identified.
I will caution you to make sure that if you take advice from somewhere that you are sure it is a good and reputable source. If you’ve spent more than five minutes at a poker table, you know that everyone and their mother loves to try and give strategy advice. Since we know that most of them are losing players, that usually means that most of this advice is losing advice.
The advice that I will give you today is to try and track your changes as much as you possibly can. Sometimes poker is about experimenting and figuring out what works best for you. Remember, though, be careful not to be too results-oriented if the situation doesn’t warrant it. If you make a change and it doesn’t work the first time, don’t immediately trash it. Take some time and analyze it and see if you still feel that it may have been the optimal solution.
If you find out that it works, great! Now you can move on to the next area of your game that needs work. If it doesn’t work, then go back to the drawing board and figure out a new change to implement to plug that leak. Getting better at poker is just this process over and over again.
This is not something that you are going to do once in your poker career and suddenly become the best in the world. You are going to need to be constantly re-evaluating your game as well as the changes that you are implementing. The process will not be easy and will be hard work, but if you are serious about becoming a great poker player, this is how you get there.
One final thought that is important for all of these tips is not to try and change everything in your game overnight. When scientists do experiments, they only change one variable at a time so that they can properly assess the results. If they change a hundred things at once, they would have no idea how to determine what worked and what did not work.
Now, I’m not saying that you should only change one little thing at a time and then wait months to get results on it. I am saying, though, that you have to remember your fundamentals and not change your entire game at one time. You don’t have to become the best player in the next week. Poker will be around for many years, and you have plenty of time to grow your game the right way.