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Top 10 tips for reviewing your poker hand history

8 February 2021

By Narciso Baldo

Most ambitious poker players will set aside each time to assess their game. There are various ways to do this, but a hand history review session is one of the most popular. It involves downloading the hands from the poker client or tracking software and analyzing street by street how he/she played. By doing this, one can find leaks in their game and make adjustments that will result in earning more in the future. In this article I’ll explain the top ten things you’ll need for a hand history review.

Make sure you have a range of hands ready to review.

Make sure you have a range of hands ready to review. (photo by Flickr)

10. Variety of hands to review
Most people pick the same group of hands or scenarios to focus on. For example, they think they struggle with suited aces from early position and only extract them for analysis. A productive hand history review should analyse a variety of situations. Make sure you have a range of hands ready as you may find solutions to hands you thought played well. I’ve had hand history review sessions where players look at hands that cost money when the bigger leak was not extracting enough in hands they won.

9. Time
A session of poker study can take a long time and can overrun. You can spend 20 minutes on one hand alone so you need to ensure you have enough free time. If a session is meant to last one hour, set aside at last 20 minutes on top just to be on the safe side. If you’re in the zone it’s worth the extra time.

8. Open mind
The whole point of going through hands is to find fault and make improvements. It’s impossible to do if you this if you are closed minded. Otherwise, you will look at hands and never see mistakes in yourself. An open mind allows you to take criticism and be open to making changes. Being criticized or activating change is not something people like but sometimes it’s essential to increase win-rates. Try to be as open minded as possible to solutions and listen to people who are helping you. Your friends or coach won’t label you a poker nit or donkey, they’ll only offer constructive criticism to help your game develop.

7. Calculator
Most poker decisions will require some form of calculating. You need to work out probabilities, outs and equity. Unless you’re a math whizz, you won’t be able to do this with fingers or in your head. You’ll need a calculator to do this for you so make sure you have one at hand for your session. You can buy pocket calculator very cheaply and most desktops have the feature too.

6. Free of distractions
This can’t be emphasized enough. You need to be free of distractions. This means no noise, music or people around when you’re having a hand history review. Analyzing hands is a form of study and the same environment is needed. Make sure you have the room to yourself with the door closed so you can focus properly.

5. Good internet connection
It’s crazy to think there are places in this day and age with weak internet connections, but shockingly there are. You need a strong internet connection to be able to have a proper hand history review. If your internet is weak, it will keep cutting our or lag. This will render the session useless for both you and your colleague. It will also be a waste of money if you’re paying for the session. Invest in a good internet connection and your poker game and bankroll can benefit from it.

4. Pen and paper
You need to be prepared to take diligent notes when analyzing hands. Imagine making some revelations that can improve your game dramatically, only to forget them and have no notes to refer back to? How annoying would that be? If you have terrible handwriting, type it up instead on a Word file. There’s no excuse for not taking notes when you have a hand history review. It will pay off when you look at them later. I recommend saving all your study notes.

3. Clear mind
Analyzing poker hands is a mentally taxing activity. You are delving deep into hands and need your mental faculties to be sharp to assess things impartially. If your mind is elsewhere it’s better to skip a session. It won’t do you any good to try a hand history review if you’re mind is on other things. Moreover, you won’t remember what was discussed if you weren’t concentrating.

Have someone to review your hand history with.

Have someone to review your hand history with. (photo by The Blue Diamond Gallery)

2. Someone to review with
A hand history without someone to discuss hands with is less effective than on your own. I know lots of people do it alone but two heads are better than one. Having another poker player to review it makes discourse and analysis more enlightening and rewarding. I charge an hourly fee for hand history reviews but players have expressed that they’ve learned more in an hour than weeks of self-study. If you’re considering a hand history review, definitely have someone to do it with or pay for the service.

1. Software
It’s very difficult to perform a hand history review with someone by memory alone. We are prone to misremembering things and the devil is in the detail. Therefore, it’s important the hands are extracted from the poker site or tracking software used. I perform hand history review sessions through screen recording software.

 
Narciso Baldo
Narciso Baldo was a professional poker player for many years with over $700,000 in online MTT cashes and undocumented success in live cash games.

More about Narciso Baldo
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