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Game Analysis (1)
IntroductionIn this article
- Why game analysis is important
- The different types of game analysis
- How you can analyse your game
Chances are, you have played a few hands before using the strategies provided by PokerStrategy.com - you hopefully made some profit and perhaps even climbed up your first limit. Time to step up your understanding of the game as well.
In order to become a successful poker player, you continuously have to work on your own game. This includes keywords such as "opponent-specific play", "ranges", "equity" and many more, you will probably have heard or read about some of these before. One aspect which hasn't got so much attention so far is the so-called game analysis.
This does not mean however that this aspect is not considered important at PokerStrategy.com or that it's not part of its educational content. Maybe you even have some experience with analysing your game already, for example if you have actively used the hand evaluation forums before.
Further ways to analyse your game are in the spotlight of this article. The purpose of this is not to make the hand evaluation forums look unnecessary, but to provide you with simple means to analyse your game prior to your next session, which will in the best case allow you to learn from your mistakes.
Different types of game analysisAll analysis forms are based on data provided by tracking software, such as the PokerStrategy.com-Elephant. Without these tools, you would most likely find yourself confronted with major problems - who could or would want to search through thousands of hands in their hand history data?
We can roughly distinguish two different types of analysis:
- Session analysis
- Long-term analysis
As the name indicates, a session analysis should be performed after each session that you play. This idea might scare you off at first, but if you go about it in the right way, the effort you have to put in will be lower than you think.
A session analysis is an excellent way to identify mistakes in your own game at an early stage. This early identification of mistakes is so important because mistakes very often become habitual over time, without you actually being aware of it. You can imagine the effects of playing a hand incorrectly time and time again.
The goal of the analysis is therefore to find mistakes. A side effect of this is that during an analysis you will sometimes come across unclear hands, which you can then post in the corresponding hand evaluation forum. We will come back to this further below.
The quickest type of session analysis is the "Biggest Winner/Biggest Loser" method. In order to use this method, you simply sort the session data by the hands that you made the biggest profits or the biggest losses with.
Yes, you heard right - you also have to pay attention to winning hands. You might also find some mistakes here - the final result of a hand usually doesn't give you any information on whether you played an error-free game or not. Theoretically, you could go all-in with A7o preflop and win the hand. Whether this play is correct and optimal is questionable in most cases. On the other hand, it is also possible that you played your losing hands optimally, but still did not win.
When you use the PokerStrategy.com Elephant, simply follow these steps for this method:
- In the overview, highlight the session you wish to analyse.
- Click on "Hands" in the button bar at the top.
- Click on the "$" symbol to sort the hands by profit, beginning with the smallest.
- Click on the "$"-symbol again to sort the hands by profit, this time beginning with the biggest.
If you use a different tracking tool, you have to modify thee steps accordingly; some may require you to open a session report or use a filter for example. For more information on each tool and what you have to do to display your session hands, have a look at the respective manuals and the specific software forums.
The extent of the analysis is solely based on your own goals and the length of the session. If you are looking at a few hundreds of hands, the first five winners and losers may be enough; with bigger sessions, you should extend the analysis a bit further. However, you will quickly realise that the effort to analyse a hand will steadily decrease as your experience grows.
Either way, for a rough overview an entire analysis can be completed within 10-15 minutes.
What you have to pay attention to
Now you know which hands deserve a closer look. What do you need to pay attention to?
It is important to evaluate every street, using all the information available to you.
- What is your starting hand? Does your action match the recommendation in the Starting Hands Chart? If not: Why did you deviate from the chart?
- How do you assess your opponents? Do you have any reads (notes, stats) that might influence your decision?
- Which hands would your opponents play the way they did (keyword: "ranges")?
- What does the board look like? Did you hit a playable hand? Could it be worth bluffing?
- Once again: Which hands could your opponents still have now? With which hands would they play the way they did?
- Why did you play the way you did?
When it comes to marginal or unclear decisions, it is certainly worth performing a so-called detail analysis (see below) and/or visiting our hand evaluation forums.
Stacks & Stats
BU ($6.76) (19/3/100/1.5/67/13) (VPIP/PFR/Fold2Steal/AF/Fold2Contibet/WtSD)
SB ($3.50) (3/3/100) (VPIP/PFR/Fold2Steal)
BB ($11.12) (5/0/95) (VPIP/PFR/Fold2Steal)
Preflop: Hero is CO with
5 folds, Hero raises to $0.30, BU calls, 2 folds
Hero bets $0.50, BU calls
What is the best way to analyse this hand?
You definitely need to make sure that you include the following steps for each street:
- Re-evaluating your decision
- Considering alternative lines
You are in a classic blind steal situation. According to the Starting Hands Chart, you make a regular raise with A2s.
Regarding the first step, you should mainly consider your opponents and the prospects of success here. To put it simply: Is it a good idea to attempt a steal?
The players in the blinds appear very tight and will therefore give up a relatively high number of hands uncontested. However, if you do encounter unexpected resistance, you will at least know that there is not much hope left with A2s.
The button is more of a factor to worry about. With his semi-loose/passive stats, you can't exactly predict how he will act. However, you do see that he gives up to the continuation bet in 67% of cases and only takes 13% of his hands to the showdown.
Based on this, you could come up with the following plan:
You try the blind steal. If the button calls, you make the continuation bet on the flop. If he hasn't given up by then, the hand is over for you.
This is the point where you should consider alternative lines. Which other lines would be possible here?
Fold: Always works, but you should be willing to take a certain risk against these opponents. Simply giving up? No thanks.
Call: Another alternative would of course be to pay 10 cents. The problem here is: The big blind gets to see the flop for free, the button will most likely also stay in the game. With your hand though, it would certainly not be pleasant to play a multi-way pot.
Even if you hit a pair, you will either have the worst possible kicker or the worst possible pair. Only if you hit the flush will you have a good hand. The probability for this is much too low to pay 10 cents for it.
All in all, you can therefore consider your decision to raise as justified.
On the flop, you again have to re-evaluate the situation as well as your decision. You yourself do not have a playable hand and you have one opponent remaining. Once again you first need to assess your decision. You went for a continuation bet. Was this the correct choice?
You bet $0.50 and there are $0.75 in the pot. This means you have to win the hand in around 40% of cases to make it through without losing money at least. The opponent gives up to the continuation bet in 67% of cases. This should definitely be enough. And even if he bets, you still have a theoretical chance of winning – it is small, but it is there.
We also have to consider whether the button might have missed the board as well. With which hand did he call your raise? Does he only do this with premium hands such as JJ+, AK, or does he also do this with weaker hands every now and then? And what does the situation look like from his point of view? If you try to sell him a good hand, would he buy it or is every attempt doomed to failure?
So many questions, but no standard answers or fixed rules. It is always up to you to evaluate your opponent.
Which alternatives could be considered here? Just giving up should still be ruled out. It is simply not an option that a good poker player would choose in this spot.
Left to consider is the option of checking. This is of course tempting because you wouldn't have to invest any more money. The disadvantage is that it would not provide you with any more information either. You don't know where you stand, you would basically have no way of defending yourself if your opponent bets and you would miss out on your chance to try and get your opponent to fold.
Session analysis - Conclusion:
This analysis method is quick and should be performed after every session. The analysis helps you identify wrong decisions and incorrectly played hands.
On every street, you should…
- …re-evaluate the situation.
- …re-evaluate if your action was plausible (did it makes sense to play the way you did or would you have won more or lost less with a different action?).
- …consider alternative actions. This will help you spot possible mistakes or "missed value".
You should try to implement session analyses as a regular part of your daily poker life.
The hand category analysis can be performed at any time.
This analysis method helps you identify mistakes that may already have become a habitual part of your game. Unfortunately, it is only useful as from a certain amount of data. Makes sense if you think about it: You will need enough cases per hand category in order to make reliable interpretations.
The analysis of categories focuses on statistical deviations. Let's take category AA for example. Common sense tells you that this starting hand should be ahead relatively often against a random hand. If your amount of data (also called "sample size") is big enough and you realise for example that you have only won in 10% of cases with AA, something's wrong. In such a case, you should also take a closer look at the different hands in this category.
The hand category analysis is more something for statistic fans and we only mention it here to provide a complete list. Due to the big sample size that is required, its practicability on an every day basis is very limited. That's why we will spare you a detailed explanation of this method.
Opinions diverge here. Some players analyse their graph and stats after every session, others look at this data once in a few weeks.
The analysis with graphs and stats gives you an overview of the development of your career and can help you spot possible irregularities.
The graph is easy to explain: Click it, look at it, feel happy or feel down. Well, it's not that simple in reality. A graph is much more than just a profit or loss curve. It can also draw your attention to mistakes and problem spots, and tell you whether you may currently have an upswing or a downswing.
Every tracking tool has its own way of illustrating the graphs. The current version of the PokerStrategy.com Elephant for example shows you the "winnings" curve in dollars or big blinds, respectively. These curves are nice to look at and give you an overview of your current financial situation.
Other tools provide you with additional curves, which can give you many new insights as well as information about possible leaks in your game.
Have a look at this graph for example:
The most important information is represented by three curves: the all-in EV value, the showdown winnings and the non-showdown winnings.
So, what do these curves tell us?
The all-in EV shows (as the name indicates) the EV at the point where you went all-in or put your opponent all-in. The EV value equals the equity (probability of winning) of your own hand against the opponent's hand. If the EV value is 50% for example, your hand would, from a statistical perspective, win in every second case.
The EV curve uses these probability values for its calculations and is therefore relatively free of variance. It shows you what you would statistically win if you played the given hand an infinite amount of times.
Whether this curve is reliable or not depends on the game variety played. With the short stack strategy for example, you find yourself in all-in situations extremely often, which is why the EV curve will usually be more reliable than the actual winning curve - simply because it is relatively free of variance and displays the statistical winnings.
In Fixed Limit, you will hardly ever be in an all-in situation, provided you are using an adequate bankroll management and re-buy in time. In this game type, the EV curve will hardly ever deviate from the actual winning curve. The other two curves (marked as red and blue in the image) tell you something about the hands with a showdown (showdown winnings, blue) and without a showdown (non-showdown winnings).
In our example graph, it is fairly clear to see that the showdown winnings increase considerably, while the non-showdown winnings drop just as much. We can therefore conclude that the player most likely only goes to the showdown with top pair hands and consequently wins in many cases. However, he often lets his opponents force him out of the hand before the showdown, which is why his non-showdown winnings go down so steeply.
In your session analysis, this would be reason enough to pay close attention to what exactly happens with hands that don't go to the showdown. There seems to be a hidden leak somewhere which wants fixing.
You see, a graph is far more than just a colourful collocation of lines. You can analyse it analytically and use it to improve your own game and to find mistakes.
Analysing stats is not much harder either. If you use the PokerStrategy.com Elephant, you have a simple and comfortable tool at your disposal to analyse stats with.
An all-powerful overview is hidden behind the somewhat misleading menu item "Beginner" in the top menu. Here you will get a graphic representation of your average stats and see whereabouts they are located on the skill scale. This means you don't have to try and find out yourself which stats match those of a TAG for example - you will see at once how your playing style can be categorised.
If you are using a different tracking tool however, you will have to figure out what the average stats for the game variety you are playing are. The stats articles in our strategy section will help you with that. After you're done, you can compare your own stats with the average stats.
Big deviations at the lower or the upper end point to possible leaks that are left in your game.
Continuously; whenever required.
The detail analysis helps you shed some light on unclear hands. You will need another extra tool for this, which you can download for free at PokerStrategy.com: The Equilab.
As the name indicates, you use it to calculate equities. These are the probabilities with which your hand will win against a certain range of the opponent.
This already entails the greatest danger. Since it is up to you to select the opponent's range, you can pretty much skew the results for every hand. Therefore you need to ensure that you make realistic assumptions about the hands of your opponent on every street.
The detail analysis is particularly important when it comes to marginal or unclear decisions. A quick example:
Preflop: Hero raise $0.50, UTG+1 3bet $1.50, Hero ???
During the session, you had around 15-30 seconds in this hand to make a decision. During the analysis, there is no time limit and you can analyse all possible variants.
Let's assume you call the bet. You get pot odds of 2:1. This means you would need an equity of 33% here (you win in one of three cases). You use all the information available to you and start your analysis. What you know so far is that UTG+1 raises with 5% of his hands. Use this value as a starting point to determine his range. Next, you have to remove those hands that you find insufficient for the 3-bet. UTG+1 will most likely not continue with his entire range when confronted with your raise.
If you calculate the equity, you will see that depending on the range that you assume you will only barely or not at all have the required 33%. This means it would have been better to just fold in this situation.
This article has given you an overview of the different analysis methods. You are now able to analyse your game in a fairly simple and uncomplicated way and can profit from the results.
If you still find something unclear, you can always find help in the hand evaluation forums at PokerStrategy.com. In order to get the best possible answers there, you need to provide the same information that you need to analyse the hand yourself, i.e. stats on the opponent, estimated ranges, other reads, etc.
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