Having looked in the last post at how to learn consciously while playing, and how to approach and get into studying poker, today I’ll be looking at how best to actually review your own MTT game, including guidance on searching for leaks to patch, and breaking down which factors to consider in our analysis of individual decisions in game.
A lot of us get so swept up in playing and getting in decent volume that we don’t leave much time for study. While it is only one component of studying poker, doing self-review is always going to be a central backbone to our other study activities, and with a few fairly simple tools we can do it very readily.
For those of you not already using them, there are a load of tools to assist you in your review, many available for free. The most essential of these are a HUD (Heads Up Display) and a hand history replayer. The most modern versions of the best and most well-known forms of poker tracking software (PokerTracker and Holdem Manager) both contain their own hand history replayers which you can then use for review while having access to the statistics from the game (which are delivered in real-time as they would have built up during your actual play in that tournament).
Ultimate Replayer is also an old favourite, and still has one feature which the others seem to lack. This software highlights in shades of green and red the specific hands you entered into where you won or lost chips, thus saving you time.
Once you can replay every hand in order you can skip through the absolutely standard spots (provided you know how to identify these!) and scrutinize the non-standard or questionable spots in your hand history. If you think it’s perfect already, you’re no doubt missing plenty!
Replay each street pausing as you go along and considering why you made the play you did, what factors influenced your decision, consider the sizing of your bets and what they achieve relative to your opponent’s stack, the pot size and the number of streets left to play.
Frequently you will need to run some poker maths to fully analyze a spot in review. First you must estimate the range of hands your opponent can have for a given street of action (based on their play in the tournament as a whole, in previous tournaments as recorded in your HUD, and in this specific hand up to the point in question). Then ask yourself how the play you made in the moment functions against the different parts of that villain’s range.
For example, on a two-tone flop when you have flopped top pair top kicker and your opponent has called a flop and a turn bet in position but the river bricks out, you may consider a check/call in order to induce a bluff from drawing hands which have missed their spade. This choice will depend on effective stacks, on how many made hands you feel are in his range which might call a third barrel, and how often you think he will just give up his missed draws rather than bluff with them.
Of course alongside self-review you will no doubt be sending hands on Skype and posting them on the online poker forums, exchanging feedback and analysis with poker buddies, and this is also a very healthy component of a strong study regime, albeit probably the most fun part!
Leak Busting and Closeness
We’ll go into this in more depth (along with unpacking some of the factors listed below) in the next installment of this series, but suffice it to say here that many players trying to improve begin by looking at the wrong spots.
Those spots which seem agonizingly close, where you don’t know if you should 3bet shove versus the active EP opener 25 big blinds effective from MP with AJ, when you’re sure it’s a shove with AQo and a fold with ATs, those spots just don’t matter as much as it feels that they do.
The reason being, if it is genuinely close between shove and fold, that’s because it is close in terms of chip equity, meaning either decision has close to equal chip value. In MTTs in a genuinely razor thin spot it’s often better to just drop the hand, since survival has a degree of value. Don’t let this fool you into convincing yourself somewhat thin spots are actually dead close. If there’s value there, it’s often a mistake to pass it up unless there are serious ICM considerations (all of which we’ll go in more depth into in a few posts’ time!).
The spots you really need to look at are the ones you can’t see. The spots where you’re losing equity every orbit due to not stealing from the blinds enough, or where you’re losing value every tournament due to not looking for good 3bet / fold spots versus suitable villains.
In the next couple of posts I’ll give a comprehensive list of all the factors we must consider and give weight to in analyzing what to do at a specific decision point in any MTT hand. In later posts in the series we’ll look at other skills needed in analysis, such as ranging and mathematical analysis, but first we must look at factors to be weighted, of which there are many in MTTs, beginning with old classics such as effective stack size and position.