Self-checking

Since poker is hard to think about objectively a good technique to use is to ask yourself questions. This will help your learning process immensely. When playing poker the first thing to do after a session is to examine the hands and decide who are the good players and who are the weaker ones. Don’t consider whether you won or lost money – consider whether you played well or badly.

If you win a hand ask yourself if it was due to skill or luck. What would have happened in the hand if the cards were reversed? Say you had his hand and he had yours, would he have won as much money as you actually did? Would you have lost as much as he did? If you would have improved upon how he played and not lost as much, that shows you outplayed him and your skill was rewarded.

In reality it is rather more complicated than this because players don’t all play the same style of poker at different skill levels. People play in different styles and with each different style come different ways of making money. So, if you do the thought experiment and switch places with your opponent to find out if you would have fared better in their situation you need to be careful that it’s not just because your playing styles are different. Maybe his style of play al‐ lows him to lose a bit more in a spot where you wouldn’t have lost so much because he ends up making it back in other spots later on.

Another question to ask after the hand is over is “when did most of the money go in?” Did it go in when you were the favorite or the underdog? How big a favorite or underdog were you? Say some money went in when you were a favorite, but then some went in when you were an underdog. Then it is a math question – how much went in when you were a favorite and how much were you a favorite by; and how much went in when you were an underdog and how much of an underdog were you? What would have hap‐ pened if your hand had remained good all the way – would the op‐ ponent have kept committing money like he did in the actual hand, or would he have stopped putting money into the pot if he hadn’t hit his hand?

For example, let’s say you win a hand because you called a turn bet with the plan of calling a river bluff, then the river card came and you called the river bet and won and that was a good play. Then let’s say we did some basic analysis and figured out it was a profit‐ able play when that river card came, but you need to go back and figure out what would have happened if other river cards had come and figure out if the play still works out profitable. Maybe your play was poor and the opponent was the unlucky one who just didn’t get a good river card. Maybe his play would normally have worked. If you lost a hand the same type of analysis applies.

Naturally, analyzing a hand in this kind of depth can’t be done dur‐ ing play. In fact, when facing a tough decision at the poker table you probably won’t be able to figure it out in the 30 seconds or several minutes you might have under pressure. You just make the best de‐ cision you can from experience. The real learning will take place af‐ terwards when you have hours to think it over. Then, when a simi‐ lar situation arises in the future, you will have done the homework and be prepared to make the right decision. Similarly, you can’t do equity equations at the table, but it helps enormously to do them away from the table. Play around with the numbers and see how important it is when you change certain factors and how it changes the play of the hand. Then, although you won’t be able to do this math at the table for future hands you will be subconsciously estimating this math all the time and will find that your study away from the table has helped you enormously.

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