Analyzing your poker play? Question everything


Poker is a game of mistakes and exploitation. It’s a zero-sum game as one player loses another player profits. According to general poker theory, the player who makes the most mistakes will lose the most, while the player who makes the optimal decisions will profit.

Of course bad beats and coolers happen and you may win or lose a different figure than expected on a hand-to-hand basis, but in the long run the aforementioned statement holds true.

I would argue that to beat low stakes one must simply make fewer mistakes than opponents. Let the game come to you and allow the other players to draw without correct odds or go broke with one pair.

This mistake-free poker will show a profit in the long run. When moving up in stakes you must actively seek out ways to force other good players into making mistakes so you can exploit them. The skill difference between players is smaller, therefore you must be taking smaller edges and risk more to win less.

One great way to improve your game and mitigate the costly damage of mistakes is to think critically about past sessions. Immediately following a session, I urge you to write out the two or three big hands you were unsure about and think about them or ask someone you respect for advice.

Even if you won a big pot but were faced with a difficult decision during the hand, write it down.

• What was it that made you uncomfortable?

• How can you use what you learned to make opponents uncomfortable?

• Was there something you could’ve done differently to change the outcome of the hand?

Asking yourself these questions will help other aspects of your game fall in line.

You might conclude you bet too small on the flop and allowed opponents to draw too cheaply, or the contrary might be true, you bet too much and didn’t get enough value out of your hand. It’s incredible how many answers you have stored in your brain. I’ve plugged many leaks by simply writing down a hand and looking at it on paper, starting with position, reads, stack sizes, preflop play and then postflop play.

Try to think of a hand as a web. All of the different concepts are parts of the hand. It’s a synthesis of the dynamic of the table, the stack sizes, your hand, what you think your opponent’s hand is, what your opponent thinks your hand is and so on.

 — Mike Wolf is a pro player, world traveler and adventurer. He can be reached for one-on-one coaching at Follow him on Twitter @mikewolf7.