Monday, January 05, 2009

Analyse this...

In all the time I’ve been playing poker seriously (well, as ‘serious’ as I ever get about anything anyway) I’ve never really been much into deep analysis of past hands. Certainly I’ve pondered briefly after a big hand to considered ways I might have made more money, and have often reflected on key tourney exit hands to see if I could have avoided some self-inflicted donkey death, but that’s about it. Similarly, I’ve never really been tempted to post hands on forums and get into the tedious process of having twenty know-it-alls tell you what you should have done with your life (if I wanted some 2p/4p wannabe pro to run my hand through an odds calculator and bark numbers at me I’d ask for it specifically).

I appreciate this rambling might seem particularly hypocritical considering one of my main jobs is standing on telly picking other people’s hands apart, but ultimately that’s what I’m being paid to do, so I have a good excuse. Also, these shows offer more of a skim-the-surface observation than a cut-you-open-and-remove-your-spleen examination so I don’t think it counts as serious analysis anyway.

And why am I telling you all this? Well because I’ve had a change of heart after reading Gus Hansen’s book, ‘Every Hand Revealed’. I was surprised by just how much I enjoyed this book, and I think it’s mostly down to the fact that Hansen is not only accurate enough to let you see how he plays (with the facts and details of the hands) but also articulate enough to help you understand how he thinks (via his hand analysis and reasoning laid before you in black and white).

Though I’ve always been a player who takes notes at the table (and endured much ridicule as I produce my ‘little gay book’) these notes have primarily been to assist my writing. Pouring back through my notes there are clearly far more entries the likes of: “fat bloke to my left has a head like a parsnip and a tattoo on his arm that appears to say the word ‘COCK’ in gothic text” rather than any mention of pre-flop raising, betting tendencies or hand ranges.

Hansen’s book has, however, spurred me on to take more time dissecting my notes after games to be sure that I’ve made the most of each hand delivered to my grubby paws. It’s turning out to be a process that’s well worth doing - either validating the decisions I’ve made, or uncovering some ‘iffy’ moves made in the heat of the moment - and I’d seriously advise you consider having a go. Perhaps even start a blog that no one will ever read; picking your own plays apart to see if they buckle under interrogation. Remember, it’s easy to kid other people regarding your poker prowess - because you can always find a way to make your play sound more legit than it really was - but you can’t fool yourself.

It’s the same deal regarding keeping accurate records of your results. You can chose to record the wins but ‘kinda forget’ the odd loss because ‘it was only a muck-about game’ but ultimately you MUST acknowledge the truth if you want to move forward with your game. It’s also worth remembering that a quick tickle of pokershark or some such site will soon reveal the truth anyway, so you may as well come clean. There’s nothing I like more than to copy and paste my chum’s results to them on a fortnightly basis to stop them lying to me about how well they’re doing. Needless to say I never let them know my own user name (I’m not stupid you know).

And for my last wild tangent: I once had an email from a viewer of the now-defunct Poker Night Live show who said he had taken to delivering live commentary over his own online play as he found it helped crystallise his understanding of the situation. For him, calling out the action a la: “seat two limps, seat three folds, the rock in seat four raises double the blind (as he did with kings earlier in the game), seat five folds, etc…” kept him focused on the game and less likely to drift off and miss key nuggets of information.

I guess what I am saying is, be prepared to take an interest in your games rather than just your results. Next time round I’m considering sharing some hands with you that I’ve begun analysing under the new regime. To ensure you don’t lose interest I’ll also be attacking some of the more ‘hilarious’ players that have made their way into my little gay book. My hope is that it will 1) help you understand the process of analysis, 2) make me feel better about some of the moves I’ve made, 3) make us all chuckle as I attack men with heads like parsnips.

Oh, and I promise an absolute minimum of bad beats. No, really...