One of the ways to improve your own play, or discover weaknesses in opponents, is to study hand history. Those hands which seem like surefire winners all too often turn out to be coin flips — or worse — in the cold light of day.
The easiest way to review a hand is to watch a visual replay.
There’s usually another hand in progress while you’re trying to decide if you made the right move. It is very useful to have a quick way to fully see the previous hand’s showdown cards.
A sophisticated replayer can help a savvy player learn about their opponents’ tendencies and spot their own mistakes.
To muddy the waters, when players muck at showdown you have no accurate idea how good your hand was in real time. Replay Poker’s replayer does show mucked cards, but never folded cards.
Say you had a King or Queen flush draw and three or four players got to the showdown. In real time, you might see that Seat 7 mucks after somebody else shows the top pair. Initially, you are certain you missed a big opportunity to at least double through, but then in the replay you find the player who mucked had a bigger flush draw. You were drawing close to dead.
Here’s another scenario. You make a strong pair and bet hard in a multi-way pot, only to see somebody complete their straight or flush. You feel aggrieved, but the replayer shows that another player with an underplayed set had you beaten all along and you were unlikely to ever win the hand.
Furthermore, if you look at the options the drawing player had, you might see they had good odds to make the calls to hit their hand. You only had enough time to note they made a flush, but it turns out that during the hand, they either had a pair or a straight draw to improve their chances considerably.
Looking at this second hand again, you could ask:
- Were you betting enough to make the player with a draw make bad calls?
- As played, was the drawing player making correct calls?
- Was the player who underrepresented their premium hand playing poorly, or were they extracting value by letting you steam in?
This is an opportunity to make notes on these players, depending on what you determine.
Make mental notes on your own play or perhaps bet sizing. Remind yourself to be alert to common traps like tilt, overconfidence, and calling stations passive play.
General observations you can make when watching replays
What position was the player when they entered the pot? Do they have any sense of position?
- Even if you don’t see their cards because they folded later, players who enter pots in early position with no raise might be wasting chips too often.
Does a player raise from the button as a ploy to steal blinds, or do they have a genuine hand? Do they miss chances to raise from the button?
- Position again. It is obvious to even a recreational player that a button raise can earn some blind chips, but some still simply call from the button with strong pocket pairs and weaken their advantage
Do players unexpectedly fold after investing large percentages of their stack?
- Without seeing hole cards, you can’t say for sure, but many casual players do not appreciate when they are “pot committed”. You might be able to identify players who can be pushed off with a moderate small bet.
Are players (including yourself) getting bet sizing right?
- Check to see how much players bet. Do you agree with the bet size? What you would bet in that spot, either knowing hole cards, or in the dark?
What were the real chances you would win a showdown in the hand?
- If you had a pair, it might have felt like a strong hand. But as a whole, the other hands against you were more likely to hit something than your hand was to hold up.
Look at the hands in terms of their EV at each stage of the pot, not just their standalone face value pre-flop.
Watching blow-by-blow replays of pivotal hands with cards exposed can be invaluable to identify both mistakes and subtle master plays which go undetected in real time.
Learn about pot odds and try to understand bet sizing and why it is important to extract value, or sometimes decline calls with tempting draws.