It was suggested to me by a friend a while back that I make a post about this after I had discussed it with her in relation to some posts she made seeking advice. I said I would, it would make a good topic for my blog as I think it will help a great many of the membership make better use of the wonderful tool available to them that is the hand analysis forum. I’ve kind of slacked off in getting this done, but with Al’s blog contest running, I figure it would make a good entry and have finally buckled down to do it. The Hand Analysis forum is a fantastic way to grow your game and expand your knowledge and thought processes. When a hand troubles you, posting it for feedback makes a lot of sense. Hearing how other players, of a variety of skill levels, view and think about the hand in question can lead to new insights about your own game and the game in general. And often the discussions that ensue really help everyone involved, and even those who just read along. The following are my tips to maximizing the value of this forum for yourself. 1. Post! I know this sounds obvious, right? But it’s really not… many members don’t post hands they’ve played for analysis, and they don’t contribute to existing hand analysis threads. Usually it’s because they feel embarrassed about their play, or think they don’t have anything to contribute. Like I tell the students who come through my mentoring class, nonsense! Everyone’s contribution is valuable. So you misplayed a hand? Big deal! There isn’t a poker player alive who hasn’t, and still doesn’t from time to time, misplay a hand. Don’t let that be a barrier to your learning. So you think you’re maybe too new or don’t know enough about the topic to have a valuable opinion? Wrong again! Even the more seasoned players routinely play against newer players, and understanding how others think about the game and situations is valuable to all of us. Plus, you may get feedback on your reply that helps you learn a new concept and grow too! 2. Give all the information! This one should be obvious, but sometimes is less so. The post usually starts with “What should I do?” and ends with a hand history, with nothing in between. Nothing is more frustrating than a thread full of generalized answers, then the OP coming in and saying oh, I knew the villain was on a draw because they always played draws this way and I had a strong read on them. Where was this information in the original post? Some poker decisions are fairly cut and dried, but often there is an “it depends” element to situations. Omitting critical information is going to lead to incorrect or off-balance answers more often than you might suspect. At bare minimum, it’s important to include: Stack sizes, stage of the tournament (if applicable), accurate blinds and antes, any reads you have on opponents, any history with the villain(s) that’s relevant to the hand in question, and your image. Notice that a hand history covers some of this, and if the hand you’re asking about comes from online, absolutely you should have the exact history. If it comes from your live game last night, some margin of error is to be expected in the information you provide, but the more accurate the info, the better and more applicable the responses will be. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to carry a small notebook with you to step away and jot down relevant info if you want to discuss a hand later. Live, be sure to include the action sequence as accurately as possible (again, this is taken care of via the hand history from online play). 3. Accept criticism! Sometimes you’ll get responses that mean well, but come across harsh. Remember in this wonderful age of the interwebs, the written word is easy to miss state and miss interpret. And sometimes they won’t mean well. It happens! This isn’t too bad an issue at PSO, where we’ve all gathered to learn and grow together, but it does happen. If you post a history to a larger open poker forum, you may get such helpful comments as “you suck”, “Quit poker now” and maybe even “die plz!”. It’s very important you get comfortable blowing off this childish rhetoric, let it bounce right off you and ignore it. Obviously it’s not constructive, but if you let this kind of silly stuff get to you, the tendency for many is to withdraw and not post histories any more. Then they win, and you lose. So don’t let the haters bother you, and keep at it. 4. Don’t be embarrassed! So you donked up a hand? Big deal! We have all made bad plays and looked silly, every single poker player in history. Get over it, and seek help. Your game will grow much faster seeking the input and ideas of others. If you’re interested in improving your poker game, then it makes sense to utilize the tools available to you to their fullest. Sharing information and asking questions in the forums is a powerful way to grow your understanding of the game and open yourself up to new ideas. Not taking full advantage of it is just burning money.