Another year is in the books.   Maybe you entered the poker landscape new to the game in 2014.  Or maybe you’re a poker veteran of many years.  Either way, it’s been a busy year, and it’s worth taking some time out to review your progress.

Review your results.  Do you use a stat tracking software like PokerTracker4 or HM2?  If you do, then I would tend to assume you already do self reviews, but also that you don’t do them often enough.  That’s how most of us (myself included) tend to operate.  Make some time for it now.  If you’re a cash game player, sort your 2014 hands by $ won/lost and review your play in the 25 biggest pots you won, and the 25 biggest pots you lost.  That’s 50 hands and will take some time.  Don’t rush through it.  You will find hands you feel you played well (win or lose), and hands you don’t think you played well.  One thing I recommend doing, since you will be far removed from the memories of hands played early in the year, is to turn off the hand display in the replayer.  There’s an option for “show all known hole cards”, uncheck that.  This way as you review your play, you will see your hand but not the villain’s (until showdown).  It’s a great opportunity to range the villain as you review each decision point.   Hands you feel might be close or are unsure about, try doing some range analytics on the villain each street like we do sometimes in live training with Flopzilla or the Range Analysis Workbook classes.  If this sounds like a lot of work, well, yes… it is.  But don’t cut it short.  This type of exercise does wonders for your poker mind and improving your game.

If you’re a tournament player, one thing that might be useful is to start by reviewing every one of your bust hands.   Did you make a good decision, or did you spew or punt off your stack?   Learn from what you find.   Every time you come across a bust hand where you were short stacked (say under 8-10bb) scroll back through that one and review how you got that short.   Was it a lost hand, or were you blinding yourself down folding.  If the latter, why is that?  Where might you have found some opportunities to accumulate chips without a “real hand” earlier in the event?  Again, this is not a fast process, but there is just so much to learn.

If you don’t usually do reviews like this on your game, and you do give this a try, you may find the volume a bit overwhelming.  Try to push through it and don’t skip on the process (you can of course take a break and revisit, you don’t have to get through everything in one long sitting).  Going forward, a good part of your 2015 plan should include regular reviews of this exact nature.  At least monthly, and even bi-weekly or weekly depending on how much you play… the volume and time required is manageable when you break it down into small regular bits like this.  The real challenge then becomes making it a habit, a routine.  If you can do this, you will be amazed at how much your game grows over time.

If you don’t use any kind of stat tracking program, but are serious about improving your game, I strongly recommend you invest in one.  If you don’t have the Stars client save hand histories to your hard drive, turn that on right away and request from Stars as many histories from your recent play as you can get.  Then have a look at one of the stat softwares.  I use PokerTracker4 and love it.   Both PT4 and HM2 (Hold’em Manager 2… both these can be found with a quick google search) offer a free trial.  That’s where the hand histories come in, so you have some data to import and play around with during your trial.  Small stakes versions of the softwares are reasonably priced, and well worth the investment.  They do everything the full version licenses do, just only up to a certain stake level… which if you’re a micro stakes player fully covers your games. 

Also try to recall any highs and lows from your 2014 campaign to see if there’s anything you can learn from it or change to improve.   Do you tilt a lot?  Work on the mental game with books like Zen and the Art of Poker, the Poker Mindset, or anything by Jared Tendler.  Do you have any specific times when you are off your “A” game and your results suffer that you can quantify?  I do, for me it’s playing when super tired or under the weather.  My decisions are off and my results stink, and I saw this again in 2014 when I tried to do so.  In 2015 I have a renewed commitment to not playing when sick and when super tired, going to bed instead of trying to grind a small session.

If you don’t follow the PokerStars blog, they posted up a very nice review of the 2014 world of poker, I recommend checking it out here:    2014 in Review

It’s equally important and even more beneficial to do your own self review of your poker year, both to learn from and to help plan your path going forward.

My best wishes for a happy and safe New Years, and a green line that trends up in 2015.