I discuss how recording poker play sessions and reviewing them afterwards (game tape) is the #1 poker improvement strategy that you MUST employ.
For the Love of Game Tape (2:30)
I love recording game tape, lately I’ve been recording my play more and more often. Game tape makes me focus on my decision making. I believe this is the MOST powerful study and play strategy everyone should do.
If you’re unfamiliar with game tape, this is simply recording your play with a screen capture software while at the same time you speak aloud your thoughts. It's basically a record of how you played and why you made the plays you did.
This is what Twitch poker streamers do and it’s why many of them play solid poker and have good results. The only difference between Twitch streamers and you is that they share their game tape with the world.
Why is Recording Game Tape So Beneficial? (3:25)
1. The Power of Speaking Your Thoughts
When you’re sitting there quietly and only thinking through your actions, you’re stuck in your own head and nobody is there to point out any gaps in logic. Your mind is an echo chamber with nobody to contradict your thoughts or to offer any opinions or to question your actions.
You need outside feedback to test your ideas. Sure, as you play one form of feedback is the result of your actions. But while playing, you’re in no position to dive into and learn from the actions you just made and the results that came from them. You need a way to get critical feedback on your thoughts before they turn into actions.
This is related to how software companies release a product that still has bugs in it. They need outside feedback from others who have a fresh perspective on the software and its capabilities or limitations. Critical feedback from outside of the creative process helps them to improve their products.
Your Mouth: the first form of critical feedback
When you’re strictly thinking, your mind can go a mile a minute. But when you speak your thoughts, you force yourself to slow down your thinking as you’re trying to convey your ideas to the outside world. We’ve been doing this since we learned how to speak. The more clearly we can voice our opinions, thoughts and ideas to the world, the more successful we are in our relationships and in life.
This works for improving your poker play as well. When you take the time to logically defend every button click with the spoken word, you're forcing your mind to slow down a little bit and to put more thought behind the things you’re saying. You’re going to find yourself making better decisions when you have to defend those decisions with logical reasoning in the moment.
You’re playing a hand and have the option to 3bet re-steal preflop from the BB. You think it’s a good idea and before you click the RAISE button you voice the reason why, “I have a suited-Ace which blocks many of his strong hand combos. Plus, I could hit the flop with a fd or sd, so I can continue putting post-flop pressure quite frequently.” You have clearly put some thought behind a logical re-steal.
Your Ears: the second form of critical feedback
It is amazing what your ears will catch that your mind won't.
I’ve written first drafts for 3 books, drafted hundreds of podcast episodes, drafted webinars and YouTube training videos, and I always have to go through a few edits before they’re presentable.
I’ve learned the editing process is better done when I'm speaking the draft aloud. After the first written draft is completed, I take the time to do 3 more read-aloud edits. Take my 3 books for example: I read the entire book page by page, paragraph by paragraph out loud. When something sounds weird to me, you know, hits my ears in a strange way, I know that there’s an issue I need to address.
I’m sure you all know this just from your daily interactions with others. You’re saying something, then you hear yourself make a mistake. Then you correct yourself by saying, “Oh, what I mean was…” Your ears just caught a mistake your mind made when your thoughts traveled from your mind to your mouth. This is great for poker players.
Building upon the prior example of making a 3bet re-steal from the BB. You speak aloud your thoughts but you notice that you don’t hear yourself mention position or HUD stats at all. Normally when you 3bet bluff, those are two things you think about. Clearly this time you overlooked them. You take the time to glance at their stats and notice that you’re up against a fishy player who only raises preflop 2% of the time. Their Fold to 3bet is at 0% and they have position on you. You realize that this actually isn’t a good situation to bluff because they’re almost never folding here. So, you pull the cursor away from RAISE, now your decision is to call or fold.
2. The Power of Reviewing Your Poker Play
Anybody who played sports in HS or college can tell you that game tape is an incredible tool for improving. When your coach plays it back to you, they can point out all the mistakes you’re making. If you’re a swimmer the coach can show you how your stroke falters after every turn around, or for a defensive line in football, the coach can show you how you leave the same hole open 3 plays in a row.
Once you find your mistakes, you can figure out how to fix them.
For poker players without a coach watching their play, game tape allows you to review your play and catch your mistakes, mistakes and you didn't catch in the moment.
I don't know how many times I see myself in game tape not 3betting with the suited Ace at an opportune moment. Or skipping the float bet or the delayed cbet on a perfect turn card. Or not looking at my opponent’s stats before I made a bad decision.
And catching these mistakes is the first step to fixing them. I recommend reviewing game tape the day following every game taped session.
3. Distractions are Less of an Issue
Speaking through your thoughts forces you to focus more on the game. When you’re more focused, you don’t have time for distractions. You won’t open your email or play a poker training video. You’re more aware of the harm these distractions cause and you’ll be less inclined to allow them to interfere with your killer +EV decision making.
4. Keeps You In-The-Now
Lou DeScalzo (PokerDad on YouTube who can also be found on Twitch streaming as idmariodl28) sent a bit of poker wisdom my way and gave me another benefit of game tape:
What is also beneficial is keeping you in the moment, meaning if you have a bad beat, you don’t keep replaying it in your mind because your in the present speaking about your current hand.
He is sooooo right about this. Before a bad beat plays out, you're often on to the next hand and discussing your thought process there. You don't have much time to allow for rising emotions. Plus, whether you're streaming your game tape or not, you don't want to go on record showing people how you can get angry and potentially tilt. This causes you to keep those emotions in check even more. Thanks, Lou.
The Logistics of Recording Poker Game Tape (14:25)
Do NOT be daunted by the idea of recording your game tape. It really couldn’t be simpler and I’ll help you out here. There are three things you need: software, hardware and action.
There are so many screen capture software programs available, both paid and free. You likely already have some on your computer: Screenflow, Camtasia or Bandicam for instance. But, I recommend OBS (Open Broadcaster Software). This is absolutely free and it’s the program most Twitch users use.
Just visit https://obsproject.com/download , choose your operating system then download and install it.
Because it's used by so many Twitch streamers, there are tons of set-up tutorials on YouTube. I thought about making one for you, but I did a quick YT search and found a great 2:06 tutorial created by AutomaticPoker (below). This is exactly what you need to get it set-up quickly and easily for game tape. He doesn’t mention streaming at all. Watch the video, follow along and you’ll be recording your sessions in no time.
All you need is a simple microphone. Your computer or laptop might have one built in, and that’s likely good enough. If you want better quality you’ve got some choices.
The cheapest would to get a headset with attached microphone, like you see receptionists and phone operators use in the movies. Here's a good cheap one.
You can get a better microphone, which will be of use if you decide to stream on Twitch someday, create training videos or do your own podcast. I highly recommend my microphone, the Audio-Technica ATR2500-USB Cardioid Condenser USB Microphone. It’s a bit more expensive at $80, but it works very well.
Microphone boom scissor arm stand: https://amzn.to/2Na8NRq
Pop filter: https://amzn.to/2QsDXSc
Action: Recording Poker Play and Speaking
Now that you’re set-up and ready, it’s time to record your game tape.
Fire up some tables and hit record on OBS. Before every button click, speak through your decision-making process. It can be super clear and reasoned like:
“This hand is within my 2bet range from MP, but the CO, BTN and BB all love to 3bet. I’ll fold to any of these expected 3bets with this hand because it’s not worth calling. So, I just won’t open raise here. Maybe I should switch tables with these 3 LAG’s on my left.”
Or, it can be very simple like:
“T3o? Not worth playing UTG, so I’m gonna fold”.
Speaking through your poker decisions is a muscle you’re going to develop. You’ll likely find yourself speaking for the first 5-10 minutes, but then you’ll retreat back to your poker mind and just think as you play. The more you do it, though, the longer you’ll sustain speaking through your decisions. Eventually, you’ll be like Jason Sommerville or Jaime Staples and go for hours on end.
In the beginning, this might also limit the number of tables you can play. As you’re speaking your thoughts, you won’t be able to focus on decisions to be made on other tables. If you normally play 6 tables, don’t be surprised if game tape forces you to play only 2-3 tables. If you’re making better decisions, it’s worth it though.
Here’s the biggest thing, you’ll never know how game tape could benefit you unless you do it.
Here’s my challenge to you for this episode: Start recording your own game tape. And, if you’ve done it in the past, do it more often now. I’m not saying to record every session you play and also don’t review every minute of every session you record. But, do it at least 3 times per week, and review at least :30 minutes of each game tape you record.
Now it’s your turn to take action and do something positive for your poker game.
Support the Show
Mr. Civic purchased my Smart HUD for PokerTracker for so he can start plowing through his poker opponents. Along with the HUD, I sent him some bonus videos to help him get more from it and PT4. Click here to get the Smart HUD.
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