Does your thought process become clouded sometimes as you’re forced to make multiple snap decisions on many tables? Have you ever been reviewing a hand history and found yourself making the most bone-headed play ever, and couldn’t figure out what was going through your head?
With so many immediate decisions to be made incessantly, it’s easy to see how we can make the occasional idiotic play or get lost mid-way through a hand.
This is why you must incorporate watching your own Poker Game Tape in your study sessions. This is a valuable strategy for improvement that can lead to some great insights that hand history reviews alone won’t give you. Game Tape forces you to be more honest in your assessment of your poker play and skills. When you actually watch yourself play, you’ll be privy to some of your biggest poker leaks and can now make plans to address them.
People in all walks of life watch themselves at work to improve their skill sets: sports players, presentation speakers, stand-up comedians and actors just to name a few. They’re looking for mistakes made by themselves or their opponents, technical or message issues, and fan and audience reactions. They are looking for areas of improvement so their next outing is even better than this one. As a poker player, you can do the same.
Here are Five Steps to implementing Game Tape in your studies.
1) Set-up and Test a Screen Capture Program
- Get a screen capture program of your liking. I use Bandicam as it’s the easiest to set-up and start recording right out of the box.
- Get a good set of headphones with a mic to use to record your thought process as you play.
- Play your next session and record right from the beginning for 5 minutes. Once you stop the recording, just continue and finish out your normal session. TIP: Speak your thoughts out loud as you play to aid in later review as this will help to dissect your play and your mindset at the time. Assassinato wrote an amazing article about speaking your thoughts called Be Your Own Leadership on pocketfives.com
- Watch your video afterwards and pay particular attention to your spoken audio and the sound effects of the poker software. You may have to go in and adjust the sound effects settings so you aren’t annoyed by them.
2) Record an Actual Session
- Record your next session. TIP: It’s a good idea to record both Volume Sessions and FOCUS Sessions.
- Continue to speak your thoughts out loud as you play. In the beginning, you’ll find yourself quite often just shutting up while you work out a hand in your head. Just keep practicing – playing and speaking your thoughts is just another muscle to develop and with time you’ll be speaking for a full 30 minutes. Talking through your plays really helps to work out your thoughts and come to the right decisions. Tip: just record 30 minutes of your session because you’ll be reviewing your Game Tape at least twice, as it’s very hard to learn all you can from the Game Tape after watching it just once.
- Turn the recorder off (or just set the record length to 30 minutes) and finish out your session normally.
3) First Review – Focus on Your Play
- At a later date (not directly after your session as it’s still too fresh in your mind) you will watch your Game Tape with a Word document open and your focus on your play. Take detailed notes on mistakes made, and corrective actions for the future. Use “!” when a mistake gets repeated. An example note you may take:
“I didn’t cbet vs OOP opponent with 75%+ fold to cbet!! I need to remember to look at an opponent’s fold to cbet every time I’m in a hand.”
In this particular entry, you’ve seen the mistake three times during the Game Tape, once for the line and 2 more times hence the (!!).
- Take notes on the things that occur to you that need further study or follow-up, and commit to follow-up on them. Taking notes does you no good if you don’t pursue them. Sample note:
“I have trouble when opponents make pot-sized donk bets on the flop. What are they doing this with? Follow-up on this and study with hand history reviews, forums and articles.”
- Pay attention to the thought process that you’re speaking aloud in the video. What are you doing at the points when you’re obviously thinking clearly and making good rational decisions? You might hear yourself say something like, “This guy’s opening 35% and his fold to 3bet is 68%. I can 3bet steal here with ATC” and then you do and it’s successful. Other times the steal might not work, but that’s just an opportunity to review your play and determine if you made a mistake or not.
- What are you doing at the points where your thought process seems muddled or you’re just not speaking at all? For me, my speaking becomes unclear and stilted when I’m faced with a difficult decision for a lot of chips or my tournament life. I take note of those spots and make sure to review them to understand why I’m having such trouble.
“I clam up when faced with a 3bet from the blinds when I’ve got a mediocre hand. Make a four-bet/fold chart so I can just refer to that each time to free up my brain space for other decisions.”
- Make sure to have your poker tracking software and Flopzilla open to analyze hands as you pause and resume the video over and over again. Don’t let this opportunity to focus on the math and statistical analysis pass you by.
4) Second Review – Focus on Your Opponents
- Because there’s so much to gain from watching your Game Tape, you’ll need to watch it a second time (at least) with an emphasis on your opponents. You’ve already seen your plays, and if you’ve got your tables tiled, then you can focus on a few opponents and just watch how they play, looking for what hands they showdown, bet sizing, timing tells and other indications of weakness.
- You might want to focus on other regs at the tables, or the fish, or the super aggro guys that always seem to chip-up early. You’re looking for ways to exploit your opponents. If one guy always min-bets the flop and turn and checks back the river w/2nd pair or worse, you’ve now learned you can raise him on the flop or turn to probably take it away when he min-bets.
- Open your poker tracking software and make notes on players when you find specific weaknesses. A player note example:
bobby2345 – will call down 1/2pot bets on ftr w/2nd pair – VALUE BET RELENTLESSLY BUT DON’T BLUFF
- Now watch it a third time if there’s more you feel you could learn from it.
5) Prepare for Your Next Session
- Taking your notes from the two (or more) review sessions, make a plan as to how you’ll implement any game changes. Whether you incorporate them into your next FOCUS Sessions or Volume Sessions, you need to put them in your warm-up so they’ll at least be top of mind.
- Record this next session, and see if you implemented the changes, plays or skills that you had intended to before the session began.
- Rinse and repeat steps 2-5 for incredible poker breakthroughs!
Now You’re on Your Way
Make reviewing Game Tape a common study tactic (1-2 times weekly). This has been an integral part of improving my game. It helps me focus on the skills I’m trying to ingrain in my unconscious competence, and I’ve found that speaking aloud my thoughts before I take action has really helped me to not make as many boneheaded plays.
You’ll hear yourself saying something like, “I don’t know what to do here? Well, I guess I can shove and hope he folds…” then hear what you just said and stop yourself from making a huge mistake (betting without reason is always a bad play in this example).
Not only will you learn a lot from Game Tape, but you may find you’ve got a knack for commentating, and you could be the next Mike Sexton!
Please let me know how helpful you found this post, and what types of lessons you learned from incorporating Game Tape in your study efforts.
Make your next session the best one yet!