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Evaluating Your Play at the Poker Table

By Wesley R Young

Many poker players have a tendency to critically evaluate their play after any losing session while not evaluating their play at all after winning sessions. This is at worst an unhelpful way to evaluate your poker play, and can be hurtful in many situations.

Just because you have a winning session does not mean that you played well. You need to judge your play based on making the correct decisions. When you make the correct decision the majority of the time, the winning sessions will follow. On the flip side, if you usually make the wrong decisions, no matter how good your short-term results may be, you will lose over the long run. Let's take a look at a few examples to illustrate both sides.

You raise pre flop with AQ and one player calls with KT and the flop comes K Q 5. You and your opponent both end up all in, but you catch an Ace on the river to win the hand. While you did have the best hand at the beginning of the hand and at the end of the hand, when you got most of your money in the pot, you were behind. Most players will not consider this hand while evaluating their play. The thought process is that they should have won because they started with the best hand. They are correct in playing the hand before the flop, but the play on the flop was incorrect. Putting your money in the pot as an underdog will lose you money in the long run.

For the next hand, you have JJ; an early position player who has been playing loose moves all in with TT and you call. Your opponent hits a Ten on the flop and you lose a large pot. This hand can make an otherwise winning session into a losing one. Does this mean you didn't play well? No, you played the hand above exactly right and if you were in this situation hundreds of times you would make a great deal of money.

Likewise, there will be times when you are in a position that you have no control over. It is late in a tournament and you look down to find KK. A player moves all in, you call, and find that your opponent has AA and knocks you out of the tournament. Unless you had a perfect read on your opponent, which rarely happens, there is no way to avoid this situation. When you have KK, there is exactly one starting hand that is a favorite against you. You played the hand as well as possible and still lost.

It is always a good idea to evaluate your play after every session at the poker table. Just make sure you are evaluating it correctly, so you can continuously improve your game.

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