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Session review, warm-up and cool down drills

Posted by fstanq

Hey guys,

I was planning on posting some results today about my quick goal but I forgot I had two French colleagues coming to São Paulo last week. We have a big project going on and so I had my days full and most of my nights as well. The free time we had at some nights I took them partying, and spent the weekend on the beach, so zero poker time.
I’ll try to catch up this week. In the meantime I thought it would be nice to answer Dave’s request and post how I do my session reviews, warm-ups and cool down from the long sessions. Let’s start:

Session Review
I actually have two different types of session reviews. The most frequent one is pretty standard: as I play in the session I mark hands on HEM to review later. I’m used to mark not only hands that I didn’t know what to do, but also big pots lost, big pots won, hands that I felt I failed to extract money, hands that I might have overplayed… All that looks interesting gets marked, and when the session is over (or sometimes on the next day if I end up playing until late at night) I rethink my play, run some things in Flopzilla and Equilab, adjust ranges, try to come up with nice EV equations and evaluate my play. Seems like a lot of work, but only a small amount of hands go into Flopzilla or end up with difficult EV eq – most just seems ok or I know where I screwed up. This is usually fast, like 30 min.

The other type of session review is a lot deeper and usually happens twice a week. I gather the hands from the last 2-5 sessions and do some studying on HEM. I start off by checking stats: my VPIP/PFR/AF. Than PFR by position, 3bet/4bet stats, WTSD/W$WSF/WWSD, float flop Cbet, Raise flop Cbet, c/r turn… and from there I usually see something wrong and go into more specific spots to see if I can find some leaks. It’s kind of hard to explain the whole process, but it was something I picked up from a coach where our best sessions were when he looked in my HEM and tried to identify spots where I was losing money. After a few sessions like that I decided I could do it on my own (way worst than he did, but I’m getting there) and so looked up some reports for my poker tracking software, checked what is considered ‘good’ stats, how they worked together and with that I started finding my leaks.
It is usually a long review, like ~60 min and sometimes boring, but it gives me a good view of my game and where I can improve.

Before I start let me suggest you check out this post in Jared’s blog so you can understand how necessary a warm-up routine is:
I find warm-up sessions very good to put my mind in ‘poker mode’. And most importantly to put it in the right poker mode!
I like this game, and when I’m playing and motivated as I am now I think about it a lot. I imagine this happens to a lot of people. But just because you’re thinking about poker it doesn’t mean you’re thinking about it the way you should: sometimes you’re so focused in one or two hands that you can’t play other situations well. Or you had a big losing session yesterday and will play today trying to recover this loss and so may end up overplaying your hands. That’s where a good warm-up session can help; it resets your mindset to good poker and prepares you to enter your session without those problems.
My warm-up consists of 1) setting up the right environment to play: I eat well, get comfortable in my chair, let the ones that I talk to know that I’m playing to not be disturbed and start the session with plenty of time to play as much as I want. 2) review my short term goal and set goals for the session: usually I have a text document with my last found leaks and spots I can improve. Today it says “attack weak bets / be more honest on the flop / narrow raise and c/raise ranges”, but it started as simple as “don’t bluff the fish”. 3) make ‘play poker’ decisions before the real ones start: I watch a video of someone playing stakes close to the ones I play and go pausing the video thinking what I believe is the most profitable play, sometimes going to Flopzilla or Equilad to define how the hand is doing vs the range I put villain on. Since it is not my cards or my money I can easily make decisions without my emotions getting in the way. After just a few of these hands evaluations I feel like I’m thinking about the game the best way I can.

Cool down
Very important to not become unpleasant to be around after a session (winning or losing you can become unpleasant, believe me) or just to sleep well. My routine for this is simple: it starts with a session review where I see if I played well or made some decisions based on emotions or tilt. If I made good decisions I’m immediately feeling better because I know I played well and it was just variance (I do tell myself this a couple of times). But if I see a lot of tilt induced plays I might get even more upset – as I’m sure it happens to other players – but if that’s the case I just go do something else that usually takes all my attention and/or energy and that I feel good doing or am good at. Today these things vary depending on the day and time; when I play at night after work I just log in ESEA and play some CS 1.6 (can hear people shouting the N word already). When it is during the weekends or early at night I go to the gym or ride a bike, see if there’s a football (what some of you may call soccer) game with friends I can join, etc.

I must say that these three things had a major impact in my game and how poker affected my life and thus I strongly advise you to try it.

Next post should have some graphs for the last 10-20k hands, but it might take a while as next week is Carnival in Brazil – a 4 day weekend I intend to spend away from the tables, unless they have a casino at the resort :p