My first 5,000 hand experiment

So to recap, as I work on improving my Limit Texas Hold'em game, I concocted an experiment with my coach.  I used my calculations of each possible preflop hand against tables containing one to nine opponents each.  I then built a very solid preflop strategy, taking into account position and opponents, and set out to play 5,000 hands.  From the flop onward I've been studying hands with my coach, but it's not as easily quantifiable.  Obviously it's pointless to pursue hands that are completely pot-odds incorrect, but most of my flop and post-flop decisions are a little more subtle than that, and not as easily translated into formulas.

After about 5,048 hands of $0.25/$0.50 and $0.50/$1 I had played 53.68 hours, and 89 sessions. I had lost 1.08 big blinds per 100 hands or about $26.20.  (Thank god I had rakeback.  I paid $57.50 in rake and got about a third of that back.)

I then went and played live for the first time since before the experiment, and was amazed at the progress.  The drills had created discipline and focus and the poor decisions of some of my opponents were stunning.

So what to do with these hands?  How to analyze them?

Historically I have looked at my hands backwards, looking at large pots I lost, but because I often play very tight, I have to play a lot of hands to see river play.

The Bodhisattva of Poker, Tommy Angelo, has coined one approach to working on your game, called "Lopping Off Your C Game".  He categorizes your poker game into A, B, and C class, with your C-class decisions being full-on-tilt.  Your A game, and most of your opponents A game, is particularly close (unless you're Phil Ivey).  You can work on your A-Game all you want, but you're not going to get all that much better than your opponents.

However your C-game contains your worst decisions, and so too of your opponents.  Get rid of your worst decisions, and you become a much better player.

As I looked at my opponents in my $6/$12 Limit Hold'em game in Colma, I realized that the decision you make the most often that costs you the most money is whether to see a flop.  You make that decision over and over and over again, and you never get pot odds to make up for all those little mistakes, as you do in No Limit Hold'em when you win some guy's stack because you decided to play 75s, call his raise and hit two pairs when he shoved with his AKo on an A75 flop.


So out of 5,048 hands, I saw the flop (out of the blinds) with 552 of them.  I was playing only 77+, A9s+, Ajo+, JTs+, and QJo+.  I was only calling raises with AKo+, AKs+, and 77+. 

I open limped 43 times.  Super bad.  I'm either letting other players in cheap with bad hands, or I'm playing something that should have been folded.

I cold called raises 40 times with hands weaker than my range.

I played subpar hands 79 times with hands like these:

  • 44: 1
  • 55: 3
  • 66: 6
  • 98s: 2
  • J7s: 1
  • Q9o: 1
  • QTo: 1
  • K9s: 1
  • A8s-A2s: 45
  • ATo-A2o: 18

Even before I do blinds analysis, which is where I think there's a lot of improvement to be done, all I have to do is get rid of these hands and I would lop off quite a bit of my C-game.

After going through these hands with my coach, I'm going to do another 5,000 hands.


  1. James Rakeback Robertson on July 29, 2009 at 6:08 am

    This is a very good experiment, I am desperate to turn my poker hobby into an actual income. I’d be curious to know if by carrying out constant studies such as these, I’d be able to ultimately do so. Have you found that this has contributed to a rise in income from poker tournaments online more or in person?


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