Pay attention to every table you are one, what is the atmosphere of the table in general? Also look into the specifics of each player. Is there one player destroying the table? Is someone just playing very passive then suddenly shifted gears and is going crazy? Has anyone lost a big pot recently?
Take a mental note of any tells on any player getting involved. Does someone limp every hand, or most of them? Is anyone playing very aggressively? If any of these players have made it to a showdown, what sort of hands have they had? Are any players raising a lot from later position when it’s folded round to them? These are the sorts of questions you need to be constantly asking yourself.
Pay attention to the size of everyone’s stacks. This is very important in any game. Is someone short stacked? Did they just lose a big pot or have they just been blinding away all game? If you are on a cash game table, if someone doesn’t reload when they have a short stack they may be playing with a smaller bankroll and could be playing money scared. In a tournament if someone is short stacked they may get desperate and push with weaker holdings.
What was the relative position of all the players in the hand? Which player had position? Did the raise from early position come from a player who has been tight (this could be a sign of strength)? Did someone make a loose call from the blinds? Where they getting a good price? Did they close the action on that betting round?
When you analyse a hand you need to look at it from the perspective of both players. This will help you figure out what was going on in the minds of each player and how they came to make the decisions they did. This will improve your skill level as a poker player. Its ok to play as the “hero” but you also need to switch it up and see it from the other side as well.
What was the preflop action? Was there a lot of limpers in the pot before a player raised? What was their raise sizing? Where there any 3bets or 4bets? How strong was each players hands relative tho their opponents when they acted?
How many players where still involved when the flop was dealt? How large was the pot? If the action is six ways to the flop and an ace hits the board, you should be folding your kings as its almost certain that someone has an ace. Was the board texture wet? Did it have connected or suited cards on it? How do the players still involved play draws?
Always think about relative hand strength not absolute. A pair of eights is a very nice starting hand and it quite strong but when the flop comes AKQ, all of a sudden your eights don’t look too good. If you have top pair how good is your kicker?
Always think what sorts of hands your opponent usually plays. If there is a very loose aggressive player they could have anything but a tight player raising from early position is usually going to show up with a premium holding. How does your hand fair against the range of hands your opponent could have in this situation? What is the likelihood that your hand improves?
Think of the hand as a whole. Is a player betting the turn but they also bet the flop? Are they three barrelling? Where they quiet in the hand and all of a sudden now the draw got there they are coming out firing? Did they check/call flop and turn then donk bet river? (bets and raises on the river usually indicate strength)
If you play any interesting hands, post them on our forum and we will discuss them with you. If you never study the game you will never improve as a player. So if all you do is play, play, play then you should take a small amount of time out and dedicate that to hand analysis. This will engrain good thought patterns into your subconscious and you will in turn make better instinctive decisions at the table. Just taking ten minutes of study time out for every hour that you play will improve your game immensely.