Per a comment from WillWonka, I thought I'd bang together a post about my recent foray into getting serious about data mining with PokerTracker and what my daily routine is, and all that nuts and bolts jazz.
In case you're living under a rock, PokerTracker is the best damn thing since sliced bread, if you play online poker. Honestly and truly, this is the single best investment you can make, more so than any single poker book, and it will continue to pay dividends for you long after you buy it.
Aside from allowing you to analyze and review your play, PokerTracker has a couple of meta features/capabilities that aren't immediately apparent, that are immensely valuable to you. No, really. Immensely. And it's even more valuable if you get Poker Tracker Guide along with it, so that you can maximize its capabilities right out of the box, instead of mucking around and not using it to its fullest potential.
For many sites, PokerTracker lets you download hand histories, insert them in a database, and view the results in all sorts of ways. Which is very cool. What's cooler, though, is that you can also configure PokerTracker to download and store hand histories on Party/Party skin sites that you simply observe, in addition to hands you actually play in. Yes, that's right. You don't have to actually be playing, merely observing.
With that in mind, here's my daily routine as far as data mining a ton o' hands. My backup desktop basically runs 24/7, with 4 Party 15/30 tables open (which is the maximum number of tables you can open). These are observed tables, obviously, and I periodically check it every now and then when I'm around to make sure tables haven't collapsed, etc. It's a little hit or miss when I'm at work/sleeping, as I'm not there to open a new table to replace a collapsed one, but generally they run for quite awhile.
4 observed tables will generate somewhere in the neighborhood of 250 hands/hour. Which works out to about 6,000 hands/day, if you have a dedicated computer doing nothing but data mining observed hands.
If you really want to maximize the number of hands you're grabbing (and have a second computer), you can install PokerTracker on your second computer and open 4 more tables on a different Party skin than the one you've logged in on for your dedicated computer. Same drill, keep 4 tables open (make sure they're different, though, than the other 4 you're observing), grab lots and lots of juicy data.
(Edit: We all have "Dur" moments and the above was mine. If you're just observing tables, you can pull up all of the Party skins on your same computer. No need for two computers. Dur.)
It's a pain in a lot of ways but it's pretty damn valuable data you're grabbing. Keep this up for awhile and you'll quickly amass lots of information about the way regular opponents play, at whatever level you data mine. It won't include data for you, obviously, but that's not the point. The point is to capture large enough sample sizes about your opponents so that you can, with the right tools, use that data when you actually do play against them.
The next step is to install GameTime+. This is a free, incredibly useful application that will take your PokerTracker data and overlay it on the actual table you're playing at online. This provides you a snapshot view in real time as to how your opponents play, based on the hand histories you've data mined. You can instantly see their win rate, how many hands you have in the database in which their stats are based on, how many hands they play, and how aggressively they play them.
Does it tell you what their down cards are? No. Do fishy players who lose tons of money sometimes have great hands and bash you over the head with them? Of course. But the combination of PokerTracker/GameTime+ is really, really valuable, especially if you data mine and get a large database of hands. You still have to make the reads and decisions, still have to bring the skillz, but you get a head-start by sitting down and instantly having data on how many of your opponents play (as long as they've been involved in hands you've data mined).
I also use the data mined hands in broader ways, too, even when I'm not at the table. It's very useful to see the real-world results of certain playing styles, as far as how players fare who play more than 30% of their hands with a pre-flop raise percentage of > 15%, etc. Or even broader trends, such as comparing players with the best BB/100 rates and reverse-engineering where that success comes from, as far as comparing and contrasting different stats.
On a more practical note, I'll also use the data to populate my buddy list with certain players, usually fishy players that play far too many hands and are very passive. Then when I log on I'll do a player search and see if any are on, and whether or not they're at a table that looks promising. If you like playing with hyper aggressive maniacs or ultra-tight rocks, it's easy enough to sift through the data and find them, add them to your buddy list, and locate them when you log on and are looking for a table.
So, to recap:
1) Buy PokerTracker, which is essentially useful crack for successful poker players. Just buy it. Your wallet will thank you.
2) Get a copy of Poker Tracker Guide and maximize your crack high and make more money.
3) Data mine like crazy. Put that computer to work, instead of it just sitting there, idle.
4) Add GameTime+ to the mix, utilizing all that data you mined when you sit down to play.
5) Use all of the data you've mined to improve your decision-making at the table as well as to analyze you and your opponents' play. Improve your table selection by tagging and finding certain player types you're comfortable playing against.
6) Make mo' money playing poker.