I spent an hour trying to figure out why my math was different than a simulation on a particular circuit. It turned out my DC current gain I chose, 100 as per the minimum value on the datasheet, was incorrect; It was approximately 200. It got me thinking, is there something I should be looking at that can help determine the actual DC current gain value prior to solving a transistor circuit beside the min and max values on a datasheet? Is it intuition I'm lacking?
If you want to know the correct value of current gain for a specific transistor then you must measure it yourself. But you should know that the gain also varies with collector current and temperature.
If you are analyzing a circuit by hand you can estimate typical behavior by using the specified typical gain. If the datasheet doesn't give you that, then analyze your circuit for both the minimum and maximum gain and make sure the circuit meets your needs for both cases.
Circuit simulators typically use a more sophisticated model rather than relying on any fixed value of the transistor parameters.