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7 Steps to Finding and Plugging Online Poker Leaks | Podcast #178


Sky Matsuhashi

on March 4, 2018

I give you my 7-step process for finding and plugging online poker leaks with a database of hands.

Download and listen to this episode as you follow along below.


Online Poker Leaks Plugging (2:30)

Everything I'm discussing in this leak plugging series revolves around online play with a database to work with.

But, any leak I discuss and the strategies to plugging them is applicable to LIVE games as well.

Everyone has leaks: it just can’t be helped.  Leaks come from strategies we just don’t know about, tendencies and frequencies that get out of hand, bad habits that we develop and mental game leaks.

If you don't know your leaks, there are many ways to get clued into your leaks:

  • Tag confusing hands as you play. Confusion = a likely leak.
  • Podcasts, articles and videos often highlight leaks that you may have. Go through your database and see if the leak they discuss is applicable to you.
  • Database reviews can turn up a leak you never knew existed.
  • Pay attention to the weaknesses in your opponent’s games. Any way that you exploit your opponents can also be a leak of yours.
  • Use a coach. They know how to go through databases, and their experience and insights will find your leaks quicker than you can.

7 Steps to Finding and Plugging Leaks (4:25)

1. Be Aware Of and Identify the Leak

Are you losing money by calling too many cbets?  Are you losing money when opening pre-flop in EP?  Do you lose lots of money in river calls?  Are you set-mining too often?

For the rest of this podcast, we’ll imagine you have the leak of “Calling 3bets Too Frequently as the PFR”.

How do you know this is the case?  You learned about it in this podcast, so you filtered in your database for “raised first in and called a 3bet”.

This filter showed that over 55 hands, you’ve got an ugly -390bb/100 hands.

2. Define the Leak (5:30)

The leak is “Calling 3bets Too Frequently as the PFR”.  But, that’s not enough to help us plug the leak.

We need to do dive further into this leak to figure out what the true problem is.

We do this by reviewing every hand that gets returned through the database filter.  Is your win rate worse when you’re OOP vs IP? Or is it when you're calling with sc’s or small pairs as opposed to good broadways and bigger pairs? Or are you losing in general with every type of hand you call?  Are you making spite calls because of the LAG 3bettor? Do you call without an idea of how you're going to win the pot post-flop? Are you calling with “pretty” hands in hopes of hitting a miracle flop?

The more detailed and granular you get in defining your leak will help you to plug it.

Save all the filters you’re creating for future reference.  For this example, you first run and save that simple RFI & Called a 3bet filter.  Begin adding different things like IP vs OOP and hole card ranges like sc’s, suited Aces and small.  Then save each of these so you can revisit them 2 or 3 weeks down the road to see the progress you’ve made.

3. Calculate the Cost and Define the Quantifiables (6:55)

When you run the various filters, the basic win rate of BB/100 Hands will tell you how much each leak is costing you, and the number of hands present.  Go through each of the hands and add up the total losses that you could've saved with better choices.


  • In the EP, you called 8 times with weak suited Aces, A2s-A9s.
  • In one of these hands you won $2.
  • The other 7 altogether you lost $20.
  • The total you lost was $18.
  • If you would've just folded instead, it would’ve cost you $.75 per hand, or $6 total.
  • The difference you could’ve saved is $12 ($18 minus the $6).
  • That’s an expensive leak, and it’s just one category of hands you should’ve folded.

Next, you want to define quantifiables that help you track your play before and after your studies and leak plugging efforts.

For the leak of “Calling 3bets Too Frequently as the PFR”, here are some quantifiables you could track:

  • Raise First In (RFI) by position and the associated win rate
  • RFI then call by position and the associated win rate
  • RFI then 4bet by position and the associated win rate

4. Study (8:45)

Run Google and YouTube searches and look through any training site you’re a part of.  You’re trying to find information related to your leak.  For the leak we’re talking about today, you’ll want articles, videos and podcasts about facing 3bets after open raising.  You might also want to learn more about mental game leaks around making spite calls or going for revenge.

Your goal is to learn all that you can about this leak: the bad decisions you’re making and what you should be doing better.  Take plenty of notes in your poker journal as you learn and use this for your session warm-ups.  Create sticky notes as well to keep the most important information at top of mind as you play.

I recommend one hour per day of study all centered around the leak you’re trying to plug.

5. Purposeful Practice (11:25)

Purposeful practice is playing with the goal of practicing a specific strategy element.  You’re going to take action and put in place all the things you’ve been working on through your studies.

I recommend playing focus sessions of just 1 or 2 tables so you can devote the maximum mental bandwidth to your new strategies.  I also recommend using game tape in this process.  Watching yourself play can be eye opening and you’ll catch yourself making mistakes that sometimes hand history reviews won’t catch like lapses in judgement or misapplied logic.

Speak through all of your decisions. The reason for this is in your next study session you want to review the game tape, to see if you're actually implementing and if you're logically thinking through your decisions.

Also, tag every hand that relates to the leak you’re trying to plug, so you can review them all the next day.

6. Session Review (12:20)

You must review each leak plugging play session the next day.  Look at all the hands played: the biggest winners and the biggest losers, and review every single tag hand. But don't just rely on the tagged hands.  As we’re playing, we often forget to tag relevant hands, so make sure you filter for “RFI and faced a 3bet”.

And watch your game tape.

Also, recognize the good decisions you’re making that tell you that you’re on the right path.  Be proud of the hands where you made good calls and good folds.

7. Record the Quantifiables and Repeat Steps 3-6 as necessary (13:40)

At every 1,000 hands or so, record your quantifiables to see how things are progressing.

Are your win rates improving?  Are the stats headed in the right direction?  If you want to fold more, are you actually doing so?  Are you striving for more 4bets and is your % increasing?

If things aren’t progressing positively, repeat steps 3 through 6 again for another week.  Do more studies and purposeful practice centered around the leak.   Just keep at it until the leak is plugged.

More Leak Plugging Episodes

Each of these episodes will help you plug specific leaks:

#180 Poker Leak 1: How to Discover if Calling 3bets and Losing Money is Your Leak

#181 Poker Leak 1: Pre-flop Strategies for Better 3bet Defense

#183 Poker Leak 1: Mental Game Control and 3bet Defense Post-flop Strategies

#184 Poker Leak 2: Neglecting the Most Profitable Poker Situation

#187 Poker Leak 2: Getting More Bread & Butter in Your Poker Play Sessions

#189 Poker Leak 3: Open Limping

#191 Poker Leak: Ignoring Your Physical Health

#194 Poker Leak: Failing to Make the Aggressive +EV Play You Know You Should

#197 Poker Leak: Willy-Nilly Poker Studies *or* “Why should I study poker?”

#198 Poker Leak: Diagnosing the Leak of Straying Outside of 2bet Pot Ranges

Challenge (19:20)

Here’s my challenge to you for this episode:  See if the leak of “Calling 3bets Too Frequently as the PFR” is one that you share.  Run the filter in your database and if it comes up negative, it’s time to dive in and define the exact problem.  And, you’re in luck because this is the first leak I’ll be tackling starting next week.  I’ll hit it hard for 3 episodes as I go through my own database to analyze and plug this leak.

Now it’s your turn to take action and do something positive for your poker game.

Support the Show

Jason Bullock got the Smart HUD for PokerTracker 4.  Watch out, enemies of JB!  He's coming to get you.  Get the Smart HUD here.

Kevin Blakeny is taking his micro stakes game to the next level with the Mashing the Micros Webinar.  Get 'em, Kevin!  Pick up your own copy of the webinar here.


Sky Matsuhashi

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