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Don’t Chase Statistics! Build Skills, Plug Leaks & Exploit Instead


Sky Matsuhashi

on October 19, 2023

Do you chase “optimal” statistics? Stop it!

Your statistics are an ever-shifting, natural result of the impact your studies have on your game. Use them to improve your skills and results, don't chase “optimal” statistics.

Listen to podcast episode #460 as you follow along below:

Don't Chase Statistics

Chasing “optimal” statistics is a thing that a lot of players struggle with. When you hear a coach say, “An optimal 3bet is about 8%”, that makes you think you MUST hit that % in order to be a winning player. So, maybe you start to force 3bets to hit this “optimal” percentage.

Key Point:

Don't CHASE statistics! Instead, USE statistics to exploit your opponents, plug your leaks, build missing skills and let your statistics fall where they may.

Statistics are just numerical values for how you play. So, if you:

  • Use their statistics to understand their tendencies and make plays that exploit them, your statistics will reflect this.
  • Find leaks with your statistics and work to plug them, your statistics will reflect this.
  • Use your statistics to spot areas of opportunity and you work to build missing skills, your statistics will reflect this.


Use Their Statistics to Exploit ‘em, and Let Yours Fall Where They May

If you always strive to exploit your opponents, your statistics will naturally reflect this.

Let’s start with a short run example where your statistics are a natural result of the opponents you face.

You’re playing a 2-table session:

    1. On Table 1, your opponents, on average, raise then fold versus 3bets 80% of the time.
    2. On Table 2, they raise then fold versus 3bets on average only 10% of the time.

You play the player and strive to exploit your opponents. So, what do you think your 3bet % is likely to be on each of these tables?

    1. Table 1: Your 3bet will probably be high, maybe even as high as 15% (assuming you get good cards and opportunities to 3bet). They’re folding 80% of the time and this incentivizes you to 3bet bluff more.
    2. Table 2: Your 3bet will probably be low like 3% or less. They ain’t folding, so you ain’t 3bet bluffing! Instead, you’ll make larger sized value 3bets to exploit their non-folding tendencies.

Now, let’s extend this to the long run. You're going to play thousands of sessions like this. If you always play the player and exploit your opponents to the best of your ability, your statistics will reflect this over thousands of tables, thousands of opponents and multiple thousands of hands.

You don’t want to chase statistics to hit some magical “optimal” number in the long run. But, if you’re doing things right, the statistics you end up with could be considered the “optimal” statistics for you. It’s your play style, your stake, the site you play on, and the opponents you play against that will dictate your ongoing statistics.


Use Your Statistics to Find Leaks to Plug, and Let Yours Naturally Change

Poker leaks are the tendencies that you have that cost you money. Like calling too often preflop and losing, or calling rivers and losing or 3bet bluffing and losing.

Your statistics in tandem with your win rates reveal your leaks, and leaks tell you where to focus your efforts.

Here’s an example of finding and plugging a leak with a student named John.

John came to me with a 38.66% Call Preflop 2bet. He was calling a heck of a lot in every position, but especially the blinds. Right when I saw this on the tracker, I knew it was going to be his biggest leak. And I confirmed that fact by filtering and looking at his calling win rates:

John's calling leak losses.

  • When filtering for Call PF 2bet, it showed a horrendous -279.88bb/100 hands with 382 calling hands. Every call, on average, cost him ~2.8bb’s.
  • His total calling losses were $104.64.
  • If he had folded all 382 hands instead of calling, he would’ve saved himself $89.26 in losses.
  • Leak indeed!

I gave John calling strategies to use, Poker Forge videos to study and we worked on it over a few weeks. He’s now calling at just 4.69%, and he’s actually earning money by calling:

John's new winnings from plugging his calling leak!

  • Now John's earning +238.33bb/100 hands when calling over 212 calling hands. He's now earning on average +2.38bb with each call.
  • He's won $59.19.
  • Leak plugged!

John didn't just notice a high calling % and decide to decrease it. Instead, he learned how much of a painful leak this was, studied great strategy, and turned calling into a winning play. This is the power of finding your leaks by analyzing your statistics and win rates. And then of course, working to plug those leaks.

After this process, your ongoing statistics and win rates will reflect these changes in your game.


Use Your Statistics to Build Missing Skills, and Let Yours Naturally Change

Another student, Roy, plays on Ignition Poker. He was concerned that his small 3bet % was an issue and asked me, “Should I 3bet more often?”

His 3bet was 3.09% over 41,700 hands. He told me that it seems like his opponents rarely fold to 3bets. So, he did the unthinkable: He decided to mostly 3bet for value.


I’m a huge fan of 3bet bluffing. In fact, I have a 1-day course teaching you how to 3bet bluff. However, I don’t think we should increase our 3bets just to hit some imaginary “optimal” %. If we're going to pursue more 3bets, it should be in order to make more money.

Roy’s graph and #’s for his play at 10nl, 25nl and 50nl on Ignition.

  • 44,701 hands.
  • +8.18bb/100 hands.
  • 3bet 3.09%.
  • 3bet PF Success 37.29% (how often your 3bets win the pot preflop).

He also sent me his results when 3betting:

Roy's profitable 3betting numbers.

  • 480 3bets made.
  • Win rate of +779.38bb/100 hands (7.79bb/hand).

At 3%, he's an honest 3bettor who rarely 3bet bluffs and this is because his opponents aren’t folding often. They just fold versus his 3bets at 37%. So, if they ain’t folding, why should he 3bet bluff?

This is great exploitative thinking on his part and I can’t fault his small 3bet. His strategy of mostly value 3betting on Ignition through 50nl works and has led to a lovely win rate.

However, we have to ask, can he earn more money by 3betting more often?


Can Roy Be Doing Better?

It’s interesting that Roy’s 3bet is so low, but he’s still very profitable. It kind of flies in the face of all the advice of “have a balanced 3bet range” and “you have to 3bet bluff to earn more from your value 3bets.”

However, like I mentioned above, his low % is an indication that he rarely 3bet bluffs. This isn’t a “leak” as he’s not losing money, but he is missing out on money.

What if he learned to find and execute more profitable 3bet bluffs?

A simple thought experiment here. Let's imagine this situation happens once every 100 hands for Roy.

  • The loose and aggressive CO open-raises to 3bb.
  • Roy recognizes a great 3bet bluffing opportunity here and pulls the trigger on a bluff 3bet to 9bb.
  • Both blinds fold as does the CO.
  • Roy just made a successful 3bet bluff for 4.5bb.

If Roy was able to pull this off once every 100 hands, what does this do to his win rate?

Yep, it would add 4.5bb to his win rate. So, it would increase from +8.18bb/100 hands to +12.68bb/100 hands. That’s an increase of more than 50%!

Now this gives Roy a great incentive to build his 3bet bluffing skills. It’s not just seeing that his statistic is low, but seeing how much more he could earn by improving this skill.

And because he’s 3bet bluffing more, his 3bet % will naturally increase.



Here’s my challenge to you for this episode:

Use your statistics and win rates to find your own areas of opportunity so you know where to focus your efforts for maximal gains.

Download a free statistics and win rates tracker below and watch 2 videos on how to use it in below.

After you record all your numbers, analyze them. Are there any numbers that stand out to you? Maybe you’re overly honest or bluffy in some spots? Do your statistics indicate any easy exploits your opponents can use against you? Are you using their statistics in-game to exploit them? Are there any big losing win rates that indicate leaks you should work on?

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


Start by downloading the Quarterly Stats & Win Rates Tracker:


Watch and follow along to fill out your tracker:


I analyze my own quarterly statistical results:


Support the Show – 1-Day 3bet Bluffing Course

Get the 1-Day 3bet Bluffing Course to earn more money with your favorite preflop play. These incredible poker peeps recently did and are making more profitable 3bets than ever before: Antonio A, Werner T, Sean K, Simone F, Dongyan W, Mario R, Nirilala A, Jaroslav V, Michael D, Donald D, Alberto P, Michael C, Liam W, Rene E, Chris G, Jerry S, Gary H, Gerald C, Tony M and Susan B.


Sky Matsuhashi

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