Thinking about going pro? Need help analyzing your poker tournament statistics, defending often enough or adjusting to their adjustments? I got the answers for you in this 5-question Q&A
Listen to this podcast episode #465 as you follow along below:
1. Tournament Statistics Analysis
I'm looking for “optimal” stats to compare in my PokerTracker 4 reports to help plug leaks in MTT's. Any suggestions? – Anonymous; in regards to a cash game statistics analysis video on the Smart Poker Study YouTube channel.
“Optimal” Tournament Stats?
It's tough to give ‘optimal’ poker tournament stats and win rates. This is because of how dynamics change over the course of any tourney, whereas cash games don't. Tournaments have:
- Changing stack sizes due to blind increases and antes
- The lead up to the bubble, the bubble itself, and the bubble burst
- The lead up to the final table and then final table play.
- There are ICM considerations.
- You may be a different player in higher buy-in tourneys versus lower buy-in tournaments due to the player pool and maybe also due to the money on the line.
- There are even different speeds: regular, turbo, hypers, etc.
- Different formats: Freezeouts, rebuy, bounty, satellites, spin and go, all-in or fold, etc. Also, 6max, full ring and HU.
- Lastly, there’s MTT versus SNG.
My Tourney Stat Analysis Recommendations
Steps to Analyze Tournament Statistics and Win Rates:
- Analyze higher buy-in tourney stats and win rates separately from lower buy-ins.
- Separate SNG and MTT play.
- Separate formats as necessary. Bounty should be analyzed apart from satellites,
- Analyze your #’s in total without any filters, but also by filtering for starting stack size. Use these ranges: 0-10bb, 10-15bb, 15-20bb, 20-30bb, 30-50bb, 50bb+. I'm sure you play differently with different starting stacks, especially when it comes to calling preflop, 3betting, shoving, facing shoves, cbetting, calling cbets, etc.
- When analyzing your stats, ask yourself this question, “If I saw this statistic on an opponent, how can I exploit it?” If you can answer that with a super easy exploit, then you just found a leak. For example, maybe at 50bb+ stacks, you raise/call 3bets 80% of the time, with a win rate of -425bb/100 hands. But at a lower stack size, this isn’t an issue. You've absolutely found a leak, though, so you need to work here ASAP.
- You can compare your statistics by starting stack with ‘optimal’ cash game statistics. This could show you possible areas of opportunity. If something is a cash game leak, it’s probably a tourney leak, too.
- ROI and ITM %’s are very important. You might be winning at the lower buy-ins with a high ROI and a 25% ITM. But at the higher buy-ins, maybe -ROI and 5% ITM. Maybe the player pool is much stronger than you, or you’re playing scared money poker, or you’ve played so few tourneys that your results aren’t reliable yet.
Here's the Cash Game Statistics video anonymous was referencing:
2. Minimum Defense Frequency
Here is my problem : If I Call Cbets less than 66%, don't I give money to my opponents who cbet half-pot on the flop? If I call 50% on the flop against a half-pot cbet, then my opponents can exploit me and literally cbet 100% with any two cards because I fold too often. So in the long run, when they cbet half-pot against me, they immediately win because I fold too much. My conclusion is that I have to call at least 66% on the flop otherwise I will be easily exploited. What do you think about it?
Simon is referring to a minimum defense frequency (MDF) to NOT allow your opponents to easily exploit you with bluffs. Here's the math of this:
- The pot is $100, he bets $50 (1/2 pot).
- The break-even point for his bluff is 33% ($50/$150).
- So, in order to NOT be exploited, the MDF is 67%.
I believe it's NOT your job to make yourself unexploitable. Just because his bet breaks-even at 33% doesn't mean you have to defend 67%. What if he's value betting? Of course you don't know what he's holding, but if you defend 67% versus his value range, you're probably handing him money. Just using math for this situation doesn't take into account your opponent's tendencies, and that's the biggest issue for me. What if he only cbets for value with a flop cbet at 15%? I wouldn't try to defend anywhere near 67% versus him.
I believe it IS your job to exploit each player to the max and let your stats fall where they may. This was covered recently in podcast #460: Don't Chase Statistics. I don't play poker for the long run; I am playing right now in this session, in this hand and against this player and trying to make the best decisions I can. I let the long run and my statistics take care of themselves.
Let's imagine your were up against someone who defended exactly 67%, how would you adjust to exploit him? You would mostly value bet so he'd be theoretically over-defending versus your super strong range and you'd print money cbetting against him.
I recommend to defend with calls and raises based on your read of your opponent's tendencies, his bet size, his position, his range and the board. Let your defense statistics fall where they may.
3. Help with Going Pro
I am an aspiring poker player who has been playing recreationally since 2020. I consider myself a break-even player, but I have faced losses primarily due to the rake structure they have for micro-stakes players.
Now that I have built up enough bankroll to start playing NL 50, I am interested in seeking assistance to improve my game and make the transition from a recreational player to a professional poker player. Can you help me with this?
I can help you with studying and with strategies to get profitable at the micro stakes, but I'm not a coach for aspiring pro players. I've never played as a pro nor coached pros, so I wouldn't be a good fit.
I recommend four things for aspiring pros:
- Record your stats and win rates every week to analyze and find your leaks. Work on those things.
- Study and practice everything. If you learn a new strategy, don't try to learn any new strategies until you've done a ton of in-game practice and reviewed loads of hands. You want to have a good grasp of the strategy before moving on.
- Learn hand reading ASAP and do at least one full exercise everyday. This will improve your study efficiency as well as in-game reads and plays.
- Before you actually go pro and quit your day job, take a week off and see how you enjoy playing full time. Put in 40-60 hours that week and gauge if you think pro is right for you.
4. Adjusting to Their Adjustments
Currently, I have a number of inquiries related to repeatedly using the Fold to Flop Cbet stat of one of my opponents, which currently stands at 90%.
I want to make my opponent fold, however, he might catch on and adapt his gameplay. How should I navigate this situation, especially if they start raising?
Once my opponent adjusts their behavior due to my repeated use of this statistic, what is the value of this statistic?
Considering the changing dynamics, how should I proceed? Should I continue using the stat and attempting to induce folds, or should I switch to a different strategy?
How to Adjust
#1: Keep exploiting them until they adapt.
You can choose to not make marginal bluffs. For example, you opened and they called in the BB. HU to the flop and you hold 97s and the flop comes AT4. You have no redraws. Go ahead and check-back with such a weak hand. If he checks the turn, maybe now fire a bluff bet b/c he showed weakness twice on a board he would bet for value with AX. But, bluff your draws. On AT4, maybe there are two hearts and you hold the QhJh for a gs + fd. Go ahead and bluff that. If he raises, you know he's got a solid AX hand and you can now decide if the price is right to call with your draws.
#2: The statistic is still valuable even if he adapts.
A statistic over a large sample shows his general tendency or habits when in a situation. He might have adjusted now, but that habit will reemerge this session or next. Still refer to it and exploit it whenever you think the exploit will work.
#3: Count on his adjustment, but probably not a full 180 degree turn to defending every time.
So, just be more judicious in your use of the strategy like I said in #1. If he now suddenly defends EVERY time, then only cbet for value. But a player folding 90% won't suddenly fold 0%.
5. Free Play Poker
I was wondering if you had any tips on the types of things players should focus on who are playing exclusively free online poker. When there are no stakes whatsoever other than the time you’ve spent at the table, you obviously encounter all sorts of types of players who have various approaches and motivations.
To me, it makes it difficult to really come up with a game plan or strategy. What would you suggest I focus on? – Ross
Always Have a Reason
I would focus on having a reason for every play you make and putting them on a range.
- When you bet or raise, it's to get them to fold or to earn value, so name hands in their that can fold or give you value.
- When you call, it's because you have a hand ahead of their betting range (name the hands), you're getting a good price on a draw (do the break-even math in your head) or you see a way to bluff them later.
- When you check, it's with the intention of check-folding, check-calling or check-raising based on your hand and their betting range.
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