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Q&A: Online Poker Frustrations, Creating Action Steps, Open Raise Sizing and Seat Selection | Episode 160


Sky Matsuhashi

on October 12, 2017

In this Q&A, I answer three of your questions about online poker frustrations after transitioning from LIVE play, putting into action what you’re studying, adjusting your cash game open raise sizing and seat selection.

In episode 159, I shared with you the audio for Day 2 in the ‘How to Study Poker Volume 2’ Audiobook.  I talk hand reading, article studies and database reviews.

Q1: Online Transition Frustrations (1:50)

Mike: Thanks so much for your help and the book.

I’m very frustrated, I’ve played about 15k hands online and I am getting KILLED.

But when I play LIVE poker, I’m the one killing it. I can’t explain why this is happening to me. Most of my stats are in good shape, but every time I call a bet they seem to have me beat. It’s like I have run into total nutty nits, nobody bluffs me, whereas in LIVE poker, I catch bluffs and loose play all the time.

Maybe online is not for me.

Let me know how to help you with a review or anything you need.

Best, Mike


Your online poker frustrations are totally understandable.  I was in the same boat when I transitioned.  I blew through my first two deposits of $600 each in just a few weeks.

What was happening?  Was this game rigged?  Are they colluding?  How can I make money LIVE but online I'm losing money?  I eventually discovered some key ideas that helped me gain control and finally start to feel comfortable playing online and led me to start winning:

1. Play is better at much lower limits.

I was playing bigger stakes LIVE, but found that online the play was the same at super low stakes, like 10NL and 25NL.  You've got to find the sweet spot where your opponents are playing online comparable to LIVE players.  It will never be exactly even, but keep dropping in stakes until you can see your opponents making tons of mistakes.

2. Variance can cause big downswings.

It's possible that over the 15,000 hands you've just hit a downswing and your normal play will get you out of it eventually.  But, treat this like a sign that you should be studying and working on your game more than you have been.  Maybe it's just variance, but if you work through this downswing like it was your own play that's causing the issue, it'll only benefit you.  Blaming yourself then doing something about it will benefit you.

3. Treat pre-flop and flop aggression with much less respect than turn and river aggression.

In general, players are willing to bluff much more pre-flop and on the flop.  As the pot grows and there's less cards coming on future streets, they start to tighten up and bets/raises are more likely strong hands.

4. The “small” amounts of money at risk can lead to bad decisions.

When defending the BB at 25NL, it's only another $.50 to call a 3bb open raise.  At 10NL, calling a 3bb open raise is only $.20, which is very easy to call when you think about it that way.  Try not to think about the $$$, but instead think of it in terms of big blinds

5. Playing in position is critical.

Try to play in the CO and BTN as much as possible.  If you're going to get more aggressive or add calls to your game, then do it in these positions.  Don't add too many hands to EP and MP ranges.  Also, treat the blinds with the respect they deserve and understand that when you choose to play hands here, you're choosing to give the advantage of position to your opponents.  You should have a good reason before calling in the blinds.



Q2: Creating Action Steps From Our Studies (7:20)

Mark: Hello.  I have had a couple of thoughts on improving my study and would like your thoughts on whether you do something similar:

  1. When reviewing an article/book/podcast/video I will sometimes find something new that I feel can be of benefit to me. When I come across this I will highlight this in color in my journal.  This brings my attention back to this key point when I am reviewing the week’s study and play.  Often what I have highlighted can be incorporated into a strategy adjustment for myself.
  2. I have just carried out a hand review for an old showdown hand that I could not remember. After the hand played out I felt I had played the hand very strangely and not how I normally would have played.  This led me to wondering if I was on tilt at the time or if I had got a read on the villain that influenced my play in the hand.  Unfortunately, I have no idea which of these may have been the case.  As a possible solution for this I feel it may be useful in my cool down to write some notes against each of my hands that go to showdown.  Then in future, hand reading sessions, I can use my in-game notes to adjust villains ranges on reads I had at the time.

Regards, Mark


My thoughts on highlighting strategies you could start including

I do the same thing, but I also create an Action Step around it and force myself to do it in-game.  I’ll include it in my warm-up as the strategy focus for the session I’m about to play.  For example, I mentioned at the start of the podcast that I’m studying from BlackRain79's new book called ‘The Micro Stakes Playbook'.  In the book he discusses how he classifies his opponents between 6 categories.  I only ever used 4 categories until now; LAG, TAG, NIT, FISH.  I like his 6 categories, so I made it a goal in my past 4 sessions to label each of my opponents with one of his classifications.

My thoughts on recording play session notes in your journal

First, you gotta get my FREE Poker Journal:

Recording cool downs in your journal can help with this aspect of trying to remember key hands and deviations from normal strategy.  I wouldn’t try to take note on every SD hand, though.  Just do the major hands you remember.  I don’t recommend cool downs taking more than a minute or two, because for myself, if I make them too detailed I’ll quickly end the practice because it will start to feel like a chore.  But, if you want to take note on every SD hand, go right ahead.

You could also start recording game tape and save the files for future review, but that isn't as easy (although more accurate if you take the time to go back and watch the videos).  Game tape will show exactly what was happening at the time, and if you speak through your thoughts as you play, you'll hear what you were thinking at the time.  Catching big errors like this is good though, regardless of knowing the exact circumstances or not.

Q3:  Open Raise Sizing & Seat Selection (13:15)

Jacob:  My question to you is this. I usually open 3x-4x in MTT's but I think that this is not a good idea in cash since you want to go post-flop most of the time. Do you think I should change the sizing? And also, I wanted to ask you about table and seat selection, I know that you almost certainly talked about that in some of your podcast episodes but since there are so many of them can you please tell me the numbers so I can listen to specific ones? Thank you again.  BTW, I have been reading your book and so far it is pretty good I will leave a review once I finish it.


Regarding open-raise sizing: Yes, you'll want to switch up your sizing for cash games.

I recommend opening at 2.5 – 3.5bb's. You'll want to use bigger sizing for earlier raises and smaller sizing for later position raises.

But, test it out and see what works for you. I mostly use 3bb opens for all positions. I'll make it smaller in LP as steals if I think my opponents won't notice the smaller sizing and fold the same amount.

I sometimes use bigger sizes in EP to discourage too many callers. I'll do this if the table is full of calling stations with position on me.

Regarding seat selection and table selection: Listen to episode #282 for some good stuff on table selection and the opponents you want at your tables.

In general, you want opponents on your left who do not make poker difficult on you. So, you want to avoid LAGs and TAGs to your left because they're calling or 3betting or re-stealing or re-isolating you a ton and playing against you IP. Also, you want as many fish on the table as possible. Preferably on your right, but if there are 4 fish on a full-ring table all with position on you, that's not a bad thing.  You can put a lot of pressure on the TAGs and LAGs to your right so they'll leave you alone in pots with the fish who are still to act after your play.


Here’s my challenge to you for this episode:  Create an Action Step for every piece of content you study.  Your goal should be to put to use at least one thing from each podcast, video or article you read.  That’s what these challenges are for, by the way.  I’m trying to get you actively practicing what you’re learning.  Getting back to strategies you study, you might not be sure it’s something you want in your game, but you’ve got to sample everything and test strategies for yourself before you decide that it’s worth incorporating as a permanent part of your game.

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

Support the Show

Randy Strong took a great step towards improving his online game by purchasing PokerTracker 4 through my affiliate link this week.  For doing so, I sent him a copy of my Smart HUD to get him started on the right online poker foot.  Get your own copy of PT4 here.

Speaking of the Smart HUD, Paulo Gaiotto purchased his own copy.  Paulo's been following me for some time now and I'm happy to see that he's taking his online poker game up a notch.  Get your own Smart HUD here.


Sky Matsuhashi

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