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Steal Popup & Purposeful Practice | MED #2 Class 2 | Poker Podcast #97


Sky Matsuhashi

on October 6, 2016

I discuss my own steal popup and review all the important stats that will help you determine the profitability of your steals.

Steal Popup & Purposeful Practice

Purposeful Practice (1:10)

This is a learning concept I follow rigorously.  As a matter of fact, this whole series of MED podcasts is centered around this concept.

Purposeful Practice is the idea of spending your practice time on a specific skill or task, in order to ingrain it into your skill set.  If practice was all about quantity and putting time in, we’d all be expert poker players by now with all the hours on the felt we’ve logged in.

I imagine most of you have heard of the 10,000 hour rule?  Well, if simply putting 10,000 hours into something made you an expert, everyone in their late 30’s would be an expert driver with all the time they’ve spent on the road since they were 16.

So, the way most of us play and study poker just isn’t building the skills the way we’d like them to.

There are 4 parts to Purposeful Practice that we should all be implementing:

1. Start with a clear goal

If your current poker leak is that you call blind steals too wide or never even try to steal, then why are you studying cbetting or short stacked play or watching videos on deep tournament runs? If you want your practice to really mean something, then set a goal, like lowering your call 2bet % in the blinds or improving your steal success %.  You should use the Focusing Question (from the book called ‘The ONE Thing') to help you figure out what you should study next.  “What’s the ONE Thing I can do study right now such that by learning it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”  The answer to this question is your next study goal.

2. Plan your work, work your plan

So, you’ve got your goal, now plan your studies by selecting videos, articles, podcasts and chapters from books that should teach you the info and skills you’re missing. You’ll want to take notes on all you’ve learned as well so you can refer back to them in the future.  Also, do hand history reviews centered on your specific goal.  In the case of improving your steals, filter your PT4 database for your steal attempts.  You need to analyze the hands and figure out why they were unsuccessful and think of things you can do better in the future.

3. Challenge yourself

This is key. Challenge yourself to improve this area of your play.  Put yourself in situations where you can practice what you’ve learned.  Try to teach others what you’ve learned via study groups, FB groups and forums.  You’re used to playing and discussing things the way you always have, now’s your chance to push your limits and try to learn in more dynamic and impactful ways.

4. Measure your progress

You need to measure your progress in some way, otherwise you won’t know if you’re improving. So, you’ve got to find specific quantifiables that can indicate whether you’re headed in the right direction or not.  As an example, here are some key steal stats that you can track in your database to analyze your performance as you study and play:

  • Attempt to Steal %
  • Steal Success %
  • BB/100 win rate in the CO, BTN and SB


Steal Popup (7:20)

steal popup screenshot

This steal popup was designed to give me the best information for determining how likely my blind steals will work.  It also tells me how often my opponents steal.  The popup displays when I click on the Fold to Steal stat in my table HUD.  Listen to episode 51 where I give you 5 ways to improve your game with PT4 if “HUD” and “popup” are jargon to you.

The steal popup is broken down into three sections; the top section is for Attempt to Steal stats, the middle section is for Defend vs Steal stats, and the bottom is some Post-flop stats to help us plan.


Attempt to Steal Section

  • Attempt to Steal % – This is here to help me deal with a somebody trying to steal my blinds. If the Attempt to Steal is below 15%, I treat this like a more value-oriented raise from a steal position and I’ll react accordingly. Between 15-27% and that’s the middle road, so I’ll defend with caution. Over 27% and I’ll defend wider by calling more and 3betting more. But before I defend I’ll look at the next stat in the section.
  • Steal/Fold to 3bet % – So, this stat is here to show me how often they fold to 3bets when stealing. If I’m on the fence about defending, a high % here (over 75%) might persuade me to 3bet resteal.  Between 50 and 75%, then my 3bet resteal will work a little less often. And of course anything below 50% and I’ll generally call to defend, or 3bet for value and expect lots of calls or 4bets.


Defend vs Steal Section

  • Fold to Steal % – I look at this stat more than any other steal defense stat because it’s the most telling. I love it when this number is over 65% and the higher the better.  I steal pretty liberally from these guys.
  • Call Steal % – When you compare how often they call steals or 3bet them, you can find some glaring frequency issues.  For example, if they fold to steals 70% of the time, they're defending 30% by either calling or 3betting.  If this 30% is broken down as 15% calling and 15% 3betting, it's very hard to read this 50/50 breakdown.  But, if the 3bet is at 4% and the calling is at 26%, then it’s evident they only 3bet for value vs steals, and call a wide range of junk.
  • 3bet vs Steal % – By comparing total 3bet to 3betting vs steals, you know how aggressive they are vs steals.  You’ll sometimes come across players with a total 3bet of only 6%, but vs steals it's 15%.  They love the resteal and they’re looking for opponents with a high ATS %.  Take advantage of these high 3bet re-stealers by open/4betting them.  You can also just call their 3bets and take it post-flop with position.  This is especially profitable if they’ve got some good OOP post-flop weaknesses.
  • BB fold to SB Steal % – This is here for the specific case of stealing from the SB vs the BB.  Of course, the higher the better, but I’ll often keep my SB steals to Ax, Kx, Qx, all pairs, lots of suited connectors and gappers and all broadways.  I’ll only steal with ATC when this stat is at an alarmingly high 80-85% or higher.


Post-flop Section

  • IP Cbet and OOP Cbet – The cbet stats tell me how aggressive the player is post-flop as the pre-flop aggressor. I’ve got it here for IP and OOP so I can use this to help me plan for the flop/turn/river. I use all three of these streets to tell me which street my opponent is normally honest on.
  • IP Fold to Cbet and OOP Fold to Cbet – The Fold to Cbet stats are here by street as well, to help me plan for post-flop action. I'm looking for players with glaring post-flop frequency issues.  Folding to cbets OOP 70% on the flop or turn gives me a great way to win the pot post-flop.

SMART HUD and the Steal Popup

You can purchase the SMART HUD for PokerTracker 4 with 3 HUDs for Cash Games, Full Ring Tournaments and 6max Tournaments here.  It also comes with (7!) custom popups and 23 training videos with over 4 hours of dedicated HUD training. I use my HUD for every session I play, and I know it'll propel your poker journey.


Study: Confirm your own HUD and steal popup stats (18:25)

I want you to go to your PT4 or HM HUD, and see what steal stats are currently on it.  Make sure you have each of the stats detailed above.  And, very important, have the total % as well as the positional breakdowns.  If not, get in there, modify your HUD and popups to include all the most relevant stats as well as positions.

After you make the changes, review some hands filtered for the opportunity to open steal in the CO, BTN or SB.  Practice using any of the new stats you added to analyze the hand and determine if it’s a good steal opportunity or not.


Challenge (19:20)

Here’s my challenge to you for this episode: I discussed adding stats and positional breakdowns to your HUD and steal popup, so get to it! That’s your challenge for this week. No more using the default popups in PT4 or HM. Color code and personalize them for your own game and stakes you play. The more thought and work you put into this, the better information you’ll get from your popups. If you’ve got a steal popup you’d like my opinion on, email me a screenshot and I’d be happy to discuss it with you!


Up Next…

In episode 98 I'll give you another Q&A where I'll answer 4 questions about 3bet calling ranges, poker podcasts, hand reading and learning ‘The Course’ .

Until next time, study smart, play much and make your next session the best one yet.


Sky Matsuhashi

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