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The Steal, Steal, Steal! Challenge


Sky Matsuhashi

on July 12, 2023

It's time for the Steal, Steal, Steal! Challenge.

This challenge will have you pulling the trigger on great preflop and post-flop steals as many times as is profitable over your next few play sessions. 

Listen to this podcast as you follow along below:

I've never done this challenge for myself… yet. Normally when I give my audience an action step or a challenge, I've done that work for myself already. I know what it's like doing it and I've seen my own results.

And, the really interesting thing this time is that I created this challenge just a little bit ago and I am going to complete it myself over this coming weekend. After this challenge, I'll release another podcast detailing my results so you can compare your numbers to mine (scroll down for the results podcast episode).


The Steal, Steal, Steal! Challenge

You are going to play three 1-hour sessions of your normal play style. For example, if you normally play regular speed, 6 max games and four tables at a time, that's what you're going to do over these next three 1-hour sessions.

Your goal: to steal the pot as many times as possible during that one hour. Either preflop or post-flop pots. Keep a piece of paper in front of you and make a tick mark for every pot you steal.

*Important*  Only count hands as a steal if you do not have a value hand. You bet or raised because you wanted him to fold, and he folded. Don't count value betting or raising hands (where you bet or raised for value but he folded). 

At the end of your first session, tally up the number of successful steals you made. Maybe it was 18 total.

Your new goal for the second session is 19 successful steals in that hour. At the end of the second session, tally the steals again and your goal is +1 for the third session.

Good luck to you!


Stealing Attitude

Here's a useful attitude to have as you play for steals:

“This is MY pot! I’m going to find a way to get YOU to give it to ME!”

This attitude will spur you to look for as many good opponents and situations to bluff as possible. It's going to force you to pay attention to their tendencies so you can figure out the best way to get them to fold. It's going to force you to think about their range and how it interacts with the board. If it interacts poorly, your chances of stealing go up dramatically.


Steal Strategies

Question: “Can they find a fold?”

Every time you hold a weak hand either pre-flop or post flop and an aggressive opportunity to steal the pot comes along, ask yourself the question, “Can they find a fold?”

This question will force you to think about your opponent's range, the board, their position and their tendencies. It will help you find good opportunities to steal the pot. If the answer is, “Absolutely! He’s folding most of the time,” then it’s mandatory that you pull the trigger on the bluff.

Even if you don't know how to answer that question right now, that's ok. Just start asking and answering it over and over again. This is great practice and the more you do it, the sooner it will become a helpful poker habit.


Preflop #1: Steal Versus Foldy Blinds

This is a no-brainer, I know. But maybe you don't look for tight players who fold a lot in the blinds. When you find them, steal from them at every good opportunity.

Picking up 1.5bb's with simple steals could be a big boost to your win rate. Let's imagine you learn how to steal two more pots every 100 hands.  If you're currently a +3bb/100 hands winner,  these two extra pots will double your winnings and you'll be a +6bb/100 hands winner.

What are you looking for? Tight players who Fold to Steal at 70%+.


Preflop #2: 3bet Bluff IP Versus Wide Ranges

Two factors that really help your 3bet bluffs succeed:

  1. When your opponent has a wide open-raising range.
  2. When you are in position.


It could be a good idea during this challenge to force yourself to play a raise or fold only game when in the MP, CO and BTN. 

How can you tell if somebody has a wide open-raising range?

  • If their Raise First In (RFI) by position is >20%.
  • You see weak hands at showdown after they open-raised. Maybe an UTG open-raiser shows J8s.


If you're in position, they're going to be slightly more afraid of calling you because players hate seeing the flop OOP in 3bet pots. Check-folding after putting in 9bb's preflop sucks! Use that to your stealing advantage.




Post-flop #1: Cbet and Barrel to Their “Honest” Street

A player is “honest” when they fold in that particular situation more than other situations.

Here's a common example of turn honesty vs cbets:

  • Their Fold to Flop Cbet = 20%
  • Fold to Turn Cbet = 60%


This player hates folding on flops, maybe because they think everyone's bluffing. But, when they face that second turn barrel, they realize you mean business and quickly fold 60% of the time. 

If you find a player like this, and you only bluff on the flop, you've made a huge mistake. You already know they're turn honest, so before you make the flop bluff, you have to be willing to barrel the turn. If you're not willing to make the turn bluff, don't make that first bluff because, “if he ain’t folding, you ain’t bluffing”. 

So, because he's folding on the turn, you've got to make that first flop bluff so that you can make the barrel bluff.


Post-flop #2: Check-raise Flop Instead of Cbetting

So with that turn honest player discussed above, there's a good chance the same player will bet when you check to them on the flop.

Let's imagine a situation:

  • You opened in the CO.
  • The BTN called (Fold to Flop Cbet 20%).
  • The blinds folded.
  • When you miss the flop, time down for a few seconds like you're thinking about what to do. If you're pretty sure that they'll float, maybe their Float Flop = 60%, you need to check-raise their float bet. Make it a size that will convince them to fold.


Bet Sizing is Key

In the scenario above, you opened to 3bb, he called, the blinds folded. The flop pot = 7.5bb. He floats 1/3 pot or 2.5bb, check-raising 3x to 7.5bb probably isn't enough to get them to fold. It's only going to cost him 5bb to win the 22.5bb total pot. His call only needs to result in winning the hand 22% of the time (5/22.5). And, his position might incentivize him to call.

You'll have to make your check-raise much bigger. Hit the “Pot” button to see what that size is. I'd recommend something like 12bb in this exact scenario. He'll have to call a 9.5bb+ and that's kind of a big risk versus such a huge check-raise. Try to do this on dry and hard-to-hit flops and it'll really look like you hit a set or hold an overpair AA.


Combo Strategy: Isolate Flop Folding Limpers

I love this one!

I'm sure you're doing some good table selection like I talked about in last week's podcast episode #445: Play With Fish! 

Assuming you've got fish on your table, you've probably got a lot of limpers. Find limpers who fold a lot on the flop. So, you're looking for a Fold to Flop Cbet of 60% or greater.

Here's what you do: iso-raise the limper to 5, 6 or 7bb with anything playable (or any time you want to). If everybody folds, great! You took down a quick 2.5bb pot and get to make a tick mark on your sheet.

But, hopefully you size it big enough so that everyone else folds and only the limper calls. If you made it 6bb, he's putting five more big blinds into the pot. And this is a player that you know likes to fold on the flop. This is like printing money! He commits five more big blinds, he checks the flop and folds vs your cbet. Boom! You're using two of his tendencies against him and stealing some nice sized flops with simple flop bets.


Good Luck!

All righty, it's time for you to do the Steal, Steal, Steal! Challenge. Once I complete the challenge for myself, I'll come back here and discuss my own results and we can compare numbers.


Challenge Results, Observations and Tips

I loved this steal challenge! How do your own results compare to mine?

Listen as you follow along below:

My actual steal tracking tick sheets (using the Japanese style of ticking). Oops, should be 19 for session 3.


Compare your challenge results to mine:


Interesting Steal Challenge Observations

The BTN had the most steals at 26, with 17 being preflop.

The big blind was #2 in steals at 22, with 10 being post-flop.

I won the most money with steals in the big blind, and the BTN was #2.

Session 3 had the least steals, and also the lowest VPIP/PFR, 3bet and raising limpers.

I had too many LAG's on my tables in session 3. I should've been better about table selection and finding tighter, fishier tables for more stealing opportunities.

Session 3's results were marred by a flopped set where I rivered full house but was beat by a straight flush.

Stealing preflop is great, but post-flop steals earn more money.

Maybe a post-flop steal focus challenge next?


Steal Challenge Tips

1. Track your steals with a tick sheet, but confirm the actual # of successful steals made in PokerTracker 4.

2. For maximum stealing potential, find tables with lots of tight players and fish. LAG's steal your stealing opportunities from you, so avoid them.

3. Focus on all steals: Preflop and Post-flop.

4. Before any preflop steal, know they can find a fold. Also, consider how you can steal post-flop if they call. What will you do vs a re-raise preflop?

5. Before entering a pot, have a plan for how you can steal it. Preflop, raising or 3betting right now can win. Post-flop, you see a way to get them to fold based on their tendencies, your position, their range, etc.

6. Don't just steal to steal. Choose hands with good post-flop playability. That means they can hit something in case you get called (ex. J8s > J6o).

7. Before post-flop steals, try to name hands in their range that can fold. On Q72r flop, maybe they can fold all non-paired Ax, Kx and Jx hands. Also, all underpairs and non-back door draws.

8. If stealing post-flop, it's good to have equity with draws so you can barrel and maybe hit a draw, so your bluff can turn into a value betting opportunity. Holding KsJs on Qs7h2c flop, there are lots of “equity outs” on the turn that will help you barrel. Any K, J, spade, Ace, Ten, 9 gives you draws or pair equity, which makes it easier to barrel bluff or value bet.


Sky Matsuhashi

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