Improving Your Game: Poker Leakfinding 101
In poker we refer to spots where you commonly make a mistake as leaks, a situation where you constantly lose chips. These aren't necessarily caused by bad decision making, but usually caused by incorrect assumptions and guesses instead. This article will walk you through the basics of using Hold'em Manager or PokerTracker to find your leaks so that you can fix them. Once you have a few thousand or more hands available to analyze, fire up your tracking software and let's get to work.
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The amount of time you voluntarily put money in the pot (VPIP) and your preflop raise (PFR) percentage can help you spot any obvious issues that are easy to fix. Regardless of the game you play, the difference between the two stats (as in VPIP-PFR) should be one to five percent. If the gap is bigger, you're playing too passively preflop, and if there is no difference, you're probably playing too aggressively.
The numbers themselves can range quite widely depending on what type of game you usually play. In six handed no limit hold'em for example, the VPIP of a winning player could range anywhere from 15-25 percent. Note that there are always exceptions once in a while outside of this range, but those are typically extraordinary players. The more players there are at the table, the lower your PFR and VPIP will be. The opposite is also true like in a heads-up duel (2 players) where you can play over half your hands profitably.
If all checks out on the surface, we can dig a bit deeper. Sort your database by position and take a look at the numbers. The closer you are to the button, the looser you should be (ignore the blinds for now). In all the positions leading up to and including the button you are voluntarily putting money in if you play the hand. If you are losing money in any of these positions, there is a major problem. Typically it means you need to tighten up. Make note of any issues and add it to your list of leaks to fix.
As you move up stakes over time, you will notice that 3-betting becomes more common. Players see you raising often in late position before the flop and know they can steal the pot with an immediate raise and balance their 3-betting range. At the micro-stakes (under $50 NL) however, this is quite uncommon.
It's easy to trick yourself into always thinking people are bluffing and raising with weak hands, but people don't fold enough in general at lower stakes to make 3-betting light profitable. Instead, focus on 3-betting for value with only the top hands, which should have your 3-bet sitting right between 4-8 percent.
Continuation Betting (C-Betting)
C-bets are one of the most common situations in the game. Playing them well will lead to success, but the opposite is true as well. Uncovering and fixing a leak when it comes to c-betting will pay huge dividends over time. To see your stats in this situation, apply an advanced filter that only shows hands where you are the preflop raiser and then are the one to bet on the flop.
Start by looking at your success rate. If it's very low (under 40 percent), you need to stop bluffing as much or bet more. A typical cbet should be around half the pot or a bit more, but if you're betting less than that regularly you are just inviting calls. It's unlikely to be extremely high due to the fact that people call way too much at the lower levels. If it is high however, take a look at your bet sizing, as it's likely to be too large.
Won Money at Showdown (W)
This is a stat that is oddly consistent for winning players. Ideally you want yours over 50 percent, somewhere between 50 and 55. This tells you how often you get to showdown (the end of the hand) and reveal the best hand. If you have a low W, it means that you are getting to the river with weak hands too often. This could be caused by a few reasons, most commonly from bluffing too much and calling too much.
On the other hand, a W that is too high is also bad. It seems like a great thing at first, but it likely means you are throwing away the best hand far too often. Make small adjustments in future sessions and monitor the effect it has on your winrate.
How to Take Leakfinding Further
Hopefully by now you have at least a few leaks to plug on your list. Don't try to fix them all at once. Instead, change one variable at a time and learn how that part of your game influences your results. Do this over a decent sample size (at least 10,000 hands) to get statistically significant results.
Once you have patched this first batch of leaks, you can then move on to more advanced leakfinding. This involves using the advanced filters of your poker tracking software to identify struggles in other common spots. You likely intuitively know which situations you struggle with, so use the software to examine those.
Leakfinding and fixing should be a constant part of your improvement plan as a poker player. Over time these improvements will add up until you are winning at a solid rate.