Further Considerations To Finding The Right Path With Stats

Guide To Winning Poker (9)

  • How we use poker stats makes a tremendous difference in their value
  • Make sure you keep the number of tables you play to a manageable number
  • We need to be able to develop a very good understanding of our opponents

We Need To Make Sure The Stats We Use Are Accurate

We're at the point where we know how often they check, bet, call, raise, and fold in specific situations. So regardless of what stage in the hand we're in, we can look this information up and use it to determine what actions we're going to choose. We also are going to have this information broken down by in position and out of position, which is extremely important. If we are just using a number which references both, then in all cases our data will be inaccurate, since it's referencing the average of the two, which will be quite a bit off base for either.

If we do not use accurate stats in fact, we will be most likely causing ourselves harm by using the wrong frequencies, and instead of ensuring that we play correctly against an opponent, we will ensure that we play incorrectly. As simple and obvious as this might be, I've yet to see a player either understand or follow this properly. This might sound incredible but even the top players aren't really focused on what they should be here as far as using poker stats is concerned. With the better ones though it's more a matter of missing out on opportunities rather than outright hurting themselves by acting on incorrect information, but any time you fail to play optimally when you could have if you had the right information and acted upon it, you have hurt yourself to some degree.

Resist The Temptation To Oversimplify

So what tends to happen here is that players think too much in generalities, for instance, asking themselves what sort of player an opponent is overall. For instance, is he or she tight aggressive, loose passive, and so on. Now these characterizations can help us from an instructional point of view, and in fact I'll be using them in upcoming sessions to look to give you a basic idea of the things we'll be looking to do in order to exploit each player type, but the purpose here is to achieve a general understanding by using general concepts. When it comes to our play at the table though, the situations are specific and thus the information we need has to be specific as well, if we're looking to get the best possible picture of what is happening and what the best move will be.

Aside from not really knowing what they should even be looking at, and focusing on obtaining broad and vague notions of their opponents from looking at their stats, there are other challenges that face typical online poker players. First of all, they limit themselves to what can be displayed in a HUD, which in itself restricts them to limited information. You simply can't get what you need on a HUD at the present time, and even if you could, it wouldn't be displayed in the ideal format that is both easy to understand and intuitive. Everyone wants everything on a HUD though, and while you can use a HUD to display some simpler information that's useful, if you're looking to really get into the nitty gritty that's required, you need a separate screen.

Holdem Manager's Active Player Window Is A Bonanza Of Great Info

Screenshot of Holdem Manager

The problem here though is that most players don't even know that a separate screen is available, and among the small percentage that do, pretty much no one realizes its importance. To my knowledge I'm the only person who teaches the proper use of it, and other than my students, I haven't even seen anyone using it very effectively at all.

I'm sure that there are some people out there though who are getting at least some good use out of it, but they aren't sharing this knowledge, and who can blame them really. Poker is all about exploiting any and all advantages that you can come up with, and some people think that by sharing good information with others, they will be giving up at least some of the advantage that it represents. None of this bothers me though because first of all I'm not going to be able to teach you everything I know here, and second, it's extremely unlikely we'll ever meet at the poker table at the same game and stakes. So I never hold anything back like some other poker teachers sometimes do.

Make Sure You Don't Play Too Many Tables At Once

So getting back to why so many players are so far off base here, the main obstacle, and one that you want to avoid, is playing too many tables. I've found that the optimal amount of tables to be playing, for me anyway, is exactly one. Now many people think that this is too old school, and it's true that I played for 25 years before online poker was invented, where it was physically impossible to play more than one table at a time. I've tried more than one though, two to four, to discover what the best way to go is, and found every time that I did not have the proper amount of time to devote to each table.

Elke Grospellier Playing on Multiple Tables

Now if your game is a simple one, where you're not really doing much thinking at all anyway, it might be true that you can make more money playing multiple tables. If you're only taking a second or two to decide anyway, then sure, that might be a good idea. However this exposes a serious underlying problem, and it's that your game is far too simplistic if you can even consider doing such a thing.

My advice to players at this stage is always to spend some serious time learning the game, and then reduce your tables as you improve and can get to the point where you can put the proper amount of thought into each decision. Now depending on the game you play, this might not mean just one table. For me, as a heads up player primarily, there's plenty to do with one table without worrying about more. If you're playing full ring you might want to consider a few, it's not for me but some players have an easier time with this than others. If you ever feel rushed though or even a little out of touch with what's going on at all your tables then you probably need to cut down.

Why Does This Matter As Far As Managing Stats Go?

So what does this all have to do with stat tracking? Well, with a single table, you will have a stat screen in addition to whatever tables you have up, and the more tables you have, the more players you will have on the stat screen. So this means it will take you more time to find them and bring them up, and also to familiarize yourself with the player again. To contrast with what's ideal, when I play, there's one table on the right and the stat screen on the left, with one single player's stats constantly displayed. So when he's thinking, I'm looking at the stat screen, and thinking further about how I can punish him, both generally and in regard to this particular hand we're playing. Compare that with a bunch of tables open and dozens of players on the stat screen, and flipping back and forth like a maniac to try to get an idea of how someone plays and what the best thing is to do.

When you add in the need to plan your hands properly, which means looking at both past and future betting rounds, you can see how someone can get lost in all of this and never even come close to getting the proper idea of what's going on and what the best way to proceed would be. Things are challenging enough with a single full ring table, and if you play a bunch of them, as in 8 or 12 or 16 or whatever, like so many players like to do, then trying to use the proper stats will be entirely unmanageable. So it's no wonder why these players like HUDs so much, it's a necessity really. It's one that ends up penalizing you way too much though, as you now have the time to peek at a few stats but you're not looking at enough information, and what information you are looking at often is the wrong information.

Think Quality Over Quantity

Quality over Quantity

If you're thinking, well if I cut down on tables it will affect my profitability negatively, I want to assure you that this is not the case at all. It is certainly true though that you will need to improve your game, but that's the goal or at least needs to be. Most of these multi-tabling maniacs are afraid to move up stakes and they use their multi-tabling antics as a crutch to support their fears.

I will say though that they may indeed not have the skill to play many tables at the next stake up, but that's not the right way to look at it. I can tell you for sure that by limiting the amount of time you have to analyze your decisions, you will severely limit your progress as a poker player. Once you do commit yourself to learning the game more effectively, the people at these higher stakes will be surprisingly easy to handle, as they almost always are spreading themselves too thin, even the highest stake players who play for huge money.

So if you're looking for a real advantage here, as you should, then this will certainly present a big one. In order to pull it off though, you will need to genuinely work on your game, and in particular become a better poker thinker. The use of stats plays a big role in this, although it's far from the only thing, it's the most important one though, as you will see in upcoming lessons. In the next session I will be providing you with some examples as to how we're looking to spend our time casing out our opponents and using the tremendous potential of using the proper stats to do it effectively.

Ken's Guide To Winning Poker - Index

Ken's Guide To Winning Poker

Starting With A Solid Foundation

Aggression Series

Position Series

Various Poker Strategies

Mistakes Series