In the upcoming sections we will discuss a number of statistical combinations which can reveal glaring weaknesses in our opponents. More than one of my students has said they feel like they’re cheating when they are able to apply this knowledge. I prefer to think of them as special moves in Mortal Kombat, which require multiple button presses. This makes them more fun to search for.
However, there is no chance I can come up with every combination there is in poker statistics. You need to think of many of them in your own study. One way to do this that has really worked for me is to imagine a player I want to exploit. Let’s say I have A-4o and an opponent raises. I want to use my blocker to exploit him. What type of player am I looking for? The short answer is someone who 4-bets or folds. Our hand has severe reverse implied odds out of position – it is easily dominated and can lose plenty of chips when coupled with a placement disadvantage. We would like the gentleman to 4-bet, preferably only the top of his range, or fold. Imagine what that player would look like statistically. Take a moment to look away from the pages.
Well, the statistics that are most important seem pretty obvious when we think about what we want for a few seconds. We want to see the fold to 3-bet and 4-bet percentages to add up to as close to 100% as possible. If there’s anything left that’s how often he’s flatting. We also want to see that fold to 3-bet number as high as possible.
Another great way to think about statistics, which we have touched on lightly before, is to think about the worst possible strategy we could play against them. If someone always double barrels, the worst strategy is to just call them once. If we fold the flop we save a bet, and if we call turn we get to see them on their honest street, the river. To maximize our losses call one street, which is what many “professionals” do with large portions of their range versus any player.
In your study hours take a moment to look at a regular. Look at his statistics. How can you play the best against him? How can you play right into his game? Embrace the former and reject the latter. The exercise will help you curtail your strategies to exploit his weaknesses most effectively later.
In the heat of the moment I’ve seen more than one player misread a statistic. Professional online players won’t admit this, but it happens more often than you can imagine. I can say I’ve done it at the final two tables of majors, and the pain is unreal when you realize what you’ve done. To make sure this doesn’t happen I’d advise programming a letter or two to be in front of all your statistics. This helps you realize when your timebank is rolling down that you’ve looked to the wrong line. Figure 7 shows an example of my HUD for reference.
You can learn more about constructing a HUD like mine by Googling “Assassinato HUD” and watching the free videos.
Use Your HUD Stats Sensibly
There are times when a HUD can become a real crutch. I’ve seen players justify ridiculous plays by referencing niche statistics, and become combative when you try to debate them on it. To ensure you don’t become one of these players always remember to reference the sample size. Think of it as a live poker table. How would you feel if you’d seen the particular situation three times in real life? It would be of note, but it wouldn’t be a slam dunk read.
Always convert the percentage in your head to a function of the sample size. It sounds dramatic to say, “He’s raising 60% of the time from this position!” If someone is really opening the action 60% of the time then you can do quite a bit of bluffing versus them. However, if the sample size is five then the sentence becomes, “He’s opened three times out of five from this spot!” As you can see, the exclamation mark seems hardly necessary anymore. This is a fairly normal occurrence. The guy could have just picked up a couple hands.
Also, be sure to look up NoteCaddy replays of the hands in question. They will give you confirmed evidence if the guy has just had aces and ace king. However, if you see something odd such as a 9-6 suited being opened from early position, then you can assume that perhaps the numbers haven’t quite caught up yet, and this player is exceedingly loose.
Remember also the most helpful statistics tend to be the most practical. It’s fun to find a niche statistic when you’re going through hands on a replayer, but the likelihood of you finding it in the heat of the action is less than a number already on your main HUD. Take note of that number, get to it if you can, but also train yourself to read the numbers at hand as often as possible.
You need to practice this deliberately in order to make it second nature. Pay real attention to one statistic per day. If you keep forgetting to do it then announce it every time you play a hand. If you hear yourself becoming quiet you’ll know you’re not doing the homework. Once you feel your eyes gravitating to that number every single time you’re in a particular situation, you can move to a new digit. However, if in a hand history analysis later you see that you clearly ignored it once or twice, then you’ll have to go back to announcing the numbers for a day or two. If it sounds arduous, that’s because it is. It’s also worth it, and no one else does it.