3 Off-the-Felt Poker Tactics for Increased Profits | Podcast #241

I discuss 3 off-the-felt poker tactics you must do to increase your profits: hand reading, daily study and game tape review.

In case you missed episode 240, I shared 11 ways you’re losing money and 1 simple solution for each.  Let’s get to work, people.

This is the 2nd episode in the Month of Profits.

Challenge (2:30)

Here’s my challenge to you for this episode:  Start doing daily hand reading exercises right now (one of my favorite off-the-felt poker tactics). Strive to turn this into a habit by doing it every day for the next 30 days or more. If you need to see how it’s done, check out my 66 Days of Hand Reading videos on YouTube.

Now it’s your turn to take action and do something positive for your poker game.

Poker Tactics #1: Hand Reading (3:30)

What is Hand Reading?

Hand reading is all about putting our opponent on a logical range of hands based on their actions, then making the most +EV decision based on our read.

I know you’ve seen pros like Daniel Negreanu on television putting their opponent on an exact hand. But, it’s not realistic to think we can do that all the time. Instead of putting them on a single hand, we put them on a range of hands.

This range is all the hands that they can logically be holding based on their actions up to that point.

As a simple example, if a LAG opponent just called from the BTN pre-flop, they most likely don’t have QQ+ and AK in their range. But, as the preflop raiser from the BTN, they would have these hands in their range along with plenty of others.

Your job as a thinking poker player is to narrow their preflop range as the hand progresses. You will take this range and determine how well it interacts with the board, and choose exploitative plays based on your reasoning of how strong they likely are.

How will it help improve my profits?

Hand reading is the most important single skill for a poker player to learn. It will help you avoid difficult spots, it’ll help you fold when necessary so you don’t give value to your opponents and it will help you gain more value from them.

The more precise you are with your opponent’s ranges, the better decisions you’ll be making.

Hand Reading Skills = Profits.

How do I do it simply?

Check out this epic post on hand reading. And, below are 4 simple steps to get started today.

1. Get Flopzilla

Flopzilla is a range analysis software that helps you quickly build a range of hands and determine how well it interacts with the board.

You can try using another software like Equilab for hand reading, but it just doesn’t compare. To see it in action, I put one of my hand reading videos in the show notes page for today. It’s day 13 of 66 and in this one, I 3bet and my opponent makes a super questionable call:

Flopzilla costs $25 and is totally worth it.

2. Choose an important hand that went to showdown

Filter in your database for a situation you want to improve your skills around.

Do you want to 3bet bluff, cbet for value or make river bluffs more effectively? Filter for those situations, scroll through the hands and find one with significant street by street action.

3. Assign your opponent a preflop range based on their actions and statistics

Take what you know about the situation and their player history/statistics and build a range that makes sense.

You’ll give them a different range if they 3bet you versus calling you or even limp/calling your iso raise.

Also, you’ll build a different range based on their related statistic. A person who calls 2bets 30% of the time will have a much wider range than somebody who calls only 10% of the time. They would also have different ranges if they called in the CO versus calling in the BB.

This takes practice, but just keep doing it over and over and you’ll become a preflop ranging master.

4. Narrow that range through the streets based on their actions and statistics

As the hand progresses, you’ll use Flopzilla to filter for different hand strengths that would continue to the next street. If they check-called preflop, you might include all pairs and draws. But, what if they check-raised? Maybe you’ll include just TP hands and the best draws along with 2p, sets and even straights and flushes if those are possible.

This is where you’ll have to get into the mind of your opponent and try to use the same logic they would use as they play hands.

Take notes on what you learned from each hand reading exercise and also add any player notes that will help you exploit this player in the future.

Poker Tactics #2: Daily Study (8:50)

What is daily study?

Daily study is developing a habit of off-the-felt work to improve your on-the-felt results. And take it from me, it’s a habit worth developing. I know it sounds easy, studying 20 minutes or more per day, but it’s something that most of you know can easily slip out of our daily routine after just a few days.

Off-the-felt study takes on many forms:

  • Database reviews with big losing hands or difficult scenarios or tagged hands
  • Practicing different poker math strategies: outs/odds, break-even bluffs, EV, ICM, etc.
  • Hand reading
  • Consuming content from coaches (videos, podcasts, articles, books)
  • Watch game tape from a prior session

The #1 Study Tool: PokerTracker 4. Get more from this valuable software…

How will it help improve my profits?

You’re adding new strategies to your skillset and working to refine strategies you already know but you can improve.

How do I do it simply?

1. Plan

The first thing you need to do is select a time to study every day. If you’ve got an 8-5 job, you can choose to wake up :30 earlier and study during that time, study during your lunch break or before you go to bed at night. Just make sure you choose a time that works well for you and you won’t be distracted.

The other part to plan for is your study topic for the week. Sure, you can bounce from 3bet pots to preflop ranges to board textures to turn donk bets to outs and odds math all in one week. But, you’re better off studying each of those topics over multiple days and 5 weeks total.

2. Consume

This is where you’ll spend at least :20 doing one of the off-the-felt forms of study I mentioned earlier. Take notes on what you learned and think of ways you can practice it on-the-felt.

3. Act

This is where you actively practice what you’re learning off-the-felt. Doing something is the best way to learn it, so put into practice the 3betting or cbetting or poker math skills you’ve been studying.

Poker Tactics #3: Reviewing Game Tape (14:00)

You’ve heard me talk about game tape plenty of times because it’s my #1 recommended study technique that people just don’t ever do. Episode 203 was fully dedicated to game tape.

Start your audiobook learning by picking up ‘Preflop Online Poker’ through Audible.com. Click the pic above to begin your free 30-day trial (your first book is free) or to purchase the audiobook version if you’re already a member.

What are game tape reviews?

Recording game tape for your play session is great because it helps to keep you focused on the decisions you’re making. But, reviewing the game tape after your session, preferably the next day, is just as helpful.

This is where you simply sit down and watch yourself play.

Being away from the felt helps you see things objectively. You don’t have any money on the line nor emotions nor fatigue affecting you. It’s just you and the game tape, and the tape doesn’t lie.

You’re off-the-felt objectivity allows you to notice things you didn’t notice before.

  • Who is seated at your table, and who is on your left?
  • What are the stack sizes in play?
  • Who is a great target to steal from, and who is likely to 3bet steal from you?
  • Why did you bluff so small on the flop? Why did you call that obvious river value bet?

How will it help improve my profits?

Reviewing game tape helps you catch and fix mistakes, which helps you save money, which increases your profits because “a penny saved is a penny earned”.

You’re basically using game tape reviews as a leak plugging strategy.

In the beginning, you might not catch any mistakes or you just might not know what you’re looking for. But, eventually you’ll catch a mistake or you’ll see an exploit you can make on a player. Once you find it the first time, you’ll subconsciously start looking for it off and on-the-felt. Then you’ll catch another, and another and another. You’ll begin working (either consciously or subconsciously) to correct these mistakes as you play. Eventually, you won’t be making them anymore.

Bam! Removing these mistakes from your game will cut your losses and improve your profits.

How do I do it simply?

Record a session as you speak through your actions, then watch the game tape during your study time the next day. Easy-peezy.  It’s like anything else; the more you do it the more you’ll get out of it.

Support the Show

Oliver Nolte picked up the #1 poker software available, PokerTracker 4.  He told me in an email afterwards: “I love, love, love my new PT4”.  Thanks for your support, Oliver.  In appreciation, I sent him my Smart HUD for PT4.  Along with the growing database of hands to study, the Smart HUD is a powerful tool in anyone’s poker toolbox.

Speaking of PT4, Nyll Barnabe purchased my “Getting the Most from PokerTracker 4 Webinar”.  This was almost 2 full hours of PT4 goodness.  If you want to learn what PT4 can do, this is the webinar for you.

Tommi purchased my “Effective HUD Use Webinar”.  If you’re new to using HUD’s, or want to get the most out of it, this is right up your alley.

Up Next…

In episode #242, I’ll hit you with a profit-related Q&A episode!

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

Sky Matsuhashi
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