I help you diagnose a costly preflop 2bet pot leak that's killing your win rate: straying outside of profitable 2betting and 2bet calling ranges.
In episode 197, I helped you plan your weekly poker studies so you can build important skills into your game.
Introduction to the Leak (3:10)
You must make good preflop 2bet pot hand selections.
Our range of hands revolves around how we entered the pot. If we’re the 2bettor, we probably don't have 42s or 98o or even K7o. Most of the time we’re raising with hands like pocket pairs, Broadways, good suited aces and suited connectors. These are the kind hands that we just know are profitable.
And, if we’re calling a 2bet, we likely don’t have AA nor 72o and probably not T3s.
Our ranges also revolve around out position. The earlier your position the less hands you should play. This just makes logical sense: the earlier your position, the more players you’ll have to deal with. Raising UTG in a FR game means you’ve got 8-9 players still to act. But raising from the BTN means you’ve only got 2 players still to act. It’s easier to steal pots with less players involved, so you can have progressively wider ranges as your position improves.
What hands are profitable?
We can utilize an equity calculating software like Flopzilla to build out profitable ranges or we can gather ranges from various poker coaches, test them out, and see which ones we prefer playing. We can also filter in our database for our 2bet pot hands to see how historically profitable they are.
By doing this you’ll see that AA makes more money on average than any other hand. You may find that you’ve never made K7s profitable (even though you love this hand). You might even find that a popular raising hands like JTs is not a profitable open-raise in the early positions, but you can make it profitable from the BTN and SB.
Leak Symptoms (5:50)
Symptom #1: You just know that you make bad decisions when 2betting and calling 2bets preflop.
You click call or raise without considering the merits of the hand you have. You don’t think about position or how the remaining players will react. You get yourself into many lousy post-flop spots, especially out of position. You see too many multi-way pots on the flop and you don’t often flop great hands.
Symptom #2: A negative total win rate.
Your preflop hand choices dictate your profitability in poker. Post-flop play is a huge factor as well. But, if you're getting to the flop with marginal hands in poor spots, you make it more likely you’ll lose money and you make poker harder on yourself.
Symptom #3: A high VPIP > 25%, and definitely > 30%.
It is possible to make a LAG style profitable, but not without lots of trial and error and study about range equities and post-flop play. If you’re currently VPIP’ing greater than 25% and you’re total win rate is negative, it's because you're playing too many hands preflop even though you are playing them aggressively.
Symptom #4: Lacking positional awareness.
If your VPIP increases from EP to MP to CO to the BTN, great, you’re positionally aware and play more hands with the best position. But, if your VPIP stays roughly the same along every position, like 20-25% across the board, you’re not positionally aware and you’re playing the same hands from every position regardless of how many players are yet to act.
Symptom #5: Your database proves you’re playing marginal hands.
If you look through your database and see that you play a lot of hands outside your 2bet and calling ranges, that’s proof you’re making bad hand choices. If the worst Queen in your open raising ranges is QTs, but you see a ton of weaker suited and off-suit Queens, then you’re straying outside of your ranges too often. And if you don’t have ranges to compare your actual hands to, that’s another indication this is a leak of yours.
Symptom #6: Your Won When Saw Flop Stat is below 40%.
Most good players have this stat at around 50% or so. Hopefully, yours is close to 50 and anything between 40 and 50 is not too bad at all. But once you dip below 40%, that means you’re seeing the flop with too many crummy hands. Because of this, you’re not able to withstand too much aggression, and if you make it to showdown, you often have a weaker hand than your opponents.
1st Hand Example: To 2bet with Q8s or not? (9:05)
These 2 hand examples are both with Q8s. Before I get to these example hands, pause the pod and filter for Q8s in your database this year.
I’ve been dealt Q8s 130 times, and I VPIP’ed 26 of these at 20% of the time. My total losses with Q8s amounts to $28.58 at a win rate of -88.5bb/100 hands. The majority of this came from losing $27.20 in one hand where I flopped trip 8’s and my opponent out-kicked me with a King.
#1: To Open Raise with Q8s in MP or not?
- 6max table
- The UTG player folded and you’re next to act. You’re in the MP with 4 players yet to act; CO, BTN, SB and BB. You look down at Q8s.
- What are the merits of opening this hand?
Let's answer this question by looking through 3 different lenses.
Lens 1: the flopability of Q8s
Q8s flops TP+ or an open-ended straight draw or flush draw 31.0% of the time. That's not too bad, but are you happy flopping any TP hand with Q8s? Either way, you’ve got a weak kicker with a Queen or an 8. Nope, you’re not that happy with it. So, if we remove top pair hands, Q8s flops 2p+ and good draws only 18.6% of the time. It’s not the kind of hand I’m happy to see the flop with.
Let’s compare this to another hand, 87s. This hand flops TP+ and good draws a little more frequently at 31.6% of the time. But, it flop 2p+ and good draws 27.5% of the time. Wow, what a difference! I’m sure that knowing this, you’d choose to open 87s instead of Q8s.
Lens 2: Q8s versus a 3bet
You’ve got 3 choices: fold, call or 4bet.
If you fold, you simply lose your open raise. That’s not so bad, but if you’ve got a lot of happy 3bettors at your table, you would’ve been better off folding the hand losing 0 chips.
If you call, you’re giving yourself a hand strength disadvantage because they’re not 3betting with worse than Q8s. Also, calling a later position 3bet will give them positional advantage, making the hand harder for you to play post-flop.
A 4bet bluff might win you’re the pot against a 3bet bluff, but Q8s doesn’t block many strong 3betting hands other than QQ and AQs.
Lens 3: Q8s versus a calling range
Q8s only has 44% equity versus a common BTN calling range of 17%. That’s not too bad, but it’s going to win less than half the time (without considering the board and post-flop actions).
Also keep in mind that you’re in the MP. If the CO calls, this will incentivize the BTN, SB and BB to overcall with the great pot odds they’re being offered. This is the worst case scenario. What equity does Q8s have against 4 calling ranges?
You’ve only got 20% equity against 4 others, with two of them in position against you in a large 15bb 2bet pot. A bigger pot means you need to put more money at risk for your value bets and your bluffs, and against 4 other players this is far removed from a B&B spot.
2nd Hand Example: To Call the 2bet with Q8s or Not? (19:25)
- 6max table
- It’s folded to MP who open raises to 3bb’s. The CO folds and you’re on the BTN with 2 players yet to act; SB and BB. You look down at Q8s.
- What are the merits of calling this hand?
Let's answer this question by looking through 3 different lenses.
Lens 1: Q8s equity against an MP open-raising range
We can assign a common MP range of 15%.
Against this range Q8s only has 38% equity. This means that given a random board and random post-flop actions this hand is only going to win 38% of the time or basically a little more than 1/3. You are calling on the BTN with post-flop positional advantage, but I don’t that’s good enough to justify a call, especially if the open-raiser is a competent player.
Lens 2: your call incentivizes the blinds to call
The blinds are given a great price to call once you do. If they both call, you’re seeing the flop 4 ways with ultimate position. Your equity in this spot is a miserable 22%.
Great you have position, but now you're up against 3 other players with a hand that's only going to win one out of 5 times here. You could get ultra-aggressive and do some crazy betting and raising to take down his pot post-flop. You can hit something really good to get some crazy value.
But, those two possibilities: get crazy with aggression or hit a miracle hand hold true with any hand you play. So what really matters is how your hand hits the board and how you play it against other opponent’s ranges. This is not a hand I want to take into a multi-way battle.
Lens 3: your call gives the blinds a great 3bet squeezing opportunity
We know how profitable 3bet squeezing can be, and your call gives a great money making opportunity to the blinds. Either one can squeeze here to 12bb’s and if you and the open raiser are folding often enough, the squeeze play is netting them 7.5bb’s for just 20 seconds of work. This is more than KK makes on average (verify this within your own database).
Calculating Costs (22:20)
It’s a simple but time-consuming process to calculate the costs of this leak. I’ll share with you how to do this for 2betting hands first.
Make sure you save all of these filters so you can recalculate these quickly in the future.
Make sure you’re going through at least 30,000 hands, preferably closer to 50,000 or more.
1. Baseline Stats: Filter for Raise First In hands and RFI/Saw Flop
Record the # of hands played, the $ won/lost and the bb/100 hands win rate. Do this by position. Also do this for RFI and Saw Flop and record those stats separately. These are the numbers you’ll compare all your other numbers to.
Hopefully you're making some good pre and post-flop decisions and you’re profitable in both of these instances. If not, addressing this leak will help to fix the issue.
2. Filter for RFI with your positional ranges.
This is where things take time, so save each filter for quicker future filtering.
Start by filtering for Raise First In and adding to the filter your BTN open raising range. Record the necessary numbers.
Now, re-open the same filter, select the range and click the “NOT” button. This is how you do it in PT4. This new filter will show you all the hands you raised first in with that are NOT in your open raising range. Record the numbers.
Now, do this for a every position that you have an open-raising range for. Record all the numbers.
Now you can compare your RFI #’s with your RFI with range and without range numbers.
Any glaringly negative numbers will indicate where your leak is.
For example, you can see that my total RFI win rate on the BTN is 65bb/100 hands. That’s nice. It’s even higher when I RFI with my range at +79bb/100 hands. But, in the 153 hands where I RFI with hands outside my range, it’s at -29bb/100 hands.
So, I have some sort of leak when raising on the BTN with hands outside my open raising ranges. If I had folded all of these instead, I would’ve saved myself $11 in losses. It doesn’t seem like much, but a penny saved is a penny earned in poker and saving this would’ve pushed my RFI winnings up to $568 instead of $557.
Now that I know this is a leak, I can dive further into these losing hands to see why I’m losing.
3. Flip the script and run filters for 2bet calling with associated ranges by position
Run filters for Call 2bet and Call 2bet with Saw Flop. Record these numbers. These are the baseline numbers you’ll compare your range numbers against.
Next, you’ll filter for Call 2bet by position with the range you call 2bets with. Record the number of hands, the $ won/lost and the win rate again. Then, re-open the filter again and change it to NOT called with your range. Record the numbers again.
Once you’ve done all your filtering, saved the filters and recorded the numbers, you’ll compare them and look for trouble spots. Anything negative deserves to be looked into. This is how you figure out where your leaks truly lie.
It's very likely in the blinds, but it might also be the BTN and maybe the CO because you think, “I'm calling now because I'm gonna have position on the flop.”
Now that you've done all of this filtering and calculated all the costs and spotted where your leaks most likely are, that's where you can focus your leak plugging efforts.
Selecting Quantifiables (28:10)
As you work to plug this leak through a week or two of dedicated study and play surrounding it, you’ll want to keep track of these stats:
- VPIP and PFR by position with associated win rates
- Won When Saw Flop and your win rate
- RFI by position, $ won/lost and win rates. Record these separately with and without your ranges.
- Call 2bet by position, $ won/lost and win rates. Record these separately with and without your ranges.
Here’s my challenge to you for this episode: Take the time this week to calculate your win rates and $ won or lost with your open-raising ranges and your 2bet calling ranges. When you filter for your profitability, make sure you also look at hands you opened with or called the 2bet that fall outside your ranges. Figure out where any leaks exist and get to work on plugging them.
Now it’s your turn to take action and do something positive for your poker game.