Observation HUD and the Simple Truth | Poker Podcast #144

In this episode, I discuss my new Observation HUD to help online players train themselves to be more observant of our opponent’s actions and showdowns.

In case you missed it, in episode 143, I discussed Expected Value, Pot Equity and utilizing the REDI process for making +EV decisions.

Observation HUD (2:35)

Observation HUD screenshot
Top Line: Name; # hands; Note Editor
Bottom Line: VPIP; PFR; 3bet; Fold to Steal

The Observation HUD has the bare minimum number of stats, as well as the all-important Note Editor.  I use this HUD to improve my note taking skills, my observation skills and my show down learning skills.  It also contains the default PT4 popups.

Sign-up for the Weekly Boost to receive a copy of the Observation HUD:

Keeping the minimum # of stats there and playing only 2 tables helps me to stay focused on the action.  It takes focus to watch every hand and to try to learn from your opponent’s actions.  I think that observation is more important than stats, but, coupling observations with stats will make you a top-notch player.

HUD Stats in the Observation HUD:

Note Editor:

I forget things unless I write them down and the PokerTracker4 Note Editor is the best place to take my notes.

I record my observations on opponent reads, tendencies, what they’ve shown down, plays they’ve made and my general thoughts on each player.  The Note Editor also has useful automated notes that show that record specific hands they’ve played in different situations.

DO NOT take notes within the poker client.  If they remove the notes feature, you’re screwed.  Plus, having these notes available off-the-felt during study sessions is super helpful.  Keeping notes within PT4 means you’ll never lose them and they’re always accessible.

Player Name:

I like having the player name in the HUD as it verifies those stats belong to that player

# of Hands:

This tells you how reliable your stats are on the player in question, and the more reliable the stats the more you can use them to exploit your opponents.  100 hands is ok, 250 hands is good, 500 hands is very nice, and 1,000+ hands is great.

Also, if you’ve got 100+ hands and you haven’t made any notes on them yet, you prolly aren’t paying enough attention to this opponent.

VPIP & PFR:

Together, VPIP and PFR tell us a lot, and very quickly as well because they accumulate with every hand played.  With these two stats, we know what type of player we’re up against.

  • For example, a 45/8 player plays 45% of hands, but only raises 8% of the time.  This is your typical LP fish, the kind of player you want to get involved with.
  • A 20/16 player is a TAG, and is often a reg.  Click here for more info on Player Types.

The gap between VPIP and PFR can tell us a whole lot as well.  That 45/8 fish mentioned above has a gap of 37%.  This means he passively calls 37% of the time (super huge & weak range).  The TAG 20/16 player only has a gap of 4 on the other hand, so he calls a very tight, strong range.

3bet Preflop:

Today’s games are very aggressive, so having this stat gives us an indication of how strong their 3bet range is.  A player who 3bets only 3% is doing so strictly for value.  But at 7% or higher, they’re throwing in a good amount of bluffs.  This stat coupled with VPIP and PFR give an even better indication of the player type you’re up against.

Fold to Steal:

Knowing how often your opponents fold to a steal is key in Tourneys and SNG’s, but it’s also helpful in cash games.  Stealing blinds and antes helps to counter your losses in the blinds.  Also, knowing how likely they are to defend their blinds will give you an indication of their player type as well, and how foldy they generally are.

PT4 Default Popups:
  • Tools Popup: this has a lot of pre-flop stats broken down by position. It also has the most common post-flop stats to help you plan the hand before you make your pre-flop decision.
  • Flop Popup: The F/T/R popups all contain the same stats, they’re just specific to that street. So, you can see Cbet on the F/T/R, Donk by F/T/R, and all the other post-flop essential stats as well.  It’s even broken down by 3bet and non-3bet pots.
  • Turn Popup
  • River Popup

Better Note Taking (9:15)

Many of us don’t take notes as we should, and they’re prolly not as actionable as they could be.

The value of taking notes is that it reinforces what you learned about your opponent.  Having a habit of taking notes makes your reads and memory stronger.  You must actively write down or type out your observations.  This takes your past experiences, observations and reads and projects them into the future, so you can better exploit your opponents with what you’ve learned about them.

4 Things to Take Notes On

  1. Player Tendencies – Examples: “BTN squeezer” or “SB 3bet resteal w/A7o” or “likes to c/r bluff fd’s” or “bluffs ps donk leads on flop” or “passively plays fd’s on f/t”
  2. Bet Sizing Tells – Examples: “makes min donk bluffs” or “overbets the nuts” or “½ ps cbet = weak and 2/3 psb = strength”
  3. Adjustments To Make – things you’re telling yourself to do or not do. Examples: “Only value bet vs him” or “Never 3bet bluff OOP” or “Call down vs 1/2pot bets w/any TP hand”
  4. Important Observed Actions – these are hand details that help to understand other notes you’ve made. It could be something like: “Called SB w/A8o, ft mindonk A high, r comes Ace bet ½ pot”.  These actions explain a note like “makes min donk bluffs”.  Be careful not to let your notes be comprised entirely of observed actions.  You should be mainly making player tendency notes, bet sizing notes and adjustments to make notes.

Here’s a helpful tip I got from Alex Fitzgerald: use exclamation marks for multiple instances.  For example, maybe a note that reads “makes min donk bluffs” is followed up by 3 !!!.  This means you’ve seen him min donk bluff 4 times; once for the note itself and 3 more times for the 3 !!!.

Taking notes is only half the battle, and referring to them at crucial times is the other half.  Train yourself to look at their HUD stats before decisions AND click on that notes icon to read what you noted in the past.  Your notes are a tool for exploiting opponents, so get used to utilizing them.

The Simple Truth (14:25)

I loved the book called ‘The One Thing’.  I also listen to the One Thing Podcast.  It’s a great show hosted by Geoff Woods.  In this clip here (from 8:30 to 9:30 within episode 64), Geoff is being interviewed by Matt Johnson from the LIFE On Target Podcast.  Geoff’s answer to the question is totally applicable to poker players.

The simple truth for us is that we need to study and master one topic at a time before moving on to the next.

But there’s a huge problem for us: there’s so much out there to study.  We are bombarded by podcasts, videos, articles and books.  There are LIVE streams and poker on TV and YT highlight clips.  There are FB groups and forums and Instagram posts.  All of this can be poker related and we’re inundated with it every day, every time we turn on the computer or look at our smart phone.

What we all need to do is apply the 80/20 Principle to our studies and to the poker content we consume.  In that clip, you heard Geoff state a question used to help focus someone on the most important thing that needs to be done right now.  Here’s the question again, except it’s tailored to us poker learners:

What’s the ONE thing I should study, such that by learning it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?

Poker’s MED’s

This question is what drove me to create my Poker’s MED Series.  I created my list of 10 MED’s by asking myself this question over and over again.

  1. Opening Theory and Ranges
  2. Stealing Blinds and Antes
  3. 3bet Theory
  4. Blind Play
  5. Player Types and Tendencies
  6. Cbet Theory
  7. Poker Math
  8. Post-flop Plays
  9. Hand Reading
  10. Poker mindset

If you’re looking for direction in your studies, review this list, find which MED you’re knowledge is lacking in, then get to studying.  Study that and only that until you feel supremely confident in your understanding and working knowledge before moving on to the next.

Challenge (19:30)

Here’s my challenge to you for this episode:  Download or create your own Observation HUD with a minimum number of stats.  Go ahead and keep all your popups for more detailed information as necessary.  Use the new HUD within focus sessions of 1 or 2 tables where your goal is to learn as much about your opponents as you can, not from their stats, but from things like:

  • Street by street actions
  • Bet Sizings
  • Player type combined with their actions and bet sizings
  • Show downs

Take actionable notes on your opponents that you know will be of benefit in future confrontations.

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

Sky Matsuhashi
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