Q&A: 3 Ways to Improve, Playing Online, Poker Definitions and the PFR Stat | Episode 167

I answer 4 of your questions about improving skills, playing online, poker definitions and the PFR Stat.

In episode 166, I discussed the off-the-felt mindset techniques that I use to get the most from study time.

Q1: 3 Ways to Improve (2:10)


Loved the latest podcast. The reason for this email is to ask for your help, as you can see from the graph I am a losing player, and the thing is, I want to know why. I want to become the best player I can be and I need some guidance. For instance, I want to know if I should player tighter ranges, what skills can I work on and also why for instance Phil Ivey can play a wider range than most players and how I can develop these skills while winning. Thanks, Michael


Thanks for the email, Michael.

Let’s boil that down to one question: How do I improve my poker skills when there are so many areas I need to work on?

Being unsure of what to study causes procrastination, avoidance and inaction.  All of these lead to a stagnation in your skills, so you remain at the same level indefinitely.  I don’t want you to be paralyzed by not knowing where to begin, so here are 3 recommendations to help you narrow down your studies.

Before that, I want you to commit to studying 1 theme per week for at least 2 hours.

1) Follow the MED series

Start with episode #87 to understand what the MED’s are all about and begin your studies with #1. You must spend at least one full week on each episode.  Study the content, work on it off the felt and practice what you’re learning on the felt.

2) Listen to my leak finding series of podcasts starting with episode #18

After that, listen to #’s 25, 26, 38, 42, 47 and 49 for specific leak fixing episodes.  Spend one full week on each leak, working to plug each for yourself.  Even if it’s not a leak of yours, you’ll learn more about it and be able to exploit this leak in others.

3) Commit to one hand reading exercise every day for 66 days

This is a big commitment.  You can check out my 66 Days of Hand Reading series on YouTube.  Regarding Phil Ivey’s ability to play ATC pre-flop, he can do this because he’s an expert post-flop player and an expert at analyzing and exploiting weaknesses.  Hand reading will help you do this for yourself.

Q2: Playing Online and Learning From Hand Histories (5:25)


  1. I notice you live in CA, how can you play poker online? Do you have a “how to” reference?
  2. I have two sites I play on that are “play money”, APT is a training site, Poker Stars is the play money. On both of these sites I can run a tool like PT4. Do you think that I could play these sites, obtain the hand histories and use them in my own 66 days of hand learning?

Regards, Garrett


Thanks, Garrett.

I don’t have a “how to” for playing online poker in the US, but all you have to do is visit one of the sites, download the software and sign-up.  Here are 3 sites that I know you can play on (not a complete list):

  • Americas Cardroom – I play on this site plenty and there’s always a good amount of action with many micro and low stakes going at all hours of the day.
  • Carbon – I play here a lot because the software is good and allows PT4.
  • Ignition – Never played here, but I’ve known many players who do.  It has anonymous tables (#’s that change on every table, not player names). They don’t allow PT4, but there’s other software available for HUD’s and recording hand histories.

You can use the hands from the free sites as practice, because assigning ranges then narrowing them through the streets works the same way.  Just be aware that the ranges they start with and continue post-flop with will be much wider because it’s not real money.  They’ll be calling with many weak draws and marginal hands, and betting/raising with many of those same draws and hands.

I recommend playing at 10NL or higher if you want to practice hand reading.

Q3: The PFR Stat (13:45)


I would like to ask you to give consideration for your next Q&A to present the PFR Stat percentage ranges and player types the same way you covered VPIP BY ITSELF gives us a chance to focus on the characteristics and basic beginning parameters of PFR standing alone.


Thanks for this follow-up request, Charles.

PFR stands for Pre-flop Raise.  This is how often a player makes any raise pre-flop (2bet/3bet/4bet and beyond).  At 10%, this means that the player only raises 1 out of every 10 hands dealt.

We can equate this percentage to a range of hands.  I’d say 10% is 44+ KQs and AT+.  You might disagree with the exact hands within a 10% range, but as long as it contains about 130 hands, you’re on the right track.

PFR is a super quick and reliable indicator of an opponent’s aggression because it accumulates with every hand dealt.  Other than everyone folding to you in the BB, you have a choice to fold, call or raise with your hand pre-flop.  Whatever your choice, it shows in your PFR and VPIP.

I use the same stoplight red-yellow-green scheme for PFR as I do for VPIP.  The color red refers to tight ranges.  Green is wide ranges, and yellow is middle of the road ranges.

For PFR:

Red: 0-8

Yellow: 8-18

Green: 18-24

Orange: 24-100

Tight Range

0-8 is in red because when somebody comes in for a raise with a red stat, I need to stop and think before I proceed.  It’s a tight range full of strong hands, so they’re less likely to fold to a 3bet and if I call with weak Aces or pairs, I’m often going to be dominated.

Medium Range

I color code 8-18 yellow because this is where people start widening their ranges a bit, getting into TAG/REG play.  Some caution is required when PFR is yellow because it means they likely know what they’re doing and have a good mixture of strong, medium strength and speculative hands in their range.  If we look at 15%, this might include every pp, AT+, A5s-A2s, KJs and 87s+.  This range has pretty good board coverage and can crack big hands.  There are plenty of hands they can 4bet with as well as just call a 3bet.  If this player is IP on me, then I’ve got to think twice about fighting from OOP with a wide range.  That doesn’t mean I can’t fight back, I just have to give it some critical thought before I click the button.

Loose Range

Green colored stats indicate wider ranges.  At 18-24, they’re now including some pretty weak hands.  24% for example has hands like 97s-J9s, 54s and 65s, JTo, QTo and KTo as well as A9o.  Lots of these hands are folding to a 3bet, or if they call, they’re big dogs to my stronger 3betting range.  Green means go, so I’m more likely to go for some aggressive plays or calls vs green PFR #’s.

Extremely Loose

The final color is Orange for PFR over 24%.  Just like VPIP, this final super loose color indicator doesn’t follow the red/yellow/green scheme.  I had to have a color to differentiate the aggressive from the mega aggressive, and orange is it.  If I see a stat in orange, that means they have extremely wide and very unprofitable ranges.  I can choose to 3bet them wide for value and as bluffs, or I can call with a very wide range, especially when IP.

Q4: Poker Definitions (18:35)

Charles (request):

Would you please consider developing a podcast that lists all of your abbreviations that you use in all your poker materials?

It would be a helpful point of reference, especially for new students and potential students.  I know it would be a low priority thing but still would be helpful.

Thank You, Charles


Great idea, Charles, thanks.

Instead of a podcast about this, I went ahead and created a page on my website for it: https://www.smartpokerstudy.com/definitions

I didn’t want just abbreviations.  I decided to go further and make this page a “definitions and more” page.

The page is organized by alphabetical categories, so “Actions” is first, “Bet Sizing” next and “Hands” after that and so on.  Within each category, the terms are alphabetized.  Under “Actions”, you’ll see 2bet, 3bet, Call, Continuation Bet, etc.  Continuation Bet also has the abbreviation “Cbet” right there next to it, as well as the definition following that.

But, I also have some examples as well.  This is the “More” part of the “Definitions and More” name of the page.  My goal is to give small strategy insights along with the definitions.

Please help me by telling me what I’m missing on that page’s comments.

Challenge (21:10)

Here’s my challenge to you for this episode:  If you aren’t already playing online poker for real money, get to it!  Nothing beats online real money games for developing your skills and practicing with purpose.  You wanna work on 3bets?  You can make all you want at 5NL and it doesn’t cost you that much.  Want to defend more vs Cbets?  Go ahead and do it at 5NL also.  The skills you practice and develop online will easily translate to the LIVE realm.

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

Support the Show

MR/MRS Anonymous picked up the Expert Hand Reading Webinar this past week.  GL putting what the webinar teaches you into practice.   Get your webinar here (with $5 off).

Jarret Demain got the #1 poker software this week: PokerTracker 4.  Now your studies will be more fruitful and you’ll be exploiting opponents more with the HUD, Jarret.

Stuart Roberts purchased a copy of the Smart HUD.  I hope I don’t encounter you on the tables, Stuart.  Get your own Smart HUD here.

I was on the Just Hands Poker Podcast.  Great stuff!  Check it out here.

Sky Matsuhashi
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