Let’s fix some costly leaks!
As a poker coach, one of my most important roles for my students is being a leak finder and plugger. It’s my job to determine what mistakes are costing my students money, and I give them strategies to cut the losses.
A big blind saved is a big blind earned, so every leak a student plugs is a boost to their win rates and bankrolls.
As you go through of 8 costly poker leaks below, along with symptoms, fixes and action steps, take note of the ones you think you suffer from. Implement the fixes and action steps ASAP for the most pressing leak first, and work through the rest one by one.
Listen to this episode #400 as you follow along below:
1. Playing Too Tight or Too Loose
Symptoms: Overly tight play makes it easy for opponents to read you for strength and they ditch their hands as soon as you show interest; your stats are nitty like 10/8 or 8/7 over a large sample. Or you’re overly loose and lose too often at showdown; you’re opening and then calling 3bets way too often (like 80%); your stats are very fishy at 36/10 or 42/8; your VPIP and PFR don’t vary by position so you play roughly the same hands regardless of position.
Fix: Start using preflop ranges, like my KISS Cash Game Ranges (get ’em with the form below). They will have you playing a sensible number of hands, giving you preflop mathematical advantage quite often. Tight players will benefit from more stealing and 3bet bluffing, loose players will benefit from tighter calls and raises from earlier positions.
Action Step: Get the KISS Cash Game Ranges from my Preflop Online Poker book, or via the form just below. Print ’em up, and use them for the next 5K hands.
2. Playing While Exhausted
Symptoms: Falling asleep at the tables; lack of concentration; robotic play; easily succumb to distraction.
Fix: Get more rest! Life gets in the way of poker and if you’re not well-rested, how can you expect to play great poker?
Action Step: Work backwards from your wakeup time to find out when you need to hit the hay. If you wake up at 6pm, but know you need 7.5 hours of sleep to feel rested and ready for the day, go to bed with a book by 10:00, so you can fall asleep by 10:30.
3. Playing Distracted
Symptoms: Twitter/YouTube/ESPN/Candy Crush – you know what distracts you. These things are pulling your attention away from the game.
Fix: New attitude: When it’s time to play, it’s time to play. Turn off all the distractions before the session.
Action Step: Practice this for your next 3 sessions and see if you play better without any distractions. And, ask everyone in the house to leave you alone for the next bit.
4. Anger and Tilt
Symptoms: Broken mouses/keyboards; can’t even start a session without anger; you end sessions within moments of starting or just after losing your first pot no matter the size; never playing your A-game and only in C-game mode.
Fix: Start cataloging your tilt in your poker journal by paying more attention to your mental state. Read and put into action Jared Tendler’s book The Mental Game of Poker ASAP. I can’t recommend a better book to help you deal with your anger and tilt issues.
Action Step: Get the book and skip straight to chapter 5 “Tilt”. Find your version of tilt, maybe you’re like me and Entitlement Tilt is your issue. Read the chapter and take notes. Copy his logic statements onto a post-it note on your monitor and do the action steps he gives you. Once you’ve spent one week with your particular form of tilt, go back and read the book from the beginning as you continue focusing on controlling tilt.
5. Playing with Scared Money
Symptoms: Sometimes the money at risk gets in the way of great decision making. Risking too much for any one tourney or cash game preoccupies your mind, and even though you know the best play, it’s difficult to make it because of the chips you’re risking.
Fix: Play within your bankroll. Set some limits for yourself, like having a bankroll 100x buy-ins for tourneys and 40x buy-ins for cash games. It’s totally up to you, just find where you’re comfortable and roll with it.
Action Step: Know your bankroll and play within the limits I just mentioned. Divide it by 100 and that’s the highest buy-in you can play for tourneys, and re-calculate when you drop to 80 buy-ins. Divide it by 40 for cash games, and re-calculate it at 35 buy-ins.
6. Calling on One Street with No Plan for Future Streets
Symptoms: You’re on the flop and you don’t even consider that there’s another street, or how the future cards can affect your hand strength or the perceived strength. You don’t even consider your opponent nor their betting tendencies on future streets. You’re basically, “Have pair or draw, will call.”
Fix: Play some focus sessions where you deliberately decide why you’re calling on one street and make a plan for the next street. Play just two tables (or one LIVE cash game) so that you can have the time to think through exactly why you’re calling. If you’re unsure, it’s probably a better idea to fold. But, tag the hand to review later to determine if calling would’ve been a profitable play.
Action Step: For your next 3 play sessions, only click CALL after saying aloud your plan for the next street. “If an Ace or King comes, I’m check-raise bluffing. But if I hit my straight, I’ll donk bet for 1/3 pot to elicit a raise. Anything else, I’ll check-fold.”
7. One-and-Done Betting (never firing the second barrel)
Symptoms: You cbet the flop a lot, but check the turn often. You’re a one-and-done cbettor, and everyone calls your flop cbet just to bet when you check the turn.
Fix: Before firing the flop cbet, gauge how often you think the opponent will fold. If less than 50%, before firing on the flop, gauge how often they’ll fold versus a turn barrel. If they don’t fold on flops but fold on turns (based on stats or tendencies), force yourself to fire the flop and the turn. When they hate folding either street, it’s probably best to NOT cbet bluff the flop and instead just value bet.
Action Step: Use your opponent’s turn tendencies against them. If they fold a lot on the turn, bluff the flop AND the turn. If you have a value hand, value bet the flop and maybe size your turn bet down to elicit a call.
8. Snap Calling or Folding Without Thinking
Symptoms: You’re just a robotic button clicker; you fold when a situation is too tough to think about; you don’t have time to think so you just ditch the hand or call because, “I gots me a pair!”
Fix: Play less tables and play with a strategy focus every session. Remove your hand from your mouse to allow you some time to think before “finger tilt” happens (coined by Tommy Angelo). Consider more than just your hole cards and the board before a decision. Stack sizes, bet sizes, their range, future cards, the type of player you’re up against, table dynamics, etc. are all important and will help you make better decisions.
Action Step: Write Poker’s Ultimate Question on a sticky note and attach it to your monitor: “What’s he doing this with?”
Ask and answer it before any calling or folding or raising decision. The answer will guide you to the correct decision.
Support the Show
Thanks to Nikolaos Antonaropoulos, Axel, Mark Hall, Loro, email@example.com, Marc Duriaux, Mark Brement, William Dalton, Mike Paquette, Hans Nordestgaard, Maxime Decourcelle, David, Cesar DaSilva, Ixelles, Dayne Dyce, Dang Dung, Jeremy Perna, Daniel Scarvaci, Peg Speak, Robert Baron, Kris Pazdrag, Frank Friel, Sam Xie, John Walker, Keith Smith, Brian Gartman, Todd Edmonson, Gianfranco Cutruzzolà, Indrayana Rustandi and Lê Trọng Cuong for getting my book, Post-flop Online Poker. Get your copy today and:
- You’ll learn hand reading, then use this skill throughout the rest of the book to drive home each valuable strategy.
- Learn how to make profitable bluff and value cbets utilizing all the information available to you.
- How to use poker math to make +EV decisions that rake your opponent’s chips into your stack.
- How to defend against cbets profitably with check-raises, floats, probes and even donk bets.
- Poker mindset skills to keep you focused on profitable strategies both on- and off-the-felt.
Also available on Amazon in Kindle, Paperback and Audible Audiobook: