How to use PokerTracker to find flaws in your game

Reprinted with permission from Pokey

This is a how-to post, but it doesn't belong in the software forum; it's to teach people how they can use the Poker Tracker data to find flaws in their game.

Not a week goes by that someone doesn't ask if they are playing the game right. In that post, they include a dozen numbers from Poker Tracker and hope that the old-timers on SSNL can fix all their holes. While it's true that Poker Tracker can help find problems, this is not the way to approach it.

I'm going to try to give you a rough guide for the things you can do to check on your game. These are all just my opinion; they're all subject to interpretation, and other people may disagree with me strongly. The best way to play is usually player-specific, but these strike me as some things you can check on that are frequent flaws in the small-stakes player's game.

1. Do you have sufficient preflop aggression? To answer this question, open up your ring game statistics and go to the "position stats" page. For each position other than the small blind, divide the "PF Raise %" by the "Vol. Put $ In Pot." If you get a number smaller than 0.5, you're not aggressive enough out of that position. See, aggression is a relative term; it should be a function of your level of looseness. You can be a consistently winning player at SSNL with a VPIP of 12%, and you can be a consistently winning player at SSNL with a VPIP of 30%, but only if you are sufficiently aggressive. My general guideline is that you should raise at least half the hands you play, from every position on the table.

2. Are you positionally aware? Positional awareness means that you understand Ed Miller's comment when he said:

Total all the dollars you've ever bet playing poker. The large majority of those dollars should have been bet from late position. Only a small percentage of your total handle should have been bet from up front.

To test this, go to the Position Stats and look down the list of VPIP from Button to UTG. You should see that VPIP steadily dropping the farther you get from the button. I'd love to see my button VPIP at double my UTG VPIP, but if my Button VPIP is at least 50% larger than my UTG VPIP, I'm happy with the situation.

3. How's my stealing? To check on your performance when trying a blind steal, go to the General Info. tab. Where it says "Att. To Steal Blinds" I'd like to see that number at LEAST 20%. (Personally, I like mine to be over 30%, but I'm very aggressive in these situations. If you're trying to steal the blinds less than 20% of the time, you're leaving lots of money on the table.) Now click on "Filters..." and under "Chance to Steal Blinds" click "Chance to Steal & Raised." Select OK and look at the numbers. This shows every time you've tried to steal the blinds, and how the attempt turned out for you. Under "Totals" see the "BB/Hand" statistic. That shows your per-hand winrate on blind steals. If you multiply this number by 100, it should be at least double your "PTBB/100" average winrate. If it's much less than that and you have a decent sample size, you have a hole in your game when it comes to blind stealing. This should be an exceedingly profitable thing to do when you try it; if it's not, you need to work on your strategy.

4. Defending the blinds. Click on "Turn Filter Off," and then click on "Filters..." again. Under "Blind Status" click on "Either Blind." Now under "Vol. Put $ In Pot" click on "Put Money In." This shows you if you're bleeding money out of the blinds. A "BB/Hand" of about -0.375 would indicate that you were no better off putting money into the pot than if you had folded. If your "BB/Hand" is larger than that, then you typically win back some of your blind money when you put money into the pot from the blinds. That's all you can really hope for. If you click on "Filters..." again and go under "Steal Attempted Against Your Blind" and click on "Steal Attempted." After you click "OK" you'll now see how you did when you chose to defend against a blind steal. Again, the magic number is for your "BB/Hand" to be bigger than -0.375; that means you're making back some of your blinds when you try to defend against a steal. If either of these numbers is lower than -0.375, you'd lose less money by always folding rather than doing what you're doing.

5. Heads-up play. Click on “Turn Filter Off,” then click on “Filters…” again. Under “Hands With Between…Players Seeing The Flop” change the range from “0 to 10 players” to “2 to 2 players.” Hit “OK” and see what comes up. This shows you how you’ve done when you were heads-up preflop, but a flop was dealt. See how you’ve done in these situations. If things look OK, go back to “Filters…” and under “Pre-flop Raise” select “No Raise.” This will show you how you’ve done when you didn’t raise preflop, but the hand was heads-up on the flop (this includes pure limping and when someone ELSE raised preflop, but not when you were the preflop raiser). Is this number positive? If not, it could be an indicator that you have trouble when you are not the aggressor preflop, especially without padding in the pot.

6. Multiway pots. Clear the filter and go back under filters. Change “Hands With Between…Players Seeing The Flop” to “3 to 10 players.” This shows you how you do in multiway pots. If things look good, go back and select “No Raise” under “Pre-flop Raise.” Is it still positive? If so, you’re selecting good times to play/limp multiway pots, and you’re playing them well postflop.

7. Pocket pairs. Under “Filters…” change the “Type of Hole Cards” to “Pairs.” This will show you how you generally play and perform with pocket pairs. Your Total VPIP with these should be EXTREMELY high; unless you play at highly unusual tables, I’d be surprised to see this number below 85%. Pocket pairs make extremely powerful hands that are extremely well-hidden; if you’re not playing them almost all the time, you’re leaving money on the table. Also, your Total PFR% with these hands should be rather high -- at least 1/3 of your VPIP, if not 1/2. Some people have this number higher still, and I don’t have a problem with that, especially at short-handed tables. If you have enough hands, I’d expect every one of these lines to be positive, and reasonably significantly so. If you have any glaringly negative numbers, especially AA-88, it may indicate bad play. Look over individual hands where you lose lots of money and see if you played too timidly early in the hand, or if you went too far unimproved in the face of resistance. Also, look at the hands where you won to see if you played too timidly, or if you routinely forced weaker hands out when you should have been milking them for profits.

8. Suited connectors. Under “Filters…” change “Type of Hole Cards” to “Suited Connectors.” I’m much less likely to play suited connectors than pocket pairs, but some people play them religiously. As a result, I don’t really have a good suggestion as to how high your VPIP or PFR should be. However, your BB/hand should be positive; if it’s not, you’re probably not playing your suited connectors well. Remember: these hands play best in a multiway, unraised pot, or as a steal move. In the “Filters…” change “Vol. Put $ In Pot” to “Cold-Called.” When you hit OK, you should have almost no entries to view. Of the times you cold-called, you should be able to come up with a specific explanation for why you did so in each and every one of them. Review the hand histories; if you can’t come up with a really good reason why you thought it better to cold-call, rather than raise or fold, you need to rethink your suited connector strategy. Good explanations: the raise was very small, villain is passive post-flop, I had position on villain, villain and I are both extremely deep-stacked, villain is incredibly aggressive preflop, my suited connectors are particularly strong, there are several cold-callers in front of me, etc. I’m not saying you shouldn’t ever cold-call with suited connectors; rather, I’m saying you shouldn’t AUTOMATICALLY do so. Your default play here should be to fold weak suited connectors and reraise strong ones.

9. Unsuited connectors. Clear the filter and then go back into it. Change “Type of Hole Cards” to “Off-Suited Connectors.” Your VPIP for these hands should be noticeably smaller than your VPIP for suited connectors. Check your winrate and make sure it’s positive. Filter for cold-calling and see if you had good reasons for doing so, keeping in mind that the reasons need to be even stronger than for suited connectors.

10. Postflop aggression. Clear the filter. Select the “More Detail…” button above the “Filters…” button. Scroll down. There is a section marked “First Action on Flop After A Pre-flop Raise.” This shows your likelihood of continuation betting. If you add Bet and Raise, the total should be at least 40%. If it’s not, you’re probably giving up too soon on your good hands, and that will cost you money in the long run. Remember: people who cold-call a preflop bet are often in fit-or-fold mode. If you don’t bet, you don’t give them a chance to fold. The pot is already decent-sized, and there’s no reason to give some donk a free look at a turn card that could sink you. If you raised preflop, you need a good reason NOT to raise the flop. Continuation betting should be your default play. Scroll down a bit farther to “Aggression Factor.” Your total aggression factor should be at LEAST 2. No-limit is not a game where you can call frequently and turn a profit. You should always be looking to see if you can raise or fold; only if you have a good reason why you CANNOT raise or fold should you call. As a result, calling should be an infrequent occurrence in your play, which gives you a large aggression factor.

11. Check-raising. Some people never check-raise; others check-raise infrequently. I personally like to check-raise at least once in awhile; 1% would be fine, 0.5% would be acceptable. The goal of the check-raise is to remind your opponents that just because you checked does NOT mean that you don’t have a hand. However, circumstances need to be very specific for a check-raise to be appropriate. Typically, I check-raise on the flop when OOP against a preflop raiser, or on the turn when OOP against a flop bettor/raiser who was clearly not on a draw (uncoordinated flop). If you are check raising much more than 2% of the time, you’re being entirely too tricky for a SSNL table, and straightforward play would probably be more profitable for you.

All of this is just an introduction to the kinds of self-analysis you can/should do with Poker Tracker statistics. Notice how much more in-depth it is than just glancing at a few VPIP numbers. Typically, the only person who can truly do a “check-up” on your playing style and ability is YOU. As always, if in your searching you find hands that indicate you may have a flaw in your poker reasoning, post them up (one at a time, of course). Tell us the problem you are worried you might have, and why you think this hand might indicate the problem.


  • im using pt3 trial and i can only follow this up to "Under "Totals" see the "BB/Hand" statistic." before that...i can't do that or the next few steps, am i missing something or just retaded....its possible im retated
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