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Crushing the Microstakes 2 Update

Posted by BlackRain79

Crushing the Microstakes 2 Update

As a lot of people know, I am writing a new book which will be a sequel of sorts to Crushing the Microstakes. I provided a brief update on my newsletter the other day and I wanted to share that here on my blog also. are not on my newsletter? FREE strategy articles, tips and more on everything microstakes poker every week straight to your inbox. Click here to subscribe!

And now on to the update.

First off, last week I asked my newsletter subscribers to email me with their comments and suggestions on what they would like included in the book. A big thank you to everyone who took the time to write me. I wrote down every single suggestion that I received and I will look to include them in the book if they are not already in it. Please continue emailing me - - with your ideas or leave a comment below.

Here are some concrete numbers on the progress of "CTM2." It is nearly the length of my first book Crushing the Microstakes already at around 200 pages. Here's the kicker though: I am not even done with the preflop section yet! It may be 500+ pages by the time it is finished. I am not going to leave any stone un-turned though so I don't care what the final number is. I am going to create the best book ever written on these stakes as CTM was meant to be for the stakes that it covered.

Some other notes. The book will be extremely example heavy with tons of analysis (perhaps over a 100 by the time I am done). While I try to speak in general terms in order to provide guidance to struggling players at these limits (NL10-NL100) it is just not possible to provide a satisfactory one size fits all answer much of the time. Factors like your opponent's player type, the dynamic between you and him, the action in the hand, the players left to act and balancing considerations are all usually much more important at these stakes and higher. So I feel like all I can do is just add more examples to hopefully cover every possible situation.

I should add that this book is all about regs. I have broken them down into 6 different categories and 95% of the examples are about them. I make big use of HUD stats throughout to find the specific weaknesses in each player type and how we can go about exploiting them. Several of the emails that I received last week asked for this specifically. Don't worry, that was the main focus of the book from the beginning!

I am also specifically breaking the book down this time in many sections by 6max and Full ring which will add to it's length. There is quite a bit of crossover between these two games and so sometimes I feel like I am repeating myself but I think it will be more useful in the end. I implore the reader to check out both sections anyways since I believe that knowing how to play both games well is of vital importance especially as you move up the stakes where game selection becomes a bigger and bigger issue. Anyways, that's enough for now. I need to get back to writing it anyways!

One last thing. Here is my standard line now on release date questions, "before the end of this year." Thanks for all the continued support and well wishes!

Let me know in the comments below what YOU would like to see in the book. What are the biggest problems that you have at NL10-NL100?

Nathan Williams aka "BlackRain79" is a microstakes grinder, poker coach, DragTheBar instructor and the author of Crushing the Microstakes. Now available in Spanish and Russian as well.

How to Optimize Your HUD for Today’s Micro Stakes Cash Games

Posted by BlackRain79

First off, I have written about this before. A pair of articles which you can find here and here. However, the information contained in those articles is a bit dated now and also simplistic because it was specifically focused on the lowest stakes, NL2 and NL5 cash games. The games at all levels have changed a bit in the past two years also. So in this article I am going to give you my thoughts on HUD setup as it applies to today's games and with more emphasis on NL10+ this time.

Your HUD (heads up display) is arguably your most important weapon at the poker tables especially after you get beyond NL2 and NL5. You have to play against regs much more frequently and many of them don't have the obvious glaring leaks that they do at lower limits. Having a good HUD setup that allows you to get the information that you need as efficiently as possible can make all the difference in the world to your bottom line.

My New HUD!

Recently I have overhauled my HUD and I want to share it with all of you, my blog readers!

When thinking about redesigning my HUD I had two main goals in mind:

1) I wanted only the most important stats to be displayed (i.e., the ones that I use the most)

2) I wanted it to be efficient and compact to avoid information overload on my screen

I am confident that I achieved goal #1. Goal #2, perhaps not so much but I can live with it. I also created a "lite" version though which does accomplish this.

Anyways, let's get to it!


I am going to just give you the download link to my new HUD setup first before going into any further analysis. You will receive a pt4hud file upon download. I use Pokertracker 4. I think it is the best current poker tracking program and HUD on the market. Don't worry if you don't use PT4 though. I will get to that in a moment.

If you also use PT4 then you can simply import the file as a new HUD profile and it will be all setup and ready to go for you. Just go HUD > Edit HUD Profiles > Options > Import Profile.


You can download my PT4 HUD profile here.

You can download the Lite version of it here.


Here is what the full version looks like in the PT4 HUD profile editor:

Right Click And Open in New Tab to Enlarge      


And here is what the lite version looks like:

Right Click And Open in New Tab to Enlarge                                                   


Full or Lite?

The full version includes a mountain of stats which may seem overwhelming at first. They will all be thoroughly discussed in this article. It is best suited for NL10+ cash games where you have large samples on most of the regs.

If you play NL2, NL4 or NL5 I would opt for the lite version for now. It includes all of the most important stats for success at these stakes. It does not include the ones which are better suited to the more aggressive NL10+ games and which often require a very large sample size anyways.

And as mentioned, don't worry if you don't use PT4. I am going to go over my new HUD step by step in a bit. You will just have to manually enter the stats into Hold'em Manager or whichever other program that you use.

This article will obviously be all about stats which some people may not be familiar with. So I am going to list every one that will be used in this article below before I get started. I will be using the abbreviations and descriptions as defined by PT4 in their statistical reference guide which can be found here.

You can also go Configure > Statistics within PT4 at any time to get the full list and definitions as well. If you are not new to HUD stats then you can just skip over the next section.


HUD Stat Definitions

Player: The player's name.

Hands: The total number of hands the player has played.

VPIP: The percentage of hands the player voluntarily put money into the pot preflop out of all hands. This does not include posting any blind money.

PFR: The percentage of hands where the player made any raise preflop.

Total AF (Aggression Factor): A measure of how aggressive or passive the player is across all post-flop streets. ( Total Times Bet + Total Times Raised ) / (Total Times Called )

ATS (Attempt to Steal): The percentage of times the player made a steal raise (attempted to steal the blinds) when they had the opportunity; i.e. raised when folded to in the cutoff, button, or small blind.

Fold to Steal: Percentage of the time that a player folded when in a blind and facing an open raise from the cutoff, button, or small blind without any other players being involved.

Fold to PF 3Bet After Raise: Percentage of the time that a player folded to a preflop 3Bet (re-raise of an initial raise) after they opened the pot.

Fold to PF 4Bet After 3Bet: Percentage of the time that a player folded to a preflop 4Bet (re-raise of a 3bet) after they made a 3Bet.

3Bet Preflop: Percentage of the time that a player 3Bet preflop when given the opportunity to do so.

4Bet + Ratio: Percentage of hands that a player 4Bets with.

Fold to F CBet: The percentage of times the player folded to a continuation bet on the flop.

Fold to T CBet: The percentage of times the player folded to a continuation bet on the turn.

Fold to R CBet: The percentage of times the player folded to a continuation bet on the river.

CBet Flop (Continuation Bet): The percentage of times the player followed their preflop raise by betting the flop when they had the opportunity to do so.

CBet Turn: The percentage of times the player followed their flop continuation bet by betting the turn when they had the opportunity to do so.

CBet River: The percentage of times the player followed their flop continuation bet by betting the turn (and bet again on the river) when they had the opportunity to do so.

Fold to Raise After F CBet: Percentage of the time that a player folded to a raise on the flop after having made a flop continuation bet, given that he had the chance to do so.

Fold to Raise After T CBet: Percentage of the time that a player folded to a raise on the turn after having made a turn continuation bet, given that he had the chance to do so.

Fold to T Float Bet: The percentage of times the player folded when facing a turn float bet. A float bet is calling behind on one street and then betting if checked to on the next.

Fold to R Float Bet: The percentage of times the player folded when facing a river float bet.


So let's go over my new HUD setup line by line. Here is an example of what it actually looks like on the poker table

As you can see I now include abbreviations on my HUD. Since I have more than doubled the amount of stats that I use now (19 in total) I sometimes need these to remind myself of what each number means. I don't bother with the first three stats in blue because these are just the classic indicators of overall play style (VPIP/PFR/Total AF) which I will discuss below.

The 4th and 5th ones in green are Fold to Steal and ATS which are also good general indicators of player type. However, they are more useful for determining preflop ranges in LP (late position) battles so I use a different color to differentiate them. Lastly, you will notice that a couple of the stats are shaded gray. PT4 sets it to that color when there is no information available at all. I have chosen to just leave it as is. Well, truthfully I could not figure out how to change it! But it looks fine.


Custom Pokertracker 4 HUD Configuration

But alas, if you don't like something on my HUD setup just change it! My use of colors, background color and layout is just what works for me and I will probably tinker with it in time anyways. You can easily customize any of it for yourself in Pokertracker 4. You can add, remove or move stats if you want as well.

Right Click And Open in New Tab to Enlarge

Arrow #1: Click on any stat box and drag to move somewhere else. Right click to delete the stat altogether

Arrow #2: Add new stats and add new lines

Arrow #3: Change the background color of the entire HUD

Arrow #4: Show everybody's stats including your own or only show your opponent's

Arrow #5: Change the opacity of the entire HUD

Arrow #6: Click on any individual stat box (arrow #1) and then adjust the color here

Arrow #7: Remove the prefixes (abbreviations) that I have used or change them to something else

The best way to test all of this is to open up a replayer window in PT4, make a change in the HUD profile editor above and click apply. You do not have to close the window. The new changes will update in the replayer window. Or you might want to see how it actually looks on whatever poker network you play on as that is ultimately what is most important. Open up a table, and mess with settings in the HUD profile editor. Hit apply and see how it looks.

Alright enough of all this. On to my HUD analysis!


Line #1

Player / Hands / VPIP / PFR / Total AF / Fold to Steal / ATS

On the first line I have all the most necessary stats. First is player name. It is obviously of crucial importance that you have the right stats associated with the right player! Sometimes when something goes wrong in this regard it has nothing to do with a layout mistake that you made. If a player leaves the table and the seat is filled right away by somebody else most poker tracking programs will still display the old stats for a hand or two. The only thing worse than no information is completely wrong information!

For this reason I have the player name listed before anything else and I actually set it in Pokertracker 4 as the same color (silver) as it displays on Pokerstars. Already done for you if you downloaded and imported my HUD profile above.

Next is number of hands, the second most important stat. Every individual stat that you use relies on it. A misunderstanding of how important the sample size is to the usefulness of specific stats is probably the number one way people misuse their HUD's. More is always better. Some stats need far bigger samples than others. I will talk about it throughout this article.

Next is VPIP. The percentage of hands that your opponent plays tells you 90% of what you need to know about them. This stat comes close to it's true value over a sample size of just 15 or 20 hands.

After that I have PFR. Obviously another crucially important stat. The gap between this stat and VPIP tells us a great deal about the opponent as well. Large gap means passive which usually leads to passive postflop play as well. Small gap (a couple points or less) means aggressive which usually leads to aggressive postflop play as well. Like VPIP, it comes close to it's true value over just 15 or 20 hands.

Next is Total AF. This stat is a great overall indicator of how aggressive or passive a player is. It is very important to remember that VPIP plays a big role in this stat though. A total AF of 3 on a 50% VPIP player is far different than 3 on a 10% VPIP player. The first player is far more aggressive overall since his range is usually much weaker. As applied to the huge glut of regs in the 10-15% VPIP range in full ring (15-20% in 6max) though this is of little concern. I like to have about 100 hands on the opponent before putting a lot of stock into their Total AF.

Lastly I have Fold to Steal and ATS. As mentioned these two stats are good overall indicators of player type and preflop ranges in LP battles. I use it routinely so I want it in a prominent position. I use just VPIP, PFR and Total AF when I want a quick snapshot of the player type though so that is why I have differentiated them by color.

This first line tells me nearly everything that I need to know about a player and allows me to categorize them immediately as a nit, TAG, LAG, fish etc. I think it was Nananoko who said that these handful of stats are pretty much all he uses and we all know what he has accomplished in this game. To be honest I base a large majority of my decisions off of just these stats as well. It is always good to know more though.


Line #2

Fold to PF 3Bet After Raising/ Fold to PF 4Bet After 3Bet/ 3Bet Preflop / 4Bet + Ratio

This line is all about preflop. And as you will see throughout my HUD setup I am always most concerned about their reactions to my aggression. As I continually talk about in my book Crushing the Microstakes, having the initiative is one of the two pillars of success in this game. I have it the large majority of the time that I play a hand so obviously I want to know how they are likely react to my aggression before anything else.

First is fold to 3Bet After Raising. Simple enough. I want to know if they will fold when I 3Bet them. After about 100 hands this stat is pretty reliable. Fold to 3Bet is highly useful at NL10+ where the preflop aggression is much higher than at stakes below this. Many regs routinely fold to 3Bets far too much. Good to know.

Second is  fold to 4Bet After 3Bet. This is the first stat where sample size concerns can definitely be an issue. But since I expect to be playing against regs a lot more frequently especially at NL10+ I will often have thousands of hands on them. In general though you are going to need about 200 hands minimum on someone to get useful information from this stat. If you are in doubt, just hover your mouse over the stat at the poker table with PT4 and it will give you the sample size. I am not a statistician but common sense tells us that 10 opportunities to perform X action will provide a lot more useful information than 2 for instance.

Next is their 3Bet. I want to know what their range is when they 3Bet me. Regs run the gamut of nuts only to retardedly over aggro at these stakes so this stat helps me determine how to proceed. Now I would love to break it down to include 3Bet by each position or situation but one of my goals was not to have way too much clutter on my screen (there is already more than enough!). This is one of the areas where the popup helps us out. Simply left click on a player's name in Pokertracker 4 and the full display comes up.

As you can see in the highlighted area we have the information on this player's 3Bet percentages at every position at the table. When I want a more detailed breakdown of my opponent's 3Bet in a specific situation I will refer to this. This popup is also highly useful for determining a player's VPIP by position (3 lines up). I use it frequently especially when a reg opens from EP (early position). Lastly, I also use the full popup a lot when I want specific stats on a blind vs blind battle for example. You can hit the "preflop" tab in the upper left corner and get tons of information on that.

The last stat that I have on line #2 is their 4Bet. Again players at these stakes run the gamut from pure nuts only to A3o why not. It is good to have this information not only to determine their likely range but also to find out if a 5Bet is profitable or not.


Line #3

Fold to Flop CBet / Fold to Turn CBet / Fold to River CBet

Sticking with the logical progression line 3 is all about their postflop reactions to my aggression. Can I get them to fold to a CBet, a double barrel or even a triple barrel? Once again sample size concerns can definitely be an issue with some of these stats, especially the turn and the river ones.

With the player above for instance we can see that at 10/10 (VPIP/PFR) this player is almost never the preflop caller. He has only had 9 opportunities in 3400 hands to fold to a CBet! He has only had 1 opportunity to fold to a turn CBet rendering that stat all but useless. Lastly, he has never even had a single opportunity to fold to a river CBet.

Now the player above is an extreme example. Nobody actually has a VPIP that is identical to PFR except for this guy. I certainly don't recommend it. But it is important to note how these stats will have different levels of reliability depending on the player type. You can get solid information on most fish for instance on all three of these stats over as little as 100 hands since they play a lot more hands, tend to go into the later streets more and are often the one without the initiative in the hand.


Line #4

CBet Flop / CBet Turn / CBet River

This line is all about how my opponent plays postflop. I want to know what percentage of the time he bets on each street. Sample size is definitely an issue as I have preached throughout this article. However, as long as you know that the numbers are reliable then finding the weak spots is pretty easy.

The easiest and most classic one to spot is a big gap between CBet Flop and CBet Turn. Most players have a gap of about 20 points between these two stats. Some are in the 30 or 40 range though. These players are prime targets to float and then take it away on the turn.

There are many barrel happy players at these limits as well though but the vast majority will not fire the third bullet without the nuts unlike at higher stakes. Having the CBet River stat in there helps to identify those players if I want to float twice and try to take it away on the river.


Line #5

Fold to Raise After F CBet / Fold to Raise After T CBet / Fold to T Float Bet / Fold to R Float Bet

This last line is all about the effectiveness of different lines that I might take against an opponent when I am the preflop caller. Again, this is not a situation that I am in all that frequently and so that is why I put them on the last line. However, fighting for the initiative preflop does not always make sense in every spot for a variety of reasons. These stats are highly useful in helping you outplay your opponent in those situations.

The first one is simple enough. How often do they fold when we raise their CBet? Most players are right around 50% with this. However some are significantly higher or lower. Good to know.

The second one concerns how often they fold when we raise their turn CBet. Most players do not fold very often at these stakes, around 1/3 times. However some do fold more often making it sometimes profitable to raise light.

The third stat let's me know how often they fold when we float the flop and then bet the turn when they check. I use this stat in conjunction with CBet turn above. I want to know firstly if they frequently check on the turn instead of barreling before I make a plan to float on the flop. Secondly I want to know that they give up when I bet a lot. This stat tells me that.

Lastly, fold to river float bet let's me know how often they give up when I float both the flop and turn and then bet when they check the river. Like with the previous stat I use this in conjunction with CBet river on the 4th line to find the barrel happy regs who get shy on the river. Then I use this stat to find out if they fold a lot when I bet. I have found that this is a huge weakness in even some of the very best regs at these stakes.


Final Notes

And that is it! Obviously I have a lot more stuff on my screen now but this is because I need detailed information to find the holes in the regs and outplay them. In the absence of terrible players everywhere you need to dig deeper and learn how to exploit decent opponents. Nobody is a world beater at these stakes. Nearly all of them, even the top winners, have huge leaks. Using your HUD effectively can help you identify those mistakes and exploit them.

Because I include so much information on my new HUD some people have expressed some difficulties fitting it onto their screen. If it is too much for you then you can remove some or all of the prefixes (FFCB etc.) to clear up space. See arrow #7 above. I include them now just because I am still getting used to the new layout and all of the new stats. I may take the training wheels off at some point.

Or simply use the lite version of my HUD which only includes 12 core stats instead of 19 and takes up less screen space. You can delete the prefixes on that one as well for even more space.

In any case here is a screenshot of me testing out my new full HUD (with all prefixes) on Pokerstars with 4 tables tiled with overlap on my 15 inch laptop:

Right Click And Open in New Tab to Enlarge


Nathan Williams aka "BlackRain79" is a microstakes grinder, poker coach, DragTheBar instructor and the author of Crushing the Microstakes. Now available in Spanish and Russian as well.

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