Whether you play online poker seriously or just for practice, using database software like PokerTracker or Hold’em Manager is an easy way to study and increase your win-rate.
The following tips will help you use these powerful pieces of software to their full potential.
Note: Don’t have database software yet? You are missing out on a ton of value if you play any online poker. These ones are the best in the business (both have free trials):
Since both have free trials, you may want to download both to see which interface you like better before making your final purchase decision.
Now, let’s dive into the tips.
This article has been updated to include more tips and information to help you get more value from database software.
1. Build yourself an effective HUD
An effective HUD is one that contains only the most important and frequently used stats. These crucial stats will be the same regardless of which database software you use.
While these are the most important stats that you should have on your HUD, you should also consider building some pop-ups with more in-depth information (such as VPIP/PFR by position or check-raise frequency by street).
Further reading: 10 Crucial Poker Stats to Include on Your HUD (And How to Use Them).
2. Don’t over-rely on the HUD
While using a HUD is a must if you want to maximize your win-rate, over-relying on it may do more harm than good.
The statistics you see on your HUD are oftentimes heavily influenced by variance, so your opponent’s HUD stats may differ from their actual frequencies. A player’s stats after 30 hands may lead you believe they are super aggressive, for example, but it’s also possible that they were simply dealt a lot of good hands in that small sample.
The rule here is simple: The deeper you are in the game tree, the more hands you will need on your opponent to consider their stats reliable. This happens because those situations will occur less often and thus a reliable sample size is tougher to attain. Consider:
- Basic preflop decisions are made in every single hand, so basic preflop stats (like VPIP and PFR) require fewer hands to be considered reliable.
- Only a fraction of hands reach the river, so you’ll need a ton of hands on your opponent to consider their “River Check-Raise Frequency” stat reliable.
When you’re deciding whether or not a stat is reliable, consider how common that situation is and how many hands you have on your opponent. It may only take a couple hundred hands to get decently accurate VPIP/PFR stats, but you’ll need thousands of hands on a player to say the same about their uncommon river stats.
You should also keep in mind that just because someone has, say, a turn c-bet frequency of 55%, it doesn’t mean that he will c-bet on the turn 55% of the time on all boards. He may c-bet more than 65% of the time on some boards while c-betting less than 40% on others.
The best way to use a HUD, especially when dealing with small-medium samples, is to identify your opponent’s tendencies rather than pin-pointing his exact strategy.
3. Mark hands and review them after playing
This is probably the most important feature of database software. The way that programs such as Poker Tracker and Holdem Manager are built make it very easy to mark hands during your sessions so you can review them later.
You should make a habit out of marking all of the hands in which you felt confused or unsure of what to do. Then, study them either at the end of the session or before you begin the next one to try to figure out how you should have played it.
You should also send these marked hands to your poker-playing friends to hear what they think and so you can bounce ideas off of each other. The more people you ask, the faster you will improve.
The key point here is to ask yourself and your friends “why” they would make a certain play and not just the “what” play they would make. By figuring out the “why” you will be able to apply the newly updated thought process to many more spots in the future.
4. Compare your situational win-rates against those of more successful players
One of the fastest ways to figure out where you need to improve is to check your situational win-rates against other, bigger winning player’s win-rates.
After you’ve discovered the positions and situations in which you are not winning enough or losing too much, you can then drill even further with the help of filters to see where you might be leaking money.
If you aren’t sure how to setup filters, here are some helpful links:
- PokerTracker’s Tutorial Page on Filters
- Hold’em Manager’s Tutorial Page on Filters
- DriveHUD’s Page on Creating a Custom Filter
Here are some common spots that you can look into with the help of custom filters:
- Raised first in and not faced a 3-bet
- Raised first in and faced a 3-bet
- You have squeezed
- You have 3-bet in position
- You have 3-bet out of position
- You have called a 3-bet in position
- You have called a 3-bet out of position
The idea is to take a note of your own win-rates in these situations and then compare them with the win-rates of the winning player. Then, dive deeper into the situations where your win-rates differ the most and try to figure out what they’re doing that makes them so successful.
Keep in mind: You will need a minimum of roughly 30,000 hands to expect accurate results of this comparison. The bigger the sample, the more accurate and useful the results will be.
5. Create filters to direct your study routines
You should also use filters to “zoom in” on your stats and results in specific situations, which will help you cut out bad habits and instill better ones.
For example, say you watch a module in the Upswing Lab about c-betting in 3-bet pots. While watching, you learn that you should c-bet at a very high frequency on AKx boards when in position.
Now, you can filter your database to only show hands in which you had the opportunity to c-bet in position in a 3-bet pot. Then, you can filter further for hands in which the flop had both an A and a K to see what adjustments you should make to your strategy in that specific spot.
The example above is a very specific situation for which to filter, but you can use broader filters as well. For example, you can set up a filter to only show hands in which you called a raise from the big blind.
Working on your game this way is very effective when trying to upgrade your strategy.
Note: You would love to access a pro’s database filters, HUDs, and 259+ preflop charts, right? Upgrade your poker skills and study like a pro when you join the Upswing Lab training course. Learn more now!
6. Crosscheck your stats with solver outputs
This process allows you to take a macro view of your game while comparing it to what a solver would do.
Certain solvers allow you to create “aggregated reports” that display the solver’s preferred action on many different boards for the same situation. For example, here’s an aggregated report for hijack vs button in a single-raised pot (made by Gary Blackwood for the Upswing Lab training course):
This allows you to see the average frequencies you are supposed to have (according to the solver), allowing you to identify leaks in your own stats.
For example, in the screenshot you can see that the check frequency is very high (71.58%+) on all of the ace-high flops in this hijack vs button matchup. You can then use database filters to see what your own check frequency is on ace-high flops in these spots. You may find that you are checking too often or not often enough.
You can do this for any spot and board texture for which you have a solid sample.
Pro tip: Make sure your simulation’s parameters are in line with how your player pool actually plays. Speaking of…
7. Analyze your player pool’s average tendencies
In Poker Tracker 4, for example, you can create a custom report that shows all of the stats you want to study. This allows you to get a handle on how your player pool actually plays. You can even filter out professional players or recreational players based on their VPIP and PFR stats.
Let’s run through this process step-by-step:
Step 1. Go to “My Reports”
Step 2. Create New Report
Step 3. Choose “All Players Report”
Step 4. Add the stats you want to study
Once you’ve added all of your stats, you can start reviewing the average stats of the entire player pool. If you want to filter out good or bad players, continue to steps 5 through 7.
Step 5. Go to Filters
Step 6. Select “Add New Expression Filters”
Step 7. Type #VPIP# and then >35 to filter out bad players or <30 to filter out good players
Pro tip: You can create more complex player profiles through the use of PFR, 3-bet, etc.
Armed with this information, you might be able to spot general tendencies of your player pool. For example, if their aggregated won when saw flop (WWSF) is under 45%, then you are in a player pool that does not bluff nearly enough. Or maybe you notice that the aggregated check-raise frequency is only 3%, which means your opponents are very tight when it comes to check-raising.
Database software is a powerful tool for any poker player eager to improve his game. If you don’t already, I strongly suggest you start using one.
Want to test your skills as the preflop aggressor? Take our c-betting quiz now!
That’s all for this article. I hope what you’ve learned today will help you get more value from your database software.
Until next time, good luck, grinders!
If you purchase database software through any of the links in this article, Upswing Poker may receive a commission at no additional cost to you. Upswing Poker endorses these tools regardless.