Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from “Harrington on Online Cash Games; 6-Max No-Limit Hold ‘em” It’s taken from “Part Two: Playing Online.” This article was first published in the May, 2010 issue
The HUD statistics aren’t just stand-alone numbers. In many cases, you can use combinations of statistics to draw more interesting inferences about how your opponents play and what they’re likely to do. Look at the different numbers, see how they fit together, and try to build a picture of how your opponent plays and what lines might work against him. Let’s look at some sample HUDs and see just what they say about our opponents.
Sample HUD No. 1
JeffJ / (180) / +6
We’re playing in a 6-max game at $25 NL ($0.10/$0.25 blinds), so we’re at the high end of the micro-stakes spectrum. “JeffJ” is doing well at our table. What can we tell about him from his HUD?
The first thing we notice is that he’s an extremely tight player, with VP$IP/PFR statistics of 12 and 8. He’s entering very few pots, he’s mostly raising when he enters, and when in a pot, his hand will be either a pair or two high cards with just the occasional suited connector, probably of medium strength. He’s also a solid winning player overall, with a win rate of 6 big bets per 100 hands.
When we look at his steal statistics, we notice that the ‘attempt to steal’ number (18) is distinctly on the low side. Even when the hand is folded to him on the button, he needs a much better than average hand to get involved. But we can also draw one more important conclusion: by comparing his overall preflop raise number (8) to his attempt to steal number (18), we can deduce that he’s not fully aware of the value of position. If he were, he’d be raising even more often in the button and cutoff, and his attempt to steal number would be even higher.
This insight leads to a further observation. When a player understands position, he’ll usually have weaker hands when he’s in position and stronger hands when he’s out of position because he knows that his positional advantage compensates for the weakness of his cards. That won’t be the case with “JeffJ.” Expect him to have pretty good hands whether he’s in or out of position.
On line 3, his 3-betting statistics are about what we would expect. His very low 3-bet number (3) shows that he’ll only 3-bet with his best hands, probably aces through queens and ace-king. His fold to 3-bet number (85) is similarly high. If you 3-bet him, he’ll put you on a very strong hand and fold unless he has a premium pair.
His aggression factor numbers on line 3 are high but a bit misleading. A player who plays only strong hands preflop is likely to have a lot of good hands post-flop: including top pair, top kicker, or an overpair. He should be making a lot of continuation bets, and indeed he is. In fact, his flop aggression of 5 and his continuation bet percentage of 85 percent are not only high, but probably a little too high. Looking at his turn and river aggression, we see that those numbers drop off sharply: 1 and 0.8, respectively. He needs a very good hand to keep pushing after he hits resistance.
On the other side of the coin, if we look on line 4 we notice that his ‘fold to continuation bet’ number is 60 and his ‘fold to turn continuation bet’ is even higher at 80. Those are high numbers considering that he’s only playing strong hands. It seems he’s a little too conservative when he doesn’t have the lead, and a bit too willing to surrender to aggression.
The summary statistics on line 5 complete the picture. His ‘win money when seeing flop’ number of 42 is too low given his strong starting hands, so JeffJ is getting pushed out of a lot of pots when he doesn’t have a super-strong hand and his opponent puts up a fight. His ‘went to showdown’ number is 22, below average and consistent with the previous observation. His ‘win money at showdown’ is 57, very high and indicative that he only brings his best hands to showdown.
Our Game Plan
Our game plan against “JeffJ” is simple: relentless aggression. Although he raises only a few hands preflop (8 percent), he doesn’t have confidence in his ability to play the hand unless he’s very sure his hand is best. We should exploit his uncertainty by 3-betting him on a regular basis. Note that by combining his preflop raise percentage (8 percent) with his fold to 3-bet percentage (85 percent), we know that he’s willing to call or raise a 3-bet with only 1.2 percent of his total hands.
0.012 = (0.08)(0.15)
That’s a range of just aces and kings, a range so tight that we can literally 3-bet him with any two cards, give up on the hand if he 4-bets, and still show a solid profit. Nice work if you can get it!
After the flop our plan is also pretty simple. Since we know he makes a lot of continuation bets but doesn’t want to get to showdown without a strong hand, we should plan to ‘float’ a lot of his continuation bets (calling his bet without a real hand) then bet the turn after he checks. Since his turn aggression number of 1 is low compared to his flop aggression of 5, we know he’s rarely able to fire a second barrel without what he believes to be a strong hand. That’s a dangerous tendency when carried to extremes, and one we want to exploit ruthlessly.
At this point you might well ask “How is ‘JeffJ’ a winner when we’re able to exploit him so easily?” The answer lies in the stakes. We met Jeff at a micro-stakes table, and at micro-stakes games excessively tight play will show a solid profit. He’s winning money from the players who are too loose and too passive. (We think he’ll lose some of that money back to us, but even so he’ll probably still show a profit.)
If Jeff plans on moving up, however, he’s going to need to raise his game. At small-stakes tables he’ll run into opponents who will be less loose and passive and more aggressive, and who’ll be using their own HUDs and spotting the same tendencies we just spotted. At those levels, his style of play won’t be enough to show a profit. At even higher levels, he’d get crushed.
Sample HUD No. 2
Lucious / (120) / -10
We’re in the same 6-max game at $25NL as before, but here’s a player with a very different profile from “JeffJ.” We’ve only seen 120 hands on “Lucious,” so we have a bit less confidence in our numbers than before. However, Lucious has some tendencies which jump right out. His VP$IP/PFR numbers mark him as extremely loose-passive, playing a whopping 40 percent of his hands but raising with only 8 percent. He likes to see a flop with a hand that has almost any merit, but he won’t raise unless he has a premium holding. His very low attempt to steal number (10 percent) indicates that even with position he won’t take the lead without a good hand.
However, note that Lucious can’t be pushed around preflop. His ‘fold big blind to steal’ number is only 60 percent, meaning that he’ll call 40 percent of the time in the big blind if you try to steal. That’s the same as his overall VP$IP, so he doesn’t really care what your action is representing. If he has a hand he wants to play, he’ll play it. His fold to 3-bet of 20 percent supports this conclusion. No matter what strength you represent, he’s not getting pushed out once he indicates interest.
His aggression factor numbers (1.2, 1.5, 1, 0.8) are all on the low side and indicate a general passivity post-flop. That is he needs a pretty strong hand to take the post-flop betting lead. The continuation bet number of 50 percent is also low and gives further confirmation that he’s passive post-flop.
His summary statistics also tell a clear story. His ‘went to showdown’ number is 33 percent, which is very high. However, both his ‘win money when seeing flop’ number (38 percent) and his ‘win money at showdown’ number (45 percent) are low, indicating that he likes to get to showdown, but he doesn’t do well when he gets there. He’s probably calling on the flop with any pair or any draw, and continuing to call with those hands in the hope they hold up at showdown. Also note the subtle correlation between his preflop VP$IP/PFR numbers (40/8) and his low ‘win money when seeing flop’ number (38). When your preflop action is almost always a call, it becomes difficult to steal random flops that are up for grabs. A lack of preflop aggression makes taking down pots post-flop much harder.
Our Game Plan
“Lucious” presents a very different problem from “JeffJ.” He’s a classic loose-passive calling station, a player who wants to see the hand through and find out if he won or not, without paying much attention to how much it costs to get there. These players aren’t hard to beat, but they require a mixture of common-sense aggressiveness mixed with a little caution.
First, let’s note that we’re not going to bluff Lucious much. We won’t 3-bet him preflop without a strong hand. If we raise preflop and he calls, we can put out a continuation bet when we miss the flop to see if he’ll go away. If he doesn’t, he has something and he probably can’t be chased off the hand, so we won’t be firing any more barrels. If he starts raising, our medium-strength hands aren’t going to be any good; we can safely go away.
Against Lucious, we’ll make our money when we hit the flop with a good hand like top pair, top kicker. In this spot, we bet and he calls. In all likelihood he’ll have a lower pair, a weaker top pair, or a draw, and we can just bet for value the rest of the way and win a nice solid pot.
Playing against Lucious sounds simple, but problems can arise. If we hit a strong hand on the flop, say top and bottom two pair, and we bet and he raises, we’re in a bit of a quandary. Is he raising with a genuinely strong hand which beats us, like a set or a better two pair, or does he just have a hand which he thinks is good but really isn’t, like top pair, top kicker? One comforting piece of information is that Lucious won’t be semi-bluffing in this situation. If he did semi-bluff, his aggression numbers would be higher.
Players like Lucious are your bread-and-butter opponents at the micro-stakes levels. There will be plenty of them and they will be steady long-term losers. You’ll also find a few of these players in the small stakes games where they are usually beginners who elected to start at small stakes rather than micro-stakes.
Sample HUD No. 3
pushypete / (210) / +8
We’ve moved up to a $200 NL game (blinds of $1/$2) and we encounter a new character, “pushypete,” who seems to be doing well. What’s his secret?
The first thing we should notice from pushypete’s HUD is that he’s extremely aggressive. His VP$IP/PFR numbers are 25/20, which means he’s raising most of the hands he’s playing preflop. His ‘attempt to steal’ number is 45 percent, also very high. If it’s folded to him when he’s sitting on the cutoff or button, he’s willing to raise with almost half his hands. Also note his 3-bet number of 10 percent. That’s the highest we’ve seen so far; if there’s a raise in front of him, he’s willing to test his opponents with a reraise even if he doesn’t hold a particularly premium hand. (A 10 percent range includes hands like small to medium pairs and even holdings like ace-jack offsuit or queen-jack suited.)
His post-flop numbers show more of the same. His overall aggression factor is 5, which is quite high. His flop aggression of 6 and his ‘continuation bet’ percentage of 90 percent are consistent and very high. If he took the lead preflop (which is most of the time), he’ll be continuation betting post-flop. More interesting, however, are his turn and river aggression factors of 4 and 2. Those are also high and indicate that he’s not interested in playing a pot control game. He’s going to keep firing and put maximum pressure on his opponents to get out of the pot.
What happens when he encounters aggression? We have some evidence here with his ‘fold big blind to steal’ (75 percent), his ‘fold to continuation bet’ (65 percent), and his ‘fold to turn continuation bet’ (75 percent). These are all in a normal range which indicates that he evaluates his hand more or less according to its value when his opponent takes the lead in the betting. He doesn’t try to bulldoze real resistance, but he doesn’t crawl in a hole either.
His summary numbers show the effect of his overall aggression. His ‘win money when seeing flop’ number (53 percent) is high, the result of winning a lot of pots before any showdown is reached. His ‘went to showdown’ number is low (23 percent), exactly what we would expect. His ‘win money at showdown’ number is somewhat low for an overall winning player (48 percent), but that’s because his opponents are being pushed off their weaker hands on earlier streets, and carrying only their best hands to showdown.
Our Game Plan
“pushypete” is a much stronger player than either “JeffJ” or “Lucious,” as shown by his ability to beat a much stronger game. When we first play him, our main weapon will be trapping with good hands. His aggression numbers post-flop shows that he mostly views checks and calls as signs of a weak hand that can be pushed out of the pot. (A completely correct assumption against straightforward players.) On the other hand, he’s willing to fold at a normal rate against players who show strength. So our best approach is two-fold:
- Slow-play our strongest hands to extract more bets (the rope-a-dope).
- Attack with raises on the flop and turn, using a mixture of good hands and bluffs.
Since we think “pushypete” is a good player, he should adapt to our approach after awhile. But he’ll have to adapt by lowering his aggression, which in turn will allow us to see more draws cheaply and get to the river with our medium-strength hands.