We are always listening to what Red Chippers want, so when forum member zagarese suggested leak busting as a podcast topic, we jumped on the opportunity. This week’s podcast features James “SplitSuit” Sweeney breaking down how to identify and fix the leaks that are causing your profits to plummet. If you feel like you just can’t win, or if you feel like you’re winning some but treading water against hands where you get stacked, this is a must-listen.
SplitSuit starts with the leak fixing plan suggested by zagarese and cleans up the acronym so it spells a catchier, “FLASHED”:
Everybody has leaks in their game, even our coach and co-founder SplitSuit. You have leaks too. There’s just so much complexity in this game. You will be weak in some areas, and strong in others. The simple goal is to improve your weaknesses so you have more strengths than your opponents. This is where your edge comes from. So let’s dive in to the specific steps SplitSuit recommends to get your leaks patched up.
Find Your Poker Leaks
You probably are aware of a few leaks in your game. If you’re not, you need to stop right now and get introspective. When were you last confused? When did you last lose a big pot and wonder if you played the hand right nor not?
Leaks can take any shape and scope. You can have aggression leaks, mental game leaks, passivity leaks, nitty leaks, and frequency leaks to name just a few. Your first step in addressing these leaks is to find them in your game. Analyzing past hands is a great way to do this, but many people need only think hard about the trouble areas of their game to start honing in on areas that need improvement. And if you can’t come up with any leaks of your own, ask a poker buddy who’s played with you, or visit our forums and share some hands.
List What Your Leaks Are
Now that you’ve found where your edge is getting dulled and you’re leaking chips, it’s time to make a list. It can be short, it can be long. The important thing is that you have a visual representation that can serve as a constant reminder of what you’re working on.
We set up a forum thread specifically so you could share your leak list, and we encourage you to use it. By publicly declaring your weaknesses and your intention to fix them, you will create a powerful motivating force to follow through.
Why is making this list so important? Besides the fact that simply writing down your leaks helps your brain focus on addressing them, this list is fuel for the next step in our leak-patching program.
Assess Leaks in Your Game
All leaks are not created equal. First, we must prioritize leaks based on which would show the greatest return right away, if fixed. The amount of time it will take to address each leak is the other factor that helps us figure out what order to tackle leaks in. Some leaks will be easy to fix in just a few hours of study. Others will be long-term grinds that require you to establish new routines and ways of thinking.
SplitSuit gives the example of having two leaks: 3-betting and triple-barrelling. Obviously, 3-betting comes up a lot more than triple-barrelling. Both of these leaks will take a long time to fix because they overlap with many different fundamental concepts in poker. As you think about what areas of your game you will need to improve to fix your top-level leaks, you will likely find other leaks under the surface, and your list will grow. That’s a good thing — you now have shorter-term goals for patching the consituent parts of larger leaks.
The list is never done. The assessment is never done. Think of it as a living document.
Study Your Leaks Away
Next it’s time to figure out the best way for you to study in order to fix the leak you’ve identified as your top priority.
SplitSuit says podcast are great for getting your feet wet on a topic, but you need to go deeper, especially because so much of poker study is visual. Books and videos are the serious poker player’s preferred method of studying because they go as far in-depth to the issues you’re addressing as anything out there.
Do Homework to Fix Leaks
So, this is the part that we know you were looking forward to. But the truth is, homework is what separates the lazy, losing poker player from the table captain. Some people consider playing to be homework. Granted, you are learning by doing, but that’s not the same as homework. For one, homework poker lessons are going to be way less expensive than other-people-stacking-you poker lessons.
You can create your own homework assignments or look to training sites and material for inspiration. Set aside some solid time to really focus on working through your leaks. Simulate situations in which you get confused and leak chips. Think about how that situation would play out in different contexts — especially with different player types and stack sizes.
And don’t forget to use forums (like ours) to get feedback and direct answers to questions about your leaks. Other, more experienced players are great at pointing out things for you to fix, because often times they have gone through fixing the same leak.
And don’t forget to check out all the great poker strategy software out there. Having the right applications at your disposal makes doing homework a great deal faster and better.
Execute Your Leak-Fixing Plan
If you’ve done the legwork to plug your leaks, you should feel pretty good going into the poker room to try out your new skills. One pitfall is that it’s easy to get distracted by the game and just start playing your usual game out of habit. SplitSuit cautions that you should go into the game focused on the single major area that you’ve been working on. You should approach the game with the mentality that you will be executing the plan you developed while doing your homework.
It’s important to focus on one key leak fix to execute. Trying to execute 15 different major changes to your game just isn’t going to work.
You will find that execution is not a one-step process. It’s more of a cycle. You will go to the poker room, execute your strategy, and then take those results back to your homework and study sessions for further refinement. Rare is the leak that is patched in a single session. The iterative process of execute > study/homework > execute > study/homework is how leaks can truly disappear.
Demote Your Plugged Leak
When are you ready to move on to the next leak? SplitSuit cautions players to be absolutely sure they have plugged their previous leak by being able to point to specific situations and sessions and see progress.
Many players can get tricked into thinking they’re addressing their leak, when in fact they are just getting lucky in an otherwise -EV spot. As SplitSuit puts it, poker is a game that can sometimes give you contradictory feedback. Even though you might consciously know that getting your money in bad on the flop and hitting a two-outer does not constitute a good play. And yet, it’s our brain’s natural reaction to light up the pleasure center and suggest that what we did was correct — and to subtly train our thoughts on doing it again. The same can happen when we do the right thing and lose. This is a major pitfall of a skill game with a big luck element, and should be avoided at all costs.
The forum can be a great place to check to see if your leaks are plugged. Post hands that you think indicate you’ve overcome your leak, and you’ll get more constructive criticism, or verification that you can demote this leak.
Now, SplitSuit could have made this last step “Remove” (thus spelling ‘Flasher’… ok, maybe not such a great idea). But the truth is, you are never truly done with a leak. Even if you have it 100% plugged, the game could change around you. You might run into a slew of more challenging spots that puts you to the test around what you thought was an area you had moved past.
Put the demoted leaks at the end of your list, but leave them there as a constant reminder that these are tricky topics that require vigilant work to refine and maintain your edge.
Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. Just be honest about where you’re at with certain leaks, and when they’re reasonably plugged and no longer having a big effect on your bottom line, move on to the next strategy battle.
And finally, remember that as with so much we learn in the poker, the FLASHED method of improving your poker leaks can also apply to life. Improving the quality of your life is obviously +EV for your poker game, so we wish you the best of luck in all your leak-plugging pursuits.