Sunday, September 29, 2013

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

How to Optimize Your HUD for Today's Micro Stakes Cash Games
First off, I have written about this topic before. A pair of articles which you can find here and here. However, the information contained in those posts 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.

If you still have any doubts about whether or not you should be using a HUD (or even what it is) go quickly check out this article of mine before you read this one.

My New HUD Setup!

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:
  • I wanted only the most important stats to be displayed (i.e., the ones that I use the most)
  • 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 have a "Lite" version which gets the job done in that respect anyways.

Before I even begin my analysis I am going to just give you the download link to my new HUD setup so that you can start using it at the tables yourself. I should mention that I use Pokertracker 4. I think it is the best current poker tracking program and HUD on the market.

You can check out the free trial for yourself. They have a highly detailed quick start guide as well if you have any problems during installation.

Don't worry if you don't use PT4 though. Many people use Hold'em Manager 2 for instance which is a solid poker tracking program and HUD as well. This article will still be useful for you.

You can download the Full version of my Pokertracker 4 HUD profile here.
(recommended for NL10 and higher).

You can download the Lite version of my Pokertracker 4 HUD profile here.
(recommended for NL2, NL4 and NL5).

Simply import the file in Pokertracker 4 and you can start using it immediately at the tables. Just go HUD > Edit HUD Profiles > Options > Import Profile.

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

Click to enlarge
How to setup your poker HUD

And here is what the Lite version looks like:
Poker HUD setup

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 though. This HUD 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.

And as mentioned, don't worry if you don't use Pokertracker 4. 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. So I am going to list every one that will be used in this article below before I get started. If you are familiar with HUD stats already you can just skip this section.

I will be using the abbreviations and descriptions as defined by Pokertracker 4 in their statistical reference guide which can be found here.

You can also go Configure > Statistics within Pokertracker 4 at any time to get the full list and definitions as well.

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 )

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.

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 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.

Here is an example of what my Full HUD actually looks like on the poker table.
Poker HUD setup micro stakes

1. Abbreviations

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 because these are just the classic indicators of overall play style (VPIP/PFR/Total AF).

2. Color Coding

I have also incorporated some minor color coding just to make some stats stand out. I use blue for the big three (VPIP/PFR/Total AF). And the 4th and 5th stats which are highly useful in late position situations (Fold to Steal and ATS) are differentiated in green.

Custom Pokertracker 4 HUD Configuration

But alas, if you don't like something on my HUD setup, then you 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.

Click to enlarge
How to setup your poker HUD at the micros

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

Testing the HUD

The best way to test all of this is to open up a replayer window in Pokertracker 4. Make whatever changes that you want 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 can just open up a table on whatever poker network that you play on and either observe some hands or play.
How to Optimize Your HUD for Today's Micro Stakes Cash Games

Make sure you hit the little Pokertracker 4 icon (as noted above) at the top of your poker table, select "Change Profile" and choose my HUD.

Here is a video walk through of both versions of my HUD. There will be more detailed line by line analysis in the rest of this article below.

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 what type of opponent I am up against and their likely 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.

Click to enlarge
Poker HUD setup Pokertracker 4
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 ok because I need detailed information to find the leaks 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 Full HUD in particular 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.

Better yet though you can just adjust the font size. I have lowered the font size to 6 (from the default of 8) for every stat in my Full HUD. You can see what it looks like below on my 15 inch laptop.

                                                     Click to enlarge
Setting up your poker HUD

I realize that this article was quite long and has a lot of technical information in it. If you have any questions or suggestions please leave them in the comment box below.

If you enjoyed this article please "Like" or "Tweet" it below!

Optimal poker HUD setup


  1. Hi Nathan,

    Thanks heaps for posting that.

    The major stat missing from your HUD that I think is essential is Fold to Steal. This stat for the blinds massively affects how I play from CO and BTN. I also like Went to Showdown, but that's less important.

    Are you able to post a screenshot of your HUD on the table? I'm having trouble getting it to fit right at 6max Zoom - I'm thinking about shortening some of the prefix text.

    Thanks again

    1. Hi Justin,

      Ya I thought about including Fold to Steal. The reason I didn't was because I normally have a quick look at the player types in the blinds and generally know already what to expect. The nits are going to fold a lot, the TAG's will 3bet me more, the fish and SLP will call etc.

      I just tile 4 tables on my 15 inch laptop and it fits fine. There is just enough space if I put the box under everyone's name, except for the player in the seats at the top of the screen where I put it off to the side.

    2. Hey Justin,

      Sorry, I forgot to get a screenshot for you. I have just added it in at the bottom of the post. Also, I decided to include your suggestion of Fold to Steal. The post has been updated as has the download link. Thanks for the feedback!

    3. Thanks for that Nathan.

      I was having trouble fitting a HUD box on the bottom right at 6max tables. Looks like it's easier at full ring because the hero seat is directly centred.

      I've made some adjustments to your standard and have it fitting well now. I've also color coded a lot of stats. I like being able to see at a quick glance whether opponents are nits, tags, lags, fish. I have nitty stats as red, tag stats as yellow and looser stats as green. I think this helps more at the Zoom tables I play because you have less time to identify players in each position.


    4. Could you share that with us? or point out your color ranges?
      thanks :D

  2. Great article!

    When is your new book coming out?

    1. Thanks Anon,

      I don't have a firm release date yet. I am hoping and expecting it to be before the end of this year though.

  3. I just want to thank you for writing this article. I have never seen anything this comprehensive on setting up your HUD. It is a huge help!

    1. No problem Richard and thanks for reading!

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Just noticed this, but why the switch to pt4?

    1. I think PT4 is a lot easier to use and just looks a lot better overall. Their stat abbreviations also make a lot more sense to me.

    2. Thanks for the reply.

  6. Thanks alot for this really been wanting to do a overhaul of my hud also this article was really well written easy to read and follow along, while @ the same time very detail oriented just what I was looking for . . . . . Thanks Again

  7. Nathan,

    Thanks so much for this post!!! You are really educating me.

    I am just learning online micro stakes Holdem and this is invaluable. I have seen so much on HUD's but frankly was confused. Based on your advice I bought PT4 this weekend. I have downloaded your HUD's and I am studying the statistics.

    I am also reading Matthew Hilger's book and will buy yours next.

    As a 20+ year BJ card counter playing in LV, I have become disillusioned with the increasing casino rules shifts to their favor. I look forward to playing against other people and not the house. Playing from home is also attractive.

    I now the value of learning a gambling game properly and you are moving me up the learning curve.

    Wanted to say thank-you so much for sharing!!!


    PS - I have tried three times to post this, so if multiple show up you are welcome to delete them. I think I have signed in correctly now for this to work.

    1. Hi Chris,

      Glad this post helped! A HUD is an integral part of the online poker environment these days and they needn't be that complicated. Just use the Lite version above when you get started online and you will be just fine.

  8. You should add NOTES field to top row. PT auto takes notes and will show hand ranges, etc. Very good info if you get shoved on preflop etc to know what you're possibly up against

  9. Hi Nathan

    What we really need in this article or another maybe is the color ranges for the stats! As you know (since you use color coding) a VPIP of 17 by it self or 21 or 36, "lost" among so many other numbers is not as easily identifiable as if it is coloured. But what are th ranges for the colors?

    Is there any guide anywhere that we can use to color code our stats?

    By the way, thanks for a GREAT article, on of the most useful ones out there for HUDs and online poker in general.

    1. Good idea Thanos. I don't really want to add to this article because it is quite long but in the future I will likely write another one talking about color coding the HUD. Glad you enjoyed though!

    2. Hi Nathan! Great post you wrote here. Very useful. :)

      Would you write something about the color range you use?


    3. Thanks andrtins! I don't really even use color coding for ranges anymore. I just use some different colors on the top row as you can see in this article to differentiate a few stat groupings. I used to use red for tight, yellow for semi-loose and green for loose though.

  10. hi nathan , i have problems with pt4 , the huds dissapear ,come back and there pretty much everywhere and almost every hand it changes . im using 888poker atm. i downloaded your hud , no difference and the huds dont show up propper. what can it be ?

    1. Hmm, not really sure to be honest. I think I have heard of some others maybe having trouble with 888 as well. I would send an email to Pokertracker support. They are going to know more about this than me.

  11. Hi,

    Quick question about colour coding, I saw that you've already received a few questions about it.
    Is it possible to make PT4 colour code the player name? Let's say that a players stats are telling us he is a NIT then I might want to make his name red and for someone that has 'fishy' stats I might want to make it green or something like that?
    Is it even worth the time doing that or would you just recommend that I learn what stats defines what so that I can spot that quicker?

    Thanks for the article!

    1. Thanks Bo. I am not sure if this is possible. I have tried to do certain things like this in the past with PT4 and HEM before that but ultimately I would rather just look at the stats for my decisions and colour code or tag them on the poker site itself as you can see in the screenshot above.

  12. Hi BR

    I've just stumbled on this post and downloaded your PT4 HUD profile and noticed that there are a couple of tweaks compared to the above. If you have discussed those tweaks anywhere, could you please point me to them please. For example FRFB is in the topline? Thanks.