Hi everyone, during my Time Vault challenge I've dedicated more of my time to 5NL Zoom (Full-Ring) than any other poker game. After returning a fairly steady profit in each of the 9 months so far I think now may be a good time to share the things I've learnt with you all. I'm not going to go too much into the ranges of starting hands I'm playing or the way I'm actually playing the hands but there are hundreds of fantastic videos available for you all in the PSO library from several different trainers which will definitely help, as they have for me.


In my opinion the most important key to success in Zoom (apart from training) is to use a HUD. I have Hold'em Manager 2 but PokerTracker should be just as good & there's a free month trial of both available on the net. I'd recommend trying them both & buying the one which works best for you. I took my trials at the end of last year & found it a little tough getting used to having numbers all over the screen but I quickly learnt what all the numbers meant & how I can use them to my advantage at the poker table & now I wouldn't play Hold'em without it.

I think the use of a HUD is far more important in Zoom than any other form of poker. In regular cash games & tournaments you're sat at the same table for long periods & can observe the way villains are playing & easily make notes when required. In Zoom you're moving tables every hand so it's far more difficult to keep track of opponents & after folding you're instantly dealt a new hand so you don't get to see the action you're not involved in. The only way to watch the hands & make notes is to pause the action & go back over it all (very time consuming & kind of defeats the point of playing Zoom). Your HUD will record stats for everything that happens in each hand, including everything which you don't get to see. You can still make notes & go over any hands you like but you also have the HUD software which offers some useful stats/charts & stores every hand.


With the quick action in Zoom you're going to want all the most useful stats on screen while you're playing, keeping the stats you need less often to the back. I've found the following set-up to be perfect (stats may be named differently in PT4) which I originally tried out after seeing it suggested on one of the great videos on PSO (can't remember which one...):

The first line contains the player's name & the number of hands we have on them (in blue) but it's the 3 lines of numbers below that we can adjust to our advantage.


TOP LINE: TOT VPIP / TOT PFR / Postflop Agression Factor / TOT 3bet
MIDDLE LINE: CO Steal / BTN Steal / SB Steal
BOTTOM LINE: Flop CBet / Flop Fold to CB

TOT VPIP is the percentage of hands where the villain voluntarily contributes to the pot & is therefore a measure of how tight or loose a player is. For myself & other TAG (tight-agressive) players this tends to be between 12 & 18. Assuming we have a good sample size (the higher the blue number is, the more reliable the other stats are) player's with VPIP <10 can be considered tight (usually/always holding a strong starting hand so we need to be cautious against them, fold more hands to them pre-flop) & players with VPIP >20 can be considered loose (more difficult to range but generally easier to extract money from).

TOT PFR is the % of hands that a player open-raises with (the first player to make a raise pre-flop). If this number is close to a villains's VPIP then they can be considered agressive (eg. VPIP 15, PFR 13, typical TAG stats), if the number is much lower than their VPIP then we've got a passive villain (eg. VPIP 24, PFR 5, typical loose-passive stats).

Postflop Agression Factor (AF) is a measure of the ratio of how often a player bets/raises against how often they call post-flop. This tends to be between 2 & 3 for myself & I think this is fairly typical for an ABC player. If this number is very low (< 1) then our villain can be considered passive post-flop & we should be value-betting our strong hands more often against them & bluffing less as they're more likely to call than players with a high AF. It makes more sense to play a more trappy style (appear weak when we've got a strong hand) against players with a high AF (> 4) as they will be betting & raising more often than they call, even with weaker hands.

TOT 3bet is another important stat for pre-flop play & is most useful when attempting a steal. Players with a low 3bet% (< 3%) & low VPIP are the best targets for a steal (lower the better) & it will be profitable to do so with a very wide range of hands. Loose passive players usually have a low 3bet% too but they're far more likely to call your raise so steal with a tighter range of hands against them. Players with a high 3bet% (> 6%) are obviously more likely to 3-bet vs. your steal so tighten up your stealing range a little more against them. We need to be making our steals profitable overall so by tightening them up against this type of villain we're going to be reducing the times we have to fold to their 3bets & having hands we can play against them a higher percentage of the times we attempt the steal. Obviously our respose to their 3bet depends on our hand & the villains stats but I tend to call more often from the Cut-Off or button & 4-bet more often from the small blind - this is purely due to position post-flop. Take care though as this stat requires a larger sample size (more hands) to be reliable than VPIP/PFR as 3-betting occurs less often & takes longer to settle due to variance.

The stats on the next line - CO Steal / BTN Steal / SB Steal show the % of times the villain attempts a pre-flop steal from the cut-off, button & small blind respectively. They're important as they help with our decision when facing their steal attempts. The lower the figure the tigher the range of hands they're stealing with. Obviously we should 3-bet more often against players with high steal percentages. Remember though that a high percentage doesn't necessarily mean a weak hand so if our 3-bet doesn't get a fold we need to be careful. The point is, we're 3-betting more often against players with hands that wont be able to continue against us which makes it a more profitable play in the long-run. Something else worth mentioning is that these percentages should be quite a bit higher than a villain's total PFR percentage. If they're not & we have a good sample of hands on them then we can conclude that the villain doesn't have the best understanding of the importance of position.

Flop CBet shows the percentage of times a player makes a Continuation Bet (bets the flop after being the pre-flop agressor). If this stat is particularly high (>80%) we can try raising their 3-bets light more often or occasionally just floating on the flop. Do this when the flop looks like it might have missed their range. The Flop Fold to CB stat can be useful in deciding whether to make a C-Bet against a villain after we've missed the flop. However, I tend to base decisions of whether to C-bet more on the board (how likely is it to have hit their range?) & the number of opponents (we don't want to be C-betting light against 4 or 5 opponents as we so much less likely to get that many folds) so I use this stat the least out of all those mentioned.

Villain 1 (names blanked out)

With VPIP/PFR stats of 8/5 this player can be considered to be very tight. This, combined with their low 3Bet% makes them an excellent opponent to steal against. Their steal percentages are low so open-raises from this player should be respected from all positions but I'd certainly be 3-betting vs. their raises from the small blind (higher % than for CO/BTN) with a fairly wide range as a player this tight will be folding all but the strongest hands to a 3-bet. I would expect early position raises from this player to be with an extremely narrow range of hands, nothing worse than AK, AQs+ & TT+ & for that reason I'll be folding hands as strong as AQ against those raises. Their Agression Factor & CBet% are normal & they're folding to Cbets quite often so I wouldn't be afraid to make a Cbet against them after missing the flop. Also note that we have 2.2K hands on this player, a really good sample size so all the stats should be reliable.

Villain 2

With stats of 12/4 this player is also tight but the large gap between the VPIP & PFR percentages show us that this player is more passive. They also don't seem to have the best understanding of the importance of position as their steal percentages are really low, almost as low as the total PFR. Thet're probably calling more often in late position then raising... While the 3bet% seems very low & CBet% very high we can't read much into this due to the small sample size of 274 hands. In fact, with that sample size none of the stats can be completely relied upon but I would guess that this is a weaker & more passive player than Villain 1.

Villain 3

With stats of 33/27 this player may look to be loose agressive at first glance but with a sample size of just 15 hands it's best to treat this player as an unknown. They could easily be a tight player who's been dealt some nice hands...


1) I never open-limp with any hand but I will sometimes over-limp (limp after 1 or more players have already limped in), especially with speculative hands like small pocket pairs & suited connectors that I want to see a cheap flop with. Before over-limping I'll take a look at the players behind me - you don't want to be limping when there's loose-agressive players still to act. Play the percentages & do it when it's more likely to get through.

2) Keep your bet/raise sizing consistant. I raise 2.5x from the button & 3x from all other positions regardless of my hand. This way opponents can't read anything into your bet sizing.

3) Set-mining - when deciding to call a raise when holding a small/medium pocket pair consider the size of the raise (smaller = better odds), the number of other players in the pot (more players = more likely to get paid if we hit) & the relative stack sizes involved (bigger = more $ to be won if we hit). Again, play the percentages we need to be getting the right odds.

4) Here's something that not many of you will agree with but which I've found works great for me... I always bring the maximum $5 to the table but I never top it up. I play my short stackes pretty well & I frequent recover from under $1, perhaps more often than I go bust. Also, as soon as I'm over 1.5x the starting stack ($7.50 in 5NL) I click "Sit out next BB" (always wait for the BB when closing a table, don't give up the chance to see hands for free), cash out & then open up a new table with $5. This goes totally against what I've learnt in training but I've been doing it all year & it's worked great for me so I'm sticking with it.

5) I always play 2 tables. It's enough to stop me getting bored & playing too many hands, enough to earn VPPs at a reasonable rate to earn Silverstar staus every month, but not too much to stop me paying full attention to both tables so I can play my best poker. Obviously this will vary from player to player so it's up to you to find something you're comfortable with.

Anyway, thanks once again for reading. I hope there's something here that you found useful! Check back in a couple of days for my September review