In addition to keeping accurate details about your wins and losses, programs like Poker Tracker and Hold’em Manager will track every move your opponents make.
using the heads-up display (HUD) you can convert that information into easy-to-understand stats and display them beside your opponents' names in real time, right on the table.
The information on the HUD tells you precise details about your opponents' playing tendencies, and understanding these stats can make a huge difference in your win rate.
Stats are something that all winning players use to a degree, but very few use to their full potential. Learn to master this powerful tool and you'll reap big benefits.
A quick run down of the most popular stats:
This is the average total % of times your opponent puts money into the pot voluntarily. That could mean raising preflop, cold calling, completing the big blind, etc.
The higher a player’s VPIP, the looser the player. The lower the VPIP, the tighter the player.
For six-max no-limit hold’em most regulars fall between 19-25% VPIP. Any tighter or looser, though possibly profitable, is by no means optimal.
See the side picture for a PokerStove of 19% VPIP to get an idea of what hands that player would play.
If you're not familiar with PokerStove get the details here.
This is the Pre-Flop Raise stat and it’s pretty self explanatory. It’s how often your opponent raises before the flop.
Most players' PFR fall within 4-6% of their VPIP. I.E if they play 20 VPIP their PFR is usually between 14%-19%.
The bigger the gap between VPIP and PFR the more often a player cold calls.
For example a player with a 35% VPIP and a 10% PFR has a 25% cold-calling range and is most likely a fish.
This is how often your opponent re-raises before the flop.
As an example a 3% three-bettor would be AA-TT, AKs-AQS, and AQo and would have no light three-bets in its range. You can adjust from there.
This is how often your opponent folds to three-bets. This stat is extremely helpful when deciding which hands to three-bet and which to call with before the flop.
Obviously someone with a high fold-to-three-bet stat is a player you can three-bet light relentlessly. Someone with a low fold-to-three-bet stat you can three-bet wider for value.
These are the most popular pre-flop stats. While most players understand what each stat means, few take the time to think how they are all related.
For example a player with a very close VPIP and PFR is also normally going to have a higher three-bet% because he is cold-calling less often.
Conversely a player with a wide gap between his VPIP and PFR is going to have a very wide cold-calling range and thus will have many weak hands in that range.
It’s not just about knowing what the stats mean. You must understand how to use them to draw real and useful conclusions about your opponents' games.
This is your opponent’s aggression factor. It tells you how aggressive he plays. Most players fall between 1-3. Anything less is very passive and anything more is very aggressive.
If a player with a 0.5 AG is playing back at you, he's probably not bluffing and you would need a very good hand to continue.
On the other hand if someone with a 6 AG is playing back at you, your top pair is starting to look pretty good.
This is how often your opponent goes to showdown after seeing the flop. Most players fall between 20 and 32%.
Having a low WTSD can mean two things: He either folds very often before showdown or he makes his opponents fold very often before showdown.
A good way to tell is use WTSD in conjunction with AG. If your opponent is passive and doesn’t go to showdown often, then he's weak tight.
If your opponent is aggressive and has a low WTSD, he’s making people fold before showdown very often. If your opponent shows down 35% or more, he's showdown happy.
Again, you have to examine WTSD and his aggression stat to get an idea of how he plays.
If his aggression is low he may not be betting with the lead often enough and intuitively lets his opponents showdown much more than they should.
If, however, he is aggressive yet still has a high WTSD, he probably also calls way too often with weak hands on the river.
Seeing a number and knowing how often a player goes to showdown is helpful but seeing a number and figuring out why he goes to showdown as often as he does is invaluable.
How often your opponent continuation bets on the flop as the pre-flop raiser.
Most players continuation-bet on the flop between 55% - 88% of the time.
CB% should be looked at in conjunction with the PFR stat. The lower the player’s PFR%, the higher the player’s CB%. That’s because the fewer hands the player is raising pre-flop the stronger the hands. The stronger the hand pre-flop the more often he’ll make strong hands worth betting on the flop.
As a player’s PFR gets higher, he is going to miss the flop more often because he’s raising so many more marginal hands before the flop. If his CB stat remains high then he is going to be c-betting air very often and therefore is exploitable.
This is how often your opponent second barrels as the pre-flop raiser when his flop c-bet is called.
Obviously it should be used in conjunction with the CB stat. If your opponent has both high flop c-bet and turn c-bet stats then he is just going to be barreling his air very often and you should, in turn, call him down lighter.
If your opponent has a high flop c-bet and a low turn c-bet then you’ve identified your opponent as a one-and-done player. These guys fire one barrel at the flop and give up when called.
If your opponent is a one-and-done player then floating becomes your best friend.
How often your opponent folds to flop continuation bets.
The higher a player’s FC, the more “fit or fold” he plays. The lower the number, the more often he calls the flop with marginal hands.
Used in conjunction with the VPIP stat you can really get a feel for a player’s overall game.
A player that has a large VPIP and a small FC is going to be seeing a lot of flops and a lot of turns. And, chances are, he's a fish you can play as such.
Or, if he's a regular and has a low FC, you can use the pop-up stat and look at his bet-when-checked-to stat. If that is high, then you’ve found an opponent who loves to float.
How often your opponent folds to a second barrel.
Some fish love to call pre-flop and love to call the flop but won’t continue past the turn without a decent hand. You can instantly tell these types of players if they have a low FC stat and a high F2 stat.
Obviously you should punish these types of players by firing second barrels more often.
The thing about stats is that they can be extremely misleading without an accurate sample size. Hold’em is a variance packed game and in the short term stats can vary considerably.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is treating a player’s stats as gospel when you have a small sample size - only to find in real life they play in a completely different manner.
Hold off from drawing advanced conclusions about how someone plays until you have logged enough hands.
What “enough hands” means varies from stat to stat. While 100 hands might be more than enough to draw conclusions from the VPIP and PFR stats, it’s not nearly enough to understand WTSD, barreling frequencies, or three-bet stats.
As with everything in poker, the bigger the sample size the better.
A Tool Not a Crutch
Stats are a tool, not a crutch. Too many players rely only on stats in a game. They’ll paint everyone with similar stats with a broad, sweeping brush when in actuality everyone plays differently.
You can have three different players all with stats that are very similar. However one player might crush the game for 4BB/100, one might break even and one might beat it for 1BB/100.
If you treat all of those players the exact same, you're making a big mistake. Relying too heavily on stats leaves you playing an ABC, robotic game and will stunt your growth as a poker player.
Stats are just one tool in a successful player’s box. They need to be used in conjunction with observation and non stats-based reads.
Stats only give you an average of how your opponent plays against all different types of opponents. It’s up to you to figure out how he plays against you and you can only do that by paying attention and taking notes.
When you're able to look past the basic information contained in a stat and start to draw real conclusions about your opponent’s play, looking at his stats as a whole and how each relates to the others, you'll start to get past your inner ABC poker robot and you will start to play better poker.
If you can do that - while observing and taking non-stat notes on your opponents - you're going to be a force to be reckoned with.
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