Best believe online pros like UlitmateBet Star Adam "Roothlus" Levy know every stat on their opponents.
If you've begun reading forums or started to discuss hands with poker-playing friends, you've probably seen or heard the terms "VP$IP" or "PFR" or "AF" thrown around.
These acronyms can seem confusing at first, but with a little background you'll see they're actually quite simple and very accurate.
Poker tracking software is an essential tool for an online poker player. It keeps track of every single hand you play, and displays all the relevant information on your playing style in an easily understood manner.
The software tracks everything from your total number of hands played, to your win rate, to how often you win with a given hand. Every stat you can imagine is nicely displayed and available right at your fingertips.
The two best poker trackers are www.pokertracker.com and www.holdemmanager.net.
Now we'll go over the most widely used stats - what they mean and how you can use them to your advantage.
A quick note: poker is a complex game. Players can use a variety of styles, and just because they fit outside the "norm" in regard to their stats, it doesn't mean they're fish.
Many great players use a style that would look fishy on paper, but it works for them and is very profitable. So use stats wisely and in conjunction with observing your opponents' play.
VP$IP: Voluntarily Put Money In Pot
What VP$IP tracks is the percentage of times you voluntarily put money in the pot. This is if you raise, bet, call - whatever. If you put money in the pot of your own accord, it counts. What doesn't count is your blinds, since that's money you're required to put in.
The higher the number, the more hands you play pre-flop. Most profitable players fall somewhere between 13% on the tight end to 26% on the loose end.
Generally anything outside of that and you are playing too tight or too loose. Although it may be profitable, a style of play that puts you outside these parameters is almost never optimal.
PFR: Pre-Flop Raise
PFR tracks the percentage of the time that you raise before the flop.
Most winning players typically raise between 8% and 22% of their hands. If you raise any less than 8%, you'll be easily read by your opponents. For example, a PFR of 6% would be a range of AA-99, A-Ks - A-Js, and A-Qo
Being this tight makes play against you very easy, as your opponent can put you on an exact hand without too much trouble.
On the flip side, if you raise too many hands, you're often going to be against better hands when you are called ... meaning you give up too much value before the flop.
Raise too little and you're predictable; raise too much and you're simply giving up too much value. Watch your PFR stats and find a nice middle ground to walk for max profits.
WTSD: Went to Showdown
WTSD is the percentage of the time you go to showdown after seeing a flop.
WTSD can be a good indication you are going to showdown too often with weak or marginal hands. It can also tell you if you are playing too tight or perhaps folding too much with hands you maybe should go to showdown with.
A good number is generally around 25-30%.
W$SD: Won Money at Showdown
W$SD is the percentage of hands you win when you see a showdown.
This number should obviously be above 50%. If it is smaller than that, it's probably a good indication that you are seeing too many showdowns with weak hands.
AF: Aggression Factor
AF is calculated by (Raise % + Bet %) / Call %.
This number is a great indication of how aggressively you play. Generally, winning players fall between 1.5 and 4 - anything less is too passive and anything more is usually too aggressive.
3bet is a percentage of how often you reraise before the flop.
Your 3bet percentage, depending on the game and the style of play, should be pretty low. Obviously six-max players will be three-betting more than full-ring players but regardless, a good 3bet percentage is between 3-8%.
If your three-betting range is too tight, your opponents will know your exact holdings. If you three-bet too wide, then you're going to find yourself in tough spots in big pots with weaker-than-normal hands.
BB/100: Big Bets per 100 Hands
BB/100 is the most popular way to measure win rate. It is an average of how many big bets you win for every 100 hands you play.
Obviously anything above zero is a good number; however, a good but not great player will usually win 1-3BB/100, whereas an expert player will win 3-6BB/100.
Anything outside that range past microstakes is almost always the result of a too-small sample size and someone running hot.
A Note on Sample Size
Poker is a game dominated by variance. These stats can fluctuate from session to session. One session you may get dealt aces 10 times and in that case your aggression will be through the roof.
But that isn't really how you play; you were just on a heater. Thus, you need to log a decent sample size before the stats will hold any real value. These stats don't approach an accurate representation of your play until at least 10,000 hands.
Wielding Stats Against Your Opponents
When you start to understand these stats and how they relate to you, you can start applying them to your opponents. You can compare how they play with how you play, and adjust your tactics accordingly.
Use stats to your advantage, but don't forget about variance.
If you raise 13% of your hands and your opponent raises 10%, then you can take out the bottom 3% of your range to get an accurate idea of his raising range.
These stats are designed to give you a better sense of your own play as well as of your opponent's. When you see an opponent's stats, you will often be able to tell how he plays without any actual history with him.
If you know how he plays, you have the advantage. (Keeping in mind, of course, the earlier caution about stats sometimes being misleading.)
So take a moment and familiarize yourself with these stats and with what the numbers mean. It may help you with a big decision down the road.
More strategy articles from Dan Skolovy:
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