Poker Statistics – Learn How To Master the Math at the Tables
The modern poker player has widely adopted poker statistics, with online poker stats playing a major role in today’s game. This guide will introduce you to poker stats, and how you can use them to crush the game.
With advances in personal computers, the 1990s-2000s turned poker from a game played in casinos and private clubs to a game played sitting at a desk with multiple computer monitors. After Chris Moneymaker, an unsuspecting accountant from Tennessee, won the World Series of Poker Main Event in 2003 from a ticket he won playing online poker, the game experienced an online boom. Millions of players worldwide were logging on to their favorite poker sites to play as much as they could. The internet poker era brought us some of the biggest names in poker today. Players like Phil Ivey, Tom Dwan, and Phil Galfond won millions playing the game from their desks. Poker moving online did much more than add big names to the scene, online poker stats led to great leaps in poker theory.
Today we see statistics’ influence in all the major sports. Anyone who has seen or read Moneyball knows the influence Billy Beane and Peter Brand had on Major League Baseball by using statistical analysis of players. Statistics are widely used in Football, Basketball, and any other major professional sport today. While the use of statistics in sports is not rare, poker statistics have taken the bond to new heights. Poker statistics have been used to calculate pot odds, the chances of making certain hands, and how two hands compare against each other given the cards seen. More than that, poker stats can be player-specific, showing one’s tendencies based on how they have played previous hands. There are many ways in which poker statistics can aid your game, so let’s look at some of the most widely user poker stats.
Poker Stats – Making Hands
Statistics can be used to see your likelihood of making certain hands. When you are drawing, you can use the 2/4 rule to calculate the percentage chance you have of making your draw. The number of outs you have multiplied by 2 gives you the chance of hitting it on the next card. On the flop, you would multiply by 4 to get your chance of hitting it by the river. Using pot odds, you can calculate if you can profitably call a certain bet sizing based on your percentage chance to hit your draw. Poker statistics can also be used for some common scenarios with starting hands.
Flopping a Set
A set is one of the most powerful hands in poker due to how disguised it is. A set is when you have a pocket pair and a third of that card comes on the flop, so you have three-of-a-kind. This is much more valuable than holding one 10 and having two more come on the flop, which is called “trips”. When you are dealt a pocket pair, you have a roughly 11% chance of flopping a set. So, don’t think you have to see a flop every time you have 2-2 in the hole, but know that 11% of the time you should expect to be in great shape.
Two Suited Cards
Flopping a flush doesn’t happen often, at only 0.8% of the time. I wouldn’t bank on seeing that monotone board in your favor very often. While suited hole cards are more valuable than their off-suit counterparts, poker stats show us that the difference between suited and off-suit only equates to a 2.5% increase in equity. Meaning 9-10 suited is only 2.5%-4% stronger than 9-10 off-suit. Don’t look at any two suited cards and think you are in great shape. Stick to playing strong suited As and Ks as well as some suited connectors like 8-9.
Some common scenarios in poker, especially in tournaments, are pre-flop all-ins. You will often hear that people are “flipping,” meaning it is roughly 50/50, or a coinflip. The most common flip is a pocket pair vs. two overcards. Q-Q vs. A-K all-in pre-flop is a 55% vs. 45%, so not exactly 50/50 but close enough that this is considered flipping.
Having one high card and one low card vs. two cards in between is 56% vs 44%. So, A-2 will beat K-Q roughly 56% of the time.
Sharing the same high card with different kickers is trouble for the lower hand. When both players have A-high but different kickers, the high kicker hand has around a 71% of winning the pot. So, A-K vs. A-Q is bad news for the player holding A-Q. We call this “being dominated.”
Two pocket pairs getting all in pre-flop is even worse than the above example, with the lower pocket pair only winning 20% of the time when they have different suits as the higher pair. When they share both suits, the lower pair will win closer to 18% of the time.
The Royal Flush
A royal flush is the best hand you can have in poker. This mystical hand often makes players erupt when it is shown. I wouldn’t go royal hunting if I were you though; according to the poker statistics, the chances of flopping a royal flush when holding two suited Broadway cards are 0.005%. No wonder most poker players go years without ever making one.
Online Poker Stats
The game moving online was incredibly helpful for those using poker stats. HUDs or Heads Up Displays hit the market in the early 2000s, giving players the ability to see their opponent’s poker stats in real-time. HUDs will track all hands you have played against the player and break down their poker stats for you to see mid-game. These are broken up into pre-flop stats and post-flop stats.
Pre-flop Poker Statistics – VPIP
VPIP — or Voluntarily Put in Play — measures the frequency at which a player willingly puts chips into the pot, so the blinds are excluded from this. This is derived by dividing the number of times a player puts chips into the pot (other than the blinds) by the number of hands they have been dealt in. This is one of the most telling poker stats, as you can see how often a player is deciding to continue with their hand. Most professionals suggest keeping VPIP from 14%-22% in a 9-handed game, and 20%-28% in a short-handed game. When you see a player with a significantly higher VPIP it is likely they are playing too many hands and are a weaker opponent. On the contrary, if you see someone with a significantly smaller VPIP, they are likely very tight and when they do play a hand it will be a premium.
Pre-flop Poker Statistics – RFI & PFR
The poker stats RFI and PFR are similar but track slightly different things. RFI — or Raise First In — tracks the percentage of times a player open raises when folded to pre-flop. PFR — or Pre-flop Raise — shows the number of times a player was the pre-flop aggressor, so all times they were the last person to raise pre-flop including 3-bets+. RFI is more widely used, as it is typically the better indicator of how often a player is deciding to raise the pot. PFR considers when a player raises after someone else has opened the pot or limped (called the big blind). Most players will look at RFI and 3-bet separately rather than combine them into the PFR stat. Both are used to measure aggression, but the poker stats are more optimal when PFR is split up into RFI and 3-bet.
Preflop Poker Statistics – 3-bet
A three-bet is when you put in a third bet or re-raise someone. Preflop, the first raise is just a typical raise or “open”. When you re-raise the preflop opener, that is considered a 3-bet. The 3-bet poker stat is important as it is also used to measure aggression. 3-bet percentage is measured by the number of times you re-raise when a pot has been opened and folded to you. Professionals tend to keep their 3-bet percentage from 3%-6% for full-ring and 5%-9% for short-handed. The numbers may appear small when compared to VPIP, but keep in mind almost all hands will have a pre-flop raiser, and most of your VPIP will come from being the initial preflop raiser. Therefore, it is quite reasonable to have a 3%-6% 3-bet frequency.
Pre-flop Poker Statistics – Fold to 3-bet
The fold to 3-bet poker statistic is straightforward. This shows every time a player is the preflop raiser and folds when they are 3-bet. Players often make the mistake of folding too often to 3-bets, especially when they are coming from live poker. The pros say your fold to 3-bet poker statistic should be 55% or lower.
Pre-flop Poker Statistics – How to Use Them
The online poker stats that focus on pre-flop play can be used together to categorize players and formulate strategies to beat them. Comparing a player’s VPIP to their RFI/3-bet will give you a sense of how many hands they play and how aggressive they are. A player with a high VPIP and low RFI (45%/8%) is a weak player. They are playing too many hands and are rarely the aggressor. These players are good targets to value bet.
Players with extremely low VPIPs and high RFIs are too tight and too aggressive. If a player has a VPIP of less than 10% but a higher RFI/3bet stats, they are waiting for the best starting hands and are hyper-aggressive with them. You can target these players by raising with them behind knowing they will fold too much, and you can comfortably fold when they are taking aggressive actions.
Players with low statistics across the board are playing too tight but don’t build pots through aggressive action when they do play. If you see these players enter the hand, know they can have strong holdings despite their lack of aggression.
Players with all high pre-flop poker stats are golden tickets, they are very loose and very aggressive. You can win a lot of money off these players since they will play too many hands and will pile chips into the pot with weaker holdings. When you see a whale with VPIP over 40% and high RFI/3-bet poker stats, you can let them bet themselves into oblivion when you have a value hand.
The fold to 3-bet poker stat can be used to target players folding too often. When a player is folding most of the time to a 3-bet, you can target their pre-flop ranges by 3-betting them more often. On the contrary, when a player doesn’t fold enough to 3-bets, you should save your 3-bets for more premium hands knowing you will likely see a flop when 3-betting.
Other than analyzing your opponents, HUDs will keep your online poker stats as well. Use these numbers to see where you can improve on your game. If any of your poker stats are outside the preferred ranges, you should work to adjust your preflop strategy. If your VPIP is too high, remove the worst hands in your current range. If you fold to 3-bets too often, start defending your open raises more. These poker stats can be used to find weak targets as well as adjust your strategy.
Post-flop Poker Statistics
Post-flop poker stats are used to measure how players will react to flop scenarios. While the preflop stats are used more to categorize players based on how often they play hands and take aggressive actions, post-flop poker stats have some more specific scenarios.
Post-flop Poker Statistics – C-bet Stats
Multiple poker stats center around c-betting or continuation betting. A c-bet is when the preflop aggressor is the first to bet on the flop. The three c-bet stats to watch for are c-bet, Fold to c-bet, and c-bet Turn. All three of these should be in the 40%-60% range, with c-bet Turn going up to 65%. This means around half of the time you should be c-betting the flop or turn when you were the preflop aggressor, and you should be folding roughly the same when facing a c-bet from an opponent.
The pre-flop aggressor has an uncapped range, meaning (usually) only they can have the best hands: A-A, K-K, and Q-Q. Having these in your range is powerful, which is why a c-bet should occur about half of the time. On the contrary, when you are not the aggressor your opponents can have all those strong hands, so you shouldn’t be blindly calling c-bets. The Fold to c-bet poker statistic simply measures the percentage a player folds when facing a c-bet from the pre-lop aggressor.
Post-flop Poker Statistics – WTSD
WTSD or Went to Showdown metric measures the percentage at which a player stays in the hand through the final betting round. Most winning players will go to showdown between 20% and 33% of the time. This is only measured for hands that the player sees the flop, so this does not consider folding pre-flop. The value of this poker stat can show how sticky an opponent is once they see the flop.
Post-flop Poker Statistics – W$SD
Win Money at Showdown or W$SD metric measures the frequency that a player wins the pot when they get to showdown. Professionals will have a W$SD from 52%-66%. So, winning players have the best hand by the river at least half of the time. If your W$SD frequency is low, you may be continuing with hands that are not strong enough.
Post-flop Poker Statistics – How to Use Them
The c-bet post-flop statistics are often used to target individual players. If a player is c-betting incredibly high (75%+) you can take advantage of them by raising their c-bets more often or continuing knowing they have a very wide c-betting range. On the other hand, if an opponent hardly c-bets, you should take it seriously when they do and only continue with strong hands. You can bet more often into players who fold to a c-bet at a high frequency and less often to those who don’t fold enough.
The showdown statistics can be used to formulate value betting ranges. If a player is going to showdown at a high percentage and is also winning at a low percentage, you can value bet lighter against them. They are likely continuing through the last betting round with weak holdings and paying people off. On the contrary, you can take caution against players who rarely make it to showdown and win at a high percentage when they do. These players will tend to have strong value hands when they make it to the final betting round, so play accordingly when they are still in the hand.
You can adjust your own game by c-betting more or less often to get that poker stat into the preferred range. If your WTSD stat is too high, fold more marginal holdings during post-flop play. If your W$SD frequency is higher than normal, there is no need to adjust; winning money is the point! If you find yourself winning at showdown much larger than 66%, celebrate as you are running quite well.
Poker Statistics for Live Players
Poker statistics are more often associated with playing online, as HUDs will keep the online poker stats for you and are easy to see. Live players can use these too, however, it will require some work. Live players most often will use these statistics for themselves rather than their opponents. It would be almost impossible to get meaningful data on your opponents since they can change so frequently, but you are always a constant in your game.
A great way to measure your poker stats in the live game is to track the number of hands you play vs. the number of hands you are dealt to measure your VPIP. VPIP is the easiest to track, as most of the other poker stats do not measure by every single hand you play. Track your VPIP by keeping a tally of the number of hands you are dealt vs. the number of hands you put chips in play with. You can do this on your phone with or without a poker note-taking app or an old-fashioned pen and paper, and some quick division will give you your VPIP. Use this information to adjust your pre-flop strategy while playing live.
Consider Sample Size
When evaluating poker statistics, or any statistics for that matter, you must keep in mind your sample size. The numbers don’t mean much until you have a significant number of data points, so for poker stats that would be hands played. For online poker stats, the first 100 hands of data you have against an opponent do not mean much. While you can draw some preliminary conclusions approaching 100 hands, these poker stats shouldn’t be taken as a certainty. A tighter player could get 20 strong hands out of 100, so even if their lifetime VPIP is closer to 9%, they could appear to have a 20% VPIP at the time you are playing with them. Hands 100-500 start to paint a better picture, but you still don’t have your opponent completely pegged at this sample size. You can be confident in the numbers in the 500-1,000 hands played range, and anything over 1,000 should be a great indicator of that player’s typical poker statistics.
The necessity of large sample size is why tracking poker stats live is so difficult. If you play at large resort-casino poker rooms, you will likely not play against the same opponents very often. While you will see the regulars frequently, you won’t always be playing at their table. You can get a feel for how they play, but it could take years of note taking to try and lock down any of their poker stats simply from live play. Besides the difficulty of obtaining a large sample size, it would be too hard to track other players’ stats even if you played against the same eight players every time. So, while poker stats like VPIP can be tracked for yourself, don’t try to calculate poker stats for the players at a live game as you won’t get any meaningful conclusions from the data.
Adaptation is Critical to Success
Poker is primarily a skill game, and the most important skill is the ability to adapt. Poker statistics can be used to make in-game adjustments based on your opponents. You can also use your poker stats to adjust your basic strategy if you find yourself outside of the normal ranges for winning players. Whether you have a high-end HUD or are tracking your VPIP by taking notes, using this information to adapt is how you can use poker statistics to win money.