An Introduction To Using Poker Statistics

Guide To Winning Poker (8)

  • Poker statistics are an extremely valuable tool that all players need to use
  • Focusing on the wrong statistics can get you in trouble
  • It’s very important to only use what can truly help us at the poker table

The Sooner You Start Using Poker Statistics, The Better

The material I’m about to discuss may seem too advanced for newer and less experienced players, so I want to point out that this isn’t the case at all. The great thing about the proper use of poker stats is that its use can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make it, so at first you’ll probably only be looking at the simpler things, but as you go along you’ll have the proper foundation to really get the most out of it, as your understanding of it and your skill using it increases. My approach to this is pretty unique in fact, and merely by thinking properly when it comes to these things, you’ll get a huge leg up on your opponents, and will be making a significant step toward achieving your full potential as an online poker player.

I’ll also be referencing what I refer to as frequencies quite frequently in upcoming lessons, so it’s very important to understand this concept. What I mean here is the percentage of times a player will do a certain action as opposed to another. So for instance, we’re looking to bet on a certain street, and we want to know, generally, how often a player will call, raise, or fold. Or, the player bets into us, and we want to first know how often he bets here, to get an idea of what sort of hands he bets generally, and then see how often he will fold to a raise, how often he bets out again on the next street, and so on.

What’s The Best Way To Get These Poker Statistics?

This is all of course some pretty valuable information to know. So how do we get it? Well if you don’t already have a stat tracking program, you should look to get one. The program I recommend is called Holdem Manager. It’s available for purchase, or you can even get it free from some sites just by trying out one of their recommended poker rooms. Although many players use the other popular program out there now, Poker Tracker 3, only Holdem Manager gives you access to the stuff you really need to be looking at in order to get the most out of your stats. In fact, you can’t even get most of the stuff I use and recommend in Poker Tracker 3, so the choice between them is pretty easy.

Now there’s two main types of data that we can get from these programs, as far as looking to get reads on opponents. The first one is indirect data. A good example of this would be aggression factor, which means a player’s tendency towards an aggressive action such as betting or raising versus taking a passive route, which would be calling.

Beware Of Unreliable Statistics

Now in spite of pretty much everyone relying on this type of stat, there are several serious problems with it. First of all, it tends to be relatively inaccurate, due to its’ being not specific enough. If I want to know how a player behaves in a certain situation, it’s far better to look at data from that situation specifically rather than just some general stuff like this.

Next, it isn’t particularly helpful to know, and especially in its being used mathematically to put people on ranges and come up with the best way to take advantage of frequencies of certain actions. For instance, if I know that a player will bet more than he calls, this doesn’t help me much in determining what sort of ranges he bets. On the other hand, if I know that on a certain street and in a certain position he will bet half the time, then I can figure out what this range typically is, for instance, bottom pair or better plus strong draws, plus a few bluffs.

The whole idea here is to get as good of an idea as we can where we are at so we can decide what the best action will be for us to take, and vague stats aren’t going to be very helpful at all here. As we get better at this, we can look to use math to exploit people with a fair degree of precision here, rather than just some vague guess as far as how to proceed. There’s no comparison between the two.

Poor Stats Often Don’t Help Us At All

There are even cases where the data behind over generalized stats may not even be relevant. For instance, in our example, we need to know the ratio between bets and checks, and the stat we’re looking at, aggressiveness, doesn’t even make this distinction. Now players who bet more than they call may tend to bet rather than check, but that may or may not be the case here, and it would be good to know. There’s also the matter of this being affected by how loose a player is, for instance it can’t tell the difference between a very tight aggressive player who is playing few hands, betting a lot, but betting with strength, versus a very loose aggressive player, firing off with nothing most of the time. If the point is to figure out what a player may have, which it is, then this fails to take into account the proper data and often fails miserably in its task.

Now aggressiveness is just one of many of these too general stat categories, although I chose it as an example in particular because it is so well loved among stat users in general. The list here is a fairly long one in fact, and more stat categories are being created all the time. There’s two main categories of people here generally, those who don’t use stats because they don’t understand their true usefulness, and those who do use them but don’t use them correctly because, again, they don’t understand how. Now, given the choice between the two, I’d rather be using them in a way that’s less than ideal rather than not at all. However it is certainly true that if you don’t know what you’re doing you can do more harm than good by going with inferior information and playing worse than you would without them.

What Constitutes Good Poker Stats To Use?

So what should we be looking at here instead? Well wouldn’t it make a whole lot more sense to look at what we actually want information on? So if we’re on the turn and we check to an opponent and he bets, wouldn’t it be better to look at how often he bets in position on the turn, as opposed to checking? This would seem to be brutally obvious, but to my knowledge, and I’m pretty familiar with how people use stats, and I’ve yet to read or even see anyone who takes this approach consistently. I’m not too disappointed though, as it is an extremely powerful way of using stats, as you will see, and I’d rather see my opponents use the confused and lame ones against me, or none at all, while I focus on what is actually relevant to my poker decisions.

To be fair, there are some stats which provide direct and relevant information which are widely used, such as VP$IP, pre-flop raise, and other pre-flop stats. Once you get to the flop and beyond, then the thing gets muddied up pretty fast. People at this point just want to make broad characterizations, for instance this player is pretty tight aggressive, or a calling station, or whatever. That’s fine for learning purposes, at best, but falls well short of what we really need to know in order to play our best against a particular player.

Don’t Be Limited By Just Using A Heads Up Display

There are a couple of other big factors that influence this reliance on indirect stats. First of all, the vast majority of players like to have everything on a HUD. There isn’t a program out there as of yet that will let you display everything you need, or even most of the things you need, on a HUD. I do use one, but I limit it to pre-flop stats. I’d like to get everything on the HUD as well, with most of the good stuff on mouse-overs, but it’s simply not possible. The reason is, there’s very little demand for such things as breaking down player actions by street and position. So if you want to see how often a player bets on the flop in position, you simply can’t get it, along with pretty much every other post flop frequency breakdown. You can get some frequencies on there, but they aren’t even broken down by position, which is pretty damn important. If you use just that you’ll just be hurting yourself actually, as the average will be well off for both in and out of position.

Luckily though, after years of me trying to get someone to finally give us real stats that we can use, Holdem Manager has come out with their active player screen, which gives us what we need in a very nice off screen format. At a glance now we can get all sorts of useful information, and in particular, see pretty much every situation we need to in a single view. There are also other screens where we can look at other useful stuff as well, simply by selecting another tab. This is far from realizing the potential of live tracking programs, but it’s not only ahead of the competition, it’s the first truly useful stat display.

Now that I’ve at least introduced you to this topic, in the next session I want to go into the nuts and bolts of this to start giving you some examples ofhow you would make this work for you to your advantage. In the lessons to come, particularly when it comes to how to best play the game, I’ll be referencing frequencies quite a bit, so it will be very important to know what I’m talking about, and the next lesson will provide you with this knowledge.

Ken’s Guide To Winning Poker – Index

Starting With A Solid Foundation

Aggression Series

Position Series

Various Poker Strategies

Mistakes Series