Back in the old days, if a good poker player wanted to track his opponents and figure out how tight or loose they were being, he would have to study the table and pay attention to everyone’s actions at all times. As you can imagine, that would be exhausting and would take a lot of time. Thus, most of the decision-making process was based on fundamental rules and feelings with regards to how a player would bet. These days, however, with the advent of online poker, tracking your opponent’s moves has never been easier. While live games are still a matter of paying attention, studying stats online is as simple as looking at the VPIP on your Heads-Up Display (HUD).
If you do pay attention to your HUD (which you absolutely should), then you most likely noticed the acronym VPIP. If you’re not familiar with it or want to find out more, then keep reading. We are going to give you the ins and outs of this crucial statistic, thereby improving your gameplay drastically. Simply, if you don’t pay attention to any other stat on your HUD, at least look at your opponent’s VPIP. It is that critical.
What is VPIP?
So what exactly does this acronym stand for, and how can we use it to our advantage? VPIP stands for Voluntary Put ($) In Pot. You may also see it written out as VP$IP, but they are the same thing. So what does that mean exactly? It means that this statistic tracks how often a player will put money into the pot pre-flop. The operating word here is voluntary, which means that blinds don’t count because they are forced bets.
The best thing about VPIP is that it is extremely easy to figure out. It is accurate after a relatively small sample size, which is great. It can also have a huge influence regarding how well you do on the tables. The point of VPIP tracking is to determine how tight or loose a player is. Once you’ve figured that out, then you know how to play against them. This is huge if you want to make more money playing poker.
How Do You Determine a Player’s VPIP?
As we mentioned, this statistic is one of the easiest to figure out. It also doesn’t take long for it to become accurate. The reason that it’s so simple is that every hand adds to a player’s VPIP percentage, regardless of if he plays the hand or not. The best way to think about it is like a light switch. Every hand, a player either puts money in or doesn’t, and that will determine his VPIP rating. The amount doesn’t matter, nor does it matter if he raises or calls. VPIP only tracks if he voluntarily puts money into the pot pre-flop.
That being said, there is a little bit of a hiccup sometimes that you do have to watch out for. Thankfully, it only occurs in one particular circumstance. Let’s say that all players call the big blind, and the big blind checks. In that instance, we don’t yet know if he has added to his VPIP rating because he has not voluntarily added money into the pot. Thus, we have to wait until post-flop to see if he will add money. Only then will he contribute to his overall percentage.
So, over time, it becomes very easy to see each player’s VPIP rating. The generic formula for this stat is the number of times a person adds money to the pot divided by the total number of hands. Let’s use 100 as a sample size, because that is all you need to get a mostly accurate VPIP percentage.
Let’s say that player one adds money to the pot fifteen times in one hundred hands. That means that his VPIP rating is 15%. If player two adds money forty-five times in the same stretch, his rating will be 45%. It’s that simple. The only thing to keep in mind is that you need to have a sufficient sample size (no less than fifty hands) to get a good sense of an opponent’s VPIP.
So, now that we see what other players’ VPIP stats are, how do we use them to our advantage? If you’re a poker veteran, you have probably already figured out how useful this number is when you’re playing.
Using our examples from above (15% and 45%), we can see player one is tight, and player two, loose. Player one only adds money to the pot 15% of the time, meaning that he likely only plays strong hands. Conversely, because player two is in the pot almost half the time, we can surmise that he goes in with weaker hands.
In fact, when looking at VPIP, there are certain ranges that players will fall into. These can give you a sense of how they play. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that these ranges are a guideline, and they will be affected by the number of players on the table. A tight range on a 6max table is different than one on a full ring, so be aware of that.
Nonetheless, here are the “standard” VPIP ranges that you can see in the game. Again, be sure that you have a sufficient sample size before ranking players into these categories. Five hands are not enough to see how loose or tight a player is yet.
- 10-20% Tight: this person only puts in with a strong hand, most likely high pairs or suited royals.
- 20-30% Average to Tight: this person will also probably call with suited connectors or medium pairs.
- 30-40% Average to Loose: this player may call with high cards or broadways as much as stronger hands.
- 40%+ Loose: if someone is putting money in this much, then he loves action more than winning and will call with practically anything that could potentially make a hand.
VPIP and Position
One other thing that we should go over regarding VPIP is that position can make a huge difference if the player is aware of its effect on the hand. Thus, someone with an overall “tight” rating may be looser in later positions, so watch out for that. Conversely, “average to loose” players may be tighter on the button than when they are in mid or late position. Stay sharp and act accordingly. Loose players, on the other hand, most likely don’t care where they are. They will call to see cards regardless of position.
VPIP and PFR Ratio
If you want to go a step further in tracking your opponent’s movements, then you will want to keep an eye on his PFR rating as well as his VPIP. These two stats go hand in hand, so if you get the idea of VPIP, then PFR should follow.
PFR stands for Pre-Flop Raise, which means that it only counts when a player raises the bet, not when he calls. VPIP counts any voluntary money, whereas PFR only counts raises. So, if we are tracking PFR, then what additional information can we get from it? The short answer is a lot.
The biggest problem with VPIP is that it is a general percentage. We already mentioned that a player might change his betting strategy based on position, which should tell you to pay attention to where he is when he puts money into the pot. VPIP only says if a player is tight or loose, but PFR goes a step further and tells us how passive or aggressive he is with his bets.
For that reason, you will usually see VPIP and PFR stacked together in a single rating. For example, you may see that a tight player has a ranking of 17/5, which means that he puts money into the pot 17% of the time and raises only 5%. That will tell you that he is tight and passive with his money. From there, we can surmise that he will only raise with a strong hand, meaning that we should pay attention to when he does.
What to Expect
Most of the time, fish will have a low PFR rating and sharks will have a high one. If you want to be better about winning money, your PFR percentage should be at least 70% of your total VPIP. That means that, over 100 hands, if your VPIP is 28%, your PFR should be about 21, which will be listed at 28/21.
So, when you’re studying your HUD stats, pay attention to both numbers. This will tell you how aggressive your opponent is. If they are close to each other, that means he raises a lot, and if they are more disparate, that means that he mostly calls. Use that information to your advantage.
Poker VPIP Conclusion
Overall, VPIP is one of the most crucial tracking statistics that you can have on the table. Once you have determined if a player is tight or loose, then you know how to play him to maximize your earnings. For example, a tight player won’t call or raise unless he is extra confident, so then you can utilize bluffs to your advantage. Conversely, a loose player will most likely go to the river with any decent hand, meaning that you can make value bets to increase your overall pot odds.
The last thing that we should mention is that you should also be aware of your own VPIP (and PFR) ranking. Whether it’s good or bad will depend on what kind of player you want to be, but knowing how it relates to your opponents should give you an idea of the ideal range that you want for yourself. We hope you enjoyed this article, leave us your thoughts in the comments below. Have fun with your new found VPIP knowledge, and, as always, good luck at the tables!