Poker tracking software can seem like a bit of a grey area when you first start playing online poker. You may be thinking, if you get to track statistics on your opponents, doesnt this give you an unfair advantage over other players, so how can this be legal? Well, you have every right to be skeptical of using poker tracker software, and if you happen to use software which is not permitted by a poker room, then you run the risk of losing all the funds you had on the site. In saying that, there are a few perfectly legal poker tracking software tools which are permitted on the major sites, and really they are nothing more then a database of your own hand histories, and if players choose not to use them, that is theor choice.
There was a time when poker tracking software like Holdem Manager (HEM) and Poker Tracker (PT3) allowed players to open up online tables and import the stats of other players without even playing. This is what is referred to as data mining but this practise was quickly banned by the major poker rooms, and with good reason, since data mining offers too much of an advantage, which hardly seems fair considering you are getting hand history data without even being involved in the hands.
For new players, the advantages offered by software like HEM/PT3 may not be obvious at first. The main advantages are two fold. You will get to track opponents you are playing against and you will be able to spot weaknesses in their game which you can exploit to increase your win rate. The same statistics are recorded and can be analyzed for your own game, which you can analyze away from the table in the form of reports/graphs for plugging leaks which are costing you money.
One of the most obvious advantages is the poker tracking software displays statistics of other players as well as your own stats through a HUD (heads-up display) which will appear next to each player at the table. In addition, there will be a pop-up window which displays even more stats, if you are required to look at other statistics in more detail.
The statistics which you will want to display in the main HUD is the important stats which you will be looking at all the time to help with your decision making. There are two categories of statistics your poker tracker software generates. The first category relates to pre-flop statistics and the second category relates to post-flop statistics. Both statistics combined are important in learning about your opponents style of play.
Here are the important pre flop stats you will want to include in your poker HUD.
VPIP% (Voluntarily Put Into Pot)
The VPIP tells you the percentage of hands a player is playing. The higher their VPIP, the more hands they are playing and the looser your opponent is. On the flop side, the lower the VPIP, the tighter they are playing. As a general rule, a VPIP of 20% is normal for ring games, anything much higher then this is on the looser side of the spectrum and anything much lower then this is one the tighter side of the spectrum.
PFR% (Pre-flop Raise)
The PFR is the pre-flop raise percentage. This stat tells you the percentage of hands a player open raises from each position. When used in conjuction with the VPIP% it can tell you a lot about a player. Typically, the larger the gap between the VPIP/PFR the weaker the player is, since competent players are raising/folding most hands, so a bigger gap suggests they are limp-calling a lot, which is a tendency from a lot of weaker/fishy players. For a competent player, the PFR% would be approx. 75% of the VPIP, so a player with a VPIP of 20% will have a PFR of 15%, also known as a 20/15 player.
3bet% (Three bet)
The 3bet% tells you the percentage of hands a player is 3betting/re-raising with. A normal value for this statistic would be 3%, which would mean the player is 3betting only their premium hands, like JJ+/AK.
Fold to 3bet%
The fold to 3bet% is another important pre-flop statistics which you would want to display on the main HUD, as it tells you the frequency with which a player will fold to a 3 bet before the flop. This stat will largely be influenced by their PFR stat. If they have a high PFR, then generally they will be folding to 3bets on a more regular basis, since they are raising a lot more pre-flop.
Here are the important post flop stats you will want to include in your poker HUD.
Cbet (Continuation bet)
The Cbet statistic tells you a players continuation betting percentage. This is an important post flop statistic in particular for online games, since so many players are auto betting the flop if they were the pre-flop aggressor. The normal value for most players is anywhere between 55-85%. If a player is cbetting with a much higher frequency then this, then you know its impossible for them to always have a hand even when they cbet. This stat should be used in conjunction with the PFR%, since he lower the PFR% is, the higher his CB should be, as the player is only raising premium hands before the flop. If this is not the case, then you have just found an exploitable weakness.
Fold to Cbet%
The fold to cbet% statistic tells you the percentage a player will fold when faced with a continuation bet from another player. This stat tells you a lot about your opponent play post flop.The lower this stat, the less they are folding to cbets and the more they are floating with position with only marginal hands etc. When used in conjunction with the VPIP% it tells you a lot about the other players tendencies post-flop.