Should we begin to apply statistics to the world of poker? How can we improve as players, and how can we better read our fellow players with the aid of statistics? These are questions that are now becoming a realiy for poker players around the world thanks to the development of poker softwares such as PokerTracker.

Fantasy sports enthusiasts (as seen here on SBR) live and die by the statistics of their players. Fantasy baseball lovers track how their backup their baseman hits against a left-handed reliever in a day game after a night game. Fantasy basketballers follow the shooting percentages of a point guard on the second night of back-to-back games. Fantasy football fanatics examine which wide receiver catches more touchdowns in a domed stadium vs. on an outdoor grass field.

What if you could grade poker players using their statistics? By “statistics”, I don’t just mean trophies, bracelets or money won. (If those were the criteria, Phil Hellmuth would be as good as he thinks he is.) Instead, there are several measurable criteria to determine the success of a poker player. Players familiar with online poker software packages like PokerTracker will recognize these statistics, but may not understand exactly what they mean.

BB/100 Hands

In PokerTracker, the statistic “BB/100” translates to “Big Bets per 100 Hands”. A “Big Bet” is double the big blind. This stat is one of the best measures of long-term success in cash games. The more hands a player plays at a specific limit, the more data that the player can compile on his level of success and the more accurate the results will be. If the player is winning several big blinds per hand, he may want to move up in limits. If the player is a loser at this level, this is often a signal to drop down to a lower limit.

VP\$IP

This odd-looking abbreviation is short for “Voluntarily Put Money in Pot”. The stat does not include any hands where the player was in the big blind or was forced to post a bet before the deal. A related statistic (VP\$IP SB) represents the times when the player put money in the pot from the small blind. Both statistics are calculated as percentages and signify when a player has chosen to enter a pot. A high percentage often points out a “loose” player who likes to see flops, while a low number shows a “tight” player who only enters a pot when he has a strong hand.

Aggression Factor

The “aggression factor” is a strong indication of how much a player opens and raises the action, rather than calling and checking. The mathematical formula looks like this:

(Total Times Bet + Total Times Raised) / (Total Times Called)

The aggression factor can also be broken down by each street (preflop, flop, turn and river).  For instance, if a player is highly aggressive preflop and on the flop, but has a lower aggression factor on the turn and river, he may be likely to chase early and then back off when he misses his hand.

ROI

The biggest measure of success in tournament poker is the “Return on Investment” (ROI).