PFR, or pre-flop raise, is another important poker stat to consider at the tables. In an earlier article, I discussed the importance of VPIP (Voluntarily Put $ In Pot). I'm mentioning this stat again here because PFR and VPIP are two poker concepts that can work together to really beef up your bankroll. (In other words, if you're not already familiar with VPIP, you should read up on it here.)
The Deal with PFR
As mentioned, PFR is an acronym for pre-flop raise, and it is an invaluable stat to have in your back pocket because it can help you understand not only how you play, but perhaps more importantly how your opponents play - and remember, poker is a game that hinges on who has the information advantage. The more you know about your opponents and the less they know about you, the better for your bottom-line.
The use of PFR as a stat is a relatively new phenomenon when considered in terms of poker's long history. This is simply because it is a stat made readily available by technology; namely, your heads-up display (HUD).
The PFR stat allows you to see the percentage of time you or an opponent raises prior to the flop. So, any time you raise before the flop, your PFR will increase. Easy stuff, right?
It really is - and this little stat can help sharpen your edge BIG time, especially when considered in tandem with VPIP.
Here's what I mean.
PFR alone will help you gauge how your opponent plays pre-flop; how tight they are; how loose. This will shed light on your opponent's range, and the more substantial the PFR percentage, the wider the range. The reverse also holds true.
PFR and VPIP
Now, when you look at PFR in light of an opponent's VPIP, things really get lucrative. PFR, which is essentially a more tailored form of VPIP, lets you see how often a player raises pre-flop in percentage form, whereas VPIP shows you the percentage of the time a player calls or raises. This means the space between the VPIP stat and the PFR stat is comprised of the pre-flop calls.
These stats are so perfectly connected that you will usually see them displayed beside one another (e.g. 40/15). Now, let's consider this keeping in mind what I said earlier about the difference between these two stats being the amount a player calls before the flop. If you notice an opponent's PFR makes up a substantial part of their VPIP, then this player is more aggressive. If, on the other hand, it only comprises a meager amount of the total VPIP (say, 35/5), then this player is a passive, weaker player who will call far more often then he raises. VPIP alone will tell you if your opponent is tight or loose, because it tells you how often your opponent acts. The addition of PFR, however, gives dimension to the VPIP stat by also allowing you to see how an opponent acts (i.e. aggressive or passive).
It's also important to mention that this comparison will let you glean the skill of your opponent. Inexperienced players will usually have a higher VPIP compared to their PFR. This is indicative of poor pre-flop thinking. As any pro player will tell you, your pre-flop strategy can and will make or break your bankroll.
Do you measure up?
All this said, how do you know if your VPIP to PFR ratio is decent? Knowing this all comes back to basic poker strategy. You want to strive to raise around 2/3 (or about 80% - 90%) of the time you get involved in a hand. A percentage in this range will mean you are usually going to be in the driver’s seat when you make the commitment. This means that a player with a VPIP of 30% would want to aim for a PFR of around 21%. 24/21 and 30/27 are common stats of good players as well. A PFR less than 21% belies a certain insecurity and this player is probably calling in situations they should be raising.
Here are a few more specific examples of what low and high PFR/VPIP stats look like, and what they tell you about your opponents.
High VPIP/High PFR (example: 50/40)
Welcome to the maniac zone. This player makes outlandish bets and raises. This player is the Col Kurtz of the table, and there is no method to the madness. The horror...the horror.
High VPIP/Low PFR (example: 45/10)
You have arrived at the calling station. This player calls too much and will call almost anything, which makes them a poor person to bluff but a great player to bleed through value betting (when you have solid holdings).
Mid VPIP/High PFR (example: 25/20)
This is your typical TAG (tight-aggressive player). More often than not, these players have been around the tables a few times and have decent strategy - pre and post-flop.
Low VPIP/High PFR (example: 15/12)
You know your frugal great-aunt Mildred? The one who will squeeze a nickel ‘til the beaver craps? Well, these players could teach her a thing or two about being thrifty. A player with a low VPIP and high PFR is exceptionally tight and aggressive. They only play with the nuts, making them dangerous to play against when they start to act, but a bluffer's dream since they are usually unwilling to take risks.
Another stat to consider is RFI or raise first in, which is how often someone opens the pot GIVEN the opportunity. This is unlike PFR, which treats all the folds when the pot has already been raised ahead the same as when the action had folded to our villain.
If you'd like me to walk you through the PFR stat on your HUD (and other stats), check out my extensive tutorial on setting up your Heads Up Display.