Just in case you thought there weren't enough esoteric terms in the poker world, I'm here to throw another at you: namely, VPIP. As mysterious as the acronym might seem to those on the fringes of the game, it should be familiar to those who regularly get down to the felt.
VPIP stands for Voluntarily Put $ In Pot. You may also see this concept expressed as VP$IP or even VP. This is a relatively new term brought to life by the advent of poker tracking software, so you won't find it tossed around in old school poker literature, but the old boys would have LOVED to have this stat in their back pocket.
What is VPIP?
VPIP is a basic statistic that appears in Heads-Up Display software (HUD) that illustrates in percentage form the amount of time you make raises or calls pre-flop. As you can imagine, this intel can be incredibly lucrative to your game since it's a valuable learning tool.
Using VPIP to Your Advantage
VPIP doesn't only tell you about how you play; it also tells you about how your opponent plays, and this is where the real money is hiding. Accounting for a player's VPIP allows you to see how tight or loose your opponents are and as such, you can adjust your strategy to play optimally against them. So, if a player has a high VPIP, this means they play a butt load of hands, which in turn means they are pretty loose. Once you know this, you can use the poker strategies in your arsenal that work best against a loose player. Bluffing, for example, is generally a poor choice since these players are going to act with almost anything. Value betting, on the other hand, is a solid strategy since loose players move with a wider hand ranges. The reverse also usually holds true: tight players are great for bluffing and not so hot to value bet against.
Of course, I am talking in generalities here: more often than not, if someone likes to play a lot of hands and see a lot of flops they'll be eager to see additional cards as well via the turn or river. However, that doesn't mean that bluffing them is a bad option per say, because at the end of the day when they play a lot of hands their average hand strength on the flop will also be low. So bluffs can work but they should usually be multi-street bluffs that will get your opponent to fold a mediocre hand that had enough of a piece to see an additional card, but not enough to feel confident at the showdown.
Note: Optimal VPIP is different for 9 handed play than it is for 6 handed play than it is for heads-up play.
High/Low VPIP: Measuring Up
Of course, the question naturally arises: what's a high VPIP? What constitutes a low one? Simply put, there are no exact numbers, but I can show you a few generalities to help give you an idea of the progression.
40% or more
If you see a VPIP of 40% or greater, you're looking at some pretty loosey goosey playing. You won't win playing this many hands. Whether it’s you or an opponent, a VPIP of this magnitude is indicative of a love of a hot chase, not cold, hard cash.
32% - 40%
Slightly less promiscuous when it comes to their play, players with VPIP in this range are still outing themselves in compromising positions. The only way to truly come out EV+ with a VPIP in this upper echelon is by being a truly stellar player post-flop - and this is a rare skill.
We're getting a little more reasonable within this VPIP range. Players here tend to have more method to their madness - but rest assured, there is still a notable degree of madness. However, if they exhibit good post-flop play, the madness is calculated and can be used to their advantage.
Now we're in the squeeze. Players with this VPIP are tight players who act with nothing short of solid hands in optimal positions. These players may miss out on opportunities with +EV due to the conservative nature of their play, but for the most part, their focussed starting hand selection leads to profitable outcomes.
14% or less
We're on the polar opposite end of the spectrum now and the squeeze is simply too tight for lucrative play in the long-run. A VPIP this low means far too few hands are being played and as a result, too many opportunities are sliding by.
Here’s another way to think about the VPIP spectrum:
40% guys will bleed their chips by playing too many weak hands and 14% guys bleed their chips away by not playing enough hands and getting eaten up by the blinds.
Location, Location, Location...
It’s worth noting that total VPIP is different than VPIP by position. Some players who are aware of position and its implications will play much looser in late position than they will in early position, and thus a tight total VPIP doesn't automatically correlate to a tight VPIP on the button.
Hand ranking charts are a great way to see what these ranges look like. They show us what a 5%, 10%, 15%, 25% and 50% range looks like - and everything in between. Visualizing these numbers will greatly help our brains to understand them. (You can get these charts – and more – in my store)
Where to Find Your VPIP
Suffice it to say that it's a small miracle if you've managed to never come across this stat – especially if you play online. It is used in every HUD and hand history discussion in the professional circuit. Poker Tracker in particular is popular software used to this end, and is fairly easy to use. Best of all, the pay off for learning how to use the software is big.
I get a lot of questions about using HUDs, so I've actually made a video that will not only walk you through the process, but also give you a live look at just how useful VPIPs (and by extension HUDs) can be. Check it out.