Fish vs. Eagles: What Makes the Difference

I haven’t been playing poker that long. The game is still very new to me. But once I crossed my 10,000th hand of online poker at PokerStars I learned a very insightful and kind of daunting, and discouraging fact about my game.

I’m a fish.

I told myself, I was going to do my best and refrain from checking my stats until I had played 10k hands. Then take a realistic and healthy approach to critiquing my game.

I did that. And it turns out that my return on investment would have been -2.2% had I been playing stakes of poker for real money. I would be a losing player. A chump, who brings his money so that he can give it away to the real players. I was afraid of that, and kind of surprised, in fact I don’t think it’s entirely true because I have more chips now than what I started with…but for some reason that’s what the stats say, and I’d rather just take that for face value and adjust my game accordingly.

So where were the major flaws. Pre-Flop.

Pre-Flop I limped in with too many marginal hands. I was raising within a reasonable range but I called the big blind way to much. Probably about 2x more than I should’ve been.

Thankfully, for me my post flop play isn’t terrible. Sometimes, I’m a bit too aggressive but for the most part the only issue I see in the stats, (and it’s a bad one) is that I donk bet, and fold to donk bets way too often.

To be 100% honest, I’m very new to the game. I’ve only been playing about 8 months so far so I’m not going to be too hard on myself but I definitely need to change my game.

So I have, at least I have for the last 2 days. And the results have paid in spades. I’ve played 191 hands since then, and my ROI has been 1,164%

Here’s a screenshot of basic stats since changing up my game…

eagle poker player

Obviously, I’ve got to be consistent. I’ve only played 191 hands since then but at least I’ve played them well. Now my overall ROI has changed from the embarrassing -2.2% to just over 15% in only 2 days.

If you want to know what I changed, and how I tweaked my game from fish to eagle in two days it’s simple.

  1. Voluntarily Put Into Pot % and
  2. PreFlop Raise %

Those two stats are vitally important, and they speak volumes about what type of player you are, and what type of player you would like to be.

What is VPIP? And why is it important.

VPIP: The Tell Tale Sign

VPIP- Voluntarily Put In Pot

Every time you are in any position other than the Big Blind you have an opportunity to Voluntarily put money in the pot PreFlop. Even from the big blind, if you’ve been raised and you call or raise that raise you can again be in a position where you Voluntarily Put into the Pot. If you’re putting into the pot 30%+ during a tournament or over the duration of time you spend playing at cash tables, you are inevitably a losing poker player. Bottom line.

PFR: The Balancing Act Begins and Ends Here

PFR: PreFlop Raise

In order to be a great player you must be raising preflop just about as often as VPIP. That might sound crazy but I’ve been learning more and more as a new player, how intently serious this saying should be adhered to. “Raise or Fold. There is no other option.”

Professional poker players VPIP and PFR percentages run very closely together. While Whales, Fish, Gambler’s, Call Stations, and Everybody else has widening distances between the two most important stats in the game.


Whales have very high VPIP’s but a low PFR. You’ll see whales with stat lines like this 75/10, 52/5, 60/15. You want players like that at your table. Those are the ATM’s you’re going to use to make withdrawals.


Fish have high VPIP’s and again low PFR’s. Fish are players that fall into these ranges: 40/15, 35/12, 30/5. You’ll be eating fish for breakfast, lunch and dinner if you learn to be the eagle. Hope you like seafood.


Rocks have much different stat lines and can find themselves breaking even in terms of ROI, but are very exploitable. While you should approach them with caution and you shouldn’t expect them to be your regular diet at the table. If you employ the right tactics you’ll crush them to pebbles. The Rocks Stat lines have a reasonable VPIP and a very low PFR like this: 18/1, 22/3


Nits are the most pesky players for a winning poker player to face because nits are often winning poker players themselves. But they are very exploitable as well once you’ve figured out the cracks in their game. Nits play overly tight and look to engage in only big pots you’ll see nits with stat lines like this: 10/8, 14/12


Professional poker players have very little difference between their VPIP and PFR percentages. The winners are also know as regs. And within the Regs variance there is a sweet spot know as an “Eagle” It takes a lot of discipline and attention to play within the ranges Regs percentages fall into: 15/14, 19/17, 22/18, 28/23 but I did it over the last couple of days and it’s been incredibly profitable. I came in right in the middle of the tighter and the looser ranges of Winningest poker players alive with the Eagle style of 20/18.

The eagle style was able to recover my negative ROI (-2.2%) and put me on the positive side of the tracks to where I currently sit. (15% ROI)

Your VPIP and PFR ratings are the difference between a fish and an eagle. The difference between making withdrawals or deposits at the poker banks. Change yours and change your “luck” at the tables today.

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