Online poker is big business – estimates about the value of the American poker market alone range from hundreds of millions to billions of dollars. Reviewing, discussing, and comparing poker rooms is an industry all its own.

With so much money on the line, it should be no surprise that people have figured out ways to quickly categorize and compare the skill set of players at the various poker sites to find easy competition. Poker tracking software is really useful in determining the style and skill level of opponents at Web-based poker rooms. Without it, it would be impossible to track how loose or tight a player is, and thus impossible to determine the relative loose- or tightness of a site’s player base.

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What Does Loose/Tight Mean?

“Loose” and “tight” are just slang terms to refer to two styles of play. Put in the simplest terms, loose players are those who play more hands and don’t fold often. Their opposite would be tight players – those that play few hands and fold pretty regularly.

To some players, the “loose/tight” distinction is extremely important. They base a big chunk of their strategy on whether a game is loose or tight. According to this strategy, playing against a loose opponent means lowering your own standards in terms of what hands to play through, because the loose opponent is willing to play with lower than usual value hands.

If you’re interested in finding the loosest player base against which to compete, it helps to understand what goes into the description of a site’s players as loose.

How to Tell if a Poker Room is Loose or Tight

When I’m trying to determine the relative looseness of a poker room, I like to go off statistics rather than anecdotal evidence. That means that rather than trust user reviews about the player base, I like to look at real-world numbers. Which stats do I use to figure out if a poker room has a base of loose players?

First and foremost, I look into a site’s flop percent. This number tells you what percentage of players stay in the pot until the flop at a given poker room. Generally speaking, the higher the flop percent, the looser the player base.

Flop percent is the best-known statistic used to measure looseness in online poker, but it’s not the only one. VPIP is another stat usually generated by tracking software to determine whether a player is loose or tight. It stands for “Voluntarily Put $ Into the Pot” and it tracks the percentage of times that a player makes calls or raises before the flop. A high VPIP percentage indicates a loose player.

PFR is a stat usually used in conjunction with VPIP numbers to further identify the looseness or tightness of an opponent. PFR stands for Pre-Flop Raise, and it tracks only the number of pre-flop raises a player makes. It’s sort of like a trimmed-down version of VPIP. Generally speaking, the VPIP and PFR stats are shown side by side in a fraction.

VPIP is usually shown first (since it is almost always larger), so that a player may be shown as a 25/17, meaning he’s calling or raising pre-flop a quarter of the time, and raising before the flop six percent fewer of the time. The narrower the ratio of VPIP to PFR, the more aggressive and loose a player is. Looking at the ratio of VPIP to PFR is also a quick way to judge the relative skill of an opponent. If a player’s VPIP is noticeably larger than their PFR, the implication is that they’re playing without much of a pre flop strategy and are therefore probably a total fish.

What Makes a Player Base Loose?

Two major factors seem to affect the loose/tight player ratio more than any others:

The first is game stakes. Low stakes games tend to feature a ton of inexperienced players, who tend to be really loose and easy to beat. Mid-stakes games are where you’ll usually find the tightest play at any room. Strangely enough, high stakes poker games feature a lot of loose (aggressive) play as well, generally used to beat the few newcomers to high stakes games that play extremely tight.

Another major factor is the makeup of the player base itself. Poker rooms that are attached to sportsbooks or casinos are bound to attract play from inexperienced bettors who wander over from the slots or betting on football games. Standalone poker rooms (those unattached to any other form of gambling) tend to feature lots of tight players, or (at least) loose-aggressive players who know how to play loose and still beat you. If you’re looking for loose players, don’t play at a standalone room. That’s generally where the pros are.

Examples of Loose Poker Sites

William Hill is a good example, because the site has a massive number of players, many of whom are focusing on sports betting, casino games, or any of the company’s other gambling opportunities, rather than poker. A variety of stakes are available, for players looking to beat up on loose playing newbies in micro-stakes games.

Intertops is yet another multi-venue gaming site that includes a poker room. That’s a sure sign of a school of fish playing loose poker and handing their money over for nothing.

Remember that exceptions exist for just about any “rule of thumb.” The same is true in poker. Just because inexperienced players tend to play loose, that doesn’t mean every loose player is inexperienced, and it doesn’t mean that the tight conservative opponent across the table isn’t a total fish. This is also true when talking about loose vs. tight poker rooms.

Take the above advice under consideration when hunting for a loose player base, but remember that doing your own research is always the best strategy when money is on the line.