Poker Win Rate: What’s Good & How to Work it Out?

Introduction to Poker Win Rates

Some poker players are happy to know they’re winning and don’t give their win rate much thought. As you gain experience and take poker seriously though, you’ll want to dive into it and find out exactly how you’re doing. This is where we measure performance and results through a metric called “win rate”. In this article, we’re going to look at how to measure win rates in cash games and tournaments, what a good win rate is and how variance impacts win rates.

Cash Game Win Rate

Most poker regulars do not need to compute their cash game win rate. It’s automatically calculated using their poker tracking software. However, with more poker sites banning the use of HUDs, calculating your own win rate will be more important.

The poker win rate in cash games is measured in big blinds. In order to calculate it we need to know the number of hands played and the total profit in big blinds. These two figures are needed as the typical win rate is measured as “big blinds won per 100 hands” AKA bb/100.

Cash Game Win Rate Formula:
Profit in bb/number of hands X 100 = cash game win rate in bb/100

So let’s say you played 10,000 hands and won 200 big blinds.

(200/10,000) * 100 = 2bb/100

And that’s all there is to it. The key to working out your cash game win rate is ensuring you know how many big blinds you’ve won and the number of hands you played. In online poker, you should be able to get this data from poker software or the client. In live poker, you will need to tally up your hands as you play.

What is a Good Cash Game Win Rate?

“Good” is a subjective term when discussing win rates in cash games. There are many factors to what contributes to a strong win rate; location, calibre of opponents, rake and stakes to name a few.

The table below is a rough guide on what a good win rate is in each setting.

SettingWin Rate (BB/100)
Live Poker Cash Games10 to 25 BB/100
Online Poker Cash Games3 to 10 BB/100

As you can see, there is a discrepancy between live and online poker cash games. It’s well established that live poker is far softer, with players lacking the same technical skills as online. Therefore, a strong cash game player can potentially win 10 or more big blinds per 100, with over 20 being extraordinary.

Conversely, with cash games online much tougher, a win rate over 3 is considered a strong win rate. The major online poker sites attract most of the better players.

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Tournament Win Rate

Your tournament win rate is simply the return on investment or ROI. To work this out, you simply divide your profit by the amount of tournament buy ins and multiply by 100%.  This is the common way to measure tournament success. The formula basically shows how much you earn per dollar. This is in contrast to cash games where you work out how many big blinds you win per 100.

Working out your profit is a simple case of taking your total cashes and deducting the amount spent in buy-ins.

Tournament Win Rate Formula
Winnings/Amount Spent in Tournament Buy ins * 100

So if you’ve won $5,000 and spent $6,000, your ROI is 83%. Please note – this means your cashes are $11,000. We deduct the amount spent first to arrive at winnings.

$5,000/$6,000 * 100= 83.33%

What is a Good Tournament Win Rate?

Like cash games, tournament win rates are dependant on the setting. Again, your ROI is likely to be dependent on the types of tournaments you play.

If you are randomly entering turbo tournaments or a bounty tournament where you lack the expertise in strategy, your ROI will suffer. The table below is a guide as to what I think a good tournament win rate is for live and online poker tournaments.

Setting Win Rate as ROI
Live Tournament Poker 50 – 80%
Online Tournament Poker 20 – 40%

If you’re generating over 80% ROI in live tournaments, you’re doing fantastic. Likewise, anything over 40% for online poker is exceptional.

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The Impact of Variance on Win Rates

The word that most serious poker players hate “variance”. Most poker tracking software has the ability to show you where you should be after X number of hands based on your data.

If you’re on a heater and showing 15 bb/100 but run the simulation of where you should be without variance, you may actually be at 1bb/100. This is a huge thing to remember as sometimes players make decisions like moving up stakes on the back of a good run of cards.

On the flip side, a player may lose confidence and drop down a few levels when they’re running bad when they in fact should be crushing.

In the long run, variance should not play a big part. The laws of probability show that it’s unlikely to have a big influence on your win rate over serious volume. I’m talking over the course of over 100,000 hands plus, or a year of playing.

Hourly Rate

This article has focused on win rates for cash games and tournaments. Whilst bb per 100 and ROI are key metrics to measuring success, I think hourly win rate is the most important metric of all. It is possibly the easiest and simplest way to calculate how you’re performing.

All you need to do is work out how much you win in a session and divide it by the number of hours played. So, if you played 8 hours and won $320, you’re averaging an hourly rate of $40.

This formula can be used in tournaments too. Naturally, it needs time to bear out in order to find out how much you can expect to make per hour from tournaments.

The key to understanding your hourly rate is to only judge it at intervals e.g. monthly or quarterly.

A True Hourly Rate Needs Data and Time

You need plenty of data to properly account for short term fluctuations. A good day you may win $100 an hour and a bad day you’re losing $80 an hour. That doesn’t mean you played exceptionally and awfully, it could have been coolers or bad beats.

The hourly rate can also be impacted by number of tables you play. You may find that 4 tabling NL $50 is more profitable for your hourly rate, albeit it at lower win rate when compared against 2 tabling NL $50. I think generating the best hourly rate is far more important than being able to boast of earning X BB per 100.

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