By Alton Hardin
When playing cash game poker a critical concept to understand is your win rate. Your win rate is essentially the average amount of money you win over a set period time, similar to an hourly wage at a job. Moreover, your win rate is the metric in which you can judge your long-term success as a poker player and determine how much you can expect to make off playing poker over a long period of time.
Commonly Used Win Rates
In online poker, you win rate is usually expressed in bb/100, which is big blinds (bb) per 100 hands. It can also be expressed as BB/100, which is big bets (BB) per 100 hands. A big bet is two times the big blind and used in limit hold’em. For live poker play, win rates are usually expressed in $/hour since it is difficult to track exactly how many hands you have played in a live session. So to summarize:
- bb/100: Number of big blinds (bb) won per every 100 hands.
- BB/100: Number of big bets (BB) won per every 100 hands.
- $/hour: Your hourly rate
The most commonly used win rate that you will encounter in poker tracking programs, such as Hold’em Manager and in poker forums is bb/100, so this is the win rate we will focus on.
How to Calculate Win Rates
To calculate your own win rate, I recommend you can track them using automated tools such as Hold’em Manager, Poker Tracker or Free Poker database. Conversely, you can use an Excel Spreadsheet or simply a calculator.
Win Rate = Long Term “Average” Rate
When talking about win rates, the term average is crucial here. If you calculate your win rate to be 7bb/100, it does not mean that you will win that much every 100 hands, sometimes you will win more and sometimes less, but over the long term you will even out to that figure. Why? Variance.
Sample Size is Important
This brings us onto the point that you need a large sample size of hands to accurately judge a player’s win rate. How large of a sample do you need? Well there is no one definitive answer to this but the general poker playing world can agree that around 100k hands is a good starting to estimating a person’s effective win rate. For low volume playing, recreational players 50k hands is potentially a good starting point as well.
What is a Good Win Rate?
What is a good win rate? Well, anything above 0bb/100 is good. Why is this? Anything above 0bb/100 means you are a winning poker player. A large majority of poker players are losers and if you are winning over the long run, you should be happy. In general, we can make some generic assumptions regarding win rates at the micro stakes levels:
- 1-4bb/100 is a good, solid win rate.
- 5-9bb/100 is an exceptional win rate.
- 10+bb/100 is absolutely crushing the game.
However, as people move up in stakes, the games get harder because you face many more competent players where you have much less of an edge as when playing against fish in the micro stakes. As you move up, players are less likely to make costly errors and pay you off lightly like fish do at the lowest stakes. Therefore, you should and will see decreased win rates as you progress to the higher stakes. According to BlackRain79, an online poker professional and DragTheBar coach, below are the average win rates for people playing 1 to 8 tables from 2NL up to 100NL. As you can see, average win rates decrease as you move up in stakes:
- NL2: 10bb/100
- NL5: 6bb/100
- NL10: 4bb/100
- NL25: 3bb/100
- NL50: 2bb/100
- NL100: 2bb/100
Summing up, do not become results-oriented in the short-term and be obsessed with your session-by-session win rate. Instead, focus on your play and track your win rate over time. Once you reach 50-100k hands, you will have a good idea of what your effective win rate is. Also, remember that anything above 0bb/100 is good because this means you are a winning player!