Knowing what a good poker win rate is, both live and online, is important to know in order to maximize your hourly rate and exercise optimal bankroll management practices. In this article, I will cover what type of win rate can be expected across a variety of stakes and games including the various online and live formats. We will also take a look at how multi-tabling influences win rates with the goal of helping you achieve your highest hourly rate possible.
So what is a good win rate in poker? A typical good win rate will range anywhere from 1bb/100 up to 10bb/100 or higher. However, defining a good specific personal win rate is subjective and therefore impossible to answer definitively. Satisfactory win rates will vary from game to game and even day-to-day, based on the toughness of the competition. That is why finding your own best personal hourly rate is much more important than trying to maximize your win rate.
For online players, playing multiple tables will lower a win rate but likely increase the hourly rate expected. For live players, it’s often better to play a higher stake, like 2/5 or 5/10, with a lower win rate rather than a lower stake, like 1/2, with a higher win-rate. Whatever gives the highest hourly rate is what all poker players should strive to realize.
What Is a Poker Win Rate?
Win rate is a cash game term that is used as a measuring stick among winning players to determine how well they are doing at the tables. Short term win rates tend to vary wildly while long-term win rates tend to change very slowly. Even so, elite pros typically only use win rates to measure their progress over time or to optimize their hourly rates.
How Is Win Rate Measured?
The current universal standard used to measure a poker player’s win rate is how many big blinds they win per 100 hands played. The shorthand version used to express the win rate is to state the number of big blinds won followed by bb/100. For example, a player might say, “my win rate over my past 100,000 hands at 50NL has been 4bb/100.”
Typically, a win rate will fall somewhere between 0bb/100 (break even) up to 20bb/100 for some heads-up specialists. The term win-rate is also used even if someone has lost over a period of time. You might see someone say that their “win” rate over a period of time has been negative, like -2bb/100, for example.
Calculating Poker Win Rate
Today, most people have tracking software which automatically calculates their win rate. However, if you are a live player or don’t use such software online, here is an easy formula for calculating your win rate:
Data you will need to know:
- Amount won
- The big blind of the stake played
- Hands played
Simple Poker Win Rate Formula
Profit/Big Blind/Hands Played*100
You are a 50NL online player and have won $500 over your past 25,000 hands. 500/.50/25000*100= 4bb/100
You are a 200NL live player and have won $965 over your past 3,500 hands. 965/2/3500*100= 13.8bb/100
Tip for live players: If you are unsure how many hands you have played over a particular live sample but know the approximate hours played, just multiple hours played times the approximate hands per hour for that particular game. In my experience, most live 9-handed games see about 30 hands per hour.
What Is a Good Online Poker Win Rate?
The object of poker is to win as much money as possible. Therefore, a good online win rate is one that maximizes your hourly rate. This depends on a couple of factors including rakeback and the toughness of the games. Most players will have their absolute best win rate when playing just 1 table. However, most players will optimize their hourly rate by playing 3-6 tables at the same time. It also depends on how lucrative the VIP or rakeback system is on the poker site as well as how adept you are at playing multiple tables at the same time. One of the biggest factors in determining what a good online win rate looks like has more to do with the type of reward system offered by the poker site.
On sites with high VIP rewards, you will often benefit from playing a lot of tables at once and accepting a lower win-rate in order to take advantage of lucrative rakeback and/or bonuses. On the other hand, on sites without a robust reward system, you generally want to try to achieve the highest win-rate possible and find the optimal number of tables to play in order to maximize your hourly rate.
Maximizing Win Rate on Sites with a Low Player Reward System
On sites where the reward system or rakeback is very low or non-existent, the typical optimal number of tables typically falls in the 3-6 range for any given player. In this environment, you should expect to enjoy your highest win-rate possible. The key to winning is through sound fundamentals, good table selection, and the ability to adjust to your opponents correctly.-`
To see how you stack up, let’s take a look at some example win-rate ranges that I commonly see people fall into:
- -2 to 0bb/100
The slightly losing player. This will make up the vast majority of “serious” players, perhaps 60% of regs. It’s really hard to win at online poker.
- .1 to 2bb/100
The slightly winning player. Just beating the rake is an accomplishment, something like 20% of regs will fit this category. These players could be big winners with a bit more knowledge and practice.
The solid regular. Maybe 15% of regs do this well. These guys study the game, are fundamentally sound, and actively take notes. Players in this win-rate range are maybe just a few leaks away from a much better win rate. Everyone in this group strives to break into the next category of players.
The Crusher. There will be a few dozen players on a site that crush the stakes, but that’s still likely less than 5% of regs.
The elite player. The upper echelon, there may only be 1 or 2 players on an entire poker site that win this big long term. This is the top 1% or less of poker regs. What separates these players from everyone else is their ability to adjust to the table dynamic better than their counterparts.
Maximizing Win Rate on Sites with a High Player Reward System
On sites where the is high rakeback and/or VIP rewards, many players will find that “mass multi-tabling” will yield them the highest hourly rate. Example sites here this has historically been the case are Pokerstars and America’s Cardroom.
The latter offers a promotion called “The Beast” which is basically a weekly rake race. However, in order to maximize the benefit of the promotion, players are forced to play 20-24 tables at one time and often over 50 hours per week. That type of schedule is hard to maintain for all but the highest endurance players out there. Most players will find that playing fewer tables and maximizing their win rate over those tables will yield them their highest win-rate possible. Here are some common win rate ranges on these types of sites:
- -2 to 0bb/100
While players at this win-rate appear to be losing players, they likely still maintain a decent hourly rate, assuming they play enough volume to make up for their table losses.
- .1 to 2bb/100
This is typically the best win-rate anyone can hope for on a tough site with a high rakeback or player reward system. Players in this category may be among the biggest winners on the site, assuming they are mass multi-tabling.
Players with this win-rate are the crushers who are likely playing 3-6 tables and exploiting the mass multi-tablers who are not paying close enough attention to realize it.
Win rates of this site on sites such as Pokerstars or on the Winning Poker Network are extremely rare. In difficult poker environments that are attractive to regs, it’s really hard to achieve a win-rate any higher than 4bb/100. Even so, high rakeback and VIP rewards can make you a lot of money with even seemingly modest win rates.
Examples of high player reward sites include Pokerstars, America’s Cardroom, and Black Chip Poker. By the way, if you decide to mass multi-table, I recommend that you get a good table management software program to optimize your play.
Finding the Optimal Number of Online Tables to Maximize Your Hourly Rate
A few years ago I created a chart to help me find my optimal number of tables to play. Basically, it came down to how much I was able to earn per hour on each table. Of course, as I added tables my win-rate per table naturally dropped until I was basically a break-even player at a certain point. This info had to be weighed against what my rakeback hourly rate was. By using this data I was able to find my optimal number of tables to play. Here is the chart I used, feel free to input your own data and see if you can figure out your best hourly.
Or, if you already have a large database on hands and have played multiple tables, then your tracking software likely already has the ability to help you figure out your optimal number of tables. Here is a screenshot of the correct report in Hold’em Manager 2.
Using GTR to Figure out Your Optimal Number of Tables
In my book, Automatic Poker, I outlined a way to find your optimal number of tables. The method is known as GTR, or “gradual table reduction”. What it basically means is that you start with a set number of tables, say 12, and then remove each table one by one as you double up or have a huge win. Eventually, you will be down to just a couple of tables, that’s when you end the session. Do this a few dozens of times and you will adequately populate your tracking software to give you solid data on what your optimal multi-tabling number is.
Don’t have the patience for that? Well, you probably already know your optimal number. If you find yourself timing out on tables, or being hurriedly rushed through decisions, then you are probably already playing too many tables. My advice is to start with 2 tables, then add one more every 5 minutes or so. Once you find that you are having trouble keeping up with the action and making really good decisions, then it’s time to drop back one table. Boom, you just found the best number of tables to play.
What If I Play Multiple Sites with Different Hands per Table Hour?
If you multi-table more than one site at the same time, or you play on different sites at different times or days, there is an easy solution to figuring out your optimal tables on each site. You do not have to do the GTR “technique” on every single site. Instead, all you need to do is figure out how many hands you play per hour. This information is available in your Hold’em Manager or PokerTracker.
To get the numbers you need, filter the poker site you did the GTR method on and load the “overall” report and add the stats hands/hr and mt ratio. Then divide the mt ratio into the hands per hour to get your exact hands per hour on each table. In the above example, my average is 64 per hour per table (232 divided by 3.63= 64). Now take the hands per table hour multiply it by your optimal number of tables that you had figured out via the GTR method. Let’s say that my optimal number of tables is six: Thus 6*64= 384. Therefore, my optimal number of hands per hour is 384.
Now, filter for the other site you play on and do the same calculation. If the hands per hour is different, simply divide that number into your optimal number of hands per hour to come up with how many tables you should play on your second site. For example, let’s say my second site sees me playing 95 hands per hour: 95 into 384 is about 4. Therefore, I should be 6 tabling on the first site and 4 tabling on the second.
What Is a Good Zoom (Fast-Fold) Win Rate?
Since most players will play a large number of hands per table, then win rates for fast-fold poker will tend to be lower per table. Based on anecdotal evidence I have heard, a solid win rate in Zoom type games ranges from 3bb/100 to 6bb/100. Elite regs will sometimes maintain as high as 8bb/100, but that is the exception, not the norm.
What Is a Good Live Poker Win Rate
The consensus is that the best players at any given stake will win something like 7 big blinds per hour. Note that I said “bb per hour” and not “bb per 100 hands.” For live players, who play a lot fewer hands than their online counterparts, it’s much easier to discuss how much is made per hour rather than over larger same sizes of hands. Even so, I will use both methods in this section to make it more easily digestible for all types of players.
When it comes to available stakes there are typically not as many options for live players. Let’s discuss each stake level that is typically available at most casinos.
What Is a Good Win Rate for Live 1/2 No-Limit?
Live 200NL games are typically much much softer than even the lowest online stakes. Therefore it is possible to achieve really high win rates in these games. A really good reg can expect to earn about $20/hour in live 1/2 cash games, which comes up to 30bb/100 (10bb/hr) or higher.
What Is a Good Win Rate for Live 2/5 No-Limit?
500NL is typically a fairly big jump in the player pool quality. Your typical tourist is not going to be sitting down in these games and you will encounter a lot more regs. Even so, the typical live 2/5 reg is not going to be nearly as good as a strong 50NL online player. I am sure people might argue with me on this point, but this has been my experience. Therefore, win rates will almost certainly be lower at 2/5, but with a bit of game selection, a really good player could manage somewhere in the $30-$35/hr range over a large sample size.
What Is a Good Win Rate for Live 5/10 No-Limit?
The best players in the area will usually play in your local 1000NL live game. Even so, the mix of players will usually still contain 3-4 fairly weak players. This makes the games beatable for good poker players. A solid winning reg could expect to be able to make in the neighborhood of $50 or $60/hr at 5/10. Once again, game selection is your key to success.
Bankroll Requirements Based on Win Rate
Having enough money in your bankroll to easily withstand the inevitable swings every player must endure is probably the most important piece of the puzzle to having long-term success in poker. Even so, the bankroll requirements are not hard and fast and should be based on an honest assessment of your skill level. Basically, the better you are the less severe your downswings will be. Therefore, better players can be more aggressive with their bankroll management while marginal winners who are still mastering the game will need to be really conservative.
Personal Factors That Effect Bankroll Management
The number of buy-ins that you should keep behind depends on your skill level and situation in life. If poker is a side income for you or you are one of the best players in the game, then you would likely want to err on the aggressive side. However, if poker is your main source of income, then I recommend being extremely conservative and keep a really deep bankroll behind. Pros should also keep at least 6 months to a year of living expenses kept separately from their poker bankroll.
Ultimately, you want to be comfortable at the poker table. You should never be worried about going broke or be bothered by the possibility of losing a buy-in. A good rule of thumb is if the amount of money being bet at the table makes you take the conservative route in your poker strategy, then you know that you are not adequately bankrolled. We should always strive to make the most +EV play regardless of the stakes. You should treat money as big blinds and forget the actual dollar amounts.
Live Bankroll Management
Managing your bankroll as a live player is a bit tricky since there usually isn’t a separate “wallet” you can keep it in, like on online poker sites. If you are a serious player, what you may want to do is open a separate bank account to hold your poker bankroll separate from your main funds. Make sure that you have a debit card for that account since you definitely don’t want to be carrying around a large sum of money when headed to the casino.
Whether you decide to play conservatively with your bankroll or aggressively try to run it up to high stakes, just make sure you play within your means and stick to a consistent bankroll management scheme. Here are a some suggested programs to follow:
Conservative Live Bankroll Management
If you choose to take the cautious route, then I recommend the following guidelines for live poker games where you buy-in for 100 big blinds:
- 1/2- $6,000
- 2/5- $20,000
- 5/10- $50,000
- Higher than 5/10- 60 buy-ins or more
Aggressive Live Bankroll Management
For whatever reason, if you are lucky enough to be able to take a more ambitious approach to bankroll management then you can play on a much smaller bankroll. Just keep in mind that your “risk of ruin” will increase substantially as the amount of money you have behind gets shallower. I only recommend taking this approach if you don’t mind the strong possibility of going broke or have the discipline to move down in stakes if you run bad.
- 1/2- $2,500
- 2/5- $7,500
- 5/10 or Higher- 20 buy-ins
What If I Only Play Occasionally for Fun?
If you only seldom get to play and don’t really want to set aside money for poker, then there is nothing wrong with just taking a couple of buy-ins to the casino and playing. However, I highly recommend that you only take the amount that you don’t mind losing. Your level of discipline should once again dictate your methodology.
Online Bankroll Management
Overall, I prefer to be a bit more conservative for online bankroll management. The games are typically much tougher online and swings will happen much faster due to multi-tabling. Even so, I like to be a lot more aggressive at the micro-stakes and then move to a more aggressive strategy as I move up through the stakes. For the purposes of simplicity, I am only providing the number of suggested buy-ins. This is because what amount someone will choose to sit down with will vary from player to player. This is one of the reasons I typically buy in for between 30 and 40 big blinds. It allows me to play a higher stake with less money than my “full” stacked counterparts!
Conservative Online Bankroll Management
If your win-rate is on the low end, say 2bb/100 or lower, then I suggest always following a conservative bankroll management plan. This includes players who are mass multi-tablers and those just learning the game. Remember, bankroll generally increases faster than skill.
Suggested Conservative Buy-in Requirements By Stake
- 2NL: 20
- 4NL/5NL: 25
- 10NL: 25
- 25NL: 30
- 50NL: 35
- 100NL: 40
- 200NL: 50
- 400NL: 60
- 600NL: 75
- 1000NL+: 100
Aggressive Online Bankroll Management
If you are a big winner, say 6bb/100+ and play 8 tables or less then I would suggest going aggressive with your bankroll management plan. Just make sure that you are willing to move down if you fall below the minimum required bankroll.
Suggested Aggressive Buy-in Requirements By Stake
- 2NL: 15
- 4NL/5NL: 20
- 10NL: 20
- 25NL: 20
- 50NL: 20
- 100NL: 25
- 200NL: 30
- 400NL: 35
- 600NL: 35
- 1000NL+: 40
If you feel like you are running good, then there is nothing wrong with setting aside a couple of buy-ins to take a shot at a higher stake. For example, let’s say you are a 100NL player but want to take a shot at breaking into 200NL quickly. After you have a comfortable cushion into 100NL, you might mix in one or two tables of 200NL into your sessions.
Just make sure that you don’t reload on those tables, if you happen to bust out then your shot is over and replace that slot with a 100NL table. Otherwise, just play as normal until the session is over. You may get lucky and run up your bankroll fast. Worst case scenario, you just keep playing 100NL or save up a couple more 200NL buy-ins for another shot.
Buying in for Less Than 100bbs
In my opinion, the best way to build up a bankroll fast and also decrease your exposure to a volatile online poker climate is to buy in for less than the standard 100 big blind stack. Personally, my preferred buy in size is 30 big blinds. I have been playing this stack size for years and love the flexibility it offers me in my poker career. Besides being crazy fun to play, there is a big bankroll benefit to buying in short. Here is a side-by-side comparison of what two bankroll management plans might look like. The plan on the left is for a typical 100bb player and the one on the right is for a 30bb short stacker.
What Is a Typical Pro Poker Player Winning Percentage
A pro will typically win money in about 60-70% of his sessions. Even so, this is not really a statistic to track since your playing style will factor into this. If you happen to be an ultra-aggressive loose player, you might only win 55% of your sessions or so. However, since you will probably win huge on your winning sessions you can still maintain a high win-rate with this style. Conversely, a really tight player might have lower variance and win 80% of his sessions but book much smaller wins. Long story short, forget about how often you have winning sessions and instead focus on making sure all of your individual decisions are +EV. If you do that, your win-rate will take care of itself.
What Is the Difference Between Win Rate and Roi?
When poker players are discussing win rate they are referring to how many big blinds they are winning per hour or 100 hands, depending on who you talk to. On the other hand, ROI (return on investment) is used to measure success in tournaments and sit ‘n go’s and is expressed as a percentage. This percentage just shows how much money a player expects to win for every dollar invested. For example, a 25% ROI means that you win 25 cents for every buy-in dollar. So if a player spends $100,000 in buy-ins per year and has a 25% ROI, he or she would show $25,000 profit.
How Can I Track My Win Rate?
You could theoretically track your win rate with a pencil and piece of paper. However, that would be a tedious task that would probably be worth more trouble than it is worth. Fortunately, there are a variety of tools available to keep track of your win rate (and ROI) depending on whether you are an online live player.
Tracking Online Win Rate
The best way to track your win rate online is to purchase poker tracking software, such as Hold’em Manager or Pokertracker. The program will automatically pull down hands as you play and offer an exhaustive amount of stats for you to study, including win rate.
Tracking Live Win Rate
Keeping track of a live poker win-rate takes a little bit more work, but is not that difficult as long as you log the number of hours and how much you win each session. Today, there are numerous apps out there that help you figure out your win rate. The ones that seem to stand out from the rest and are free are called Poker Bankroll Tracker for iOS and Android and Poker Income Ultimate for Mac.
What Is a Good Limit Poker Win Rate?
Compared to no-limit, win rates are typically much more modest. In fact, the biggest winners in the game are typically winning at about 2-3bb/100. Anything around 1bb/100 is very good.
What’s the best way to improve my win rate?
At the risk of sounding like a smart aleck, the best way to improve your win rate is to forget about your win rate. Instead, focus on creating +EV spots for yourself through strong fundamentals and sound lines. If you are an online player, I recommend that you play no more than 2 tables at a time for a large sample size and until you are sure you are a winning player. Ultimately, the best way to get good fast is to get good slowly.
If you are currently struggling to win at poker, you may want to give my beginner/intermediate poker tutorial a try. In the guide, I don’t tell you how to play specific hands in specific spots. Instead, I provide you with all of the basic knowledge necessary to allow you to create your own profitable lines of play based on sound fundamentals. Basically, it gives you perspective on what it takes to win and provides a roadmap to get there. I hope it helps you get out there and start crushing!
Overall, understanding what a good win rate is in poker will provide you with a target to shoot at. Even so, once you know where you want to be it’s best to not become too obsessed with having the highest win rate out there. Instead, focus on improving every poker decision you make and eventually the profit will come. Good luck!