Poker Win Rates: An Introduction

So many people around the world make bucket loads of money, simply by sitting at home on their computer, or by going to card rooms, and all they have to do to make said money, is play poker. Sounds easy, right? Well, for most laymen, this isn’t the case. People who aren’t experienced poker players or who don’t have a deeper interest in the game are often baffled by how there’s so much money to be won, in a game of cards. The answer is simple; you need to know about Poker win rates.

Now, we can all agree that poker isn’t a simple game, by any means. So there’s no sure shot formula to win huge pots and win every game you play. That kind of skill comes with practice. But what if you aren’t a veteran poker player? Your money is still as good as anyone else’s. You don’t want to be investing in games only to lose the bets you’ve placed. You want some certainty and clarity about what you can expect in a game. Trying to predict the exact outcome of a poker game is an act of clairvoyance; it’s not possible. But what poker does allow you to do, is to at least calculate how much you could possibly win, and at what speed. If you’re feeling a little concerned then please don’t. We’ll explain everything along the way. Read on, and you’ll have saved yourself a lot of trouble.

What is Poker Win Rate?

If you’re scratching your head, wondering what a poker win rate is, then don’t fret, we’ve got your back. Poker win rate is a crystal ball that tells you how rich you’re going to become. It sounds absurd, but stick with me.

Every time you play a poker game, you bet a certain amount of money, to remain in the game. This betting is an inescapable part of poker. You cannot be playing the game and hope to walk away with the pot, if you’re not willing to contribute to it. You can’t crash a poker game like you would crash a wedding for the free food. You have to give the happy couple a gift, which in poker terms, means placing an amount as a bet.

Your concern, as a sensible poker player and as an investor with a sound head on his or her shoulders, should be about the returns you receive. Think of it like investing in some shares in the stock market. You would never do that without considering the profit you are likely to make, right? Or even studying for an exam is a good analogy. You pay more attention to chapters that have more weightage in the examination and will fetch you more marks. Basically, in all of these situations, you’re investing an asset after considering the pay off.

Poker can be played similarly. All you need to do is calculate your poker win rate. They are simply a way to find out how much money you’ll be making, over a period of time. In this case your assets are time, and the bets you place. Your win rate will tell you about the results your time and money will yield.

Calculating Poker Win Rate:

We’ve gone over what a poker win rate means and that is well and good, but how do you actually calculate it? Is it some elusive number? Will you have to do some dreaded, complicated mathematics in order to figure this out? The answer to both these questions is a solid ‘no’. You can easily calculate your poker win rate, and all it takes is some basic elementary school level math.

If you’re playing online poker, then technology is on your side. In these kinds of games, computers will do the hard bit for you and your poker win rate will be displayed automatically.

But if you’re not playing online and don’t have the software to calculate your win rate, then you can do it manually, as well. But before you whip out your calculator, consider what kind of game you are playing. The formula varies for cash games and tournaments. But don’t worry it is still quite simple, in both cases. So don’t get confused and let’s look at both possibilities.

  • Cash Games:

If you’re playing a cash game, then you need to have two variables at your hand. All this means, is that you need to be able to answer two questions:

- The number of hands you’ve played in total, and

- The total profit you’ve made in big blinds.

If you don’t have exact figures for the first variable, you can use an estimated figure. You can make an educated guess about the number of hands you’ve played based on the amount of hours you’ve played the game, and considering the number of hands that are usually played per hour.

Now here’s the formula:

Poker win rate (in units bb/100) = (Profit in big blinds/number of hands you’ve played) x 100

So let’s make it easier by looking at an example. Suppose, Player A has played 100,000 hands of poker and has won 2500 big blinds. Now, with the formula given above, we can calculate his poker win rate.

Player A’s Poker win rate = 2500/100,000 x 100

                                      = 2.5 bb/100 hands.

  • Tournaments:

Now we can look at a similar formula for poker tournaments.

 For this calculation, we again need to have two variables, but they’re slightly different for tournaments:

- The amount received as Tournament winnings, and

- The amount that has been spent as tournament buy-ins.

So the figure to be calculated can be called our Return on Investment or ROI, and the formula to find the same is:

ROI = (Tournament winnings – Buy-in amount) / (buy-in amount x 100)

Just like before, we can look at another example. This time we have Player B, who has won $10,000 and has spent $6500 on buy-ins. We can now calculate her poker win rate, as follows:

ROI = (10,000-6500) / (6500 x 100)

       = 0.053, which means 5.3 %, because we multiply the final answer by 100 in order to get a percentage.

We’ve looked at the formulae to calculate your poker win rate, and it turned out to be quite easy. The math is not difficult, and you need basic information in order to solve a big problem.

What is a Good Poker Win Rate?

Okay, so we’ve done all the work and figured out all the formulae. Now we want to get to the good stuff. We know all about poker win rates, but what turns a poker win rate into a good poker win rate?

The most basic answer to this question is the best answer. Experts say that any poker win rate above a zero is a good poker win rate. This is because, most people who play poker, tend to lose their money (they obviously don’t know about a good poker win rate). This ensures that even making a little bit of money is a great thing.

But I won’t leave you hanging with a vague answer like that. Fortunately, there are some exact figures that’ll help you understand the strength of your game and check if you’re playing within the limits of a good poker win rate.

Normally, placing any exact value as a good poker win rate is a difficult task in a game like poker, because you have to consider several criteria. However, some boundaries that might help you are as follows:

- In online cash games a good poker win rate is around 0-10 bb / 100 hands,

- In live cash games a good poker win rate is around 0-30 bb / 100 hands,

- In online tournaments a good poker win rate is around 0-30 % ROI, and

- In live tournaments a good poker win rate is around 0-100 % ROI.

While these are simpler formulae and guidelines to calculate a good win rate, there’s another concept called variance, which must not be ignored. Variance basically takes into consideration, how a player’s win rate can change over a long period of time. While most of us would consider a player with a win rate of -2bb/100 hands as being incapable of making any money over 100,000 hands. Variance, however, using the facility of software and a value known as ‘standard deviation’, calculates the win rate of such a player over these 100,000 hands. Often times, even such players have margin of making money.

Moral of the story; don’t lose hope.

As we conclude our trip through win rates, we can safely say that we’ve been over all the basics. We’ve shown you how to calculate your win rate and even helped you out by telling you exactly what is considered to be a good poker win rate. You’re more than ready to play all those hands and see what your win rate is. So, come join us at Spartan, and play online poker, anytime!