Are You Really a Winning Poker Player?

If you’re like 90% of the players who sign up at a poker site and read a couple of strategy articles, you already think you’re a winning player.  Obviously though, 90% of online poker players are not winners – especially considering that the house rakes 5-7% out of each pot.

Assuming you can handle a reality check, it might be a good idea to take an honest look at whether or not you’re really a winning player.  Here’s a look at how to find your win rate in addition to what constitutes a successful player.

Cash Game Player – measuring Big Bets

If you mainly play cash games, or just want to know how to measure your cash game success, the universal way to do this is with “big bets” per 100 hands (also measured ‘per hour’).  The term big bet originates from Limit Hold’em and a single big bet (BB) is equal to two big blinds.

Most good lower limit cash game players make around 5 big bets per 100 hands.  Assuming you made 5 BB in $1/$2 No-Limit Hold’em, you’d be making around $20 per hour, which is far better than the average low stakes player.  Unfortunately, most players aren’t this good so their rate will be quite a bit lower.

Those who make 1.5 BB per 100 hands can still consider themselves successful at the $1/$2 limits because they’d be making $6 an hour (not exactly enough to make a living though).  Win rates are even lower in the upper stakes such as $10/$20 so averaging 1.5 big bets every 100 hands would provide an excellent win rate of $50 an hour at the $10/$20 No-Limit Hold’em stakes.

To keep track of this information, you can either record all of your sessions manually or invest in software to do the job for you.  As far as how much time you need to get an accurate reading on your cash game success goes, 500 hours (50,000 to 100,000 hands) is a good number for casual players while those who are considering becoming professionals should log around 1,000 hours (100,000 to 200,000 hands) to get an accurate number.

Tournament Player – measuring ROI

Tournaments are a whole different ballgame so you’ll want to use return on investment (ROI) to figure out profitability here.  ROI can be found by dividing a player’s net tournament profits by their total buy-in fees.

To create an example, let’s say that you played in a total of thirty $20 + $2 sit and go tournaments and earned $740 in profit.  You net profit would be $80 ($740 winnings – $660 buy-ins = $80), and your ROI would be 10.8% ($80/$740) over the course of the 30 tournaments.  So for every $1 you invest into a poker tournament, you can expect to earn roughly $1.11 back.

Of course, 30 tournaments aren’t going to give you a true picture as to how successful you are.  So a good number of tournaments to play when looking for an accurate ROI is 1,000 or more.  If your ROI is in the double digits after playing this many tournaments, you can consider yourself a pretty good player at the current buy-in level.

Unfortunately, many tournament players suffer negative ROI’s since they lose money over the course of a 1,000 or more tournaments.  Anyone with this problem needs to rethink their current position.

What to do if you’re a Losing Player

No amount of mathematics or poker bankroll management is going to save you if you can’t win at the table.  If you’ve calculated your big bets in cash games and/or ROI in tournaments, and found out that you’re a total poker loser, there are a couple of steps you should take to rectify the problem.

The first step is to obviously drop down in stakes because you’re playing against tougher competition than you can handle.  Whether this means playing lower cash game stakes or spending less on tournament buy-ins, you need to find weaker competition.  The next step is to dedicate more time to improving your game; 5 hours or more a week is good for serious poker players.

In the end, your success rate will depend heavily on how willing you are to keep improving.  Sure the money is made at the tables, but you stand to make more money in the future by continually learning.  Just remember that what you do away from the poker table is just as important as what you do on the felt.

Speak Your Mind

*