Win Rates & ROI

For recreational poker players who have no aspirations of moving up in limits and making lots of money, it’s not critical to track your win rate. However, if you ever plan on becoming a good player, tracking your win rate and return on investment (ROI) in poker is crucial. ROI and win rate provide measurable results that let you know what games and limits you’re most profitable at; more importantly, they let you know when it’s time to move up or down in stakes. So in the spirit of taking your poker game to the next level, let’s go over how to measure your win rate for cash games and ROI for tournaments.

Cash Game Win Rate

When it comes to tracking win rate, most players like to use big bets (BB) as their unit for measuring money won/lost. Big bet is a term that spawned from Limit Hold’em, and it simply means double the big blind. Speaking of big blinds, you can also use these as the unit for tracking your win rate, but just know that big bets are widely considered the simplest unit for No-Limit games.

Along with using big bets for the unit size, players also measure their win rate ‘per 100 hands’ - although you can also use per hour too. For the sake of simplicity, it’s easier to use per 100 hands to track your win rate because poker rooms provide table statistics on hand played, not hours play. To find out how many hands you’ve played in a session, look for a tab marked “stats” at your table. Now that this has been covered, here’s where you need to do to determine your win rate…..

Most poker rooms won’t keep track of how much money you’ve won/lost in a session, so you’ve got to record your starting and ending big bets amount. Once you’ve got these numbers, it’s pretty easy to measure your win rate since you just take the amount of big bets won or lost and divide by the amount of hands played. For example, if you made $100 during a 500-hand session of $5/$10 No-Limit Hold’em, you would have earned 1BB/100 hands; BB = $20, $100/$20 = 5BB, 500 hands/5 BB = 1BB/100 hands).

As you can see, you only need to track a few things and do some light math to come up with a cash game win rate. However, things are made much easier if you have poker software since some programs even go as far as to make charts and graphs of your win rate.

Tournament Return On Investment

Instead of using win rate to define tournament success, players use return on investment. ROI is a measure of how much money you get back on every tournament buy-in spent. To find your ROI for a particular limit, you need to know how many tournaments you’ve played, the total buy-in money and the total amount of money you’ve won.

So let’s say that you played in 300 tourneys with a $1.10 buy-in ($330 worth of buy-ins) and you made $400. Knowing these numbers, you could now define a win rate for yourself with this formula ($400 - $330) / $330 = 0.212. ROI is expressed in a percentage, so your ROI for $1.10 tournaments would be 21.2%, which is pretty good.

Again, poker software is very useful when you’re trying to track ROI, but it’s not necessary. As long as you keep track of each tournament played and the money you’ve made, you’ll have no trouble with ROI.

Of course, the real question in all of this is what constitutes a successful ROI and win rate. In other words, what kind of numbers do you need before you know it’s time to move up in stakes? Let’s find out right now.

When Should You Move Up In Stakes?

One of the most important things you need to know when considering moving up in stakes is whether or not you can handle the next level. And the most obvious way to determine this is by looking at your success rate with the current stakes. As you may have guessed, the lower the stakes you play, the higher your win rate needs to be to move up.

There’s no concrete answer for either tournaments or cash games because success is all relative to the limits you currently play. For instance, someone with a 1BB cash game win rate in $0.50/$1 No-Limit Hold’em isn’t as ready to move up as someone who has the same win rate in $25/$50 NL Hold’em. Keeping this in mind, you’re safe to move up in limits if you hit these NL win rates:

$0.25/$0.50 and lower: 6BB/100 hands
$0.50/$1 - $2/$4: 4BB/100 hands
$3/$6 - $5/$10: 3BB/100 hands
$10/$20 - $25/$50: 1.5BB/100 hands
$50/$100 and higher: 1BB/100 hands

For tournaments, we discussed how you use ROI to determine your rate of success. So here are some good ROI’s to hit before you consider stepping up your tournament buy-ins:

$1 buy-in and lower: 20% ROI
$1.10 - $5.50: 17% ROI
$6 - $11: 14% ROI
$12 - $22: 12% ROI
$23 - $44: 10% ROI
$45 - $77: 8% ROI
$78 - $132: 6% ROI
$133 - $220: 4% ROI
$221 - $330: 3% ROI
$331 - $550: 2% ROI
$551 and higher: 1% ROI

One more thing you should consider before moving up in stakes is how many hands/tournaments you’ve played. After all, it’s great if you have a 20% ROI; however, it doesn’t mean a whole lot if you’ve only played in 10 tournaments.

If you truly want a reliable ROI, you should play at least 500 multi-table tournaments before moving up; if you play sit and go’s, 1,000 tourneys is a good amount. For cash game players, 2,500 hands at each limit provides a solid amount of data for you to measure how well you’re doing.

Remember that even if you do hit the required number for moving up in limits, there will be times where the next limit is considerably tougher. If this is the case, don’t be afraid to drop down in stakes; once you’re winning again, move back up and start over.