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What is a Good Win Rate at the Micros and Small Stakes?

I get asked about win rates perhaps more than any other topic. That or how many hours do they need to play to make $50 a day. These questions usually come from people who are new to online poker. I often reply with something along the lines of it depends on your skill level, the stakes and the volume that you put in. It is totally impossible for me to answer this question without this information.

Also, I take the time to remind them (or perhaps inform) that they are thinking about the game all wrong. Poker is not like a regular job where if you show up for X amount of hours you get paid X amount of money. Most people lose in the long run in this game in fact. In other words they go to "work" and their paycheck is a negative amount.

Show Me The Money!

Anyways, while these types of questions do seem really silly to me, I have gotten enough of them by now to know that people want to know about win rates no matter what. So let's get into it! Now the question always gets phrased to me as "what is possible." So let's start there.

In my opinion the top 5% of the entire player pool are the ones who are the long term big winners. These are the guys who are doing "what is possible." So that is who I am speaking about below. Also, I will be assuming that they are religiously game selecting (both table selection and seat selection) when they have the time for it. Elite players tend to always be doing this anyways.

Now of course the big thing with game selection is that when you are playing 18 tables at once you simply do not have anywhere near as much time to pay attention to it as someone who is 6 tabling for instance. The same goes for the quality of your actual poker decisions. This will drastically affect your potential win rate. So I will break down the win rates below into three different volume categories.

Lastly, what follows is just my opinion from playing at all levels of the micros and small stakes for years. If you fail to achieve these numbers (or have already surpassed them) please don't send me hate mail!

Top win rates possible for elite players who play 1-8 tables.

NL2: 30bb/100
NL5: 20bb/100
NL10: 15bb/100
NL25: 12bb/100
NL50: 10bb/100
NL100: 10bb/100

Top win rates possible for elite players who play 9-17 tables.

NL2: 20bb/100
NL5: 13bb/100
NL10: 10bb/100
NL25: 8bb/100
NL50: 7bb/100
NL100: 7bb/100

Top win rates possible for elite players who play 18+ tables.

NL2: 12bb/100
NL5: 8bb/100
NL10: 6bb/100
NL25: 5bb/100
NL50: 5bb/100
NL100: 5bb/100

So there you have it! You can multiply these amounts by your projected daily volume to find out what the best possible average earnings per day are at your limit. You can also multiply them by your average hourly volume in order to find out what the best possible average hourly is at your limit. This is all pre-rakeback of course as well which can add up to thousands of dollars per month for high volume players at NL25 and higher.

The Let Down

Alright, let's inject some reality into this conversation now. The average win rate and daily earnings of a random person just getting started in online poker are both in fact negative numbers. Many people get caught up in the spell of the dream poker lifestyle. They have seen the millions being tossed around on TV and they figure that since they dominate their buddies every Friday night or have "been killing it" at the local 1/2 game for an inconsequential amount of hands that online poker is their's for the taking.

The vast majority of them find out the hard way that it doesn't quite work like that. Let me now list the win rates that are much more common for these stakes. Keep in mind that at least 3/4 of people who play poker actually lose in the long run. So these numbers represent the average win rate that a winning player (only 1/4 of the player pool) can expect to attain at the various stakes.

These are the average win rates for 1-8 tables.

NL2: 10bb/100
NL5: 6bb/100
NL10: 4bb/100
NL25: 2bb/100
NL50: 2bb/100
NL100: 2bb/100

These are the average win rates for 9-17 tables.

NL2: 6bb/100
NL5: 4bb/100
NL10: 3bb/100
NL25: 2bb/100
NL50: 1bb/100
NL100: 1bb/100

These are the average win rates for 18+ tables.

NL2: 4bb/100
NL5: 2bb/100
NL10: 1bb/100
NL25: 0.5bb/100
NL50: 0.5bb/100
NL100: 0.5bb/100

You can pull out your calculator again and multiply these numbers by your projected daily volume and hourly volume in order to get your daily and hourly earnings. I hope this article proves valuable to all of the financial planners out there who want to know exactly how much they are going to make before they even get started!

Unfortunately though, poker doesn't actually work this way.

Your time would be much better spent simply forgetting about all of your future riches for months at the very least. You should instead focus on playing as much as you can and working hard on your game away from the tables. You should aim to develop the work ethic, discipline, emotional control and dedication to continued learning that are all necessary for long term success in this game.

I am not here to encourage the dreamers who send me these emails asking about how much they are going to make. These are the people who are all but guaranteed to fail in this game.

I am here however to encourage realistic people with the hunger to learn and improve to go pursue their passion for this game. People with no ego who want to earn it like the guy who I interviewed in my last post. It's fine to have big dreams in this game but put that aside for now. It is time to get to work.

Nathan Williams aka "BlackRain79" is a microstakes grinder, poker coach, DragTheBar instructor and the author of Crushing the Microstakes. Now available in Spanish and Russian as well.

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About BlackRain79

Comments (4) Trackbacks (0)
  1. HI BlackRain I have a question about NL4 we know that this is lowest level in some poker sites but, I have played at nl2 and nl4 and I have found that these games are very different, I think it is because the amount of money is twice don’t you think it?. One example of this is that sometimes I do bet for almost 6BB at nl2 and most of the time they call my bet by contrast, at nl4 they fold most of the time I think that nl4 is more like nl5. Well I hope so you read it and answare me and thanks for this information about the win-rates. I’m one of those players that had many question about win-rate.

  2. Hi Fox,

    I agree with you. I think there are big differences between NL2 and NL4/NL5. This is why the winrates drop so much as I discuss in this article. You can get away with a lot more crazy exploitational stuff at NL2 as I talk about in my book and you need to play much more ABC solid poker at NL4/NL5.

  3. I just wanted to say thanks. I’ve been a very small uStakes winner for a long time. I switched to PLO tournies and po8 sngs a while back. Later, I got a free MacBook. ( No, not from a banner ad … ) Well, my H2 doesn’t work on OSX, and I found I didn’t miss it at all. But over that time, I discovered I’m much worse than I used to be at HE.

    After watching a few of your videos, I also realized I really didn’t know how to use the tool. So I dl’d PT4, and tried it out. I had one table open, and was mostly in PT4 trying to get my HUD correct. And something magical happened. Some of the guys who’d been beating me up in these NL4 tables; well, I could suddenly see what they were doing.

    I finally got my HUD right and opened a 2nd table. I wasn’t running that good. One guy that I think realized I was playing 24/22/15% 3bet called me down a couple streets with 66, so I only came out up about 1.5 BIs after about 3 hours. HOLY WOW.

    Yeah, I understand you can’t project current results out to infinity. But this was in games where I’d expect to (at best) break even over that amount of time vs. villains who have been beating me up every time we’ve played. I’m really, really grateful you showed me how to use this effin’ thing.


  4. Hi SixTwelve,

    I am glad to hear that my videos helped you use your HUD better. It is a very powerful tool at these limits because so many players are not balanced in any way. By this I mean that they play on extremes, taking a particular action either way too much or way too little. Find these imbalances and exploit them.

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