Friday, June 6, 2014

Good Win Rates For Micro and Small Stakes Online Poker Cash Games

Good Win Rates for Micro and Small Stakes Poker
I get asked about win rates perhaps more than any other topic. That or "how many hours do I need to play to make $50 a day?" You see these questions all the time on poker forums as well.

They 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 5-10% 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 many, many 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: 40bb/100
NL5: 26bb/100
NL10: 18bb/100
NL25: 13bb/100
NL50: 11bb/100
NL100: 9bb/100

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

NL2: 30bb/100
NL5: 17bb/100
NL10: 12bb/100
NL25: 8bb/100
NL50: 6bb/100
NL100: 4bb/100

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

NL2: 20bb/100
NL5: 12bb/100
NL10: 8bb/100
NL25: 6bb/100
NL50: 4bb/100
NL100: 3bb/100

Winrates in micro stakes poker

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.

Edit: You don't even have to bother doing the math yourself anymore. There is now a follow-up article for this blog post entitled "How Much Do Poker Players Make?" where I actually break down all of these win rates into dollar amounts, hourly, monthly and yearly with rakeback added in. Please make sure to finish this article first though because there is important information to come :)

Good Win Rates for Micro and Small Stakes PokerThe 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 going to be a piece of cake.

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.

Average win rates for 1-8 tables.

NL2: 10bb/100
NL5: 6bb/100
NL10: 4bb/100
NL25: 3bb/100
NL50: 2bb/100
NL100: 2bb/100

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

Average win rates for 18+ tables.

NL2: 4bb/100
NL5: 2bb/100
NL10: 2bb/100
NL25: 1bb/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 now and instead focusing 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 often doomed to fail in poker because they are thinking about the game completely wrong.

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. The money will follow.

New Here?

Lastly, if you are new here go check out my "Start Here" page for links to dozens of articles that I have written for this website showing exactly how I achieve many of these top win rates myself.

If you enjoyed this article please "Like" or "Tweet" it below!

Winrates in micro stakes poker


  1. Good post Nathan. This may be a stupid question, but why do you still grind micro stakes and not go up to low or mid? Surely you would be profitable at those stakes and you would inflate your monthly earnings?

    1. Thanks Simon! I have played regularly up to NL200 in the past and may again one day. Right now I just grind NL25 and NL50 and am perfectly happy doing so. These are also the limits that I coach and write about so it helps me stay on top of the games.

    2. How can i calculate my BB win for 100 hands? let say i play 17000 hands and won 40 dollars

    3. Hey fabi, the easiest way would be to just use a tracking program and HUD like PokerTracker 4 and let it do the calculation for you.

      But if you wanted to do the math yourself then you would need to find out the total amount of big blinds that you have won. Then do a few calculations with the total number of hands to find out how many you are earning per 100 hands.

  2. Nice post, as usual :)
    Thank you, for not supporting dreamers, and people who think about millions $ and cars.
    I am very appreciate your posts about work ethic and discipline.
    "There is no substitute for hard work"

  3. Thanks again Nathan for bringing people back to reality and actually having a real "number" to strive for in PT or HEM. That helps alot. My poker sabbatical is over and now I really know those numbers posted for the average winning player are true, and if I want to at least pay for all the software and books I've purchased in the last 3/4 years, I can't skim-read anymore; or play my lazy LAG ways. Waiting patiently for book #2.......

    1. Thanks TeeGee. All the best going forward at the tables. I am midway through the second full edit on the book. Really hoping to have it out before the end of this month.

  4. and .....winrate en Zoom ..FR ?

    Any ideia?

    1. I don't play much Zoom but it would be slightly lower across the board at all levels.

  5. Yeah I am going along at about 4bb/100 of 25 NL FR Zoom.
    I think I should be playing a lot more optimally, putting people to the test, but I am not sure how to start implementing that.
    Also I have no real life poker buddies to help each other out.
    I think I am looking for coaching on a profit share basis.


    1. Nice work, that is a good win rate for NL25 Zoom. A coach couldn't hurt but it sounds like you are well on your way.

    2. Spoke too soon, lol, now 1.5 bb/100 for only 10,000 hands, but regardless I will keep on trucking and keep my patience.
      I hear you are big on table/seat selection, I can't stand that, I just wanna play, lol. So that's partly why I like zoom, I guess.
      Maybe I should post again when I get closer to 100,000 hands or so.


  6. From what I've see... it's not worth playing more than 8 tables because your winrate will be lower and I would expected to be higher.
    In this case... why should I even bother to play more than 8 tables ? What would be the point ?

    1. Rakeback. Despite the lower winrate the hourly is often higher for mass multi-tablers when this is factored in.

    2. I see... I play at NL10 for now, I beat NL10 and I don't beat the limit yet. My winrate is 1bb/100... but you convinced me to play a maximum of 8 tables.
      I was thinking about buying a second monitor to connect it to my pc in order to play poker at 2 screens , but now I see it's not worth it.

    3. Well I am not trying to convince anyone to play any amount of tables in this article. I have always said in fact that people should play whatever amount they feel comfortable with. All I am pointing out in this article is that there are clear differences in winrate depending on how many tables you play. Winrate is only one part of how much money you actually make at the tables though.

    4. You say winrate is only one part.
      There are also other parts ?
      I thought winrate is actually the only measure you can analyze to see if you improved over a minimum sample of 100k ... like you said in your book.

    5. There are three components that affect your total winnings or hourly. They are:

      1) Winrate
      2) Volume
      3) Rakeback

    6. This comment has been removed by the author.

    7. Hi Nathan, you say you play on PokerStars. How do you claim rakeback there? They offer the annyoing FFPs only, so I think anyway.

    8. Hey David,

      You can use those FPPs to purchase cash bonuses once you are Supernova. If you are not SN then you can play in satellites like I discuss here:

      to get the best value for them.

  7. Also... why would the winrate would be lower at zoom poker ? You basically don't have to wait for hands and you have to chance to focus on every hand very easily without getting tilted.
    Why you don't like zoom blackrain ?

    1. You can't table select like you can at the regular tables so the winrates will always be lower.

  8. Great article Nathan thanks. very interested to see the figures. I read Crushing the Microstakes last year and have been trying to employ it in my play at 0.01/0.02 stakes. I have not played many hands around 7000 to date but I am at least in profit after 12 months on Pokerstars. I'm only playing a single table and rechecking my play every session back against your strategy and making any adjustments where necessary.

    1. Thanks Reggae and all the best at the tables!

  9. Nice post man! Although I think that there is a decent decrease in winrate from nl50 to nl100, at least as it is from nl25 to nl50.

    1. Thanks Willian. Ya I agree with you. The numbers are definitely a bit arbitrary.

  10. HI Nath !
    Whats up ?
    Long time no see ?
    CAn you tell me what is the iwnrate for zoom nl10 6max ?
    Is it possible to make money from zoom anymore ?

    1. Hi Dzift,

      Good to hear from you. This post was meant to be a little bit tongue and cheek. Nobody knows all of the answers to these questions because nobody plays all of these games at once over huge samples. Winrates at Zoom will be slightly less at all levels for my educated guesses above due to the lack of ability to table select compared to regular games.

  11. Are these win rates for Pokerstars or across all rooms?
    I presume the win rates at stars would be lower than other rooms.

    1. These win rates are based off of my opinion on Pokerstars yes.

  12. Are these win rates for full ring or 6max?? If 6maxwhat would u estimate the earn rates for full ring to be. Just found your blog and absolutely love it. An awesome read.

    1. They are for both. Win rates don't differ that much between the two games. Glad you enjoy the blog!

  13. First off, thank you. For making it so much simpler for guys like me who are sincerely starting out. There's no one else who writes specifically for micro stakes. I hope you can find the time to answer my questions.

    I try to tread on the safer side of things, so I've been playing play money so far to first make sure I can dominate that before moving on to 2 NL real money. My bb/100 (big blinds) is 24 over 54k hands, playing 6 tables Full Ring at 5NL play money on pokerstars.

    My question is: 1) Do you think I could expect the same rates at 2NL? I ask this because if it could be, then it's time for me to quit my full time job and pursue poker exclusively(because I can't put in the volume I want with the full time job). I live in a country where the profits I'll make from 2NL at 20bb/100 over 6 tables is enough to survive on and still progress up the limits with a steady bankroll 2) I'm playing 6 tables just so I can add volume. I'm usually flustered, hour after hour, and I make my decisions solely based on my cards, my position, and pot odds. Playing a single table, I feel like I can see through every player, take my time and always make the right decision. What should be my strategy to feel in control and not get flustered at a higher number of tables? Should I just focus on lesser variables and forget about stack sizes and images and players' tendencies and moods and other variables? People multi-tabling even 12 tables seems absolutely insane to me.

    Much obliged.

    1. Just read and realized not to waste my time on play money. Still hoping for an answer to question 2.

    2. Hi Ajgar,

      Glad I can help :) Play money and real money are (unfortunately) not even close to being the same. People do not take the game seriously at all when there is no money on the line. So no, there is no correlation to be made with your results in play money right now and in real money later.

      Playing more tables is not something that you can learn to do over night. It is a slow process of adding one here and there and learning to get used to it. Also, there are many software aids that can help as well as using a HUD. But yes, short answer, when I am 12+ tabling I am not paying attention to every little thing at the table. I don't have time for that.

  14. This comment has been removed by the author.

  15. Hi again, thank you for that reply above.

    If you were just starting out at NL2 and playing just one table, how many hands would you play at that table before adding more tables? Any winrate over less than 30k hands or even 100k hands wouldn't mean much, but playing that many hands at just one table would take months. At the same time, adding more tables before making sure you can really beat one table(which you can only make sure if you've played a lot of hands - which you can't do on one table in a reasonable amount of time) would compromise your ability to get better at the game because you would learn less and automate more, right? Am I overthinking this?

    I'm really looking forward to your advice on how to approach this, thanks again for your time.

    1. Hi Ajgar,

      I would say that you are definitely overthinking this. If one table is all that you can play then that is completely fine. If you can add more tables without it affecting your play then that is great. There is no set number of hands that you need to play before moving up. However it can take much longer than most people think to get a true idea of their results. We have to balance that by making some assumptions though. So should you play 100k hands at NL2? No, probably not. If you are winning at say 20k hands then chances are good enough that you are indeed a winner. Obviously even 20k hands will take a long time if you are only playing one table. This is why it is advisable to try and learn to play more.

  16. i play 25nl 4-6 TABLE and over 40000 hands my winrate is 10bb/100 should i move up?

    1. That is a very good winrate over a decent sample. If you are feeling comfortable and have the bankroll then yes I would consider taking some shots at NL50.

  17. Hi man!

    Can u maybe give us the bb/100 by position (6max)? I run 10 bb/100 at nl 2 (200K hands, 4-6 tables), but i would like to know something more specific to reduce lost from the blinds and optimize the rest.
    Hope for ur help Thx :)

    1. Everybody loses from the blinds. As one of the biggest winners ever at NL2 even I lost in the blinds although I came close to break even. At all higher stakes you will lose for sure and it will be a double digit number.

    2. Hi, thx for the replay.
      I know is impossible to win. Here my last 150K hands. Knowing where i m doing bad woud be great so that i can concentrate on those position and try to improve (i hope not all of them are bad :D).

      Position Total Hands bb/100
      CO 26852 27,27
      BTN 27772 43
      BB 27503 -25,6
      SB 27887 -13,59
      MP 23727 14,25
      EP 13695 17,25

  18. you do very well in BB, running like BE at nl10 zoom (last year) i had near .50 bb.
    At a softer site now i have this results with crushing until now mostly NL5, perfectly fine binds, below -35 bb in BB in good i think.

    SB is also o.k., here i was for some reasons much better in comparison, i think defending the BB passive and play fit or fold was kind of the problem.

  19. Hi Nathan, i'm actually happy with my winrate at 25nl (8.11bb/100) with 20k hands at this level. If i had not fallen down in a huge tilt mixed with variance over almost 2,2k hands my numbers would be much better (I think, that's the difference between Elites and the regulars =P. But the thing is i'm worried about my numbers on BB. Look, i'm gonna post my HM2 stats for each position and i would appreciate pretty much if you could tell me if i can really improve this aspect of the game, like the best selection of playable hands against the regular stealers (CO and SB) at this position (Forget about multiway pots because those are much easier to CALL or FOLD). Specifically, and beyond the peculiarity of each kind of villain, i would like to know any sort of default range to call or to raise in each case.

    Pos Tot Hands bb/100
    SB 2390 10.07
    BB 2449 -40.52
    EP 4423 16.08
    MP 3566 17.27
    CO 2242 24.36
    BTN 2326 12.40

    I know there is a major in my game that i can't solve yet.

    Would be great if you could say me anything to help me this issue.

    Greetins, from Argentina (sorry if i have misspelled some word or something, english,as you would know, is not my main language)


  20. MAJOR LEAK. i forgot to write the word :P