Monday, June 4, 2018

What is a Good Poker Hourly Rate? The Real Numbers

Good poker hourly rate
Last week I wrote about what is a good poker winning percentage. But something else that people often ask me is what is a good poker hourly rate.

Now as I often say, poker is not like a regular job where you can expect to just show up and earn a fixed income. In poker some months you will be up and some months you may even be down.

Yes, you heard that right. Lose money.

I don't know of any other job out there where you can show up for work and at the end of the month the boss says that you need to give him money!

That is how poker works sometimes though, even for the very best players in the world.

So before I even get into this you need to know that there really is no such thing as a poker hourly rate. This just isn't how the game works.

But I know by now that no matter what I say here most people don't care and they will keep asking me this question anyways. And they want to know the exact numbers too!

So I will provide some wild speculations below on what is a good poker hourly rate.


Poker Hourly Rate at the Micros


This poker blog is mostly about the micro stakes so I will start there.

When I talk about the "micros" I am referring to low stakes game from 1c/2c blinds all the way up to 50c/$1 online. That is the $2 max buyin game to the $100 max buyin game. Also known as NL2 and NL100 respectively.

And if you are a live poker player then I am referring to $1/$2 and $2/$5 games here.

The common denominator between all of these stakes is that you find a lot of bad poker players and even outright beginners sometimes as well.

So you can often create some very high winrates in these games. However, since the amount of money that you are playing for is so small, the hourly earnings aren't exactly amazing.

This is why I often also say, nobody gets rich at the micros!

But not everybody who is reading this lives in expensive countries in Western Europe or North America. So it is very possible for many people to make a reasonable hourly rate from poker even at the micro stakes.


Table Count is the Key to Increasing Your Poker Hourly


Now before I get into the actual numbers I want to say that table count is really the biggest determining factor here.

Somebody who plays 12 tables at a time (online of course) is simply going to have much higher poker hourly earnings than somebody who only plays on 1 or 2 tables.

And the guy on 1 or 2 tables might even be a better player with a higher winrate (measured in big blinds won per 100 hands online). But the guy playing 12 tables at a time will still make substantially more in the end.

The reason why is because he is playing a much higher level of volume. He is simply getting in way more hands. And the reason why this matters is because in the end poker is really just a numbers game.

good poker hourly rate

Most pros like myself have played millions and millions of hands in order to let this numbers game play itself out over massive sample sizes. Amateurs on the other hand worry and fret over their day to day results.

The other thing is that most of the best online poker sites these days also have some form of rakeback or bonus system. And even though there has been some change in recent years, these reward systems have notoriously over-rewarded the high volume players.

The most famous example was over at PokerStars, the largest online poker site in the world. For years and years they heavily rewarded high volume players and inadvertently spawned an entire generation of what became known as "rakeback pros."

These were guys who didn't even win at poker tables. In some cases they were actually losing poker players.

But they made so much money in rakeback and bonuses by mass multi-tabling day in and day out that they ended up with large profits in the end, often well over 6 figures.

Now the point of all this isn't to advise you to learn how to play 24 tables at a time and grind like a maniac every day. Trust me, I have been there and done that and I don't really recommend it anymore these days.

But at the same time you do need to realize that if you are only able to play 1 or 2 online poker tables at a time, then there is no way that you are going to come close to hitting the hourly earnings listed below.


Good Poker Hourly Winnings at Low Stakes


So with the poker hourly rates below I will be assuming a moderate amount of multi-tabling of between 8 and 12 tables.

I will also be factoring in some conservative levels of rakeback and bonuses. This doesn't amount to much in micro stakes games like NL2, NL5 and NL10 but by NL25, NL50 and NL100 it can start to add up if you play a lot.

I will also be assuming that your poker winrate is in the elite top 5%-10% of players. These are the people who beat the games for the very highest winrates possible.

Keep in mind that most people actually lose at poker in the long run (i.e. their poker hourly rate will be a negative number).


NL2 - $4 an hour

NL5 - $7 an hour

NL10 - $10 an hour

NL25 - $18 an hour

NL50 - $30 an hour

NL100 - $50 an hour

$1/$2 live - $20 an hour

$2/$5 live - $50 an hour


So as you can see, the poker hourly rate isn't exactly amazing at the lower limits online. In fact it doesn't even surpass minimum wage in my country (Canada) until around NL25.

However, like I mentioned before poker is a worldwide game these days. In most countries on earth $7 or $10 an hour is actually a very respectable hourly wage.

So this is why you will actually find quite a few pros and semi-pros even at the very lowest stakes these days from places like Eastern Europe where the cost of living is considerably lower than in expensive Western countries.

And of course if you are a top winner at the upper end of the micros (NL50, NL100 or $2/$5 if you play live), then the poker hourly rate is pretty decent no matter where you live.


Good Poker Hourly Winnings at Mid Stakes


Now of course the whole point of poker for most people is to rise up through the stakes and get to where the real money is at, mid stakes and high stakes. This is much easier said than done these days though as the competition tends to get quite a bit tougher.

In fact you will encounter many more pros once you get past the micros. These guys aren't stupid. They are playing for serious money and their bills getting paid depends on them winning. So you better really know what you are doing by this point in order to beat them.

However, if you do manage to become a big winner in mid stakes games there is certainly a very good poker hourly wage to be had.

Once again these are just averages (some months it will be way higher, some months will be way lower or even negative).


NL200 - $90 an hour

NL400 - $160 an hour

NL600 - $250 an hour

NL1000 - $450 an hour

$5/$10 live - $90 an hour

$10/$20 live - $170 an hour

$25/$50 live - $350 an hour


So there you have it!

As you can see by the mid stakes games there is definitely some very good money to be made in poker. Way above the average salary even in rich Western countries.

And I am not even going to bother speculating about high stakes here.

I am sure you can imagine how large the numbers would be there for a top winner. Also, you can start adding in all sorts of other stuff like sponsorships and book deals as well by those stakes.


Reality Check


good poker hourly wage

Alright, let's bring this discussion back to reality now.

I need to be very clear here that only a tiny percentage of people will ever even make it to the mid or high stakes games, let alone become one of the biggest winners in them.

Now of course this doesn't mean that it can't be you. But unlike some other people out there I like to keep it real on this website and not encourage all the dreamers.

The reality is that the odds are seriously stacked against you.

Poker these days is a lot harder than it was 5-10 years ago when a decent (but not great) poker player could expect to rise up at least to mid stakes and make some good money in this game.

Today these games are filled with solid pros all waiting around to devour the odd fish who steps in. And at high stakes the competition is all world class now.

Even at the micros these days, you need to really know what you are doing in order to climb up the stakes and win big. Fortunately there are some pretty fantastic educational resources to help you nowadays.

The bottom line is that the numbers listed in this article are very much atypical these days (i.e. they are not normal for most people). I want to make that point abundantly clear.

But at the same time there are people out there who DO earn these amounts and even higher playing poker. After all, somebody has to win big right?

If you are willing to work extremely hard then anything is possible in poker. But it will not be handed to you anymore. You gotta really want it more than most people do.


Final Thoughts


I hope that this article was useful for some of you guys out there trying to calculate all your future riches by getting your poker hourly rate.

But honestly this entire article was written tongue in cheek because once again poker simply doesn't work this way.

If you are really determined to make $50 an hour for instance you would be much better off going to college or starting a business.

Here is what $50 an hour often actually looks like in poker.


Month #1 - Lose $100 an hour

Month #2 - Win $200 an hour


Most people cannot handle this.

They will freak out and lose their minds during month #1 and tilt away their entire bankroll. Therefore, they will never even get to see month #2.

This is why so few people even win at all in this game over the long run. They can't handle the swings.

This is the real nature of poker though. There is no such thing as an hourly winrate in this game. Poker instead is just a constant series of ups and downs.

Your only real goal should be to have more ups than downs over the long haul. Again, real poker players, pros, don't obsess over the money. That's what amateurs do.

If you take this game seriously then I would advise you to stop worrying about the money right now and start focusing instead on the things that you actually control.

And that is putting in the long hard hours both at the tables and away from them and challenging yourself to get better every time you play.

I also didn't write this article to be a complete killjoy either though. The facts are that there are people like me out there who have made a lot of money in this game.

And it allows me to travel the world and live a life of complete freedom. I wouldn't trade this for anything. But make no mistake, you have to work for it these days.

Make sure you pick up a copy of my free poker strategy guide to learn how.


Let me know your thoughts below on what you think a good poker hourly rate is.

Good poker hourly rate

18 comments:

  1. Excellent post, Nathan. Food for thought.

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  3. that post about you are better off starting your own business or going to college instead of struggling in poker is so true

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  4. Doubt you can find anyone with 100k sample of live 1/2. Doubt 20/hour attainable at that game over good sample by anyone less than top level players ie Ivey etc

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  5. I have to agree with CJ here. The live estimates are not on the mark. The rule of thumb for live games has always been 1 big blind per hour. Someone winning 10 BB per hour on a regular basis at 2/5NL Live, is unheard of. Remember, in a live game you are only being dealt on average, 25 hands per hour.

    Thanks!

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  6. But by that math, 1 BB/hour = 4 BB/100 hands.

    Have to imagine the winrate for live, 100 BBs deep poker is higher than that for the top players.

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    1. Possibly 2 BB per hour, but not much more. I played 2/5NL live for a year. The big winners at that level were making between 40k-50k per year BEFORE expenses. They were grinding 12+ hours a day 6 to 7 days a week.

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  8. I don't put in that much monthly volume but dividing 'My C Won by Hours' in Pokertracker gives a realistic view of hourly rate. Is that correct?

    How many hands on average does grinder plays in a month?

    Thanks Nathan!

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    1. Hey Mike,

      I have never cared what my hourly is in poker or tried to calculate it for all the reasons I stated in this article. I think it is completely silly.

      But people will keep asking me "How much will I make per hour at NL25" until the end of time so I will keep writing these silly articles with my wild speculations that people can debate about :)

      At the height of my grinding in the past I would play between 200k and 300k hands a month. I don't know about others, probably quite a bit less.

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    2. Hey Nathan,

      For the sake of your article you said a good hourly rate for NL2 is $4 an hour. I think that's achievable. Furthermore we can compare with other grinders and measure our success.

      I am not a hugh grinder and only played 18k hands with an hourly of .60 this month but perhaps I could play more and work harder.

      All the best, thanks!

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  9. The key to be a real winner in live games provided you beat the stakes thaat you play ofc,is to minimize expenses.Transit costs,food costs etc.If a trip to the casino costs on avg 15$ (food,gas,car maintenance,or bus tickets) it should be taken into account.Maby grinders i know miscalculate or dont at all the expenses i mentioned

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    1. Good points Jimmy. Phil Ivey had it right in his early days, just sleep at the casino!

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  10. I'm not really sure if open a business and going to college won't make you lose money as well, or that it's with less risks than poker.

    People get out off college with debt that often can't pay. If you open a business, there will be months when you will be losing money.

    With poker or life, it's all about taking risks, being wise with risk management, and hoping for the best.

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    1. Good points Gulas. There are always risks no matter what you do. But I feel that some people are more determined to succeed than others and they will typically get what they want no matter which path they choose.

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