What Percentage of Poker Players Are Winners? (2019)

What Percentage of Poker Players Are Winners?
People often ask me what percentage of poker players are winners or how many poker players make money.

And this is a difficult question to answer because most poker card rooms do not release this kind of information.

But as a long time poker pro myself, I believe that I can give a pretty good estimate of how many poker players are actually winners over the long term.

It is likely that only around 30% of poker players are winners over the long term. And only about 10% are significant winners (i.e. make a meaningful side income or can consider going pro). There are many reasons why such a low percentage of poker players are winners including the rake, getting beat by better players and tilting too much.

Now I know that these numbers probably seem a bit grim (and they are), but I think that most poker players actually could take several steps to insure that they are in that 30% of winners, which I will discuss below.

However, first let's dig into the reasons why most people don't win at poker a bit deeper though.


What Percentage of Poker Players Are Winners? The Impact of the Rake


Alright, let's face it. Most poker players do not win in the end. If I had to guess, I would put the number at around 30%.

That is usually the number that I get when I filter for long term winners in my PokerTracker database. And there are many reasons why this is the case.

The first and most obvious reason why such a low percentage of poker players are winners is the rake. The rake is the fixed amount that the poker room takes out of each cash game pot and tournament buyins.

This is how the poker room (online or live) pays it's expenses and also makes a profit.

So, even though the rake is usually only a small percentage of the pot or buy-in, it still adds up in the end. This is why all poker players are always fighting an uphill battle.

The first person you always need to beat is the house!

What Percentage of Poker Players Are Winners?

For example, let's say you had a good poker winrate of 5 big blinds per 100 (5bb/100). This means that you win 5 big blinds for every 100 hands of poker you play.

However, if the rake at your poker card room is 3bb/100, then you would actually only be a 2bb/100 winner in the end. For breakeven poker players in particular, you can probably guess just how much this affects them.

Many breakeven players are actually small winners technically. But since they can't beat the rake, they are breakeven or even small losers in the end.

The micro stakes (both online and live) are notorious for having a high rake to pot/buy-in ratio. What I mean by this is that the impact of the rake is much higher at these limits due to the small amounts of money in play.

However, as you climb up to mid stakes or high stakes poker games, the impact of the rake becomes much less. This is because the pot sizes are much bigger while the rake only increases sightly.

The bottom line though is the number one reason why poker players do not win at poker is because of the rake.

Therefore, it is important to make sure that the rake structure at your local card room or the online poker site you play at is not too high.


Elite Level Poker Players Crush Everybody Else


The next most important reason why the percentage of poker players that are winners is low is because of better poker players, also sometimes called sharks.

As I have discussed before, there is almost always an elite 5%-10% of poker players who absolutely crush the games. These are the players who are most likely to turn pro or make a significant side income from poker.

Now, these players' winnings has to come from somewhere. And it of course comes from all the other players. Most notably the recreational players (fish), but they also beat up on all the breakeven poker players and the small winners as well.

This is why I often write about how to play both optimally against the fish and the weak regulars at the micros. You have to use different strategies to optimize your winnings versus each of them.

This is most clearly noticeable in The Micro Stakes Playbook for example, where I have specific strategies that you should only use versus the fish and only use versus the bad regulars.

Because if you want to break into that top 10% of poker players who are elite winners, then you are going to need to learn how to play against all player types optimally.

This means winning more than your fair share of the pots versus both the fish and the other regulars.

If you want to learn how to be one of these "poker sharks" then you are going to have to become a student of the game. In other words, you have to put in some time improving your game away from the poker tables.

This is why I am always recommending that online poker players in particular use a good tracking program like PokerTracker so that they can not only find their own leaks and fix them, but also study the other biggest winners.

Many of my biggest breakthroughs in poker strategy have come from simply studying the hands of the best players in the games I play in with PokerTracker.

Find out what they are doing better than you and just copy them. There is no shame in it. They are clearly doing something right because they win so much. Learn from it!

You can also improve your poker game with poker books, advanced training courses or hiring a coach. Honestly, the options are endless these days.


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How Many Poker Players Make Money? The Massive Impact of Tilt


The final reason why so few people win at poker over the long run is tilt. Tilt is when you get frustrated by bad beats and start playing based on your emotions instead of logic and math.

Let's face it, poker is a tough game. In fact it can be absolutely brutal sometimes. Even the biggest winners can go days, weeks or even months sometimes without winning.

This is enough to make almost anyone crack.

However, the very biggest winners know that maintaining strong tilt control during the hardest times is what actually separates them from all the other losing poker players.

Anyone who follows my Instagram already knows what I do to combat tilt. I believe that regular fitness (along with a healthy diet and good sleep) is one of the absolute best anti-tilt strategies:



You simply have to treat poker like a professional would these days if you want to get professional level results.

Pretenders are getting weeded out faster than ever in today's tougher games and so winning poker for somebody like me begins before I even sit down to play.

I am already preparing myself to be in peak mental and physical shape long before I even sit down to play against you. I am there to play my "A game" at all times.

Nothing less than this is acceptable in today's games for someone like me who takes poker very seriously and relies on this game for an income.

After having coached hundreds of poker players and played millions of hands myself, I can say without a doubt that tilt is the #1 reason why most people do not win at poker.

A few bad beats is enough to set most people off and drive them crazy. Then they start playing badly, being too aggressive, making hopeless calls, bad bluffs and so on.

Like I said, you just can't allow this to happen anymore in today's games, if you want to win that is.

As Daniel Negreanu mentions in his new poker training program, tilt control is undeniably the most important key to your success in today's games.

So if you want to break into that 30% of poker players who are winners in the long run, then it is absolutely vital that you learn some good tilt control strategies.

Because if you cannot learn to control your emotions in the moment in this game (or quit to avoid tilt), then I am sorry, but you can never be a long term winning poker player.

This is especially the case in today's games where there isn't always some obvious fish at the table waiting to give all his money away to you.

In other words, the edges are smaller these days, and you absolutely cannot afford to be getting emotionally involved with every bad beat and tilting away your profits.

That's what amateurs do. Pros challenge themselves to be better than that.


Final Thoughts


So what percentage of poker players are winners? How many poker players actually make money in the long run?

Well, it is hard to say because most poker sites simply do not give out this kind of data. But if I had to guess I would put the number at no higher than 30%.

And only about 10% are actually significant winners (i.e. can make a serious side income or consider going pro).

The reasons why are numerous. But the three most important ones are the rake, better poker players and the impact of tilt.

In order to win at poker you have to beat the rake that all poker rooms charge to cover their expenses and turn a profit. This can be a significant hurdle sometimes in low stakes games.

Secondly, the cream is always going to rise to the top in poker.

There are people out there (like me) who have put in hundreds or thousands of hours away from the poker tables studying and improving their game. These people are simply going to win more often.

Lastly, you absolutely have to avoid tilting away your winnings when the cards inevitably run cold on you like so many other people do.

Maybe 5 or 10 years ago you could afford to lose your patience when you got a bad beat or two. And this is because some huge fish would often be sitting there just waiting to dust off a stack to you.

This isn't the case anymore.

People with tilt problems are simply not going to win in today's games. You have to fix this problem or learn to leave the table when it happens.

Look, I am going to be honest. Becoming a long term winning poker player isn't easy. If it was easy, then everybody would be doing it.

Being a winning poker player takes a ton of patience, discipline, perseverance and a very strong work ethic. But the good news is that if you really want it bad enough, then anything is possible.

If you want to know how to consistently make $1000+ per month in low stakes poker games, make sure you grab a copy of my free poker cheat sheet.

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Let me know in the comments below what percentage of poker players you think are winners. Do you think 30% is accurate?

What Percentage of Poker Players Are Winners?

7 comments:

  1. The 30% number is way to high at live games. 5% could make a living. 10% a bit. Then maybe 5% break even. To break even, given the amount of the total rake, the rake itself, bonus pool, and tips make it extremely difficult for many players to overcome. Let's do the math. Let's say there is a pot with $50 in it. The rake is $5, bonus $2, tip $1. Let's say $15 is yours. That leaves a profit that would be $35 in a home game down $8 to $27. In percentage terms, your profit that 233% is reduced to 180%. This type of loss takes over $200 per.hour.off the table. That also hurts good players proportionally.

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    1. Looks like the casino you play has a huge rake.Also tips,is it manfatory to tips in your area;I almost never tip,casino staff are well paid where i live. (SouthEurope).And even if they werent,its not my fault.Do you tip mimimum wage staff in your local supermarket?If not,why tip the dealer?

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  2. I agree with your reasoning , however, I would bring the number of long term winners to 3%. This percentage is consistent with the stock markets long time winners and the number of schoolarship athletes who make a long term living in the pros.

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  3. for my local city game, the private 1/2 rake sets at $20 max/pot which was fucking INSANE! imagine every time you had a $400 pot, $20 being taken away from you. They do this because texas hold'em (player against player's) is not available in our city of our major casino.

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  4. Hi Nathan

    gr8 article. I hear this term being bandied around a lot: the online poker 'ecosystem'. What does this mean exactly? Where does the average $5 tournament/2NL cash player fit into this? Are we destined to be forever at the bottom of the food chain? Cheers Tom

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    1. Hey Tom,

      I think the online poker ecosystem just refers to having a healthy balance between sharks, mediocre regulars and fish. And of course games that have a structure which is beatable in the first place. By that I mean rake, rakeback, bonuses and so on.

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  5. Nice article. I agree that probably only 5 or 10% are actually winning big over the long term.

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