Using Win Rates to Estimate Your Poker 'Salary'

Vivian Saliba

We all know poker players don't earn "salaries" as such, even those who play seriously full-time. Since they don't have salaries, how can players know how much money they will make? Is it all just a big gamble, or can players really estimate how much money they will win (or lose)?

The fact is, poker players can make such estimations, primarily by using their current win rate as a means to judge how they will do over a given period of time.

For those who play poker online, there are many types of software that can track your play in various ways, including calculating your win rate. Normally win rate is defined by big blinds won or lost per 100 hands played, expressed as BB / 100. It can also be defined as money won or lost per 100 hands played, or money / 100.

If you are a live player, you will have to track your results manually, although there, too, you can find apps to help with such record keeping. In the case of live play, often players calculate their win rate by how much money they win or lose per hour played (money / hour) or as big blinds per hour (BB / hour).

To help make win rates more understandable, let's imagine two types of players, player X and player Y.

If player X has a win rate of 10 BB / 100 and he plays a $0.50/$1 pot-limit Omaha cash game, that means he makes $10 every 100 hands he plays. If player X plays 5,000 hands per month while maintaining that win rate, he will win $500.

If player Y has a win rate of -5 BB / 100 and he also plays a $0.50/$1 PLO cash game, that means he loses $5 every 100 hands. If player Y plays 1,000 hands with that same win rate, he will lose $50.

In both cases, the players know their current win rates and use those to estimate what they will win or lose over larger sample sizes. Keep in mind that win rates derived from larger numbers of hands will be more useful as indicators of future results than win rates coming from small samples.

Of course, sometimes players will run over or under expected value (EV). But over the long term, the numbers will get closer to what they should be, making a player's win rate more accurate as an indicator of future results.

The goal of every poker player is to push his or her win rate higher and thereby increase profits. That doesn't just happen, though. Increasing your win rate results from focused study and hard work. You might need to concentrate on certain technical issues or areas of concern such as preflop limping, preflop flat-calling, continuation betting on flops, barreling on turns, and/or value betting on rivers. Improving in these areas can help increase your win rate.

You can also increase your profits by learning how to avoid habits that might be decreasing your win rate such as watching videos while playing, being on your phone during the sessions, going on tilt, playing too many tables at once, or not paying attention to hands in which you are not involved. Anything that causes you not to play your A-game can (and probably will) negatively affect your win rate.

Once you understand how to calculate how much money you can make, you will then need to decide how many hours you wish to devote to the game, as well as how much effort you are willing to exert in order to meet your goals and to help position you to create new ones.

Whether you are a professional or a recreational player, it is indeed possible to be successful at poker as long as you are willing to dedicate yourself both to tracking accurately how you are doing and to putting in the time and effort to improve. Work hard enough, and you might well be able to achieve consistency with your poker winnings — maybe even to a point where you can think of them as a kind of "salary."

Primarily an online player, 888poker Ambassador Vivian "Vivi" Saliba has recently collected numerous live cashes including making the money in both the 2017 WSOP Main Event and 2017 WSOP Europe Main Event. Pot-limit Omaha is her favorite variant, and among her many PLO scores is an 11th place in the $10,000 Pot-Limit Omaha 8-Handed Championship at the 2017 WSOP.

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