It’s time to ask the scariest question in poker: Are you a winner? It’s a scary question for a number of reasons, none more so that the following:

1. It’s a difficult question to answer; and

2. The answer might be “No.”

That shouldn’t stop you from trying to find out. If you’ve been playing for a while, and you think you have your online poker fundamentals worked out, then you should be able to beat this game in the long run – provided you’re also good at game selection, not going on tilt, and all the other things you need to do to win at poker. If you’re not good at those things, no amount of advanced poker strategy is going to help you get in the black.

So let’s help you answer that question. This will be one of the more important articles that you’ll read in the Bovada online poker strategy guide series; we’ll show you how to calculate your win rate, and we’ll give you a sense of what kind of win rate you should expect when you play online poker at Bovada.

The Positives of Knowing Your Win Rate

When we talk about “win rate” in poker, we’re talking about the amount of money you win, either over a set period of time or number of hands. Knowing your win rate will help you determine if you’re ready to move up in stakes, or Heaven forbid, move down a level. If you don’t know your win rate, it’s going to be virtually impossible to make that decision properly.

Even if you’re pretty sure you’re an excellent poker player, you might be a winner at some games but not at others. Your results will also rise and fall naturally over time – this is aside from variance. There will be times in your career when you’re on top of your game, and other times when your focus just isn’t there. Having specific win rates calculated for each different game you play (Texas Hold’em, Omaha and Omaha Hi/Lo) at each different stake will help you with your game selection, and breaking your win rate down into intervals of, say, every six months, will help you keep track of your progress.

Ready to figure out your win rate at poker? Get started by looking at your cash game results. This is where win rate will be easiest to calculate, and most useful in determining your ability to beat the game. Let’s start with the most common way for online poker players to express their win rate:

BB/100: The Number of Big Blinds You Win per 100 Hands

This is the gold standard for a reason: Different people play more hands per hour than others, and more hours per day, week or month. If you only look at the dollar amount in your Bovada account, you have no benchmarks to compare yourself with other players. Dividing your results per 100 hands, using the number of big blinds won, will give you more of the information you need.

As a basic example, if you have a win rate of 10 BB/100 in $1/$2 No-Limit Hold’em cash poker, that means you’re winning $20 (10 times the $2 big blind) for every 100 hands you play. It also means you’re one of the best players in online poker – we’ll get to that in a little while. Knowing this win rate, you can expect to make even more than 10BB/100 hands when you play smaller stakes than 200NL, and less than 10BB/100 hands when you play higher stakes.

BB/hour: The Number of Big Blinds You Win per Hour of Play

This is another helpful way to calculate your win rate, but in this case, it’s more useful for your own accounting purposes than as a baseline to judge your poker ability. If you’re winning 10BB/100 hands at $1/$2 NL, and you’re only playing one table at a time, you might also be winning 10BB/hour. Even if you suddenly come up with the best poker strategy in the world, it’s going to be very difficult to improve on that 10BB unless you move up in stakes and/or add more tables.

$/100: The Dollar Amount You Win per 100 Hands

Method No. 3 for calculating your win rate is also useful, but not as much as the other three. Knowing you make $20 per 100 hands is nice if the only stakes you play are $1/$2; what about when you play $5/$10, or 50c/$1? You’ll be better off thinking in terms of big blinds won instead of raw dollars, so you can compare your results across stakes with more accuracy.

$/hour: The Dollar Amount You Win per Hour

This is a very useful way to figure out your win rate, and arguably just as important as BB/100. If you’re trying to make a living at poker, you ultimately need to know your hourly income, just as you would for almost any other job. And while poker players generally use BB/100 to brag about their results, don’t be surprised if your Aunt Tilda doesn’t understand, and you have to switch to $/hour just to clarify.

In order to make any of these four win rate calculations, you need to have a large enough sample size of hands to work with. Ideally, you’ll have put in at least 100,000 hands at a specific stake before you start doing the math; 10,000 hands will give you a very rough idea how you’re doing, but the margin for error will be much larger. You can’t use tracking software while you play at Bovada Poker, but you can download your hand histories and import them into a tracker afterwards for later study and accounting.

Things change a bit with win rate when you’re playing Bovada online poker tournaments. Instead of getting paid per hand, you’re getting paid based on the results of an entire tournament, which can take hundreds or even thousands of hands. There’s also a lot more variance in tournaments than there is in cash poker, making it even harder to pin down your win rate. You can look instead at how often you finish in the money (ITM), and/or you could apply the BB/100 metric to only the hands you play in the early levels of a tournament, when the stacks are deep and the game play is most similar to cash poker.

A Good Poker Win Rate

Mathematically, any win rate that isn't 0 or below is a good win rate. Most online poker players are in the negative, so if you’re already in positive territory, you’re doing better than almost everyone else. But there are winners and there are winners, so let’s take a look at how to break BB/100 down into some useful benchmarks

If your win rate is between 1-4BB/100, congratulations: You’ve got a solid win rate that can lead to long-term poker profitability – if you can sustain it, particularly in higher-stakes games where one big blind might be a serious amount of money. But you might suddenly struggle if you move up stakes.

Have a win rate of 5-9 BB/100? You might want to consider moving up, just in case you’re currently punching below your weight. A minimum of 5BB/100 is considered healthy for a seasoned pro; 5-9BB/100 is also where most good players find themselves plateauing, which is perfectly normal.

If your win rate in poker is 10BB/100 or more, then you’re probably reading this on a solid gold iPad as you ride your helicopter out to your private yacht. You are the elite of the elite – or maybe your math is wrong, or your sample size isn’t big enough. Win rates higher than 10BB are usually reserved for live poker, where the competition is weaker overall, but you’ll also get in a lot fewer hands per hour, so your $/hour will naturally be lower.

Again, knowing your win rate is useful when comparing your game to other players, but as long as you’re consistently making money playing poker, you’re doing far better than the vast majority of players. Don’t identify too strongly with your win rate, either. It’s going to change depending on game selection and stakes, and your own ups and downs. Treat your win rate as a useful diagnostic tool for your game, giving you an idea of when you can move up in stakes, and when you should consider moving down.

Most importantly, remember that calculating your win rate is for more advanced players. If you’re relatively new to poker, focus on learning the concepts behind the game, and play at the smallest stakes possible while you’re working on your craft. You can even play free online poker at Bovada using Play Money chips. That, plus our free strategy articles, is the best way to get your poker education without having to worry about a negative win rate.