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Live variance and win rates…

April 24 Sandra Wong

Let’s talk about live variance and win rates in Poker


So many people I have encountered are totally clueless about live variance and win rates. Lots of people talk about their hourly win rates and discuss how bad they are running etc.

Do they really know what to expect when discussing those topics? Let me try to shade some light on the subject.

First off depending on how many hours you play, you won’t know if you are a winning player unless you have at least 2,000 hours accurately logged. After 2,000 hours, you should know whether or not you are a winner at your respective stakes. Now to gain an accurate perspective of your true hourly, you will need closer to 10,000 hours! Wait what? Does this seem like an excessive number? Let me break it down… you play about 24-30 hands per hour when you play live poker, let’s say you play 40 hours per week. That’s 2080 hours per year (which is a lot) I play about 1200 and I play almost every day (my sessions are 4-6 hours though) Anyway that’s 2080 x 27 hands = 56,000 hands per year. You need at least 500,000 hands to gauge your true hourly. Keep in mind many factors contribute to your hourly rate (Your development, player pool etc) So if you keep getting better, your hourly should increase. This is why you need such a huge sample to actually figure out your true hourly. Which also explains why your previous hourly has no basis on future results. (If you are actively learning and getting better)

Let’s move on to win rates.

When you play live poker, you should be aiming to make 10bb per hour. That is $20/hr at 1/2, $30 at 1/3 and $50 at 2/5. 


So what about variance and losing?

Do you realize that elite cash game players aim to win 65% of the time? That means excellent cash game players are losing 3.5 sessions out of 10 sessions played. That’s quite a bit of losing! I still struggle with losing, I am very competitive so I really want to win every single session! I have to really come to terms with losing and just focus on playing every hand the best I can.

Minimizing losses and accepting them are imperative to being a successful poker player that keeps his emotional health intact.  I have personally run badly for a 500 hour span, that’s almost 4 months!

Keep this in mind when you are telling someone how bad you are running. Live poker can be painfully slow and very frustrating. The key is to understand variance and accept it. Knowing the math behind variance helps a lot to be at peace with it. The problem is not many people understand live variance. Run a variance calculator online and see for yourself, it is really quite eye opening. 

I hope this blog post helped understand variance and win rates in live poker.

Good luck at the tables and may you never be drawing dead.


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