Sample size and win rates 2023
One of the most common questions is how many hands you need to play before you can understand your winrate. The answer is disappointing to many beginners who have played 10 000 hands and figured out they have come to master the game of poker, but may well be a losing player on a heater.
It is meaningless to talk about win rate before you have at least 50 000 hands. And if you want to have a somewhat solid understanding we are talking about 200 000 hands.
This is due to something called variance, which is a statistical term to describe how much an outcome will vary due to chance. There is a lot of variance in poker. This is both good and bad. It is annoying to have to play a ton of hands to find your win rate – and potentially make money. And it is annoying that you need to play tons of hands to find out if changes in your play are actually improvements. But it is also good with variance, because the weak players can always blame bad luck and continue to donate money to the winning players.
There is a poker variance calculator called Primedope that can be used to calculate this stuff. As an example, putting in 100 000 hands with a win rate of 5 bb / 100 will give you the probability of losing money being 6%. So even a fairly strong winner can be losing over a stretch of 100 000 hands. If you are a small winner at 2 bb / 100 there is a 26% risk that you will be losing over 100 000 hand sample.
So how about win rates 2023? It does not look like it has changed that much the last 3-4 years for regular micro stakes and low stakes cash games. The best winners at $10 NL are above 10 bb / 100 hands and at $25 NL somewhere between 5-10 bb / 100. At $100 NL a win rate at 3-5 bb / 100 is great.
In summary, do not even talk about win rates before you have played an absolute minimum of 50 000 hands (still a very small sample). Aim for a win rate of 10 bb / 100 on the lowest levels and 3-5 bb / 100 on high levels.
All the above is for NLHE cash games. If you are into NLHE tournaments or PLO your variance will be higher.