James «SplitSuit» Sweneey: What is your true poker winrate? How many hands will it take?

SplitSuit Poker
01 Feb 2024
Holdem Database Review
01 Feb 2024

Hi everyone. My name is James Sweeney aka SplitSuit. And today we're going to answer a question that was left in the Red Chip Poker Discord.

Today's question comes from one of my subscribers who asked the following question:

«How many hands online is a good sample size to determine if I'm winning or not? And how many hours live is a good sample size? My thoughts are like a million hands online and 100 hours live for a good sample».

So a few thoughts bring up to mine right off the bat.

The natural progression of a poker player

Here is the natural progression of a poker player:

  1. I'm losing,
  2. Now I'm winning,
  3. And now I want to know what my true winrate is

So how do you do it? - Let's talk about that today.

Minimal sample size

Number two is that these are two totally different sample sizes. A million hands online is well a million hands. 100 hours of live poker is like 2,500 hands, maybe 3,000 hands - not very many in those letters.

So very apples to oranges here. And number three is that the concepts of a good sample size and also true winrate tend to go hand in hand when people are trying to formulate this question. 

So as a rough decent answer: 50,000 hands is probably the answer you're looking for

But of course it's worth remembering that the variance in poker can be absolutely huge. So the results are in no way shape or form guaranteed over 50,000 hands. Even over a hundred thousand hands you can have a significantly winning player who actually has a downswing over that hundred thousand hands.

That's really really important to understand at the end of the day. And if you're like «No, that can't possibly be true», definitely make sure to poke around with a link we'll leave below for Primedope, and you can use their poker variance calculator. And I definitely suggest poking around with this a little bit.



Let's throw in a winrate of 4 bb/100 which is a decent one for low stakes. You can use the examples for standard deviation. I'm just going to use 90 for the time being over 100,000 hands and calculate it.

Some simulations in the Primedope variance calculator

And you notice that when you scroll down right, this person's roughly breakeven, a couple of people that are fairly break even over a 100,000 hands. Even though pretty decent winner, this person is having a really rough time of it.

I mean if you look down below at the overall numbers probability of loss even for someone winning 4 bb/100, there is still 8% over a 100,000 hands.

Even when you are winning with a +4 EVbb/100 winrate, you still have an 8% chance to lose your bankroll with such a variance

That's probably a little bit higher than you thought. 

So in terms of more reliable accuracy when it comes to winrate and good sample size you'd really be looking for something closer to 300,000 hands

But here's the kicker: if you're someone who doesn't put in a tremendous amount of high volume right this moment - how long will it take you to get to 300,000 hands? It's probably a very very long time. And here's the other problem. - How long it takes?

Let's just say it takes you 2 years to play 300,000 hands. And if you're a live player, I'm just gonna be totally honest with you - you're never gonna hit 300,000 hands. It's just not gonna happen for like 99.999…% of live players.

But so the issue is that over the time it takes you to get to 300,000 hands chances are

  • The game has changed,

  • The player pool has changed,

  • Your skill set has changed ...

And as such, it's not really going to be that reflective anymore of what your «true winrate» actually is.

By the way, if you want to be more prepared for long and continuous downswings, you may find helpful this article: How not to lose your mind during a downswing


So in other words the answer to figuring out what your true winrate is that it's virtually impossible to know what your true winrate is in this game. But having said that the good news is that precise winrates are not incredibly important so don't bother chasing some specific winrate.

  • If you have a positive winrate,

  • If you feel pretty confident in the decisions you're making,

  • If you can articulate your edges in your current player pool,

that is plenty enough and honestly probably indicates that you're a winning player or at least beating most of the people in most games, especially if you're not playing particularly high. 

So if you suspect you have a positive winrate and also have a bankroll that supports the next level, definitely make sure to start taking shots now if you aren't already.

This article is made from What Is Your TRUE Poker Winrate? How Many Hands Will It Take? video by Vladimir «ABIVPlus».

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