Skip to content


Work to Improve Your Poker Return on Investment | Podcast #286


Sky Matsuhashi

on April 9, 2020

What is Return on Investment in Poker?

Return on Investment (ROI) in poker is a measurement of the gain or loss from your time at the tables and it is related to the amount of money invested.  ROI is calculated as the Net Profit / Total Costs. ROI is often the profit measurement that MTT and SNG’s players use.

For example, if you play one $1,000 tournament and cash out for $2,500, then you’ve made $1,500 net profit. The tournament was $1,000 to enter (cost). So, the ROI for this tournament is the net profit, $1,500 divided by the $1,000 cost = 1.5 or a 150% ROI.  Pretty nice. 

Listen to this Episode: Work to Improve Your Poker Return on Investment

It's possible to have a negative ROI. Let’s say you play in 100 different $10 tournaments for $1,000 total cost. After adding up all your results, you cashed for only $800. This leaves a net profit of -$200. The ROI = -$200 / $1,000 = -20%.

The other way tournament players measure their profits is with a win rate.  A win rate is the amount of money you’ve won over the number of instances you’re tracking. You could track your win rate by tournament or hours spent playing.

Let’s examine the win rate for a SNG player:

  • Played 100 SNG’s at $10 each. The total time spent playing these 100 SNG’s was 25 hours (multi-tabling).
  • After playing all 100 SNG’s, the net profit for this player was $200.
  • The win rate per tournament played is $200 net profit / 100 SNG’s = $2/SNG.
  • The win rate per hour played is $200 net profit / 25 hours = $8/hour.

Cash Game Win Rates

LIVE Cash Game Players:

  • You mostly measure your win rate as profit per hours played. So, if you played 100 hours in February with a net profit of $2,000, you earned $20/hour.
  • You can also measure your win rate by session. So, maybe it took 14 sessions to earn that $2,000. So, your win rate per session = $2,000 / 14 = $143/session. This measurement is useful if you're not consistent with tracking your time on the felt.

Online cash game players:

The great thing for online cash game players like me is that PokerTracker 4 automatically calculates your win rates for you. All you have to do is filter for the time frame you’re looking at, and BAM! Right there on the Results tab are your win rates:

  • BB/100 hands played. Because PT4 tracks the exact number of hands played at every stake, this is the best apples-to-apples comparison for tracking profitability.  Let’s say you played 20,000 hands each at 10NL, 25NL and 50NL for a total of 60,000 hands.  Looking at your BB/100 hands win rate is how you can compare your profitability in one stake versus another.  If you just look at $ won, then most likely the majority of your profits comes from 50NL, with 25NL giving you a smaller portion of profits and 10NL being the least.  But by looking at the apples-to-apples BB/100 hands comparison, you can see how you’re doing at the different stakes.
  • $/100 hands played. Seeing win rates in your currency as opposed to bb’s will often wake you up to the value of the time you spend playing.
  • $/hour played. These are great to look at, especially if you’re debating on quitting a job or figuring out if you could make more money pursuing something else with the hours you devote to poker.  So, if you’re thinking about leaving your $15/hour job, you should be making over $15/hour playing poker.  If you’re only making $8/hour, then maybe you’re not ready to quit that job just yet.

It IS possible to understand and profit from your opponents in less than 30 hands:

Why Track Return on Investment and Win Rates?

“You can only improve what you measure.”

We MUST measure our profitability at the tables.  We play poker to make money, and the only way to know if you’re making money is to track it.

Return on investment calculations and win rates quantify the ultimate goal you’re trying to achieve.  For poker players, we want the highest profit/hour played, the highest BB/100 hands played or maybe the highest profit/tourney played.  These are all measures of your poker success.

In order to improve these measurements, we should also track the things that we do to improve our profits. It would benefit you to track the numbers of:

Check out podcast #240 on YouTube all about boosting your profits.

7 Strategies to Improve Return on Investment and Win Rates

I know you would love to improve your ROI and win rates, right? Below are 7 strategies for doing so.

*Quick Disclaimer*

Having better ROI measurements and win rates is nice, but it’s not the most important thing. The most important thing is the profits you add to your bottom line. If cutting back on tables increases your win rate from 4bb/100 hands to 5bb/100 hands, that’s great. But, if it decreases your weekly profits from $100/week to $80/week, it’s not worth doing.

Before implementing any of the strategies below, record your current win rates or ROI first. Following that, make any changes you feel would benefit you, then measure these again to see if they impacted your profitability.

7. Cut back on the number of tables you’re playing

It makes sense that for winning players, the more hands you play the more money you can win. But, adding too many tables stretches your focus which can lead to poor decisions. And even worse, if your skills aren’t up to the task or you have lots of leaks and weaknesses, playing a lot of tables leads to a lot of loss.

I know that I’m much more focused on the action, my opponents, the game flow and the skills I’m practicing when I’m playing 2 to 4 tables. If you sometimes feel your mind is stretched too thin and you don’t have enough time to make great decisions, consider cutting out a couple tables.

6. Play the stakes and games you’re most comfortable with

You don’t want to play with scared money. Scared money means you’re in over your head and your fear of losing the money on the table could easily override your logic centers. When this happens, you stop making the +EV plays you know should work because you’re afraid of losing those chips.

Remove some of the stress of playing and feel more comfortable by following some simple bankroll guidelines. My bankroll recommendations:

  • 40 buy-ins at your stake for cash games
  • 100-200 buy-ins for tournament players

5. Get Rakeback

Rakeback is a profit saver. The poker sites earn money through the rake, this is the small % of every pot or tournament buy-in they take for themselves. Rakeback allows you to get some of that money back, in essence, giving you a discount for playing.  This can add up to thousands of $$ every year.

For example, let’s say you’re a SNG player who plays an average of 25 SNG’s every night, each with a $1 rake.  Over the course of a year this would add up to $9,125 in rake.  If you set up a 27% rakeback deal with a site, then you'd earn back $3,011.  If you ended the year with $20,000 in total profit, the $3,011 in rakeback represents 15% of your winnings… a substantial amount.  Without it you would’ve only profited $17,000.

4. Ditch Distractions

Your time on-the-felt should only be used for playing poker and practicing the skills you’re learning off-the-felt. It’s not time to watch Netflix or text your friends or respond to email. These things take up valuable mental real estate which should be used for making great decisions.

Do yourself a favor; cut the distractions so you can improve your decisions and win rates.

3. Find the fishiest rooms and look for low rake

We all know that PokerStars is full of regs and grinders, with a decent amount of fish as well, but there are lots of sharks in that sea.  But other sites like PartyPoker, 888 and ACR are full of fish.  Also, look for the sites with the lowest rake.  I play a lot at ACR because of the amount of rake they charge, plus the rakeback they offer, plus all the fish on the site.

If you can find a fishy site, with reliable payouts, decent software and a big player pool, not to mention rakeback and enough action available, this will go a long way to increasing your poker profits and ROI or win rate.

2. Target the FISH at the tables

Fish are the weakest players at the table due to their overly loose and passive natures. Overly loose means they play way too many hands preflop. Overly passive means they mostly check and call in hopes of winning pots instead of betting and raising to earn pots.

A majority of your profits come from making better decision than the Fish do. Therefore, in order to use your skills and profit from the fish, you must play hands against them.

Strive to put yourself in as many Bread & Butter situations against Fish as possible. You remember Bread & Butter, right? This is where you are in position on the flop, heads-up as the preflop raiser. How do you do this?

  • You must iso-raise when they limp in, and make it large enough so all others fold and only they call.
  • When they’re in the blinds, open-raise enough to get everyone else to fold and just the fishiest of them to call.
  • When they raise ahead of you and they’re capable of doing it with weak hands, 3bet them with hands ahead of their 3bet calling range.

1. Focus your studies on areas of weakness, one at a time

The ultimate strategy to increase your win rates is to decrease your losses. This means you must find your areas of weakness, or what I call, your poker leaks. Check out how to plug your poker leaks here.

There are three aspects to decreasing your losses:

  1. Find areas of weakness. Pay attention as you play to spots where you don’t know how to respond. Tag hands to help you review them. Filter in your database and when you find high losses in a given situation, study and play with purpose to correct your strategies and avoid loss.
  2. Start preflop. Tadas Peckaitis in episode #279 discussed the importance of building foundational skills. Most foundational skills are preflop related and there’s a good reason for that. Preflop decisions happen with every hand dealt. Mistakes here are compounded by mistakes made on future streets. So, build your preflop skills and a lot of post-flop issues will lessen or simply not exist.
  3. Focus on ONE until done. In episode #276, “The 7 Do's and Don't of Studying Poker”, the #1 strategy for effective poker study is to study one topic per week. Do not do random studies. If you want to improve your 3bets, then do nothing but study 3betting strategy and putting it to use on the felt. Skip cbetting or raising with draws or check-raise bluffing rivers. Put all your focus on the foundational skill that will turn you into a better player, then when you feel confident and your win rates have improved, move on to the next foundational skill.

Take action to plug poker leaks

Work to Improve Your Return on Investment and Win Rates

Here’s my challenge to you for this episode: Record your current win rates based on the games you play. Then, put to use one or more of the 7 strategies I gave you today. I recommend starting with #1 if you don’t already study one foundational topic per week. After 2 weeks or 5,000 hands, record your win rates again. The goal is to see improvements in your win rates and bottom line.

Now it’s your turn to take action and do something positive for your poker game.


Sky Matsuhashi

Don’t Miss Out!

Get expert tips and strategies straight to your inbox each week!