In Poker, You Can Only Improve What You Measure

By Sky Matsuhashi
March 11, 2020

Poker profits are the lifeblood of your poker journey. If you don’t win at the tables, you have to continually replenish your poker bankroll from your life roll. How long will your significant other allow that without it causing a rift in the relationship? Probably not long. And if you’re unattached, it’s of course still not a pleasant thing to have to keep doing.

However, if you’re the type of player who doesn’t mind continuously replenishing your bankroll, then great! I want you sitting at my table.

Most players, though, want to build a bankroll from poker winnings so they can enter bigger games to earn even more money.


So, how do you know how successful you currently are in your poker journey? You wouldn’t run a business without knowing your daily/weekly/monthly profit and loss, right? The same holds true for poker players. You must measure your profits to gauge how your current skills stack up to your competition.

Let’s go over a few ways of measuring your profits and if you aren’t already tracking one or more of these, take action and start today.

Track Your Poker Bottom Line

The ultimate measure of a poker player is how much they’re adding to their bottom line. You should have a poker bankroll separate from your life roll so you can track this accurately. If you mix the two, you can’t calculate how much money your poker play is adding (or subtracting) from your bottom line.


I recommend keeping track of the size of your bankroll every week. You can use your poker journal and a pen, an Excel spreadsheet, or maybe even a smart phone app like Poker Notes Live, Poker Bankroll Management or Poker Bankroll Tracker.

The ups and downs of your bankroll might clue you in to areas of opportunity. Have you played too many late-night poker sessions with a few beers or glasses of wine, and taken a huge hit to your bankroll? Then you may have found a leak in your game!

Have you seen a spike in your bankroll after you decided to get more rest every night and do a pre-session warm-up every day? It appears these had a beneficial effect on your play, and ultimately, on your bankroll.

Keep doing what works and avoid what doesn’t.

Besides the bottom line, there are some other profitability measurements that help gauge your success on-the-felt.

Tournament Players Track Return on Investment

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 and is presented as a percentage.

For example, if you play one $80 tournament (cost) and cash out for $140, your net profit is $60. The ROI you achieved in this one tournament is the net profit of $60 divided by the $80 cost = .75 or a 75% ROI. That’s a good return.

Stas Tishkevich 2012 online poker results

However, it’s also possible to have a negative ROI. Let’s say you play in 10 of these $80 tournaments for a total cost of $800. After adding up all your results, you cashed for only $500. This leaves a net profit of -$300. The ROI for these 10 tournaments is -$300 / $800 = -.375 or -37.5%.

Another way for tournament players to measure their profits is with a win rate. This is the amount of money won or lost divided by the number of instances you’re tracking.

Following up on the above example:

  • Losing $300 over 10 tournaments played = a win rate of -$30/tournament.
  • If it took 30 hours to play the 10 tournaments, the hourly win rate for this player is -$300 / 30 hours = -$10/hour.

It’s tough to sustain a poker tournament hobby with negative results like these. This player needs to put in more off-the-felt study time.

CHECK IT OUT: The Best Poker Training Sites

Cash Game Players Track Win Rates

Cash game players don’t track profitability with return on investment. Instead, there are 3 common win rates they use:


This is the same as measured above for tournament players, and it’s especially useful to see the value of each hour you spend on the felt. If you played 100 hours in February with a net profit of $2,000, you earned $20/hour.

That’s great if you’re working a job that pays only $12/ hour. Your poker hobby is paying you more. But, if you’re thinking about quitting your $12/hour job, and your hourly poker profit is only $8/hour, then you’re not ready to quit that job just yet.

Mike Patrick nine-session graph


You can also measure your win rate by session. Maybe it took you 14 sessions to earn $2,000 in February. Your win rate per session = $2,000 / 14 = $143/session. That’s a lovely win rate and this measurement works well if you’re not good at tracking your time on the felt.

BB/100 Hands

The most common profitability measure for online players is the number of big blinds won per 100 hands played (BB/100 Hands). This is tough to record for LIVE poker players, but online players have PokerTracker 4 which does the recording and calculations for you.

The BB/100 hands win rate is a great apples-to-apples comparison for tracking profitability. Let’s say you played 20,000 hands each in $10, $25 and $50 buy-in games. 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.

Your records don’t have to be anything fancy. Just keep your bankroll separate from your life roll and record your bottom line along with 1 or 2 other measurements to gauge your profitability.

In my next article, I’ll give you simple strategies you can use to improve your ROI and win rates.

For more great coaching, strategies and tips from Sky Matsuhashi, check out his poker training site, The Poker Forge. Here’s our review.



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Sky Matsuhashi poker author
Written By.

Sky Matsuhashi

Sky Matsuhashi is the creator of the Smart Poker Study Podcast. He has authored 4 poker books including ‘How to Study Poker Volumes 1 & 2’, ‘Preflop Online Poker’ and ‘Post-flop Online Poker’. As a poker coach, Sky is dedicated to helping his students play more effectively, earn more money and be 1% better every […]


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