Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I've missed the last couple of weekly poker lunch/strategy meetings due to work commitments, and due to family stuff will probably have to miss this week's meeting, too. That said, I was thinking about one of the topics that we discussed at the last get together I attended: win rates.

One of the standard measures of how well a player is doing at poker is his or her win rate. This rate can be measured in a number of ways, including win%, w\$sd, etc., but the most common means is BB/100. Or would that be bb/100? Or maybe ptbb/100?

Yes, I was confused when I first started looking into this. Is there a difference between these numbers? And if so, what? And, more importantly, what are "good" numbers to achieve when playing? After a little poking around, here's what I've found:
• bb=big blind. In a normal 2/5-cent \$5NL game, the bb = 5 cents.
• BB=big bets. In a normal 2/5-cent \$5NL game, BB = 2x5 cents = 10 cents.
• ptbb=Poker Tracker big bets = BB = big bets. People on forums often use this terminology to ensure that the reader understands what they're referring to (i.e., Big Bets). Unfortunately, because the "ptbb" is usually written in lower case, it often causes more confusion than not. Just remember when you see "ptbb" it actually means "Big Bets," which is twice the big blind in a NL game. Also note that in a PT3 database, what is reported as BB/100 is truly Big Bets per 100.
For normal discussions, BB/100 is the standard measure of how well a hold'em player is doing over a large sample size. By "large," I mean 10K+ hands at a minimum. Sample sizes smaller than this are useful, but to get a real measure of how someone is doing you need to look at at least ten thousand hands at a given limit. Due to the variance of the game, it's possible to run much higher or lower than normal over sample sizes of 1-2K.

Any positive number that you achieve for your BB/100 stat is a good thing, but clearly the bigger the number, the better. There is some disagreement among experts on the forums, but generally speaking, if a player is making between 3 and 5 BB/100, he or she is doing pretty well at a given limit. For example, at \$25NL, the big blind is 25-cents. This means the "BB" is two times this amount, or 50-cents. So, if a player is earning 5BB/100, he is bringing in \$.50 x 5 = \$2.50 for every 100 hands he plays. Note that this figure is net, i.e., it is the profit after rake and blinds paid are subtracted. In other words, it's a true measure of how much money the player is earning after all the table "expenses" have been paid.

While 3-5 BB/100 is consider very good, the truth is that any positive number is the goal. As stock market traders like to say, "any profit is good profit." In these post-UIGEA days, it's tough to simply break even, let alone make money at poker.

Also, the higher the stakes you play at, the lower the achievable BB/100 number. This is due primarily to the tougher competition at the higher stakes. At \$25NL, a win rate of 5 BB/100 is considered very good, but is probably unachievable at, say, \$1000NL, where a win rate of 2 BB/100 is considered to be excellent. (Note: at \$1000NL, 2 BB/100 means that you're winning 2 x (2 x \$10) = \$40 per 100 hands.)

Conversely, the lower the stakes, the higher the achievable win rate. At the tiny micro-stakes levels (such as \$2NL and \$5NL where I'm building my 'roll on 'stars), it's possible to really crush the game and achieve win rate numbers in the range of 10-20 BB/100, or even more. Poking around the web, I found a chart that showed a win rate of 35BB/100 when a high-stakes pro sat down at a bunch of \$2NL tables and played 5K hands. In \$/100 terms, this is equivalent to 35 x (2 x \$.02) = \$1.40 per 100. Dunno if this would be sustainable or not in the long run, but it's still pretty damn impressive.

So, how am I currently running in term of BB/100? In the eight days since I started Operation Hindenburg on Poker Stars, I've played 1441 hands of \$5NL and made a profit of \$30.19, which equates to just under 16 BB/100. While I want to crow about this result, the truth is that I have to keep in mind that the sample size is just too damn low to make the number truly meaningful. I could be playing really well... or I could just be running well.... or I could be sucking out left and right. With only 1.4K hands under my belt, it's difficult to know what's really going on. Don't worry, I will report back on my ptbb/100 number once I hit the magic 10K figure. Or would that be my BB/100 number? Oh, that's right! They're the same thing!

All-in for now...
-Bug