Friday, April 28, 2006


Which is more profitable for the same money investment: limit or no limit hold em?

Winrates for a good limit player are estimated at about 2 big bets/hr. That's the goal that you're supposed to be shooting for.

In a 5/10 game with a standard $250 buy-in, you would hope to average $20/hr. In a 10/20 game, your goal is $40/hr.

Winrates for no limit games are difficult to compare, in large part because there is no standard big bet. The nature of no limit is that you can bet as much as you want at any time.

No limit is such a different game that it's probably not even a fair comparison. But I'm going to try anyway.

Based on my PokerTracker stats and estimates from several Web sites, a good no limit winrate is probably somewhere between 4 and 7 BB/hr. You might be able to do better than that in the microlimit games, but it's unlikely that tougher games are much more winable than that over the long run.


To make $20/hr in a no limit game, you would need to play at least 2/4 with a $400 maximum buy-in. That's more capital needed than in a 5/10 limit game with a $250 standard buy-in. To make $40/hr in a no limit game, you would need to play games between 3/6 and 5/10, with maximum buy-ins ranging from $600 to $1,000, compared to the $500 standard buy-in at 10/20 limit.

This is by no means conclusive, but it seems to me that limit shows more potential to make money than no limit based on a similar investment.

One thing I hear no limit players frequently say is that limit poker is a grind because if you play one hand per hour incorrectly, there goes your winrate.

That's not necessarily true for several reasons, the chief one being that you're losing fractions of a big bet per hour for incorrect play because sometimes you will win. Playing bad poker is detrimental in the long run, but any one poor play is a small percentage of the total number of checks, bets, raises, folds and calls that you make.

Winrates are averages over the long term. Trying to steal with 72o isn't a good play, but it won't ruin your entire game.

In no limit, playing bad hands can be just as harmful. Sure, sometimes you'll hit huge with your 32 suited and double up. But there will be other times when someone has a hidden set, rivers a higher two pair or makes a bigger flush. And then you'll lose a lot and wonder why you even played those crappy cards.

Don't think that fooling around in no limit is any less damaging than in limit.


Wes said...

I'm going to have to disagree with you on how much a good player at no limit can win. I believe most people go by the pokertracker big bets/100 hands when they say "4 to 7" is a sustainable good winrate. That means it's 8-14 big blinds/100. So 1/2 NL can have a sustainable win rate of $20/100 hands.

Mark said...

I was using BB/hr and BB/100 as rough synonyms. These are all estimates, but I don't think a winrate of 8-14 BB/100 is reasonable. I could be wrong.

dave said...

Hi Mark,
The NL stakes are substantially significant when guesstimating your win rate (as they are for limit as well). There are a number of threads on 2+2 on winrates. For example, in the Party $100NL game, a commonly accepted good winrate is in the neighbourhood of 7.5PTBB/100h (a PTBB being 2x the big blind). In a $2000NL game, 4PTBB/100h is amazing.

I don't think that comparing the winrate to the standard buyin is a good way to measure ROI. It seems like you should be comparing win rate with bankroll requirements.
Bankroll requirements would depend on winrate and standard deviation.

I agree with many of your other comments though...

Mark said...

Thanks Dave. That's really good information -- much better than what I provided in the post!
But I guess that's how I'll learn.