What fraction of online poker players are winners?

One of the common – and more amusing – threads I see on many of the internet forums is discussions about what fraction of online tournament players are profitable. One of the most frequent guesses i see is 5%. Often someone will then post that SharkScope has in its FAQ that 1/3rd of usernames are winners. The person will who suggested 5% will then immediately claim our numbers must be wrong.

Why they think we would get this wrong I have no idea – but for psychological reasons players seem to want to believe the number of winners is small. The losers want to feel more justified in showing that they haven’t won any money because its extremely hard to do so, and presumably the winning players want to feel that their accomplishment is even more special.

So what are the exact numbers? Based on our entire database 26% of players are winners. If you exclude rake, then the number is more like 33% of players are making money against other players.

The fraction is also surprisingly constant for the different tournament variants, for example if you filter for just heads up games, the percentage of profitable players is still exactly 26%.

The number varies somewhat by network, but not as much as you might think. For example take a look at the table below which is the fraction of winners for all players who have played at least 100 games:

Network % Profitable Players
Merge 44%
Cereus 39%
B2B 33%
Cake 32%
Party 32%
Ongame.it 31%
Everest 31%
Sky 31%
PKR 30%
PokerStars.it 29%
IPN 28%
SvenskaSpel 27%
PokerStars 27%
Pacific 27%
PokerClub 26%
Betfair 25%
Ongame 25%
FullTilt 25%
iPoker 24%
CryptoLogic 23%
Peoples 22%
iPoker.it 20%
GiocoDigitale 17%

You can see that most networks are grouped around the 30% mark. There are some tracking artifacts that effect some networks numbers, for example if a site does a lot of guaranteed tournaments with overlays or freeroll tournaments then this will directly boost the number of winners. The clearest case in point is the Merge network, which manages to have a huge 44% of players making a profit presumably due to all the money they are pumping back into the network in the form of their $50k Guaranteed tournament that often has a 3x overlay.

For some networks, such as Everest, we don’t yet tracked scheduled tournaments and so the results don’t get a boost from these types of bonus tournaments, if there are any.

Another factor effecting the winning percentage is obviously rake. We’d expect most of the Italian networks to be at the bottom of this list as they tend to charge significantly more rake than their global counterparts. Its still hard to understand why GiocoDigitale has such a small fraction of winners compared to other sites though. We can probably speculate about that until the cows come home…..

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