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What fraction of online poker players are winners? (Part 2)

Its been a few years since we posted a highly popular article dispelling the myths on what fraction of online poker players win money over the long term, so we figured it was time to give out some updated statistics.

The general gist of that article is that for a number of reasons the amount of winning players is far higher than people expect. However within that there is a huge variation between different networks. Some of it is caused by regulatory factors, such as high taxation on the operators forcing higher rake jurisdictions, some is caused by some networks heavily investing in freerolls and guaranteed tournaments which will boost players tournament profitability, possible at the expense of other types of promotions, and some of the causes are simply unknown. Whatever the reason though the data is still quite interesting to try and interpret.

One of the limitations of our data, other than it only including tournaments, is that we only include players with at least 100 games played. For the larger networks we’ve found that this limit has little effect on the fractional results, but it does tend to boost the smaller network probability as you have to be dedicated on these network to even find 100 tournaments to play.

The other thing to remember is that these numbers do not exclude any external promotions such as rakeback or deposit bonuses.

So the headline figure is that 22% of online tournament players are profitable which is down from the 26% we saw in 2009.

Here’s the data by network:

Network % Profitable Players
iPoker.es 70%
PartyPoker.es 51%
Dollaro 43%
iPoker.fr 37%
PKR 35%
Revolution 31%
Merge 29%
PartyPoker.fr 29%
PokerStars.es 28%
IPN 27%
PartyPoker 27%
SkyPoker 27%
Ongame.fr 26%
MicroGaming 26%
SvenskaSpel 25%
Winamax.fr 25%
Gioco Online Italia 23%
Ongame 23%
iPoker 23%
FullTilt 22%
PartyPoker.it 22%
PokerStars 21%
PokerStars.fr 20%
MicroGame 18%
PokerClub 17%
PokerStars.it 15%
Ongame.it 14%
iPoker.it 13%

The top 2 networks iPoker.es and PartyPoker.es are clearly effected by the 100 game small network bias, although generally the Spanish markets fair well overall. This is possible due to it being the newest major regulated market so the different sites are still competing hard with aggressive promotions to win early market share. Other than that most of the trends remain consistent to the data seen in 2009. Italy is still bad place to play winning poker and it appears the unregulated sites such as Merge and Dollaro are able to funnel their lower tax burden back into their players profits through lower rake and better promotions (though remember withdrawing from the unregulated sites is always a gauntlet).

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…..