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Figuring your Poker Tournament ROI

How does a poker tournament player decide when to move up in stakes? Do they move up based on feeling or when they’re bored with the current stakes? Well, maybe bad tournament players move up limits based on feelings or a lack of interest; however, good poker players use their tournament ROI to decide when it’s time to increase the stakes.

What is ROI

As you may already know, ROI stands for Return on Investment, and it’s commonly used among stock traders. Of course, ROI is just as important in the poker world since players can use this concept to determine how much money they’re getting back on each dollar spent. For instance, if you have an ROI of 22%, you’re getting back $1.22 for every $1 you spend on a tournament buy-in. Now that we’ve established what ROI is, let’s look at how you can apply it to poker.

Calculating Poker Tournament ROI

Coming up with an ROI number is extremely simple if you have the data. ROI is simply dividing tournament profits by buy-ins, multiplying by 100, then expressing the end number in a percentage. So if you earned $1,000 in total poker profits and spent $900 in total buy-ins ($1,000/$900 X 100), your ROI would be 11.1%. As you can see, coming up with an ROI figure is pretty easy; it’s just accumulating the data that some players struggle with.

Gathering ROI Data for Poker

One nice thing about poker software programs is that they gather data and compute your ROI. Assuming you don’t have poker software, determining your ROI number is still possible, it just takes longer. To do this, you need to keep track of all of your buy-ins and profits; this is always easiest when you stick to a particular buy-in level - i.e. $11. Once you’ve gathered data on 500 - 1,000 tournaments, you really start to get an accurate ROI number.

Advancing Limits based on ROI

There is no one-size-fits-all number for when you can move up limits based on your ROI. However, you should look at your tournament buy-ins in conjunction with an ROI number to decide when it’s a good time to move up in stakes. That being said, here are some guidelines for when you should move up in tournament stakes:

Micro limits - $5 buy-in: 15% ROI
$5 - $11 buy-in: 10% ROI
$22 - $33 buy-in: 8% ROI
$55 buy-in: 5% ROI
$109 and up: 3% ROI


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