Poker skill plays a key role in winning, but luck is also a significant factor, especially in the short term. To minimize the impact of luck, experienced professionals use various programs to simulate different situations and compare their actions to optimal game theory (GTO).

Some useful programs that help evaluate the influence of luck are called variance calculators. Let's explore how they work and how to use them effectively.

Variance in poker refers to the deviation from the average or expected result. The spread can be quite significant at times. Imagine betting the flop five times with only one out and winning all five times. You were expected to lose 5 stacks but instead ended up with a huge profit. The variance, in this case, is the difference between the actual result (+5 stacks) and the mathematically expected result (slightly less than -5 stacks).

If you want to know how to find the variance calculator, there’s a free version you can use on

The most high-variance format in modern online poker is Spin and Go tournaments, due to small stacks, fast blind levels, and a randomly determined prize pool. However, it is still possible to win at them.

5 Best Spin and Go Poker Sites with Jackpots

A variance calculator is a useful tool for professional and amateur poker players who like to plan. The program allows you to calculate scenarios for almost any number of hands, showing several possible deviations from your expected results.

To get personalized results, you'll need to input certain parameters obtained from programs like Holdem Manager 3 or Hand2Note by uploading your hand database:

  • Winrate: Your profit or loss at the limit played. More hands in the database increase accuracy.
  • Observed winrate: Optional field.
  • Standard deviation: Find this value in HM3 under "Std Dev bb per 100 hands". The default is 100.
  • Number of hands to simulate: The number of hands to include in the simulation.
An example of calculating the variance for 1,000,000 hands from cash games with a win rate of 5bb/100

How to Use the Variance Calculator for Tournaments:

The last example is for cash games, but this is for poker tournaments (MTTs). Input the following parameters:

  • # of players: The population in the tournament or number of participants. Higher population mean higher variance.
  • Places paid: The number of players who make the money.
  • Buy-in (in $): The tournament entry fee.
  • Rake (in %): The poker room's commission.
  • Return on Investment (in %): Your ROI at this tournament level.
  • How many are you going to play? The number of tournaments to calculate.
  • Sample size: The number of calculation options.
  • Bankroll (in $): Your total bankroll size.
Calculation example for 1,000 $5 buy-in tournaments

The variance calculator provides a graph with several lines:

  • Black (middle): The mathematical expectation if all hands ended exactly at EV.
  • Bold dark green: The range containing 95% of possible results.
  • Bold yellow: The range containing 70% of possible results.
  • Thin multi-colored: Random calculations (20 out of a million).

Use this data to build effective bankroll management. The tables below the graph provide clear numbers that are more suitable for this purpose.

Tables in the Primedope service are located below the graph

The tables show:

  • The probability of a negative result for the number of hands/tournaments (0% in our example).
  • The probability of exceeding or falling short of the observed winrate, if set.
  • The minimum bankroll to have less than a 5% chance of going broke (2,996 big blinds in our example).

Variance calculators in poker can be used for various purposes:

  • Fun: To see how well or poorly you might run.
  • Life planning: To estimate your expected profits over a given number of hands/tournaments.
  • Effective bankroll management: The most important use. Proper bankroll management makes it easier to control your game by moving up or down in stakes based on results.
Bankroll in Poker: Tips To Manage Your Bankroll

Anyone can play poker online from home or anywhere with a stable internet connection using a computer, tablet, laptop, or smartphone.

Online poker is more suitable for professional play than live poker because you can play more hands or tournaments per hour. This makes it easier to weather downswings.

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Need personalized help? Send us a quick message, and for free, we’ll help you out with anything poker-related.

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