One of the things that I often get asked with regards to low stakes cash games is what sort of earn rates a solid player can expect to make. I don’t really like questions of this nature because there are so many variables that go into the compiling of an earn rate and earn rates are never set in stone anyway. All it takes is for your games to become tougher for whatever reason or a slip in your own standards and suddenly previous earn rates can no longer apply.
Clearly, when we talk about low-stakes games, there is a difference between say $10 cash games and $50 games. You will find many really terrible fish at NL10 ($0.05-$0.10) than you will at NL50 which is $0.25-$0.50 blinds. As a broad rule of thumb then, really solid play at the micro levels up to and including the NL10 level ($10 buy-ins) should result in an earn rate of at least 20bb/100 hands. However, you need to take on board just how these sorts of earn rates are achieved. They are not achieved by launching big bluffs all over the place but by careful value betting.
More and more of your opponents will pay you off in big pots and slow and steady wins the day. Some really good players at these levels crush these games for more than 20bb/100 which equates to $2/100 hands. In my experience, there is really enough terrible play in full ring games for a good solid player to do well all the way up to NL50 cash games. Although you need to be able to hand read very well at NL50 because the number of weak players that will stack off really lightly tails off significantly.
I still believe that 20bb/100 hands is achievable at NL50 but game selection comes more into focus as many decent regulars will be multi-tabling these levels. So what time of the day you choose to play is a key factor in what your ultimate earn rate is. At the end of the day, you should never put too much faith in earn rates and even ones over very large sample sizes. An “earn rate” is merely an historical representation of what you likely earned over a period of time that has now passed but it is in no way representative of what is to come.
The conclusion to all of this is that too many poker players put too much faith in “earn rates”. You see this all the time on poker forums and in articles and such. Your earn rate will be in a constant state of shift and there are outside influences beyond your control that will mean that this is the case. So you need to concentrate more on playing good solid and correct poker and enhancing your decision making process. If you can do that and play poker in a professional way then your earn rate should take care of itself.