(Before I get in to this, I want to remind people that the RAKE at the micro stakes is MUCH lower on the Microgaming Poker Network and Unibet for people outside of the USA.)
This is one of the biggest questions I get from people right now as fast fold tables become more popular of an option.
It is much more interesting and important of an idea than I think most people imagine.
I will discuss the pros and cons of focusing on each game type and why I think most people are becoming much worse at poker because of Zoom poker.
Building positive poker habits
On the surface, it would seem like Zoom poker is the best option to play.
- You get to play more hands/hour which in theory should help you get better at a faster rate.
- It eliminates having to worry about the changing dynamic of the table you are at
- You get to instantly begin a session on a full table each time you begin
- It can be more exciting to not have to observe any hands not involving you.
- (A few things that come to mind)
Poker is about building positive habits that you do over and over and over again. You progressively get better and better over time as you repeat those tendencies thousands of times.
Reversing habits can be impossible for some people.
Learning To Play Tight
Most people start playing Zoom at the micro/small stakes level.
The nature of Zoom is that play is tighter overall, therefore making you to play tighter. In general this will cause lower bb/100 winrates.
What can happen is that you start to form the habit of playing super tight in many different spots and not fighting for pots in BTN vs Blind battles, as the PFR, SB vs BB or multi-way pots. Opponents are also not fighting for pots in many of these same situations against you.
As you start to move up stakes, better players will be fighting more and more in these situations. You don’t have experience on either side of the fight and therefore it becomes very difficult for many people to win.
At regular tables, the tendency to fight for more pots is much higher in players because the option to instantly move to the next hand is taken away.
Better players are observing different decisions taking place at the tables and are able to process that information more effectively than weaker players. They are able to use this information to exploit weaker players for an increased bb/100.
Winrate is a bit more tricky of a thing to approach. I started to write the next sentence assuming most people reading this are positive bb/100 winners but I know that probably won’t be the case.
You could argue that if you are winning at 2bb/100 at Zoom and winning at 9bb/100 at Regular tables that it becomes a math problem of how many more hands/hour you get at Zoom compared to regular tables.
You could also argue that as you play more hands/see more spots, you get better at the game of poker faster so you improve at a faster rate playing zoom compared to regular.
It is a really difficult thing to know where the balance point is.
You might start off playing zoom, not be able to beat the rake and then end up breaking even/slightly losing for a period of time and wonder why you can’t win?
Now you’ve started building up the habits of getting better at Zoom, start playing regular tables, and then have no idea what the differences are. You end up switching between Zoom/Regular tables and end up in no mans land for a period of time before you either break through in some capacity, or stop playing.
I’m not sure how common of an experience this is but I know that it is the case for a number of people I’ve talked to at the micro/small stakes.
Your winrates, in theory, are also going to be higher playing regular tables as well.
Because the average bb/100 is going to be higher playing regular tables, it means your winrate, provided you are winning or slightly losing, is going to be higher.
The fun players aren’t able to play as tight therefore making there EV much worse in many spots and your ability to capture that EV in those spots increases.
For instance, a fun player is winning with 7% of his opening range from MP at PLO but losing with the next 20% of his opening range. At zoom he only opens 15% from MP (Nit but for example) and at regular tables he is playing his full 27%.
I think this video by xflixx explains an idea better than my original sentence did. Start at 50 seconds in (1.5 speed FTW)
You are also able to control the table dynamics better and therefore put yourself in positions where your immediate bb/100 should increase in many spots therefore increasing your overall bb/100.
It can also have the opposite impact in that, in some situations your bb/100 will be decreased in so many spots that your overall bb/100 will be losing and you won’t really understand why or how. 😀
Poker is fun. 😀
The game is also slowed down to a point where you can process information more effectively.
This was probably the biggest noticeable difference for myself, I was able to take information in and process it so much differently playing less tables than my normal 24 tables.
Focusing on Zoom only also skips the habit of focusing on what is actually taking place at the table you are on.
This has been one of the biggest struggles for me sometimes as I played 24 tables for so many years and never paid attention to what the good/bad/super fun players tendencies were.
When I stopped 24 tabling and started playing 4 tables, my winrate sky rocketed and I became a much better player for a number of different reasons.
I realized I had absolutely no idea what to focus on when playing, how to exploit it, how to adjust, how to improve from other players in real time and it took me quite a long time to get better at these habits.
If I had started working on this habit at the micro stakes instead of the high stakes, it would have served me very well.
The ability to gain so much information about your own play, your opponents play and table dynamics can be one of the most important things for you as a poker player.
Playing only zoom also forgos the habit of really understanding game selection.
Most people think game selection means, see fun player, sit with fun player, rinse/repeat. That is such a level 0 approach to take with it. If everyone is approaching the situation from the same perspective, where is your edge??
Most people are going to have absolutely no fucking idea what I am talking about with this but start to ask yourself more questions when you play regular tables.
- What is the estimated EV of my seat??
- Why do I think this is the EV of my seat??
- What can I do to improve the EV of my seat in the short term and how does that coorlate to the long term??
- Why does the opponent 2 to my right matter??
- What types of opponents do I do well against when I am on their left??
- What types of opponents do I struggle taking advantage of when they are on my right??
- How can I get better at maximizing my EV against those players??
- Those are a couple examples of questions you can ask yourself 😀
People always talk about game selection being important but I think they get carried away with it and also never focus on improving the other branches of the game selection tree.
Arguments for Zoom??
Instantly Begin Session
I think the arguments for Zoom are that you can instantly start your session with 1-4 tables anytime you want without having to get on waitlists, play short handed or worry about checking the lobby.
I can definitely see the merit of those but essentially what you are doing is accepting putting in less effort and forgoing the ability to get better at poker/increasing your potential winrate by playing short handed.
I think the ability to instantly start your session is something to greatly consider for certain personality types. Some people like knowing they can instant start, playing 30 minutes and then go do something else.
There is no reason you can’t do this for your shorter sessions and still play regular tables as your main focus.
Another argument for Zoom is that you can build up the fundamentals of most poker spots at a faster rate.
I imagine that would be true and false, depending on the type of person that you are. I’m sure most people end up building worse habits/strategies at a faster rate and then end up having no idea how to reverse those.
The margin for error in terms of bb/100 at Zoom is going to be smaller compared to regular tables.
Meaning if the cap bb/100 in a specific spot is 35bb/100, the average winrate for that spot in zoom might be 10bb/100, whereas it might be 20bb/100 in regular tables, therefore allowing you more room to fuck the spot up and it not have it impact you as much.
I think a good example for this at PLO is 3bet pots CO vs BTN. I think that the average winrate as the CO in this spot is going to be much lower at Zoom because BTN pre/flop tendencies are going to be very different at the micro/small stakes and therefore the post/flop tendencies and ranges are going to make it that you are winning less on average.
Mid/High Stakes Dynamics
One idea to think about is that, most of the games that run for 500nl/plo and up tend to be zoom on Pokerstars.
On sites like Bovada, ACR, the rest of the untracked Euro sites this isn’t the case.
We are unsure what Run it Once poker will look like at the higher stakes.
You could argue that, getting better at Zoom and focusing on zoom gives you the best chance to compete at 500+. I’m not sure how true that is.
Most of the regulars at the 500 level transitioned from the regular table format and understand the differences in strategies for regular/zoom format at this point in time if they are still playing professionally.
As someone coming from a zoom only background, it is going to make it much harder to breakthrough and really start to compete with those players. Having an understanding of the differences in strategy is going to be massive for being able to counter strategies being used against you.
I think the transition from regular tables only to zoom is much easier. You can still approach things with a very similar strategy.
You will probably want to tighten up your ranges in certain situations because your opponents ranges are going to be tighter and your EV of 3betting these players MIGHT go down. You also might want to tighten up your ranges in certain spots because the average bb/100 has decreased to a point that simply is losing to much.
For example defending the BB vs certain player types at micro/small stakes where the rake bb/100 has much more of an impact.
The case for zoom becomes much different at the higher stakes because you are also competing with seat scripters who usually aren’t great at the game but also aren’t really losing a ton of bb/100 to you provided you actually get into the game. This leads to the weaker regulars not being able to get into these games also and leads to an overall dynamic that is so much different than it is at micro/smaller stakes.
You have to really embrace starting tables, playing short handed and battling with good players in order to build games in the current ecosystem on Pokerstars. There are pros to all of those options but most players are afraid to actually fight through the cons to change them to pros.
For 200-500+ regulars, I think it is important to not become a Zoom only player.
Playing short handed, especially with better players in the games, is going to help you get better and better at poker. If you are a regular that is breaking even at these stakes or feel like your abilities are hitting a plateau, start including some regular tables/short handed tables ONLY into your sessions (not Zoom + regular tables). You will immediately notice the differences in how the games play and realize how out of place you feel for the first bunch of hands. It will help you realize all the spots you have neglected to think about in recent memory and show you more spots you can work on.
Doing this can also lead to a dynamic where you end up playing in softer games because you built it and they came (Aka you kept/started the action going HU or short handed and a fun player joins). It still boggles my mind that most players don’t fully realize that sacrificing some short term EV to get better in spots and also potentially put themselves in very high EV spots at the same time is readily available.
Most players are so consumed with the short term EV result and also probably lack belief in themselves combined with being lazy to want to work at getting better at these spots.
The thing to remember is that, it doesn’t matter if you only intend to play zoom at 500+ (provided you make it there), it matters that you understand the regular table approach to PLO and understand how to play against other players who also do.
I think I laid out many different ideas to think about when it comes to regular vs Zoom tables. I will be updating this as I think of new ideas and get feedback from people. Overall I think regular tables are the GTO approach to take with things 😀
Feel free to send comments or feedback to me through Facebook or Twitter 😀