Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Difference Between Zoom and Regular Poker Tables

One of the most common questions that I get asked about is the adjustments that need to be made for Zoom on Pokerstars. I also see this all the time on poker forums with some people even wondering when somebody is going to write a book on the topic. Well, it won't be me that writes it. That much I can assure you! I am pretty sure that nobody else will either though.

The reason why is because the strategic differences between Zoom and the regular games just aren't large enough to warrant it. Pokerstars has done a great job marketing Zoom and it is still wildly popular with recreational players and grinders alike over two years since its release in May of 2012. However, at the end of the day it is still just the same game of poker. There are a couple of key differences between Zoom and regular poker games though that I will go into here.

Speed

The most obvious difference that anyone will notice right away is the speed of Zoom when compared to a regular table. Because of the fast fold button (which allows you to simply fold hands that you don't want to play instead of waiting for the action to be on you) Zoom tables deal somewhere in the neighbourhood of 4 times as many hands per hour as a regular table. Or if you are a live player it might be 10 or 12 times as fast as you are used to. 

Obviously this doesn't change anything about the actual game. It just speeds up the action considerably and allows you to get to the interesting hands that you want to play a lot faster. It is a brilliant idea and obviously great for grinders because they can get an incredible amount of hands in.

It is also great for recreational players because they don't have to wait for some 24 tabler who is timing out on a simple preflop decision. They don't even have to wait to get dealt in. They can sit down and start splashing the virtual chips around immediately which is exactly what they want. 

Lack of Information

The second most obvious difference with regards to Zoom is the big lack of information. With player pools on Pokerstars regularly in the hundreds of people at the micro and small stake levels you might only see the same person once every 20 hands or so. It is obviously therefore a lot harder to build up a reasonable sample on someone when compared to the regular tables where you collect data on them every single hand. 

This creates a different dynamic to the game. You can't take a sophisticated line against a reg based off of a mountain of data that you have collected on him. However it is also a two way street. They don't have much information on you either. In a way it is more like "real poker" as some live players might argue. But the important point is that you simply have to play more ABC by the book poker in many situations due to this lack of information. 

This isn't always a bad thing. I have discussed many ways to abuse this information gap in my DragTheBar Zoom videos by simply getting more aggressive than normal in a lot of common spots. Most of the mass multi-tabling nits won't have much information on you and they will just "wait for a better spot." 

Lack of Table Selection

Lastly (and this is the real kicker for a lot of people including me) is that in Zoom you are stuck with the pool that you are in. You can't really table select and you certainly can't seat select at all. This is why winrates will simply always be higher in the regular games. 

I would actually argue that the fish play better in Zoom games as well because of the fact that they can just fast fold their way to a reasonably good hand. One of the main reasons that they play so many ridiculous hands in the regular games and in live games as well is because they get bored and don't want to wait. 

The Verdict

So in closing you can probably already guess which games that I prefer to play in. I am not much of a big time rakeback grinder anymore though so 8 tabling Zoom for the next milestone bonus doesn't interest me very much. I am more interested in maintaining a higher winrate by chasing fish around and also being able to get position on them every single hand. This is more or less the whole point of the game in my opinion - consistently playing with much weaker players.  

With that said, at the very lowest limits (NL2 and NL5) I don't think it really matters which games you play in, Zoom or regular. There are huge whales and terrible regs everywhere (yes even in 2014). The Zoom games get pretty reg infested at higher limits though. Most people are grinding out very small winrates.

I think that overall Zoom is a very good thing for poker as it is a new and exciting take on the game for many recreational players. It is also a marketing dream for Pokerstars. And it is also great if you are a prolific rakeback grinder. 

Listen, at the end of the day if you love playing Zoom then keep playing it, don't listen to me. The Zoom games are harder but the difference is not massive. And what they might lose in terms of game quality they certainly make up for in terms of fun. However, if maximizing your winrate and moving up quickly are your goals in poker, then I would suggest that the regular tables are probably a better bet for you. 

If you found this article useful please share it with your friends on Facebook and Twitter below!

Go ahead and share your experiences with Zoom or the regular poker tables in the comments below as well.
Nathan Williams aka "BlackRain79" is a poker player, coach, DragTheBar instructor and the author of Crushing the Microstakes and Modern Small Stakes.

9 comments:

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  2. Great article nathan! Do you suggest any specific table selection rules for NL2 or NL5? e.g. Minimum average VPIP%

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    1. Thanks Ahmad,

      I would try to join the tables with the highest VPIP but really these days it is more important to make sure there is a huge fish there once you get on the table. Sometimes a good table can have a low average VPIP because a bunch of nits are bringing down the number.

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  3. Nice article man! But I think that the zoom games are massively harder, have seen lots graphs of small stakes, at regular tables the best regs win at 5-10bb/100, at zoom 2bb/100 is considered pretty high.

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    1. Thanks Willian,

      And thanks for your input. I don't really have much experience at Zoom above NL25. I think I have heard similar though.

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  4. Yes, I agree Zoom is difficult above 5NL for sure, and its tough to make any vpps at those levels.
    I keep getting the crap knocked out of me when I try to level up, I gotta play better.
    I went over to the speed poker at the Party network the last 2 days, they have a grinder promo where from now thru Aug, they are giving bonus cash for 30,000 60,000 100,000 and 250,000 hand.
    It is about 1/2 or 6/10 cent per hand. They only have 6 max at speed, and you must play at least 10 NL. The games seem alot easier than Zoom.
    Good luck all, and thanks Nathan.

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    1. Thanks Kash and good luck to you also.

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  5. can't argue with your advice Nathan. thank you for trying to educate us fish :)

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