Monday, November 7, 2016

How Many Poker Tables Should You Play?

How many poker tables should you play at once?
One of the best aspects about online poker is the ability to multi-table. If you are a winning player, then by adding more tables you can multiply your earnings many times over.

But how many poker tables should you play at once? Is there a sweet spot or an optimal number of tables for playing your best and remaining focused while still finding time to table select?

Well after a decade of playing online poker and million and millions of hands later I have played every amount of tables between 1 and 30. So in this article I am going to answer the question of how many poker tables you should play.


Playing 1-4 Poker Tables at Once


This is the amount of tables that most people start out at. In fact some people (probably most actually) never play any more that this. And before I even get started in this article I want to assure you that this is absolutely fine. 

The most important aspect of multi-tabling online poker is that you feel comfortable. Your decisions should never feel rushed. Some people cannot stay focused on more than two tables or even one table. Again, there is nothing wrong with this.

What are the advantages of playing between 1 and 4 tables? Well from a win rate standpoint, they are numerous. Your win rate (big blinds per 100 hands in online poker) is always going to be higher the lower your table count is.

The reason why is because you will have the most amount of time to think about your decisions in key hands and you can also pay close attention to your opponents. As you increase the table count this becomes more and more difficult.

Another huge aspect of the online game these days is table selection. That is, playing on poker tables which have bad players on them. Once again, the lower your table count, the more time you will have to find the best tables, get position on the fish, chase them around and so on.

However, there are a few negatives to a low table count. Firstly, it will take much longer to grind a large amount of hands and reach the long run. This means that downswings will potentially last longer than somebody who is playing more tables. However, this is counterbalanced by the fact that your downswings will be less intense due to having a higher win rate.

Secondly, if you want to earn a lot of money through rakeback (essentially free money poker sites give you just for playing), then more tables is always better.


Bottom Line: Playing 1-4 poker tables will allow you to achieve the highest possible win rate based on your abilities. But it will take longer to reach the long run in poker and earn rakeback.


Playing 5-12 Poker Tables at Once


I am just going to say right off that this is the best range to be in and 95% of the time when I play online poker these days my table count is between 5 and 12.

The reason why I prefer this table range is because it provides the best of all worlds. It is not enough tables that I feel rushed and I always feel like I have enough time to dig into my HUD stats if I need more info on a certain player.

Also, this table count still provides me enough time to search for the best tables, tag the fish and even chase them around.

On the other hand, the 5-12 range is enough tables that with regular grinding I can pump out anywhere between 50k and 100k hands a month. This is pretty decent volume and gets me to the long run relatively fast.

Lastly, this amount of tables allows me to earn a reasonable amount of rakeback especially at higher limits. It also allows me to clear bonuses quite easily especially if I am playing on poker site that offers them.

Now once again I just want to mention that playing this amount of tables is not for everybody. Also, you don't just start playing 10 tables at once over night. You build up to it over time.

Also there are software aids and certain table layouts that can help even further. You can go check out my complete guide to playing more online poker tables for more on all of that.


Bottom Line: Playing 5-12 tables is my personal sweet spot because it provides me enough time to make high quality decisions at the tables, table select and seat select yet not feel rushed or be forced into making misclicks. I also get to the long run relatively quickly and earn decent rakeback.


Playing 13-30 Poker Tables at Once


The final frontier of online poker mass multi-tabling insanity is 13 tables and above. The number is a bit arbitrary but this is the point where things start to get a little bit crazy.

I personally have still played the vast majority of my online poker hands (8 million at last count) while playing 24 tables at once.

Why 24? Because this was (and still is?) the maximum amount of tables that Pokerstars allows. And on other sites I have experimented with playing as many as 30 tables at once.

Now what are the benefits of playing a silly amount of tables like this? Well firstly, you get to the long run really quickly. I used to put in as many as 200k hands in a month on a regular basis during my hardcore grinding days.

When you are playing this amount of hands you can sometimes go through several prolonged downswings within a single month. But you get to your "true win rate" much, much faster.

200k hands is a solid sample size. While variance will still occur, the chances of your win rate being wildly off it's true mark over a stretch like this is very low.

So basically by playing this amount of tables you get to cut through all of the BS in this game so to speak real fast and find out where you really stand.

Also, this amount of tables is the preferred table range for all truly sick rakeback grinders out there. If you want to achieve the top rakeback rewards and bonuses on whatever site you play on, you can be assured that mass multi-tabling like this will get you there the fastest.

Now for the cons. And there are plenty of them in my opinion. This is why I personally abandoned playing this many tables several years ago now.

Firstly, you basically become a robot at the poker tables. Unless you have a super genius IQ and slam the energy drinks all day there is very little chance that you are actually going to be playing your best at all times. This will lead itself to a low win rate and very lengthy brutal downswings as well.

I can say firsthand that there is no way that I was always making the best decisions when I was 24 tabling. Many times I would just snap click something because I had no time left to think. And there were many, many straight up misclicks as well which can be highly tilt inducing.

This means that I missed out on tons of value. I played ok, don't get me wrong. But many times I missed the big opportunities to bluff a river or squeeze light for instance that I might have seen if only I had a few more seconds to think.

Also, I was often playing in terrible games and there was very little I could do about it. Sure, I had my HUD stats enabled on every single table. But when playing this amount of tables there just isn't enough time to be constantly checking the lobby for better games and cycling out the bad tables.

So at the end of the day I gave up a lot of expected value. It was no coincidence that when I started experimenting with a lower table count my win rates skyrocketed.


Bottom Line: Playing 13+ tables is not for the faint of heart. The action will come fast and furious. This is excellent if you want to achieve huge amounts of rakeback and become known as one of the sickest grinders around. It sucks though if you are interested in maintaining a solid win rate and avoiding brutal lengthy downswings.


What if You Play Zoom Poker?


Now I do want to point out that throughout this article I have been talking about regular poker tables. Many people these days play Zoom poker on Stars or a fast fold equivalent on another site.

According to my highly unscientific mathematical calculations Zoom poker tables deal hands about 3.5 times faster than a regular poker table.

I believe the Zoom poker table limit on Pokerstars is still 8. So therefore if you are a truly sick grinding machine that should have you playing roughly the equivalent of 28 regular tables at once (8 x 3.5 = 28).

This is why when I do play Zoom poker these days I tend to play 2 or 3 tables at once. This has me playing the equivalent of something like 7-11 regular tables at a time which is a similar amount to what I am already used to.

By the way, for more on fast fold poker you can go check out my popular Zoom poker strategy guide.


Final Thoughts


The amount of poker tables that you should play is really a personal thing in the end. I want to reiterate that the most important thing by far is your own personal abilities. Some people simply can't play more than a few tables.

And some people like me simply can't keep up with the 20+ tabling kids anymore. Maybe I am just getting too old though!

Anyways, the bottom line is that you need to find the right number of tables that allows you to have enough time to make high quality poker decisions and table select without feeling rushed.

You should never feel bored or find yourself sitting around waiting at the poker tables though either. If you do, then that is a sure sign that you should add more tables.

However, you should only ever add one more at a time. Don't try to be a 30 table hero over night because you saw some kid on Youtube doing it.

I hope this article helped some of you figure out the right amount of poker tables to play. Make sure you pick up my free ebook to learn that strategy that I used to create massive win rates at the micros even while playing a kazillion tables at once.


Let me know in the comments how many tables you play. Do you agree or disagree with my assessment of the best range of tables to play?

How Many Poker Tables Should You Play at Once?

8 comments:

  1. I usually play 6 to 8 tables. I've only got one screen and I want them all to be visible at any point in time. I tried stacking them too, but I just don't feel comfortable with that, also because you can't see if you've timed out on a table then.
    Thanks for your interesting blogs!

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  2. ummmm I think the bigger problem is finding sites with good traffic that will actually pay you (within 2 or 3 days) when you win.
    Any recommendations in that regard ?
    And do you really feel ok giving your bank account info to some off shore site ?

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  3. if you are winning 1/2 live what would be a comparable level to play at on line ?
    Maybe .25 . 50 ?

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  4. Hi nath I play 5-8 tables on various sites, that I find is my sweet spot.
    I wanted to know if you use that table selector app that finds the right tables for you,I also wanted to know what limit you now spend the most of your times playing In personally.
    I am only grinding 10nl games I sometimes find some good games above my limit and as you do try n find the fish I really would love to know what limit you spend most of your time on and I also wondered with your very high volume etc.why your not playing 200nl and above (that's if your not of course) nath I've seen you play your skill is there IMMHO for me personally a little bit of fear holds me back and at ,100nl and above on most but not all sites there really doesn't seem the fish there in fact TBH I'm the fish a lot of the time.
    Is your goal like a lot of us to end up a winning player at 2k nl and above or are you content at making a good living where your currently at I know its a lot to answer but its been something I've been wanting to ask you for so long.
    Just to add your books and tips have turned me from a very basic winning player at 2nl at a winrate of 2-4 bb per 100 into moving up to 10nl with a reasonably good winrate I play poker full time now gave up work and now support myself at 10nl none of which would have been possible with out YOU!!! your approach to the game and your work ethic truly inspired me,for that I'm truly grateful.
    All your articles are brilliant IMO

    Matt.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Matt, glad I could help! I don't play full time anymore. When I do play I tend to play at the micro levels because these are the stakes that I also teach here on my blog and in my books etc.

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    2. After following you for a while now (thanks for all the amazing information by the way!), I was surprised to hear you don't play full time anymore.

      I always imagined you grinding away hours per day in between your instagram adventures. Does that mean you have a "regular" job now or you just don't need to play as often to maintain the same level of income and lifestyle?

      I'm just curious because I'm working toward having my poker income eventually replace my "regular" modest income completely which I always assumed is what you already have?

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    3. Hi, thanks for the kind words! I played poker full time for about 5 or 6 years and I have been semi pro for the last several years. This doesn't mean that I won't play full time again one day. I just find this a better balance for my life right now.

      What do I do with that spare time? This blog requires many hours of my time each week writing and answering comments. I also freelance for other major publications. I have written several books, courses etc. which require tons more time. I also have business ventures outside poker, try to maintain a social life and I travel a fair bit.

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