Best Poker Games Ranked (Most Profitable to Least!)

Best Poker Games Ranked (Most Profitable to Least)

This article was written by contributor Fran Ferlan.

Poker games come in many shapes and sizes, and the number of poker formats and variations keeps expanding. 

With so many formats to choose from, it can be difficult to decide which format to play, and more importantly, which one is the most profitable. 

There’s no simple answer to this question. It mostly depends on your individual preferences, and what you want to get out of the experience. 

If you play poker as a hobby, you should play the format you enjoy playing the most.

If you want to make money, on the other hand, you should choose the format in which you have a significant edge over your competition, and where there’s bound to be plenty of traffic so you can put in enough volume.

This article will rank the most profitable poker formats, starting with the most profitable. You may disagree with some entries on the list, or think they should be ranked differently. 

That’s ok, because this is not an exhaustive list by any means. 

Also, what works for some players might not work for others, so again, the profitability of the game formats depends on the player's individual preferences. 

At the end of the day, you want to choose the format that works best for you, and the one you enjoy playing. 

With all that in mind, let’s get to the actual entries on the list. These are the best poker games ranked according to their profitability!

1. No-Limit Texas Hold’em Poker Cash Games

Sitting at the top of the list is the cash game variant of the Cadillac of poker. This is the best poker game in terms of profitability without a doubt.

Many people play this game exclusively as a pro or semi-pro and aim to make $100 an hour or more from it.

Despite countless other variations and new gimmicky formats, No-Limit Hold’em remains the most popular variant of poker, and therefore the most profitable, due to the simple fact that everybody is playing it. 

The game is incredibly simple to learn, giving it a mass appeal. This means you can always find the games running, and you can play anytime, any place. You can find action regardless of the stakes you’re playing. 

Since online poker sites offer cash games starting with as little as 2 dollars, it makes the game accessible to virtually everyone with an internet connection. 

The fact that a lot of people are playing it also makes it (still) the most profitable poker format. There are a couple of reasons for this:

First of all, as mentioned, you can find the games running 24/7. The fact that you can always get action makes this format much more preferable to others, especially if you’re strapped for time. 

Cash games also provide flexibility you can’t have in other formats like sit-and gos and tournaments. 

You can buy in and cash out any time you want. This allows you to select profitable games, and avoid the others. 

What I mean by this is the ability to table select and seat select, provided your poker site allows it. 

The goal is to find tables with plenty of recreational players around, as they’ll be your main source of poker income. If there are no recreational players around, you can simply move on to a new table. 

It’s also worth mentioning that you can begin winning money in cash games fairly quickly and consistently if you employ the right strategy, especially at the lower limits.

Nathan actually talked about the correct strategy for No Limit Holdem cash games in his latest video, "top 5 things he wishes he knew before starting poker."

Bottom line though:

With the plethora of recreational players populating the lower limits of cash games in particular, as long as you don't make any glaring beginner mistakes you’re already way ahead of the majority of the player pool. 

With the right strategy, table selection, and proper bankroll management, you can make a considerable side income, even at the lower stakes NL holdem cash games.

By the way, if you play low stakes No Limit Hold'em cash games, either online or live, I have already written for you the most comprehensive completely free guides for how to beat each limit.

This includes:

2. No-Limit Texas Hold’em Poker Tournaments 

Of all the poker formats, tournaments offer the biggest potential upside, so an argument can be made that they are actually the most potentially profitable format.

This is why any list of the best poker games for profit must include poker tournaments. 

There’s nothing quite like the tournament prize pool, and since the tournaments payout structures are disproportionately top-heavy (meaning the first three places make the most money), winning a poker tournament has the biggest payoff compared to other poker formats. 

The reason why tournaments aren’t ranked first, however, is the fact that even though they are potentially profitable, doesn’t mean they will be for the large majority of the player pool. 

A bigger prize usually means a bigger competition. There are hundreds, if not thousands of players to go through to get to the prize.

This is why if you play online poker tournaments, it is often worth it to use a HUD in order to get good reads on each of your opponents.

This also means that not only do you need to know the fundamental winning poker strategy, you also need to be fortunate enough to run well during your tournament run.

As opposed to cash games, poker tournaments inherently have far more variance built into the structure. This means your results will be far more volatile than in cash games. 

It’s not uncommon even for professional poker players to go months, or even years without a significant payout. Poker tournaments are comparable to lotteries in some sense.

Best Poker Games Ranked

Everyone gets a ticket, and everyone can win. Decent to great players get more tickets, but they’re still playing the lottery. 

Due to the nature of variance in poker tournaments, you need quite a bigger bankroll than you would in cash games. 

While it is generally advised to have around 30 buy-ins for cash games (provided you’re a long-term winning poker player, of course), you’ll need as much as 100 buy-ins if you opt for the tournament format. 

So if you’re playing $10 buy-in tournaments, you need $1000 in your bankroll.

By the way, for much more, I have already written the #1 completely free strategy guide for how to beat micro stakes poker tournaments available today.

This step by step guide teaches you everything you need to know to beat poker tournaments from the early stages to the bubble and final table. 

Learn to Make $1000+ Per Month in These Poker Games With My Free Poker Cheat Sheet

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3. Pot Limit Omaha Cash Games

With no-limit hold’em becoming fiercely competitive over the last years, sometimes even at the very lowest limits, some players are on the lookout for other game formats with potentially softer competition. 

One such format is Pot Limit Omaha, or PLO for short, and it has dramatically risen in popularity over the last decade. 

One of the reasons this format became so popular for professional and recreational poker players alike, is, to put it simply, it’s more fun than no-limit hold’em. 

If your definition of fun is constantly getting outdrawn on the river and suffering crazy swings in your results due to standard variance, then it’s a blast.

The main difference between PLO and no-limit hold’em is you’re dealt 4 hole cards instead of 2. 

There’s still 5 community cards, betting rounds are the same (i.e. preflop, flop, turn and river), but you can make hand combinations using ONLY 2 of your hole cards and ONLY 3 community cards, and no other combination counts. 

You can’t use 1 hole card and 4 community cards as you can in hold’em, for example. The other key difference is you can only bet as much money as there is in the pot (hence: pot-limit).

Because you are dealt 4 hole cards instead of 2, the number of possible hand combinations any player can have goes through the roof. 

While there are 1,326 starting hand combinations in no-limit hold’em, there’s a whopping 270,725 starting hand combinations in PLO.

This means players will make strong combinations (like straights, flushes, full houses, and even quads) far more frequently than in no-limit hold’em. 

Also, drawing hands become much more valuable, as the number of outs (i.e. the cards that can improve your hand on future streets) increases dramatically. 

In fact, sometimes a drawing hand can even be a favourite to win against a made hand on the flop, due to the insane number of outs it has. 

This is never the case in hold’em poker, where a drawing hand is always an underdog to a made hand.

These differences make PLO a far more dynamic and unpredictable game than no-limit hold’em. As such, it’s bound to attract more gamble-oriented players who just want to see some flops and have some fun. 

The preflop edges are also a lot smaller than in no-limit hold’em, and even totally trashy hands have a large chunk of equity against strong hands. 

You will rarely ever have more than 60% equity on the flop against a single opponent, for example. 

This makes PLO results very swingy, to say the least. Due to significantly smaller edges, variance can impact your results dramatically. 

But if you have the nerves of steel and a monk-like perseverance, PLO just might be the format for you. But don't sleep on PLO. 

It is without a doubt one of the best poker games in terms or profit potential.

4. No-limit Texas Hold’em Sit-And-Gos

Sit and gos are sort of a hybrid between the previous two formats. They offer the relative flexibility and availability of cash games, and hefty potential payout of tournaments. 

The difference being it’s relatively easier to cash out consistently in sit and gos than it is in tournaments, due to the smaller player pool. 

The downside is you need to wait for a certain number of players to register to the sit-and-go. 

But with the right strategy and a bit of patience, sit-and-gos can be a very lucrative format, and you can cash out relatively consistently, provided you put in enough volume.

Best Poker Games Ranked
Studying hands recently seaside in PokerTracker

And that is why they must be included on any list of the best poker games ranked according to the most profitable. 

Unlike multitable tournaments with huge player pools to go through, sit-and-gos have significantly fewer players, and you aren’t constantly changing tables. 

This allows you to actually get some reads on the players you’re up against, and exploit them accordingly.

Similar to the tournaments, you measure your profitability in sit-and-gos as a return of investment (ROI) on your buy-in. You calculate it by dividing your profits with your investment, and multiplying by a hundred. 

It’s worth mentioning that any ROI above 0% is considered good, as most players actually lose money playing poker (as well as in other formats, of course). 

But even with such small profit margins, sit-and-gos can be profitable if you employ the right strategy, and some sit-and-go players have an incredible ROI of 20%, or even more in some cases. 

However, such a high ROI is usually possible only if you’re: 

A) a world-class sit-and-go player. 


B) you’re only playing low-stakes sit-and-gos. 

Similar to the cash games, the higher the buy-in, the more skilled the competition, so maintaining a high ROI playing higher-entry sit-and-gos is no easy feat by any means. 

The higher the entries, the lower ROI you can expect, but the higher cashouts can more than make up for it.

Bottom line: 

Don't sleep on this format. Many of the top online poker pros specialize in multi-tabling sit and gos because they can be wildly profitable.

5. Spin-And-Gos

A format that has risen in popularity in recent years in online poker sites is the spin-and-go. And in ranking the best poker games, it made the cut at #5.

Spin and Gos (often just called "Spins") is a form of short-handed poker where you compete against two other players for a prize pool anywhere from two buyins to as much as 12000 times the buyin. 

Yes, you’ve read that correctly. 

For a buyin of say, 1 dollar, you can win up to $12,000 in a matter of minutes. Not a bad ROI, if you ask me.

In fact, if my entire goal was to turn $100 into $10000 quickly at the poker tables, Spin and Gos would be a solid option.

Now, before you dive head-first into this potential goldmine, it’s worth mentioning that you won't usually be blessed with such a generous payout. 

For a poker site to remain profitable, the chances of landing a big prize are always going to be significantly smaller than the payout itself. 

If there is a potential to earn, say 100 times the initial buy-in, the chance of drawing that prize isn’t 1%. More likely it’s 0.1%, or less. 

In poker terms, this makes playing this format -EV in a vacuum. Now, that’s not to say spin-and-go can’t be profitable, even with the chances stacked against you, so to speak.

Due to the lightning fast action, accessibility, and huge potential upside, spin and gos are bound to attract a lot of recreational, gamble-oriented players. 

So there’s potentially a huge edge you can have over a significant part of the player pool if you opt for this format. 

It’s also one of the formats where your skill edge is the most pronounced. In spin and gos, you’re faced with only two opponents, and there’s no place to hide. 

Similar to the heads-up format (where you play against only one opponent), you can’t just wait around for the nuts all day. 

The blinds are increasing rapidly, meaning you need to open up your game significantly to keep ahead. 

With only three seats at the table, you are forced to play a lot more hands than you would in a 6-max or the full-ring game. 

So if you know what you are doing, and are comfortable playing short-handed poker, this format might be a good fit.

A lot of players still struggle with playing short-handed poker, and will either be too tight and timid if they are coming from other poker formats, or they will be loose and wild gamblers just randomly clicking buttons. 

Very few of them will find the right balance, so if that sounds like something you could do, spin-and-gos might be just the right format for you.

By the way, I discuss this in much more detail in my new Elite Poker University training. 

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Which Poker Games Should You Avoid? (Least Profitable)

So, which poker games should you actually avoid?

Well for me personally, I would say any game that has a limit structure such as Limit Hold'em, I would avoid. The problem with these games is that they are difficult to beat for a good winrate.

Another huge problem with these games is that they are easily solved by a basic mathematical strategy and therefore it is difficult to get a big edge.

You can't really "bluff" for example in a game of Limit Hold'em. It's just pure math at the end of the day, your opponent is always going to be getting decent odds to call you.

These games, at least in my opinion, are also the most boring form of poker due to their "hands tied behind your back" structure, which is probably why they have declined in popularity a lot in recent years.

Unless you like grinding out 2bb per hour with a highly robotic strategy due to the structure I would avoid these games at all costs!

I would personally also avoid most fast fold games like Zoom if you are an amateur (this goes for other variations called Snap, Zone, Fast Forward etc as well). 

And this is because these games tend to be full of tight nitty multi-tabling grinders and the edges are therefore very small.

In fact at higher limit Zoom games if you aren't willing to spend 5 hours a day studying a solver (and learning complex GTO math) on the side, you probably won't compete with the best.

This is definitely not my idea of fun or why I got into this game in the first place. 

I would rather just sit poolside on my laptop, fire up some tables and crush some fish. But hey, to each their own!

Also, I have discussed winrates many times before on this blog and Zoom poker winrates tend to consistently be lower than at regular cash or tournament tables.

But if you happen to be a semi-pro or full time online poker player, who is willing to put in the work improving your game away from the tables, Zoom games can prove to be very profitable as well.

And they are also certainly convenient because you don't need to table select! So it really depends on your goals in the game and if you play professionally or not.

Personally, I don't play them very often anymore (I'd rather just chase the fish around) but hey, they might work for you.

By the way, I have written the #1 free guide to Zoom poker strategy available on the web these days, if you want to know much more about Zoom poker games (and other fast fold variations as well).

Best Poker Games Ranked (Summary)

So there you have it! 

These are 5 most profitable poker formats to play. 

1. No Limit Hold'em cash games

2. No Limit Hold'em tournaments

3. Pot Limit Omaha cash games

4. No Limit Holdem Sit and Gos

5. Spin and Gos

And the best part is that you don't have to spend hours learning some super advanced poker strategy to beat these games consistently, at least at the lower limits.

Now, please keep in mind that this is an opinion piece based on my experience, and again, it’s not an exhaustive list by any means. 

There are a bunch of other formats that didn’t make it here, so an updated list might be in order some day. 

Other formats such as short deck poker (or six plus poker) are also rising in popularity in recent years, but these five formats remain the most profitable due to the simple fact that a lot of players are playing them. 

You can always find action, and there’s always money to be made.

But when all is said and done, the most profitable poker format is the one where you have the biggest skill edge over your competition. 

If you are a math wizard, you might prefer Limit Hold’em. If you don’t mind the crazy swings of fortune, you could try Pot-limit Omaha. 

So don’t be afraid to experiment and try a new format from time to time. You never know what a new trend might be, so keep your eyes peeled.

Lastly, if you want to know my complete strategy to make $1000+ per month in small stakes games, grab a copy of my free poker cheat sheet.

Best Poker Games Ranked