The world is always looking to do things faster and the evolution of poker has been no exception.
In recent years, fast-fold tables– where players are immediately dealt another hand at a new table after folding –have become a popular choice for cash game grinders. These types of games are known by many a name:
- Zoom on PokerStars
- Zone on Ignition
- Rush on the now closed Full Tilt
- SNAP on 888poker
- Firestorm on LuckyChewyPoker
- Blaze on PKR
…okay, one of those doesn’t exist, but really, the list goes on and on.
Just about every poker network capable of hosting fast-fold tables does so. The speed of fast-fold tables allow you to put in a higher volume of hands, making regular tables feel slow by comparison.
However, regular tables also have their merits, whilst fast-fold ones can have their downsides. Let’s go over the pros and cons of each and figure out which is right for those of you looking to further your poker career.
Pros and Cons of Regular Tables
I imagine poker purists absolutely despise fast-fold tables. Regular tables are “the way poker was meant to be played,” and they offer numerous clear upsides.
Pro: Regular tables have weaker competition
The most appealing aspect of playing at regular tables is the weaker competition you are likely to play against. Weaker competition means easier money up for grabs, and the fixed seats mean that you can exercise your edge over your weaker opponents over and over again.
Also, because many of the best cash game grinders will choose to play fast-fold tables, the ratio of good players to bad players should be lower at regular tables. If a regular table is tough, the players leave and it breaks, so just the existence of any regular table is indicative of a soft game.
Pro: Regular tables play similarly to live poker tables
Because you play many hands with the same players at regular tables, it cultivates a sense of social competitiveness that isn’t found at fast-fold tables. Constantly playing pots against the same opponents can cause recreational players (and even some pros) to make decisions based on their ego rather than information. This leads to said players making fundamentally bad decisions on the felt, as demonstrated by Scott Lazar in these two back-to-back hands at the 2005 WSOP Main Event:
Then again, sometimes you just gotta “give em the gamble.”
Pro: It’s possible to develop reads and exploit opposing players
Being able to collect information and use it to exploit your opponents is one of the biggest upsides to regular tables. This is especially true if you use poker tracking software, as each player’s statistics allows for incredibly thorough adjustments.
If you notice any leaks in the strategies of your opponents, you can take exploitative lines against them and continue to do so due to the fixed seating arrangement at regular tables.
Pro: Practicing good table and game selection is possible.
Unlike at fast-fold tables, you are able to select a specific table and seat when playing regular tables. This is a great opportunity to practice good game selection and choose a table and seat where you can maximize your expected value.
If you have information saved on your opponents and remember to tag them (regulars/recreationals/whales/nits etc), you can quickly locate the seats with the highest expected value.
Con: Regular tables sacrifice volume and/or focus
The one major problem with playing regular tables is the difficulty to comfortably match the volume of hands that fast-fold tables offer.
Playing at one fast-fold table is the equivalent to playing at approximately three regular ones, meaning that you would need twelve regular tables open to match your volume when four-tabling of Zoom. This can be very cluttered to look at – especially if you are using a HUD – and makes for a stressful and unpleasant poker experience overall.
Having more tables open is detrimental to your focus, a quality that is of the utmost importance as poker player (see: Why Multi-Tabling is Costing You Money.)
There’s Still Money in Old School Poker
Despite the recent decline in popularity of regular cash game tables, they are still lucrative for those who are willing to play at them.
Due to the softer competition and opportunity for exploitative strategies, they can be a great alternative to fast-fold tables if you dedicate time to compiling information on your opponents and table selecting effectively.
Pros and Cons of Fast-Fold Tables (aka Zoom, Zone, Rush, SNAP)
Fast-fold tables are challenging, exciting and boast some unique upsides other variants don’t offer.
Pro: Fast-fold tables are an efficient and effective learning tool
As a developing poker player, you will find that you learn a considerable amount about strategy through trial, error and by experiencing various spots continuously.
Because of the amount of volume that can easily be achieved by playing fast-fold tables, they give players an extremely efficient way to progress their skills. Because you will infrequently encounter the same players at these tables, your focus will rarely be on taking exploitative lines. Instead, your focus will be on generally improving your game from a theoretical standpoint.
Pro: Moving up in stakes is potentially faster
Good, winning players can grind out high and fairly consistent hourly rates due to the nature of fast-fold tables. If your win rate isn’t compromised by this volume, then more fast-fold tables equals more money. This allows for you to rapidly progress through the stakes as your bankroll inflates.
Pro: Easy to focus
Your focus can be more direct with all of the action contained to one monitor on only four tables. More direct focus allows for a calmer and more relaxed grinding environment which is conducive to playing your best possible poker.
Also, eyes darting from table to table can be very straining long term and playing fewer tables will reduce that effect.
Con: Fast-fold tables boast tougher competition
Fast-fold tables are commonly home to tougher competition due to their popularity with professional grinders. This will make the games more difficult to beat, though you will be a better player as a result when you do beat them.
The problem is exacerbated because regulars usually sit at four fast-fold tables at one time (whereas recreational players usually sit at one.) This makes the ratio of good players to bad players even higher.
Con: It’s often impossible to make and apply reads
Read-based poker is nearly a thing of the past at fast-fold tables, where you are always encountering new players.
Though you can make general population reads on the tendencies of your entire player pool, it will be difficult to take exploitative lines against your opponents due to a lack of information specific to them.
Some players thrive on taking exploitative lines against weaker opponents, and missing out on those spots can decimate their win-rate. Players with a theoretically well thought-out strategy are heavily rewarded at fast-fold tables.
Zoom Poker or Bust?
Although fast-fold tables have become notoriously more difficult to beat as they have become the choice of many professional grinders, they serve as a great proving ground where you can develop your game.
Because of the more difficult competition, you will become a better poker player by learning how to beat stronger players. As the old saying goes:
The volume you are able to put in, along with the general convenience of the fast-fold format, makes them a great option for online players looking to rapidly progress through the stakes.
You can use regular tables to supplement your bankroll when there are large jumps between fast-fold stakes (between $1/$2 and $2/$5 for example), and mixing the two is an effective way to balance volume and game selection.
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