Saturday, 15 February 2014

Play Good or Play a Lot?

Always when I read forums I can't fight the feeling that not knowing which of these options to choose is one of the biggest reasons that people get stuck in their mostly young poker career.
When it comes to the question if you prefer the big volume or the big winrate, most players have a clear answer. Some say that focusing on a small number of tables is the only way to play a profitable game and keep improving. Others want to increase their winnings by playing a lot of tables at one time and don't really care about having a good winrate.

So... what's the right way of thinking?

In order to determine that, we should first define a main target. For me that's pretty obvious: Making money. This is the reason that professional poker players are doing what they are doing. Knowing this, nothing of the following sentence will be surprising.
Winnings are the product of the factors volume and winrate.

Winnings = Volume * Winrate
Having a winrate isn't easy, but also the essential part of making money. Since this variable can also be negative (and indeed it is negative for 85% of all poker players) it can also cause losings, which would be bigger the more volume we play.

Since the volume multiplies your winrate, a higher volume could also cause bigger winnings. Even a player with the best winrate in the world can't win anything if he doesn't play. In a nutshell, a 1 bb/100 winner can make the same profit as a 10bb/100 winner if he plays ten times as much volume.

As almost always in poker there is no bread and butter solution. The goal should be finding a compromise between volume and winrate which allows you to accomplish the best winnings.
So the real challenge is to optimize your game but still play a lot of tables at the same time. Both skills (playing a lot and playing good) can be trained.

Note 1: Even thought this probably sounded really primitive, it is very important part of online poker to understand how these two factors work together.
Note 2: Seeing that Volume always refers to a time, this also applies for the winnings. So in practice, Volume means hands per hour and winnings mean your hourly rate.

To be continued:
  • What you can do in order to increase your volume
  • How the big volume affects your winrate
  • How rakeback affects your winnings

PokerStars No-Limit Hold'em, $2.00 BB (8 handed) - PokerStars Converter Tool from

saw flop | saw showdown

UTG ($132.48)
UTG+1 ($134.28)
MP1 ($206.88)
MP2 ($80)
Hero (CO) ($220.11)
Button ($209)
SB ($76.78)
BB ($203.95)

Preflop: Hero is CO with K, A
1 fold, UTG+1 raises to $4, 1 fold, MP2 calls $4, Hero raises to $18, 3 folds, UTG+1 calls $14, 1 fold

Flop: ($43) 10, 4, J (2 players)
UTG+1 checks, Hero bets $22, UTG+1 calls $22

Turn: ($87) Q (2 players)
UTG+1 checks, Hero bets $36, UTG+1 calls $36

River: ($159) 8 (2 players)
UTG+1 checks, Hero bets $112, UTG+1 calls $58.28 (All-In)

Total pot: $275.56 | Rake: $2.80

Results below:
UTG+1 didn't show
Hero had K, A (royal flush).
Outcome: Hero won $272.76

This hand is probably pretty standard considering the fact that villain was a recreational player. Villain mucked 44.