Optimizing Your Sessions

The number one advantage that online poker has over live play is the opportunity to play multiple tables at once. Since your goal in poker should be to make the most money possible, figuring out what your hourly rate is will allow you to theoretically maximize your earnings by playing the optimal number of tables.

The idea is fairly straightforward: if you are beating 50NL for $4/hr playing one table, then by adding another table, your hourly rate would ostensibly double to $8/hr. This, of course, assumes that the quality of your two-tabling game is the same as your one-tabling game. But what about playing 3 or 4 tables at once? How does rakeback figure in?

It’s easy to get excited by the notion that just by playing a massive number of tables, your hourly rate will soar as a matter of course. Unfortunately, it only works that way up to a point. We should assume that the hourly rate on each table will diminish every time another table is added. Everyone has a limit to how many tables they can get involved in and play profitable poker.

Most players will see their poker abilities rapidly diminish as they add tables. Making a large sum of money via rakeback makes no sense if you are wiping out all of these earnings by having a negative table hourly rate. Therefore, almost everyone benefits from playing fewer tables and viewing rakeback as only a supplement to their bottom line.

Below an example of how multi-table hourly rate might work. By reviewing the diagram, you can see that the pure hourly rate per table diminishes as more tables are added, while the amount earned from rakeback steadily increases. Some players are able to maximize their hourly rate by playing an insane number of tables and making the majority of their money from rakeback and bonuses. Usually these types of players are barely able to beat the games whether they are playing 2 tables or 24. Therefore, they are very smart to 24-table, as it will maximize their hourly rate.

So how do you figure out which type of player you are? Finding out your hourly rate per table may seem daunting as you would likely need to play millions of hands in a given level to find the ideal number of tables. However, it is not really necessary that you go through all of that trouble. The next section will describe a multi-tabling method that I came up with that can also be used to figure out your optimum number of tables that finds a good balance between hourly rate and improvement as a poker player.


According to the chart, playing an average of 6 tables at once maximizes hourly rate for this fictional person.

The Gradual Table Reduction Method Of Multi-Tabling (GTR)

This approach allows you to find the optimum number of average tables to play by focusing on your comfort level during play. An added benefit is that it forces you to play multiple short sessions rather than long ones, which will help to maximize your focus during each individual session.

When I am planning my poker schedule, I do not focus on the number of hands or hours I want to play. I instead set a plan for the number of sessions I want to get in during a given day. My average session using this method is between 30 and 45 minutes. As a busy person with a “real” job, GTR gives me maximum flexibility to live my life and still make a decent part-time poker income without interfering with my work and family life.

EachsessionIplaybeginswithmejoiningasetnumberoftablesbywaitlisting. Atablemusthave no more than three players already waiting, or else I won’t join the list. I also look to immediately sit down at good tables that have an open seat. In order to choose the correct number of tables to wait list, you must decide how many tables you want to play on average. Once you settle on a number, you then double it, and that is how many tables you will initially wait list or join.

So let’s say I want to play six tables at once on average (which is my actual optimal number). I will join the waitlist of the 12 highest VPIP tables available and tile them on my monitor. Before I am even involved in any games, I make sure my tables are tiled properly as some sites are not the greatestatefficientlyorganizingthetables. Then,asIobtainseats,Ibeginplaying. AsIhitmygoal number of big blinds on individual tables, I gradually phase them out. I will generally leave a table once I hit 45 big blinds, and when I am down to 1/4 or so of my starting table number, I will sit out next big blind and either play another session or go do something else.

The beauty of this method is that it works very well for figuring out your optimal number of tables. When you are just starting out, I recommend playing no more than two tables at once. Join the wait list on four tables and then end your session once you are only playing one table. Sessions will be very short when starting out, but this is a good thing. Immediately after each of these short sessions, I recommend opening up your tracking software and reviewing every single hand you played. Once you are comfortable and find yourself easily keeping up with the action almost to the point of boredom, you will want to add more tables. I recommend going to three tables at that point and wait listing six tables at the start of each session. Then try four tables and wait list eight. So on and so forth.

As you progress, you will want to experiment and incrementally add more tables until you feel like you are no longer able to take the time you really need to make decisions. If you ever feel rushed, uncomfortable, overwhelmed, or timeout during a session, you will know you are playing too many tables. At that point you will want to taper back your number of tables until you hit that sweet spot. A good rule of thumb is, if you are unable to take quick notes on opponents, you are probably playing too many tables.

Back before Pokerstars pulled out of the US market, I was a 24-tabler who averaged over 1500 hands per hour. And even though I was making a very good hourly rate, my game was not really improving. Now that I have found my sweet spot of playing six tables on average, I feel completely in control and able to make much more accurate reads during my sessions.

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